[Note: I’ve put in corrections to this since I first posted it, because there were several points where I was stating my assumptions as if they were fact. I should’ve done more research first. While I still feel very strongly about the topic, I’ve seen some extremely bone-headed and irresponsible allegations being tossed around, and I don’t want to be guilty of doing the same thing.]
Yesterday on Gamasutra, Christian Nutt posted a column about the political and social ramifications that come with something as simple as buying the Xbox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex. The issue in particular is that the game is part of an ongoing collaboration with science fiction author, outspoken homophobe, and campaigner against equal rights for homosexuals Orson Scott Card.
Nutt’s column is thoughtful, balanced, personal, and well-written, but I have two problems with it. First is that he frames the discussion using a thread from the videogame message board NeoGAF. He has a reason for this, but the overall result is like attempting to spur a debate on health care reform based on a discussion among riders of a MUNI bus being driven by crap-flinging monkeys: you’ll get a reasonably representative sample of intelligent and idiotic opinions, but they’re presented in a forum run by inept morons who don’t just foster juvenile vapidity, they actually discourage genuine insight.*
But my bigger problem with the column is that I think Nutt goes to too much effort to be even-handed, presenting it as a complex, nuanced issue with valid beliefs on all sides. He has good reason for this, too: his main point isn’t about gay rights, but about the significance of games in society, and the too-quick dismissal that social issues don’t matter because “it’s just a game.” And although it’s an opinion piece, it’s presented on Gamasutra, a website about videogames. It’s not a forum for a debate on same-sex marriage or any other political or social issue, except insofar as games are affected.
Fortunately, this blog doesn’t have any such restriction.
Shades of Gray
It’s perfectly understandable that Nutt would present this as a complex issue with many equally valid viewpoints, simply because we’ve been conditioned to see everything that way. We value moderation. We quickly dismiss anything that seems too extreme; if Nutt had gone on a tirade about Card and about gay rights, instead of mentioning how he was personally affected by the issue, then it would’ve given readers a too-easy excuse to dismiss him as having an “agenda,” and ignoring his core message about the role of videogames in society.
We treasure objectivity so much that we’ve begun to let it corrupt the idea of free speech — we’ve taken the idea that everyone has the right to be heard and inferred that everyone has the right to be believed. We want to find debate where there is none; we want to give equal weight to all opinions. Even when those opinions are completely invalid, are easily proven so, and don’t deserve to be given equal weight. And instead of guaranteeing a society in which everyone is heard, it results in a society where only some are heard, apathy rules, and sound ideas are drowned out by noise.
Sound over-dramatic? Not if you look at the (impressively reasonable) discussions on that Gamasutra column, as well as on other blogs and message boards that have picked up the story. It’s sparked by a videogame, but you really can see it as a microcosm of American society on the whole, and in particular, how American society has treated the issue of same-sex marriage:
- Derision: “It’s only a game, what’s the big deal?”
- Stall tactics: “It’s not like a boycott will accomplish anything, and people will eventually recognize Card for what he is, anyway.”
- Deflection: “A boycott will have a chilling effect on artists and free speech, where artists will be reluctant to express themselves for fear that they’re punished for having unpopular opinions.”
- Obfuscation: “If I had to give up every piece of entertainment that had one awful person working on it, I’d have to give up everything and live like an Amish person!”
- Obfuscation via The Rule of Tangents: “I won’t boycott an entire game just because one person who disagrees with me happens to be tangentially related to it.”
- Marketplace Realities: “All you’re doing is hurting the developers! We don’t know how much money Card is making from the project.”
- Moral Relativism: The “GayGamer” blog recommends “…if you want to play the game, play it. Enjoy it, but offset the hate: if you buy Shadow Complex, donate $5, $10, $15 if you can spare it to a gay charity. Let them know why you’re giving the money.”
- Moral Relativism via Drama-Cessation-and-God-Bless-Americanism: One of the commenters on Nutt’s column “outs herself” as a conservative Republican (on a board filled with screaming liberals! How daring!) and goes on to say “In the US we are so fixated in [sic] being politically correct with the minority wanted to [sic] thought/opinion control the majority. If a creative person had created a game or work as used as narrative that was a rapist, child molester, killers of gays, Jews, etc. THAT is a gravity and severity [sic] litmus test we should use for a boycott. Thanks (insert your God here), we do not live in countries like China, Iraq, and Russia were [sic] this open debate is possible without repercussion.”
- Apathy: “I only care if the game is good or not. I don’t care about the politics of the people behind it.”
So basically, we’re told that this is “just” a videogame with no political agenda. And the issue is a complicated one with many shades of gray, and it’s important for us as good-thinking people to find compromise and a common ground. Which in regards to same-sex marriage in general and Proposition 8 in particular, is absolute bullshit. Because it’s not an issue with multiple valid sides; there are exactly two: right and wrong.
There are plenty of issues I feel very strongly about. There are even issues — like the current health care reform kerfluffle, for instance — that I not only feel strongly about, but am absolutely 100% convinced that my opinion is the correct one. But even as convinced as I am that I’m on the side of right, I recognize that an issue like health care affects everyone, and compromise is essential. Whichever way this goes, we all will have to pay for it, one way or another. I can’t get “my way” without affecting someone who doesn’t agree with me.
Same-sex marriage is not in that category. Let’s be absolutely clear on this, because opponents have done a depressingly spectacular job of re-framing and confusing the issue: There is absolutely no valid rational, moral, or ethical objection to same-sex marriage. None. Period. Opponents have had years to present one, and they’ve failed, repeatedly. Every attempt is easily dismissed, so opponents have resorted to deflection and obfuscation: it’s really about state’s rights, or the establishment clause, or freedom of religion, or “the will of the people” against “activist judges.” Political parties use it as a political issue to rally support when convenient (we might not be able to get everybody to agree on economic policy, but at least we’re all agreed that we don’t trust the homos). And opponents have always made sure that it gets turned into a popular vote, so that they can take advantage of numbers and of voter apathy (it doesn’t affect me directly, so I neither understand nor care) to do their work for them.
It’s not a political debate; it’s nothing more than a blatant example of relegating a minority group to second-class citizenship. It’s punishing people for being “different from normal,” and — this is the part that always strikes me as the most astoundingly unfair — it does this by punishing the very people who most want to live “normal” lives. But they’re told they have to be patient and to subject their own beliefs to the beliefs and opinions of strangers. The rights of couples to form long-term relationships that are acknowledged and celebrated by society, is trumped by the rights of people in conservative pockets of the state (and Utah, for some unfathomable reason) to go into a voting booth and anonymously say that they’re made uncomfortable by the gays. In a society that is supposed to guarantee that everyone is heard, a sizable minority is being ignored. Their voices are drowned out by people completely unaffected by the issue, demanding that they be heard. (The whole time insisting that they’re the victims).
And we’re supposed to believe that choosing not to support one of the most vocal and self-congratulatory homophobes is a “chilling effect?” What’s genuinely chilling is how effectively these assholes have manipulated and corrupted the concepts of free speech and representative democracy. To the point where people aren’t just willing but obligated to sacrifice some of their liberty, just to make absolutely certain that someone else has the right to say that he hates them.
The Complex Question
So the issue of civil rights is neither a complicated nor nuanced one: there’s right, and there’s wrong. Where it gets complicated is when it comes time to decide what you’re going to do about it.
For starters, everybody’s been dancing around the question, but one thing is true: If you buy Shadow Complex, you are giving some amount of money to an homophobe who actively campaigns against same-sex marriage and equal rights for homosexuals. That’s not in question.
[Note: This is in question, and I should’ve done more research before stating this as fact. Card’s writings are still out there as a matter of public record, so that he’s a jerk hasn’t changed. And the game series is still an ongoing collaboration with the team at Chair Entertainment, in the sense that more books and games in the same game world are planned. But according to Chair’s Twitter stream, Card licensed the property from them to write a book, and the game is based on that book. There’s still no definitive statement as to whether he gets any money from the sales of the game and all.]
Orson Scott Card is not just someone who happens to have opinions that differ from mine (and I would hope, yours), and voted a particular way on an issue. He’s someone who’s outspoken in his opinions and has actively campaigned to limit the rights of others. He’s made a stand. Don’t equate it to somebody who keeps a private opinion you don’t agree with, or say that it’s unrelated to anything else and that it’s none of your business. He’s made it public, and he’s made it your business. (I saw someone on a message board trying to equate it with calling for a boycott of Spore because Will Wright contributed to the financial campaigns of conservatives. That’s a ludicrous analogy, both because Wright has always been politically neutral in public, and because his contributions were to candidates, not individual issues. If Wright’s ever voiced a political opinion in public, or stated a specific part of the platform he was endorsing, I certainly haven’t seen it; it wouldn’t surprise me at all that someone with as much money as he presumably has would be a fiscal conservative. Whatever the case, he has in no way been as outspoken as Card, and the comparison is insulting).
Also, Card isn’t tangentially related to the project. Apparently, his credit on the game is just a “Special Thanks.” And accounts vary as to how much influence he had on the world-building and the setting, but everyone involved (Card included) says that he didn’t contribute to the game itself. But that’s not his entire involvement. He sure as hell is involved enough to promote the game and attempt to generate sales based on his name. You can’t have it both ways: using the marketing tag-line “based on a novel by Orson Scott Card” while simultaneously saying he had nothing to do with it. It’s pretty well-known that George Lucas has little day-to-day involvement with game production at LucasArts, but you had better believe that the company uses his name to sell their games. This is nothing like saying, “I love Half-Life 2 but I heard that the 2nd Assistant Art Director said something anti-semitic once, and now I have no games left to play!” Again, Orson Scott Card is a guy who’s written several essays on the moral failure of gays and the invalidity of gay relationships, on how liberals are destroying democracy, and who is prominently featured in the game’s promotional material as one of its key collaborators.
So the only questions are: how much money is he getting? And how much do you care?
Peter David’s got answers, of a sort, to both questions. He’s the one who wrote the script to Shadow Complex (so he’s more involved in the actual game than Card is), and he jumped into the comments on the column with both arms swinging. To the first question, he doesn’t give out much detail, because the details of that financial arrangement genuinely aren’t any of our business. He just says that a boycott wouldn’t affect Card that much (nor would it affect David himself). The only people hurt by even a widespread boycott — which, let’s all be realistic, is highly unlikely — would be Chair, the developers of the game.
We don’t know and most likely won’t ever know exactly how much money Card gets from a purchase of Shadow Complex. Although the game is based on one of his novels (purportedly a right-wing fantasy, a thinly-disguised parable against the evils of the liberal elite), the book is essentially a licensed novelization of a game world created by the developers. It may have been a one-time licensing type deal, he may get a cut of every sale, he may get nothing at all from the game and instead treat it instead as advertising for his book.
(I’m assuming the last one’s pretty damn unlikely).
[Note: If it is a case of a novelization of an IP licensed from a game developer, that situation isn’t unlikely in the slightest.]
And personally, I don’t think that makes a bit of difference. Even assuming that development were free, and every penny of every $15 sale of the game went directly to Card and then that went directly into a special fund to have gay men put into re-education camps, one person choosing not to buy it wouldn’t ruin the whole scheme. Even a hundred people, or considering how much money went into support of Prop 8, even ten thousand people. The question isn’t dollars but principle. However insignificant to him, he’s either directly or indirectly getting some small part of my money. Do I want to endorse that? How much do I care?
[Note: Again, it’s irresponsible to assume that Card gets money from game sales.]
Your Opinions and Why They’re Stupid
Peter David’s got lots more to say about the second question, how much we should care. He accuses Christian Nutt of using the column to advocate a boycott of the game (he wasn’t), and he decries boycotts as an example of “inelegant,” “intolerant,” “cheap, vicious and small-minded” “scare tactics.” He claims that it’s a question of free speech and tolerance: you don’t counter intolerance with more intolerance, and rather than stifling the voices of those you disagree with, you should make sure that they’re heard so that they’re eventually exposed and discredited on their own merits. He borrows a story from Neil Gaiman about “killing someone with kindness” and extrapolates from that the notion that buying the game will somehow end up with Card’s opinions being discredited. He claims that the “inelegance” and “intolerance” of boycotts is because of their chilling effect, punishing artists for voicing unpopular opinions, and enforcing their silence out of fear of financial repercussions.
To be clear: I like Peter David. In addition to being a pretty good writer, he’s an outspoken proponent of social, political, and artistic issues where he and I are in absolute agreement, including gay rights in particular. By all accounts, he acts according to his conscience, and he’ll take a moral or ethical stand even if it’s an unpopular one. Because he’s been outspoken about freedom of speech in the past, it’s easy to accept that his stand on this one is motivated by his beliefs and not money or personal gain. So in short: great guy. I still think he’s way off base here.
David uses some extremely tortured word-wrangling and context-manipulation to accuse Nutt of advocating a boycott, using this phrase: “That’s why it’s okay to skip buying Dragon Quest IX or Shadow Complex.” Even taken out of context, that’s hardly a Call to Arms. If David believes that “you can skip buying a videogame” is a vicious and small-minded assault on free speech, then I certainly hope he never finds out about Metacritic.
But David’s accusation becomes even more ridiculous when you take the line in context:
The medium of games is intrinsically capable of the heights of meaning and emotion that film is; our discourse must rise to that level as well.
And that’s why it’s acceptable to talk about this. That’s why it’s okay to skip buying Dragon Quest IX or Shadow Complex. If we can have meaningful political discussion in other media, we can have it in games.
That’s not an attempt to stifle debate; it’s exactly the opposite! It’s acknowledging that yes, there is room to talk about games in a larger context. If it bothers you that a game was produced in collaboration with a bigot, you should be able to say so. If you decide that your objection to a game isn’t limited to the game itself, but to the opinions of its creator, you should be free to say that. You shouldn’t have your opinion stifled with “don’t be stupid, it’s just a game.” (And, I’ll add, you definitely shouldn’t have a moderator shutting down your debate after saying it doesn’t matter). That attitude contributes nothing and in fact drags down the entire medium to be nothing more than a juvenile, pointless, meaningless diversion.
If games are an expressive medium, then there is some communication going on, and that communication doesn’t take place in a vacuum. We can and should be able to talk about games not only in terms of game mechanics and whether or not they’re “fun,” but about the environment in which they exist. What does the game say? What do its creators say? Why insist that videogames are so trivial and inconsequential that they can’t spark a discussion about something larger? Like, for instance, same-sex marriage, or civil rights, or religious intolerance, or funding for political campaigns, or sweatshops in developing countries, or free speech?
It’s my belief that what you do matters — everything you do. I think it’s ridiculous to believe that encouraging people not to buy Shadow Complex because of Card’s involvement is an assault on free speech. But I think it’s ridiculous because it’s an expression of free speech. What’s not ridiculous is that underlying idea: that small, seemingly trivial decisions can ripple out to have much greater ramifications. Saying “it doesn’t matter” or “what’s the big deal” or “what are you hoping to accomplish” isn’t just apathetic, it’s dangerous. It does matter, all of it.
Ignorance, Apathy, and Moving the Goalposts
Ignorance and apathy are easily manipulated by people trying to further their own agendas. As a computer science major, I was familiar with the work of Alan Turing, but completely ignorant about his pretty horrific personal life. After being outed during a criminal investigation (in which he was the victim), he was forced to chemical castration by the UK government, and he committed suicide shortly after. I first heard about the story via a twitter message from a Mythbuster. If somebody else first learns about the Rape of Nanking in conjunction with the composer of music for a videogame, then what’s wrong with that? What matters is that we learned something.
Turing’s story happened in England in the early 50s, a time and place I would’ve assumed had already long abandoned that type of gross injustice. Currently in Iraq, gay men are being hunted down and murdered by religious extremists; that Newsweek article quotes a man as saying that Hussein’s Iraq may have been oppressive, but at least it was secular. (With the numbers of people getting killed in Iraq every day for various reasons, as well as the widespread oppression of women in even peaceful areas of the region, it’s a story that’s easily overwhelmed). Those are, hopefully, things that we can’t imagine happening here in the U.S. But what it says to me is that “stop being so over-dramatic; that couldn’t happen here” isn’t calm and reason, but apathy. The only reason that it can’t happen here is because we refuse to let it.
Do I believe that buying a copy of Shadow Complex will result in death squads rounding up and murdering gay people in California? It seems highly unlikely. But then, I wouldn’t have believed that religious groups would be permitted to introduce a proposition onto the California ballot in 2008 that would deny civil rights to a minority, much less that it would pass. Apparently I’m not that good at predicting the future.
And I have to wonder how a society gets to the point where imprisonment, chemical castration, and eventually murder are condoned. I suspect it doesn’t happen in big, sweeping changes like we see in the movies (or videogames), but that it’s a gradual process. People slowly and methodically chip away at liberties, foster fear and mistrust of minorities, and then look around to see if they got away with it. And when they’re met with silence and apathy, they can go on to the next step.
The other thing that helps is using moral relativism to keep moving the goalposts, so that everyone gradually loses sight of the difference between “acceptable” and “unacceptable.” Here, we’re getting it from the right and the left. Our persecuted California conservative Republican from the comment section says that boycotts are fine against “a rapist, child molester, killers of gays, jews, etc.” but that spreading homophobic rhetoric is simply free and open debate. Or in other words, “calm down, he’s not killing you, he’s just saying that you’re mentally unstable and campaigning to have the government take away your rights.” So bigotry and homophobia are a natural and wonderful part of the American political process, but murder is where she absolutely draws the line.
Over on the left, the GayGamers turned the already wacky idea of carbon offsets into a “hatred offset.” They suggest that if the idea of Card’s involvement in the game bothers you, go ahead and buy it, but donate the same amount of money (or however much you can spare, really) to a gay charity. Hey, here’s another idea: if the idea of Card’s involvement in the game bothers you, don’t buy the game. And still donate the money to a charity. Even if the idea of having a net effect of zero appeals to you on some “do no harm” level, I’ve got to remind you that you just contributed to a project that by your own admission helps support hatred. Am I also allowed to club baby seals as long as I plant a tree for each one? I’ll admit that I’m not that familiar with either Buddhism nor Catholicism, but I did always assume that the concepts of karma and confession were more oriented towards doing good instead of just trying to cancel yourself out.
“Love the Painting, Hate the Painter”
And here’s something else I never would’ve believed: that a crackpot could write a manifesto calling other people “tragic genetic mix-ups” (he’s no homophobe, though!) and calling the government his “mortal enemy” and promising to “act to destroy that government and bring it down,” and still have companies eager to work with him. I’d always believed that that’s the kind of thing that hurts a resume.
But hey, the guy can write (according to some)! That’s all that matters, right?
On one of the discussions online about the game, I saw the expression “love the sinner, hate the sin” corrupted into “love the painting, hate the painter.” It’s a sentiment that’s been repeated frequently (including by Peter David) in the comments of Nutt’s column and elsewhere: you have to be able to separate the art from the artist. Judge a work on its own merits, not based on your judgement of the person who made it. It’s how we can appreciate the music of Richard Wagner even knowing he was an anti-semite, recognize Birth of a Nation as a landmark film even though it and D.W. Griffith promoted white supremacy, acknowledge the beauty of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings even though he was by all accounts kind of a douchebag.
I’ve always had a problem with that idea. As important as art is, there’s a whole hell of a lot more to life than art. And being a good human always trumps making good art. And most importantly: it’s not impossible to do both. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of extremely talented people in my various jobs, people able to create things that I wouldn’t hesitate to call “genius.” And, true to the stereotype of the tortured artist, some of those people were insufferable pricks. But most of them — not a few outlying exceptions, but most of the talented people I’ve met — are genuinely good people, friendly, unassuming, and also absurdly talented. The idea that being a well-adjusted person is the “price” of genius, that you can’t create great things without alienating people, is a myth.
Art is about communication. If you want a work of art to speak for itself, then shut up and let it speak for itself. If you make your personal views known, then that becomes another part of your communication with the human race. Imagine you’re sitting in a concert hall, a pianist comes on stage, sits down at the piano, and begins playing the most sublime work of musical magnificence you’ve ever heard in your entire life. After a minute or two, still playing, he faces the audience and launches into a tirade about how Mexicans are by nature lazy and shiftless and are destroying the country. This goes on for a few more minutes, at the conclusion of which, he plays a breathtaking finale, fireworks come out of the piano, and he stands up and shouts “Hitler was right!”
I don’t know about you guys, but when the show’s over, I’m not thinking about the music. I’m thinking, “Geez, what an asshole.”
But what if the guy doesn’t make it part of the performance? What if he just puts a note in the program: “There will be a fifteen minute intermission. God hates fags.” What if he keeps it out of the show altogether, and just waits until a TV interview afterwards when he talks about his music and his involvement with white supremacist organizations? What if he keeps it unrelated to his music, and instead writes it on his weblog, “Just One Guy’s Opinion About the Inherent Inferiority of the Jews”? There are people who see a distinction in each one, and are able to see where one case is acceptable while the rest aren’t (or believe that they’re all separable and acceptable). But I don’t see any such distinction; I believe they’re all part of the same thing: they’re all the message this guy is sending to the world.
Of course, while the “debate” around civil rights isn’t complicated, the situation with Shadow Complex in particular genuinely is. It is by most accounts an excellent game. According to those who’ve played it, it expresses no political or social agenda. And most significantly, it’s not the work of one person, or even a group of people who share the same opinions. The guy who wrote the script is an outspoken proponent of free speech and civil rights; the people in charge of the studio producing the game are, by Nutt’s account, perfectly nice and seemed supportive of his relationship (or as Card would describe it, aberrant “liason”); and the guy whose name is attached to the project as writer of the novel on which it’s based, is an unrepentant hateful asshole.
Obviously, I’m not buying the game,
but then that’s not much of a sacrifice, since it’s not a game I was interested in, anyway. Even despite that, Card’s involvement is the breaking point for me: however insignificant the actual amount, he is getting some money for the game, and that’s not something I’ll support, on principle. It’s a shame that that decision will also affect people who don’t necessarily share Card’s hateful views, but then the fact remains: he hasn’t kept his views a secret, they knew he was a bigot when they decided to work with him, and they didn’t have any problem with that.
[Note: Scratch that; the game looks like it was cleverly designed and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. I wish that someone would make a definitive statement as to whether it benefits Card financially, because if it doesn’t then I’d have no problem buying the game.]
Is that “punitive” against Card? Is it an attempt to hurt him financially, to signal that I find his opinions unacceptable? Is it a wholesale rejection and dismissal of whatever value his other work might have, based on his opinions on one set of issues? You bet your hairy ass it is!
Free speech guarantees that Orson Scott Card can express his toxic opinions without fear of government intervention. I would never want to see that fundamental right taken away, even as he uses that right to advocate removing the fundamental rights of other people.
What free speech does not guarantee is that Card is freed from taking responsibility for his words and actions. It does not mean that his words must be given the same weight and validity as those of a sane person. It does not mean that his freedom of speech trumps the freedoms of those who want to speak out against him. It does not mean that Liberty will perish if he discovers there’s no longer enough of a market to support him financially (there are more than enough non-hateful writers who can’t make a living on their writing for me to panic at the thought of a bigot having to make do with nothing more than his royalty payments from Ender’s Game). It does not obligate me, contrary to Peter David’s bizarre logical leaps, to give him money to somehow demonstrate that I’m a better person than he is.
I wouldn’t advocate an organized boycott of the game, but only because boycotts tend to backfire instead of having the intended effect. (And the anti-gay movement has already had far too much baffling success portraying themselves as victims). I don’t think it’s “silly” or “pointless” at all, especially not because it’s “just a game,” and not because Card’s opinions (as opposed to his right to express his opinions) need to be defended.
But if you’ve got a problem with Card’s involvement, then instead of a boycott, I’d propose doing exactly what Christian Nutt did, and the person who started that message board thread did, and people online are continuing to do: get the word out and let people know something they might not have known before. Tell people about the big picture — you’re definitely not going to hear it from ads or reviews — let them know who the major players are and the extent of each one’s involvement with the project, and let people know why you’ve got a problem with the game. Let them be the ones to decide whether they think it’s “silly” or “hypocritical” or “no big deal,” and let them decide whether they want to buy it or not. If you know what Card’s said and done, and you realize that he’s benefiting from your buying the game, and you don’t have a problem with that for whatever reason, then no problem. There’s at least a dozen reasons why someone could reasonably justify getting the game, and probably a dozen more unreasonable ones. As long as people are making informed decisions, that’s what free speech is all about.
[Final Note: After reading more about this topic online, I’ve seen the conversation go off on some wacky tangents, with some pretty creepy allegations being tossed about. In particular, the assumption that because the studio is based in Utah, the developers are Mormon, and because of that, they’re probably Republican and more than likely agree with Card’s views! I want to put as much distance as I can between myself and that nonsense. I neither know nor care whether some or all of the developers are Mormon or Republican or whatever; that’s not anybody’s business until they choose to make it your business. Even if it were a matter of public record, it’s not only ridiculous but dangerous to assume beliefs or actions based on someone’s religious or political affiliation.
When I said that “they knew he was a bigot when they decided to work with him,” I made it sound as if mere association with somebody like Card is enough to condemn someone. I worded that very badly, and I wish I hadn’t said it. The idea I was trying to get across was this: if you go into business with someone who promotes bigotry, where your business is funding them, then you need to be prepared for the consequences of that. But I just don’t want any of my money going to Orson Scott Card; it really is as simple as that. I’m not interested in guilt by association.
I’m not interested in conspiracy theories, either. I’m taking everyone involved at face value. Card’s made his stand clear, so there’s no gray area there. Peter David has said what the game is “about” and that it doesn’t promote any agenda, so there’s no gray area there, either. Chair have said that it’s their IP that was licensed, so I’m interpreting that to mean that the game is in no way “Card’s work.” Microsoft and/or Epic have marketed the game using Card’s name, but I’ve seen and worked on plenty of games that use a well-known name in the marketing material, but that person doesn’t receive any cut of the sales. My opinion about not wanting to separate the art from the artist still stands, but it doesn’t seem like Card is in any way “the artist” in this case (as opposed to, say, the novel Empire). And I still don’t want even an insignificant amount of my money going to Card, but it’s not clear if even a penny would.
In a more clear-cut case, I’d still have no problem recommending a personal boycott (as opposed to an organized one), because whether or not it’s “effective” is moot: again, my $15 isn’t going to make or break anyone, but then, I’m not trying to “break” anyone. And I’m not trying to convince anyone else to buy it or not buy it, either. What I’m doing is saying, “I feel strongly enough about this issue that I’m choosing not to buy this, and I want you to know exactly why I’m doing it.” Know what you’re doing, and decide for yourself; what matters is that you’re aware of the issue and you’re aware that it’s important enough to me to make a big deal about it. It’s become apparent that I still don’t know enough about this particular game to make a clear-cut call one way or the other.]
*Seriously, the idea that NeoGAF has somehow become one of the most visible forums for videogame discussion on the internet should be an embarrassment to everyone who makes and plays videogames. In a world with the Something Awful Games forum, the Penny Arcade games forum, and hell, even Quarter to Three, there’s no excuse for having to put up with that nonsense at all, much less using it as representative of videogame fans overall.