“There are marginalized devs who work on these games, and they want to put that stuff in their games,” Belair says, adding that it’s strange that players feel like characters of color, for example, need to have their presence justified in any way.

“I’m a huge Uncharted fan,” Belair says.”’Why is Nathan Drake white?’ is not a thing we have to justify. He just is.”

Online, other devs at studios Sweet Baby works with have come to their defense. In a thread on X, a writer from Insomniac Games confirmed that, as consultants, Sweet Baby offers ideas, feedback, and writing. “But none of that gets into the game unless THE CORE DEV TEAM AGREES WITH IT,” the writer, who has since locked their account, posted. “Sweet Baby is not, nor is any consulting group, coming in to wreck games. They’re helping smooth out plots and deepen characters. They ease the burden on the core narrative team.”

The thread’s top response? “Get out of our hobby and take them with you.”

The harassment campaign against Sweet Baby comes as the game industry undergoes a period of immense contraction. Some 8,000 gaming industry employees have reportedly already lost their jobs in 2024. Nearly one-third of developers were impacted by layoffs last year, and there’s a growing movement within the industry for workers to unionize to protect the jobs that remain. The collective loss of talent the game industry is undergoing will inevitably have an impact on the quality of video games to come.

Yet, on the Sweet Baby Inc Detected Discord, where users often decry what they see as a decline in video game quality, there’s little care for the tumultuous year the industry has had. “I feel nothing for these developers who lost their jobs,” wrote one user.

For Sweet Baby cofounder David Bédard, that dissonance is jarring. “They love games but hate the people who make them,” he says. “They won’t get games if there’s no more people making them.”

This is true outside Sweet Baby’s ranks, too. Last year, a poll conducted by the organizers of the Game Developers Conference found that more than 75 percent of game devs surveyed believe harassment from players is a “serious” or “very serious” problem.

All this amounts to Sweet Baby becoming a scapegoat for anything players hate in games, especially as it relates to diversity and inclusion . Before, Bédard says, “they had nobody to point a finger at.”

“What they’re telling us is we’re the reason all these games are flopping. Some of these games are the most nominated or [award]-winning games from last year,” Bédard adds.

However Sweet Baby Inc Detected tries to paint the company it’s rallying against, Belair says the two have more in common than they think. “I don’t want tokenization either,” she says. “I don’t want forced diversity either.” Part of Sweet Baby’s job is to make characters more authentic and dynamic within their worlds—strong characters, she says, in the sense of how well they’re written and realized.

Frankly, Belair says, there are positive and interesting conversations to be had. “But they can’t start from this place,” she continues. “You can’t convince the conspiracy theorists. You can’t convince people who are hateful. You can’t change those minds necessarily. But at the very least, we can give other people a place to speak about what they believe, speak about their values, and to rise above it.”

Sweet Baby’s founders say that as far as the company’s business is concerned, the harassment campaign so far has been unsuccessful in interrupting their work. Their clients are supportive, says Belair, because many game studios are familiar with online abuse. Sweet Baby has been hesitant to directly address which characters or storylines it’s worked on, because Belair worries that could lead to harassment of other developers on those projects.

“You shouldn’t be sending this kind of hate to anybody,” Belair says. “If you didn’t like something, that’s just fine. Deal with it. Don’t buy another [game] if you don’t want to, but you don’t need to launch a whole campaign about it.”

By Oscar M

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