Indie gladiator game faces Steam review backlash over anti-mask patch notes

graph showing negative reviews
(Image credit: Valve)

Gladiator management sim Domina has seen a rush of negative reviews over inflammatory and disconcertingly libidinal anti-mask rhetoric in the patch notes for its 1.3.18 beta update. "TAKE OFF THE FCKN MASKS," it begins, "Next time you're at the grocery store, try showing a woman your face. Be confident, unafraid of the LIES –- you might get a girlfriend." Thanks man, but I'm usually there just to pick up some eggs or another carton of orange juice.

This is not the first time Dolphin Barn has apprised users of its… unique worldview in the patch notes for Domina. According to the 1.2.89 beta update, "there's no accounting for weak men. Weak men lack character. Strong moral fibre is hard to come by. It's earned through hard work and sacrifice and it cannot be had via onlyfans or pornhub." It goes on to mention "succubus tiddy" and "wasting a load," but you get the idea. There are similar digressions offering a keyhole view of the writer's psyche sprinkled throughout Domina's official updates.

Domina review scores

(Image credit: Dolphin Barn Inc.)

Domina has previously performed very well under user reviews, but the feedback has now turned "Overwhelmingly Negative." Domina seems like a lovingly-crafted game, and we were previously impressed by it, but turning the patch notes into a platform for spewing invective on retrograde gender politics and against broadly accepted public health measures has had a predictable effect on its reputation.

All the same, there's no such thing as bad publicity, and Dolphin Barn has certainly turned its game into news. Maybe this is a nice preview of the outrage-baiting guerrilla marketing we can look forward to from videogames in the 2020s. I, for one, can't wait.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.