The world of online table games has recently seen a new story of community mismanagement with the online platform Board Game Arena.
For those who don’t know, Board Game Arena is a lesser-known digital tabletop platform where players can meet online and play various supported tabletop games. It is one of the many platforms that provide this service such as Tabletopia, Table simulator, and Yucata.
It is important for the future. On September 25, users of the platform reported something unusual. Whenever users would refer to another digital platform, usually indicating that their favorite game is supported on it and not BGA, it would be immediately flagged by chatbots. The bot would then respond with the following message: “WARNING: This service has been deprecated by game designers / publishers and is illegal. We strongly recommend that you do not use or promote it on BGA. Thank you.”
This situation led to a major discussion thread on Board Game Geek with several users reported about this incident. The thread overflowed when a user who works for BGA began to reject and justify these actions. The user even claimed that “some other services use techniques like this.”
Except that this claim is wrong at best. Worse yet, these automated messages can be read as libelous, actively falsely branding other platforms as fraudulent or illegitimate. Just to emphasize how unfounded these posts were, game designer Peer Sylvester, the designer behind projects like The king is dead and King of siam, mentioned that he actively supports and approves the hosting of its games by Yucata, even stating that publisher Osprey has given its express consent. In addition, the Community Manager of Tabletopia spoke, indicating that they obtain express written permission from the rights holder for any game hosted on the service.
The fact that Board Game Arena was recently purchased by the big tabletop publisher Asmodee compounds this problem. While this acquisition has not been a problem so far, it should be noted that the owners of the company are trying to sell it for $ 2 billion.
How did Board Game Arena react?
We reached out to Board Game Arena to get an official statement on these claims. Although they did not respond to us, they released an official statement on their website on September 29. In addition to a formal apology to its users, BGA claims that these automated messages were the result of a programming bug with their spam filters. Generally speaking, these filters are designed to prevent users from quickly creating bot accounts and then filling chat rooms and forum posts with links to sites filled with malware or illegal practices. The BGA post explained that the filter distinguishes between legal / illegal services as well as ethical / unethical services. If the filter recognizes a legal listed company, Board Game Arena does nothing, but helps them recognize spammers. If the business is flagged as illegal, a warning is issued to alert the user. According to the post, the error occurred on September 22 when an update disrupted this spam filter, reports arrived on September 25, and an official service update has since fixed the issue.
This explanation raises several questions. If it is to avoid the exchange of spambots or deceptive companies, filters are generally designed to recognize outgoing links or URLs, and not just specific keywords related to competing table platforms. . On top of that, the warning message explicitly states that game designers and publishers specifically denigrated the advertised company, far from a general statement. There are cases of hedges, Table simulator is a prime example with its mix of official paid support and unauthorized community additions, but these are more the exception than the norm.
Finally, this is not the first time that Board Game Arena has taken care of it. Going back to November 2020, a user reported a similar issue when they mentioned the name of another platform. The only explanation given as to why it was flagged was a link to a response from their FAQ forum that said, “Do not use Board Game Arena communications resources to advertise other game websites.” If you want to talk about your experience elsewhere, please just say something like ‘on another gaming site’. “
Overall, the situation appears to be resolved. Nonetheless, it begs the question of how exactly BGA’s spam filters are handled and why it so aggressively targeted what it did in its choice of wording. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.