Indie role-playing gameHeartbeat was once hailed for embracing empathy, love, and lesbianism. But now the games trans fans believe the developers are openly mocking the U.S. transgender populations rates of attempted suicide.
The controversy began apart fromHeartbeat developer Chumbosoft. Lead developer and artist Shepple is datingNikotine, who is a well-known fandom artist in the Heartbeat community. On Sept. 20, Nikotine tweeted a series of transphobic statements targetingtrans women, writing she isashamed to be born in [America] because men believe they can mutilate their penis and dress in an effeminate manner to become female.’
Lesbians dont like penis no matter how you chop it up, Nikotine wrote. You can surgically mold your penis into the Eiffel Tower if you want. Youre not going to become France. Youre not impressing anyone.
Nikotine alsosaid her personal views on trans women have nothing to do with my girlfriends game.
But three days later, Nikotineannounced that Heartbeat will be on a fall sale for 35% off and have a 41% discount when bundled with the games soundtrack. In light of Nikotines previous statements, the numbers were suspicious.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the UCLA School of Laws Williams Institute report the attempted suicide rate among transgender people is 41%. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims35% of transgender high school students have also reported suicide attempts.
Heartbeatplayers saidgiven the timing, its hard to believe the choice of discount rates is a coincidence.Some expressed their shock in gaming forum ResetEra.
Ill never understand passionately hating a group of people to the extent where you feel you have to ramble about it on social media and mock them at every opportunity, one user wrote. Others wondered if they could get a refund for Heartbeat. I bought this a couple months ago and want my fuckin money back, foul excuses for humans, a player said.
Nikotine, who declined to comment to the Daily Dot, hasnt backed down on her anti-trans statements.
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 tweetedon Wednesday, using a transphobic slur. I had no intentions to bring Heartbeatinto this, but it looks like they did.
Chumbosoft developer Shepple has also been accused of making anti-trans comments. One of Shepples former friends, Twitter user @BeetleButch, tweeted in August that Shepple and other usershad a secret channel in the HeartbeatDiscord where users would trade transphobic beliefs and mock the trans members of the community. @BeetleButch also tweeted screenshots from April of direct messages between her and Shepple. In the messages, Shepple wrote transgender rights areantithetical to radical feminism because the latter is based in bio-sex violence towards girls.
This was after I tried to talk to [Shepple] and explain how some of the things she said in the general chat were very off putting to her large trans fan base, @BeetleButch tweeted on Aug. 23. I thought I had gotten through to her only to find out about the secret channel.
Others made similar accusations. Twitter user @octog4y shared a Discord conversation with Shepple in which the developer claimed that she is suspicious of the trans rights movement. She also claimed ones assigned sex is immutable and that trans people are rewriting the rules for womens rights and spaces.
[Trans-exclusionary radical feminist] isnt even a group, its a newly-made buzzword used to shun people, especially women, who dare commit the crime of wrongthink, Shepple said in the message, later adding: I have every right to question the movement thats done nothing but regress us backwards, to tell masculine women they are actually men (personal experience), and that feminine men are women all because of perceived stereotypes.
Shepple did not immediately respond to the Daily Dots request for comment, and @BeetleButch declined to be interviewed.
Not everyone at Chumbosoft agrees with Shepple and her girlfriend. One Heartbeat artist namedSil cut relations with Chumbosoft on Sept. 24. The day before,HeartbeatcomposerTrasstweeted support for trans women and their rights to call themselves lesbians.
Working with a friend doesnt mean I agree with all of their views, Trass tweeted. Also, the other devs dont share the same view. Plus I didnt know anything about this when I was working with her.
Shepple and Nikotines beliefs still sting, in part because Heartbeatscompassionate message resonated with the trans community.Games writer andHeartbeatDiscord memberLuka toilewrote a blog post mourning her relationship with the game, saying her passion for it was completely wasted.
That I spent so much time and effort playing the game, listening to its soundtrack, writing about it, telling people about it, spreading the word about it because I loved it and its message and its characters so much that I wanted everyone else to experience it for no reason or, worse, to eventually have people put money in the pockets of people that would rather I didnt exist,toilewrote.Its likely something that Im going to wrestle with for the rest of the week, as pessimistic and cynical as I am.
toiletold the Daily Dot that Shepples behavior has caused pretty much universal shock and heartache among Heartbeatstrans fans.
Considering the fact that the lead developer on the game, Shepple, hasnt tweeted since all of this broke and, as far as I am aware, is the only person who COULD have set the sale price, Im not holding my breath for an apology, toile said.