Top Hat Studios have revealed the abusive messages and gaslighting over Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story, which came from “industry-adjacent people.”
As previously reported, a report on the game’s Nintendo Switch release drew attention to it. Some objected to the game’s artstyle- a dystopian cyberpunk future where hyper-sexualization and body modification was commonplace- to the degree false information was spread. This included that the game was “encouraging violence,” and featured illegal content.
Top Hat Studios struck back, denying the claims and stating they “categorically refuse” to censor the game. They also revealed that they and developer Suzaku had received death threats. The statement was applauded by those against censorship and “cancel culture” in the video games industry, yet some doubted their claims of abuse were legitimate.
Top Hat Studios have once again rose to the challenge, tweeting a series of images showing the lies about the game and outright abuse that had been posted on Twitter and Facebook (some are a larger version of segments from the first image). They also shared the abusive direct messages they and Suzaku had received from those platforms, and via email.
Further, Top Hat Studios state these comments come from “industry-adjacent people” attempting to gaslight and slander the publisher with “vetted interest.”
“We originally did not want to make this post, as to not accidentally incite a search for these posters and cause further fights. However, as there are now industry-adjacent people slandering/gaslighting us as liars, we’ve compiled a sampling from twitter, FB, and email.
Skepticism is healthy in this industry, but it is not universally applied. Not only were many of these comments actively findable in <10 seconds to verify, but many ‘curious’ individuals seem to have a vetted interest in slandering us as liars because of their connections.
We don’t blame people for being skeptical; but keep this energy toward other claims. This isn’t a marketing campaign. The game released 5 months ago originally. This was a pre-emptive response to what we saw as a rising, ridiculous spread of lies and slurs aimed at us.
We can play semantics, but if you can’t understand why a response to such is needed, you’re being willfully obtuse. We couldn’t let false, hateful info spread, and also wanted to reinforce our stance against creative infringement. It certainly got bigger than we expected.
With that said, we appreciate, sincerely, the overwhelming support – really. As we said we didn’t want to make this post, but we aren’t going to allow people to spread lies – no less from those with a vetted interest in calling us liars. We aren’t changing Sense’s content.”
Top Hat Studios redacted the names and usernames of the users. You can find those images below.
Editor’s Note: Reader discretion is advised due to racist and abusive language.
For those relying on machine translation for this article, the comments include the following:
- Claiming the publisher/developer was denying women’s voices in the industry, that they had hired no women, and “trannies don’t fucking count.” Other comments featured claims that men were “pretending to be women” to enter the games industry.
- Claims the game is pornographic, and marketed to children.
- “Offensive sexist tawdry incel fodder,” and similar comments that the game was marketed to perverted and lonely men.
- Claims that the game’s anime art style enabled sexualization of children; which the posts claimed were inherent to the anime art-style, the culture of Japan, and “chink shit.”
- Claims that laws should be made against creating the content seen in the game, as the developer failed to keep their “hunter/killer instincts” in check.
- That the hyper-sexualized content could lead to real life sexual violence, women and girls hating themselves because they could not compare to a fictional character, and that the game outright encouraged sexual violence.
- That it was impossible for real life women to have the bodies the fictional female characters do.
- Legal action against the publisher/developer and Nintendo. One comment threatened this would happen “If I find my child playing this.” There were numerous other threats alluding to legal action.
- Informed the publisher/developer they had allegedly complained directly to Nintendo to have the game pulled from release on the Nintendo Switch and/or Nintendo eShop.
- Alluding to doxxing by revealing to the publisher/developer that they know their address. The address is redacted, so it is unknown if it was a home, their business, or even correct. It is also unknown if this was posted publicly.
- Claims the publisher had not achieved greater success because they produced games with sexual and immature content, and alluding to coordinated efforts to blacklist them from greater successes in the industry (“the rest of us ain’t letting you in”).
There were also other abusive comments encouraging the publisher/developer to kill themselves, or hopes they would be killed. Insults also accused the publisher/developer of “toxic masculinity,” being an incel, and being a Nazi.
Speaking to Top Hat Studios via email, they elaborated on the above comments, and how even after they were released some still doubted their legitimacy.
“Despite the release of messages and threats received, some industry professionals have intensified gaslighting by claiming that only ‘legitimate criticism’ of the game has been made; messages such as ‘hope you get shot, fucking incels’, ‘could y’all lobotomize yourself so you don’t keep teaching women to hate themselves’, and ‘you have no idea how much i want you to hurt. right now’, seem to go quite a way beyond all forms of actual criticism.
As some have stated, these may be characterized as ‘mean internet comments’, but many of these people have ignored that such have appeared alongside multiple doxxing attempts and blatant misinformation about the game’s content, which all in all, we would say seem to go quite a way beyond ‘legitimate criticism’.
It also seems undeniable to us that such comments are more focused on violence and the well-being (physical or in the ability to perform business) of the studio and associated developers, than the game itself.
While it’s true that these were DMs and emails so we will say skeptics can have a little benefit of the doubt there, many of the public tweets on the subject contained similar language, including – ‘the brains who came up with this need a thorough lobotomy’, ‘none of these games should be allowed’, ‘sack the incel game designers’, and ones including slurs directed at asian game designers who worked on the project.
These were all public comments which could have been easily verified. Of course, we sincerely ask that noone contact and trouble the writers of these messages – leave them to their devices. While we understand anger and resentment at these of course, we cannot condone witch-hunting nor escalation.
The situation is already unfortunate, with what appear to be genuine threats made against our associates, and we do not really wish for that to go further. Our stance on creative expression and developer’s rights will never change, and we reiterate our stances issued in our initial statement are not negotiable.”
Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is available on Windows PC, Linux, Mac (all via Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and January 7th on Nintendo Switch. In case you missed it, you can find our review here (we recommend it!)