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Dead State — Abusive Censorship or Witch Hunt? A Steam Community Controversy

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The DoubleBear Team Initiates Damage Control Protocols

The other night, I was directed to gather information about a post that was gaining popularity on Reddit. You see, a negative review for Dead State on Steam had been flagged by the game’s developer and it didn’t appear to break any of the community guidelines. While the post has received thousands of up-votes, most of the comments are tragically off-topic. After some research and discussion, I decided not to cover the story at that time. By the time I looked at the issues at hand, the flag had come off, so I didn’t think there was a story any more, but I may have been wrong. You can still see the review in question on the front page of the Dead State storefront.

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While I’m sure many of us can empathize with Firehorn79’s opinion, that’s not the story behind this article. Today we’re here to question whether developer DoubleBear Productions abused its power when flagging this review. To do that, first let us examine what a developer flag is.

This info-page concerning Steam reviews provides us with what we’re looking for. It explains that developers may flag reviews they find spammy or abusive and that flagged reviews will remain on their page, albeit in a collapsed form, marked with “abuse” or “spam” until a moderator has gotten a chance to look at them. At this point, a moderator may choose to either, remove the flag, or the post. Surprisingly, there is nothing on this page mentioning the Steam Community Guidelines, so it seems developers are encouraged to flag reviews at their discretion.

Knowing this information, does flagging the above post for moderator review sound like an abuse of power to you? Of course, it may not be that simple.

Does DoubleBear Dev. React Too Harshly?

Shortly following a wave of consumer backlash, DoubleBear developer Annie V. Mitsoda took to Twitter and the Steam community forums to aggressively defend the company’s reputation. The ensuing tweets, posts and Reddit discussions produced volumes of information, screenshots, and quotes.

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Later in this blog post, she explains how she was feeling pushed to her limits mentally and emotionally. Eventually another team member, Brian Mitsoda, released this official explanation. Here he states that the original reviewer had addressed this topic on the forums, and had become abusive and off-topic, so the thread was deleted, but was again restarted by the same user, and deleted again. It surfaced a third time and has remained. The official statement makes a point worth considering that the review in question mentioned only one line about the game, and critiques were mostly directed towards the developers. For this reason, it was considered off-topic and flagged by a dev who DoubleBear has not named, but is investigating.

Steam user Firehorn79 shot back his own lengthy reply, defending the position of his original review and his character. Readers may also notice the “BANNED” tag on his name in this post. It is unclear as to why he was banned from the forums. He and DoubleBear offer differing accounts and opposing snippets of posts taken from deleted forums. Indeed, a final truth may never be known — forum-policy is rarely scrutinized so deeply.

Dead State is a tactical zombie-apocalypse survival RPG released to Steam on Dec. 4, 2014. I got a chance to play it myself, and can attest to an unpleasant degree of glitchiness. Considering the quality of the game I experienced, I imagine this controversy is bringing it far more publicity than it would have gotten otherwise.

That’s basically the issue as I see it. All this hostility over a flag that was removed in under 24 hours. Is it really worth all this angst and accusation? Do you see this as valid consumer backlash, or a witch hunt? Do Annie’s hostile comments make this into an entirely new issue? Let us know in comments or on Twitter and Facebook.

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About The Author
Benjamin Jeanotte