A backlash among some Boyfriend Dungeon players over its story and content warning has even extended to one of its voice actors. Alexander Gross recently took to Twitter to talk about how some people sent him hate mail over his voice work for the game’s main antagonist, despite it being a completely fictional and separate character.
“I’m just his voice actor,” Gross wrote yesterday. “Please be respectful.”
Light story spoilers follow.
Gross plays Eric, a weapon nerd who is the villain at the heart of the discussions surrounding Boyfriend Dungeon. While seemingly innocent early on, Eric goes on to be emotionally manipulative and stalks the player repeatedly throughout the game. These potentially triggering behaviors are referenced in developer Kitfox Games initial content warning for the dating sim, but following complaints that it wasn’t explicit enough, the studio is now updating the warning to be more specific.
Other players wanted Eric to be an optional part of the game altogether, and a few have apparently gone so far as to try and shame Gross for even voicing him in the first place.
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“Hey I can’t believe I have to address this, but please don’t send me hate messages about my character in Boyfriend Dungeon,” he wrote on Twitter. “I know he sucks.”
A lot of games have come out this summer, but few have had a discourse around them take on a life of its own like Boyfriend Dungeon, a game about dating people and using the weapons they transform into while exploring dungeons. While some of those conversations around content warnings and trauma triggers are relatively new, others about artistic freedom and distinctions between what art tries to represent and what it actually endorses are very old, even when the internet makes them feel like they’re happening again for the very first time.
“There was one [message] that I got, and I actually quoted this one, it was like, ‘It reflects badly on you for portraying a character that does these kinds of things,’” Gross told Kotaku in a phone interview. “It was part of a longer paragraph message or something, and that confused me because, you know, I’m thinking I took the job because this is what I love doing. I don’t condone what the character does.”
Gross, who has done voice work for games like Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp and Guilty Gear Strive, as well as anime, said he didn’t know the extent of Eric’s character when he was recording because not all of the character’s dialogue and in-game actions are voiced, but even during planning knew he was toxic.
“I read the script, and I was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s a piece of shit,’” Gross told Kotaku. “He sucks. So I made him a combination of every fuckboy that I know. He’s just awful. And so I tried to play in that way. And that was it.”
Gross said he supports Kitfox Games revising the original content warning, even if he stops short of believing players should be given an option to opt-out of experiencing Eric’s character altogether.
“This is such a very tricky subject,” he said. “I think having the content warning is the most you can do, especially if it’s the story that the developers want to tell you, if this is the story that they want to put forward.”
Games have long been at the heart of disputes over what kind of art should be made and how it should or shouldn’t be engaged with. Even after the moral panics and Supreme Court decisions, there are still debates over the limits on what type of content companies like Valve should allow to be sold through its platforms and the ways in which creators are responsible to their audiences for making their games more accessible.
Something that’s not in dispute, however, is that Gross is not the character he voices in Boyfriend Dungeon.
“It’s been said before, but I hope it really takes root,” Gross said. “ Sometimes you have to play bad people that do very realistic, bad things. And that doesn’t mean we condone that at all.”
As he wrote on Twitter, “It’s just acting, y’all.”