Facing criticism of your own creative work can be challenging. I should know. But when responding to criticism involves, well, punching down on marginalized communities, or going on random, unrelated, political tirades that recklessly bash people trying to stay healthy and safe during on-going pandemic, that’s crossing a line according to Valve. This has been the situation for the developer behind Steam game Domina, Dolphin Barn Incorporated, who has recently gotten into some hot water after Valve responded to the dev’s ‘abusive’ actions and ongoing bad behavior on the platform.
Described by PC Gamer as the “least likable developer on Steam,” Dolphin Barn Incorporated has gotten into repeatedly embarrassing and awful situations surrounding its game Domina, a pixel gladiator sim that was released in 2017. Known for responding to negative feedback with bigoted political views that also appeared in patch notes, Dolphin Barn received a ban on its own game’s Steam community forums. Valve highlighted offending behavior that included “insulting or flaming another user” and an overall “trend with abusive messages sent when banning players from [the game’s] hub.” These decisions come a few years after Valve pivoted to a more hands-off moderation policy on Steam, deciding to only weigh in on content that the company deems “illegal or straight up trolling.”
Kotaku has reached out to Valve for comment on this situation and its moderation policies.
As reported by Eurogamer over the weekend, Dolphin Barn Incorporated took to Twitter to share the news of its ban on Domina’s community forums on Steam, where a warning indicated that this was the ‘second time that one of [its] posts violates [Valve’s] discussion rules and guidelines.’ While the insertion of absurd anti-mask rants about grocery stores, and anti-trans rants into patch notes have earned the developer well-earned criticism, that’s not necessarily what has landed them in trouble with Valve this time. Rather, their hostile and errant behavior on Steam’s community forums in responding to gamers’ criticisms are largely what’s under scrutiny.
Dolphin Barn Incorporated’s Steam account reveals their forum posting history, which includes calling people a “spiteful c-word,” amidst accusations that those who have criticized the DLC are posting “fraudulent reviews.” The developer has taken to banning users on the Steam community forum who’ve raised this issue, and has at numerous points called people “r*tarded,” “betas,” accused people of being “impaired, inferior, and useless” “totally illiterate,” “cowards.” The dev randomly quotes biblical passages, maintains that they’re working “for God,” and has vaguely compared themselves to “Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth” and “Galileo.” He also at one point told someone that “if you want me chew your breakfast and [fuck] your girlfriend for you, too, send me your address.” They also continuously make references to centurions and armies.
Kotaku has reached out to Dolphin Barn Incorporated for comment on this situation.
As a response to the latest actions Valve has taken against Dolphin Barn, the developer posted an update on Steam with the angsty title “DONE.” Here it repeats the accusations of “dozens of fraudulent reviews” of Domina, speculates about the genitalia of those who issued the ban, and casts doubt about the game receiving future updates on the platform.