Indie Game Forum is being attacked by hateful Steam Users! – We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe

Today’s post will be split into three different sections. As part of another controversy, I wanted to shed some light on a wave of hateful comments that the developers of We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe has gotten over the past couple of weeks.

Before that, though, I’ll talk about my own experience working refugees a little bit before diving into what the game is like and about.

  1. My experience with working with refugees
  2. We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe – My Impressions of the Game
  3. The Controversy
    1. “If you have a Nazi at a Rally,…” – and the paradox of tolerance
    2. Free Speech Absolutism?

My experience with working with refugees

Back in 2017, I used to volunteer at the “Welcome Café” in my hometown. This was a place where refugees would visit to learn German, do homework, hang out and get help in various matters.

There were many people there from all sorts of places. Africa, Syria, Arabia, Albania, Ukraine, and others. A lot of different people joining together to celebrate their differences and receiving help from volunteers like me and some older folks in the area.

In the “Welcome Café”, we essentially helped refugees with translation and studying. I was the youngest among the volunteers but knew the most English, so I helped a lot of them learn German and I’d translate for those that spoke Albanian.

Other volunteers would help the refugees with going to the doctor, filling out and turning in documents, finding work, and going through all the procedures.

During my time at that place, I learned a lot about different cultures and people as well as the plights that they have to face if they want to get asylum. Seriously fucked up stuff, btw.

For instance, many young boys need to make the journey to bring their families over. If you’re 15 years old or younger, you can bring your relatives once you arrive and you’re granted asylum. Hence, families often have no other choice but to send their young children onto a journey across the sea, often without food or drink, one where they’d often not survive or where they risk drowning in the process.

Also, once you’ve set foot in one European country, you can only get asylum in that country, even though the border countries are flooded with refugees and are barely able to handle it, the EU doesn’t really change much about this “rule” or at least in the way it’s enforced.

Screenshot is taken from We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe’s Press Kit

Many people face persecution due to religious reasons or their sexuality, a lot of people also have to flee because of wars raging at their home country or they can’t find work due to natural disasters or a lack of jobs… At the same time, though, not every place has the capacity and means to house so many refugees and thus, it’s a difficult subject to deal with. My hometown was to house 1,000 refugees in a camp and some apartments – our population was barely scratching 6,000. We also didn’t have enough refugees and before long, many people left and the project died out.

So, in my opinion, we should help other countries out, especially as we’re privileged to live in the first world. We can’t just end the wars, though, as that will just create more wars – so the least we can do is take in refugees and give them a safe place in our countries until they can eventually return. That being said, the topic is incredibly complex and it’s not just that simple, obviously. I think the members of the EU need reforms of their laws, the most. There should be an active effort to actually save people rather to have them get smuggled in – which often leads to their deaths on the journey.

But I’m also incredibly biased. My father had to give up work as a police officer in Kosovo when the Serbians started their siege and threatened to kill all that would oppose them. He fled to Germany, got married here (for the papers) and then started working here.

My mother later then travelled to Germany herself, illegally, while pregnant. She went through many horror stories along the way from being beaten at border control to even possibly risking dying along the way or losing me… but eventually she made it. Got married to my father here. I was born. Thus, we got to stay even after the war was over.

Thus, I’m incredibly biased. I know that. And I don’t know what bad experiences others went through that justify their hatred towards refugees (as we’ll dive into later on)… but I want to believe that not everyone’s hatred is actually based in trauma and that many just think they’re trolling by spewing hate speech onto this game’s forums.

Again, keep that in mind, I guess.

We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe – My Impressions of the Game

Today, I wanted to talk about this topic a little bit as well as about We. The Refugees: Ticket to Europe, an upcoming socially-engaged, text-based RPG about a journalist looking for his big break by uncovering the hardships of refugees travelling from Africa to Europe, set to come out this Monday.

The developers, Act Zero, worked together with their publisher Polyslash to create an interesting story based on true events. They talked to actual refugees at the Moria camp in Greece, got their help and thoughts on the story, and even worked with NGOs to create a narrative experience that is based on true events and also engaging in its nature.

The game itself utilizes dreamlike comic-book graphics to bring the world to life, has pretty good writing, in my opinion, and its soundtrack is really lovely. I played the demo for a few different playthroughs and found it quite interesting.

Interactive fiction can be difficult to pull of well and while the developers only offer about three unique playthroughs, you can expect roughly ten hours of gameplay per playthrough with many dialogue choices to make.

While a lot of choices in the demo lead to similar outcomes, they change the way the protagonist thinks and writes. You play as a journalist who crosses the sea themselves in order to write a book about the struggles of refugees. Through your choices, you can decide whether it’s neutral, indulgent, cynical, etc. in nature. There are many tags you can acquire that will give you access to more styles which I found interesting as a concept.

Possibly my only issue with the game is that there is no save-state system where you save at specific points and can return to them later to check out other branches of the story. Especially when one keeps in mind that a playthrough is gonna take ten hours, this is a major flaw but at the same time, it’s a design choice that may add urgency to this game and makes it a bit more realistic.

If you wanna check out more information on the game, feel free to read this article from GaymingMag! They expand a lot more on information they got from the developers themselves. You may also want to check out the game’s Steam page for further information, including a dev stream showing a bit of the game as well as some people they worked with from the Moria camp.

Also, 5% of the proceeds go to different charities, so that’s pretty cool.

The Controversy

Eight days ago, Mateusz Cholewa from Polyslash (the publisher) reached out to me and asked if I wanted to write about the wave of hateful, often political, comments on their Steam discussion forums.

It is to be expected that many people have mixed feelings about a game featuring a political topic such as this… but the more important question is: How do you deal with Hate Speech like this?

The developers reached out to the r/gamedev nine days ago and asked them about it and most of the responses say that the devs should not engage with it on an ideological level and just delete all the unwanted/hateful comments.

One response states that Act Zero’s game is inherently political, so racists and xenophobes will always have a problem with it… so they ask whether or not the developers want these racists and xenophobes to dominate the discourse.

The biggest issue here is “Tolerance” – or rather the paradox of tolerance.

Note: I originally wanted to include some of the screenshots that the developers sent me but a lot of them were just vile and horrible and so I included two here that were “bad” but “not as bad as the others”.
If you’re okay with references to sexual assault, here’s a screenshot and another… but I refuse to put all the others in here because of the fact that they’re just incredibly horrible. If you theoretically want to see more examples, you can message me privately about it.

“If you have a Nazi at a Rally,…” – and the paradox of tolerance

Frankly, if you want to facilitate free speech and an environment where people can have civil discussions, you will need to remove all comments of uncivil and hateful nature. Otherwise, you’ll end up with your platform being taken over by an array of hateful trolls. Even if they’re a small but vocal minority of the community that actually played the demo, let alone the full release,… if you let them voice their slogans and hate speech and don’t stop them, you’ll end up with a hateful community or a hateful forum.

This is similar to the whole “If you have a Nazi at a Rally,…” thing that popped up on Twitter a while ago. That example is a bit difficult to explain which is why I’ll digress for a moment, but bare with me:

If you’re an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community and you advocate for trans rights, you’re bound to come across people like Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (aka “Posie Parker”) and JK Rowling who are just incredibly transphobic and hateful. They’re common enemies for the movement, unifying different groups of the movement under one banner – just like how Anita Bryant was the common enemy for all the gay activists back in the past.

If you suddenly allow people that fight alongside you to be sexist towards JKR and KJK, you’ll soon find yourself in a sexist movement. Once you allow certain types of bigotry into your movement because it benefits your movement in one way or another, you’ll end up with a bigoted movement.

It doesn’t even help you. Like, before long, that one sexist guy at the rally will make the whole movement appear to be sexist – just like how the right still, to this day, uses that one “triggered”/incredibly angry “SJW” as a meme or caricature of every feminist or activist on the left.

Now, if you have a Nazi at your rally and you allow them to voice their ideals, slogans and hate speech freely as long as they rally with you, before long,… you’ll find yourself at a Nazi Rally.

So, the paradox of tolerance applies here in a way. With the Steam Forums, you’re supposed to discuss the game but because the game is political, political commentary may arise… Thus, it’s difficult to draw a line sometimes.

Having discussions is cool and all but the screenshots I’ve seen of deleted topics aren’t about discussions. One comment here states “Please add violent military-aged men for historical accuracy”, another few are just being antisemitic, and then there are many that are just downright horrible.

Free Speech Absolutism?

Another big issue with unmoderated spaces is the fact that extremists will often abuse the lack of moderation whereas people with less extreme views or people of other opinions will often just leave those platforms altogether once it becomes to extreme.

Many of these comments were written in the span of a few days. This sudden surge of hate speech coincides with a post on the “RPG Codex forum” where the principle of “Absolute Freedom of Speech” is enforced… or rather where not much is enforced? It’s a weird site where you can find edgy trolls that should really touch some grass.

I was linked to a thread about the game but I can’t actually see it yet since I’ll need to make an account that needs to be manually verified. The good ol’ forum days, hah.

Anyway, Jędrzej Napiecek, one of the developers, got in touch with me as well and essentially told me what their situation is in their dev studio. Part of the people there are worried that leaving the comments will create a similar situation as with that specific forum where the extremists just keep spamming hate speech and slurs whereas the majority of users just won’t use it. There are also many people that are concerned about private messages they’ve received about people that feel attacked by these comments they get on social media and the Steam forums.

At the same time, it’s hard to moderate everything as a small studio, especially when you’re not entirely sure if something is really an opinion or if something is just hate speech. Many people appear to hide their intentions well by using dog whistles that many aren’t aware of.

One topic (now deleted) states “GOTY” followed by a spoiler tag that states “without the T” – and many people probably wouldn’t know about that but they’re essentially referencing “goy”, a word for “non-Jewish people”, which nowadays has been adapted into Modern English as “gentile” although it’s being used in a pejorative sense.

Free Speech Absolutism is a concept that can’t work because if you allow every opinion, no matter how harmful it is, you’ll drown out all the opinions by people that no longer feel safe. Musk wanted to embrace this principle and suddenly, Twitter is filled with incels, transphobes, and alt-right bigots – meanwhile, more and more people are leaving the platform altogether instead of reclaiming their space.

This is usually what happens. You don’t get “absolute free speech”, you just get “hate speech”. That’s why moderation is important.

Similarly, streaming platforms like “Rumble” and “Kick” are also about “freedom of speech” and advertise themselves as the platforms that take whoever was banned on YouTube and Twitch. They have barely any guidelines and rules in terms of Hate Speech and what actually is allowed to be said and what isn’t. Kick is making some changes nowadays but Rumble still is basically just a Nazi platform with people spewing hateful rhetoric wherever they can, spamming slurs, making threats, and the like.

Instead of absolute free speech, you just get another social bubble that doesn’t allow free speech; ironic innit?

What do you think about this topic?

In my opinion, the devs really need to just remove all hateful messages and point towards Steam’s Terms of Service if any issues arise.

“Never wrestle with swine. You’ll both get dirty but the difference is that swine enjoy it.”

If you truly want to have civil and respectful discussions, the developers need to develop more detailed rules for posting content on their forum – which is what they’re currently working on. They’ll announce changes soon.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well. If you find this post on a website other than, please write an e-mail to me. Thank you!

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