Screengrab via Campo Santo Productions/YouTube

Indie game hit with negative reviews after developer goes after PewDiePie

Gamers are criticizing the company for censorship.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Sep 13, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 5:33 pm CDT

The 2016 indie game Firewatch is being bombarded with negative reviews after its developer went after YouTuber PewDiePie with a DMCA notice following his use of a racial slur in one of his videos.

Over the weekend, PewDiePie—whose real name is Felix Kjellberg—faced immediate backlash from members of the gaming community after he said the n-word in a video while playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Some criticized him for learning nothing after his last racist scandal, in which he lost a deal with Disney because of anti-Semitic videos discovered on his YouTube channel. He eventually apologized in a video posted to YouTube.

“I hate how I now personally fed into that part of gaming,” he said. “It was something that I said in the heat of the moment: I said the worst word I could possibly think of and it just kind of slipped out… There are no excuses for it.”

After seeing Kjellberg’s comments, developer Sean Vanaman at indie studio Campo Santo said that he would file a DMCA notice against Kjellberg’s videos featuring Firewatch so that Kjellberg couldn’t make money off of his game. Vanaman filed one notice against Kjellberg, a move he said he later regretted.

“I wish there was a clear way to say we don’t want our work associated with hate speech, even accidental hate speech if that’s what it was,” Vanaman told BuzzFeed News. “I regret using a DMCA takedown. Censorship is not the best thing for speech, and if I had a way to contact PewDiePie and take the video down, I probably would. He’s a bad fit for us, and we’re a bad fit for him.”

But some gamers and Kjellberg’s viewers didn’t take kindly to Vanaman filing a DMCA takedown notice on Kjellberg’s video on Firewatch. Some argued it was inappropriate use of the copyright rules; YouTubers depend on being able to add commentary to copyrighted content. Others seemed to take a vitriolic stance against critics of Kjellberg’s incendiary language. Either way, Firewatch‘s mostly positive reviews on Steam were quickly overrun with negative comments from players who have called Vanaman “a supporter of anti-Free Speech activism” and “an adorable DMCA-triggerhappy comrade,” among other things. One reviewer defended Kjellberg for saying the n-word, writing “1 word doesn’t make anybody racist.”

According to an August 2017 archive of Firewatch’s Steam page, the vast majority of reviews posted in the previous 30 days were positive. Now that some are negatively reviewing the game in retaliation for Varaman’s DMCA takedown notice, reviews are more mixed with just 53 percent positive. It has yet to affect the overall range of reviews; Firewatch is still rated “Very Positive” with 86 percent of reviews being positive.

H/T PC Gamer

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*First Published: Sep 13, 2017, 1:06 pm CDT