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Video Game Faces Backlash After Appearing to Mock Trans Suicide

Video Game Faces Backlash After Appearing to Mock Trans Suicide

Its creator has also faced other accusations of transphobia.

An indie video game is coming under fire for transphobia following a complicated series of transphobic comments, accusations, and innuendo.

The controversy appears to have started with a series of transphobic tweets from an artist known as Nikotine, as the Daily Dotwas the first to report. Nikotine is dating the lead developer of the retro role-playing game Heartbeat, who goes by Shepple. Heartbeat, which is available on Steam, allows players to "uncover ancient secrets in this monster-filled adventure."

On September 20, Nikotine tweeted she was "ashamed to be born in this country where men believe they can mutilate their penis and dress in an 'effeminate' manner to become 'female.'"

It's unclear what spawned the comments, which appear to be specifically targeted at transgender women who date other women.

"You are not a lesbian," Nikotine continued in a four-tweet thread. "You are not female. Lesbians don't like penis no matter how you chop it up. You can surgically mold your penis into the Eiffel Tower if you want. You're not going to become France. You're not impressing anyone."

After several days of backlash, it was announced that Heartbeat was on sale for 35 percent off. A bundle, which includes the game's soundtrack, was available at a 41 percent markdown.

While that might just seem like a good deal, many observers noted the numbers are suspiciously coincidental.

A report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law's estimates the rate of attempted suicides among transgender people is 41 percent. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 35 percent of trans high school students have attempted to take their own lives.

The sales prompted more backlash on Twitter, and Nikotine responded by escalating her rhetoric with transphobic slurs.

"Hey man, all I did was share an opinion, and trannies went and tried to fuck with the game just because the lead dev is my gf," she tweeted on September 25. "I had no intentions to bring Heartbeat into this, but it looks like they did."

Shepple has faced accusations of trans-exclusionary rhetoric in the past. A Twitter user who goes by BeetleButch tweeted in August that Heartbeat developers had a secret Discord channel for transphobic jokes. Another Twitter user named Octog4y posted a thread in which Shepple said that assigned sex is "immutable" and trans people are "rewriting the rules for women's rights and spaces."

People who worked on Heartbeat are now distancing themselves from the game.

An artist named Sil said they "cut relations" with the company that developed the game, Chumbosoft. Meanwhile, Heartbeat composer Trass tweeted their support for trans women, affirming that they have the right "to call themselves lesbians."

The game remains on sale at the aforementioned rates following backlash.

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Matt Baume