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A Steam game faces backlash for adding a bizarrely sexist anti-mask rant to patch notes

A man wearing a surgical mask and a mic-equipped gaming headset sits in front of a computer monitor and RGB-lit keyboard, leaning forward and staring at the screen intently.

The developers behind indie game Domina should’ve just sat there and ate their food.

Instead, they snuck an unhinged anti-masking patch note (with a side of misogyny) into their latest update. Then their rating plummeted as angry players visited Domina page on Steam and waged a “review bomb” campaign — in which people post negative reviews en masse —that shows no signs of slowing down.

Backlash against the gladiator management sim by developer Dolphin Barn started spreading Saturday, March 12, after some Twitter users spotted the bizarrely out-of-place COVID-19 tirade snuck into the notes detailing changes made in the 1.3.18 update released a few days prior. The seventh item on the patch list with otherwise mundane technical fixes reads:

TAKE OFF THE FCKN MASKS – Next time you’re at the grocery store, try showing a woman your face. Be confident, unafraid of the LIES — you might get a girlfriend. Women like confidence. Women don’t like dudes who cover their faces in fear. What are you afraid of? Getting laid? Grow up.

If you’re wondering (A) What the fuck masks have to do with either this game or getting a girlfriend, (B) Exactly what “LIES” refusing to wear a mask in a grocery store protects you from, and (C) What expertise in epidemiology the Domina developers have to qualify their opinions on public health protocols for coronavirus — you’re not alone.

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While the almost 8,000 Steam reviews of the game are categorized as “very positive,” the over 700 recent reviews from the past 30 days are now “overwhelmingly negative.” The backlash of reviewers demanding refunds and critiquing the developers’ politicized anti-masking rant (among other game-related complaints) essentially flipped Domina‘s review statistics overnight, going from 82 percent positive overall to 81 percent negative after the update (at the time of this article’s publication).

“Anti-masker devs using their patch notes as a glorified twitter feed. Embarrassing,” read one apt negative review posted March 11, from a user who had invested over 15 hours into the game.

“Pretty wild the dev ripped out a bunch of content and put it into microtransactions. And instead of making the have better, instead goes on unintelligible rants in the dev notes,” reads another. Aside from the heavily implied COVID conspiracy talk, one reviewer knocks the weird incel insecurity evident in “a tantrum [that] hardly speaks confidence to me.”

Of course, a select few of other recent user reviews represent the opposing opinion — the backlash to the backlash, if you will — celebrating the anti-masker developers as “based.” Interestingly, those supportive reviews seem to come from users who’ve spent significantly less time playing the game.

PC Mag (Mashable’s sister site) also found more weirdly womanizing misogynistic sentiments hidden in previous patch notes. Since the review bombing began, the game’s official Twitter page has only doubled down on the toxic asshattery, railing against getting the “cancel culture” treatment from a “woke mob” after they merely suggested people have “courage.”

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Considering these derogatory attitudes toward women and, you know, continuing to mask in order to protect yourself and/or other vulnerable people from COVID-19, the whole thing calls the game’s mature content warning into question. It cautions: “Story events contain mature themes that invite the player to make ethical decisions with regards: slavery, injustice, and occasionally normal and abnormal human sexuality.”

One Steam user noted the irony of it all in a community discussion board titled, “Thought gamers hated modern politics in their games.” Unsurprisingly, it appears many self-identified “gamers” who rally against politics in video games only reject politics in their entertainment that doesn’t reflect with their own worldview.

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