The Game of Life

gameoflife.jpg[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.

Boy-on-Boycott

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.

32 thoughts on “The Game of Life

  1. I’ll need to give you a bit of background before I give my opinion on the actual post.

    I grew up in an extremely homophobic country (it’s your last name), and although you won’t be hanged for being gay, you’ll have committed social suicide coming out. I’m very pro-gay myself, and I get a bad rap for it – threats, jeering, etc, and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m also extremely hetero I’d probably be beaten up a little (not that they can take me, mind :P). Case in point: I moved back here after a two-year stay in Canada, went to a university and, after a while, noticed a couple of gay guys that people were picking on. I told them they were always welcome to hang out with me, they got comfortable enough to admit they were gay (although, really, they were pretty sterotypical gay guys, heh) and now we’re friends. It’s cost me a lot, but my close friends have stuck by and we’re doing fine.

    This has also meant that I’m neither “right” nor “left” wing (in the American sense), seeing as that my own rights don’t even extend to the voting booth. I take what’s dealt me and hope for the best.

    Now, as to whether or not I’d buy something from a person I don’t agree with politically…Hmm.

    See, here’s the thing. I’m the kind of person who weighs each and every issue, examines every angle and possibility. It’s how I arrived at my pro-gay viewpoint. So unless the person in question is Ann Coulter (or a similar nutjob, like your tasteful pianist), who I actively hate (I’m flying on a magic carpet right now!), I’m probably going to not care about their political viewpoints, but just see what they have to say and see what that contributes to my overall thinking. I’m past the point on gays now (there is never going to be a day when I vote against gay rights; then again I’m still looking forward to the day I’ll vote), but I still consider it on most issues.

    (And just to satisfy your curiosity, I’m far more liberal than I am conservative. I just agree with their values better.)

    As to whether or not games can be a way to express political opinions? Of course the can. In fact, they can probably do that beter than movies or TV, which you can passively experience (games need a certain amount of concetration).

    And finally, as to whether or not boycotts help: Eh. I’ve done my share of boycotts, ‘specially around the time Bush invaded Iraq, but it was only towards foods or clothing. A boycott doesn’t necessarily harm free speech, although it can. I can’t help but feel that, if the masses were wrong and a small group were right, and then a member of the minority wrote a book about their beliefs and were boycotted (and hence ruined) because of it…it’s a large negative. Imagine someone writing a pro-Jew book in Nazi Germany.

  2. Oh, and one more thing. I’ve never understood why gay rights is still an issue. If it’s a sin, it’s your fault to educate, not prevent. If God doesn’t exist and it isn’t a sin, then you’re just being a dick. I mean, honestly, those guys wanting the “sanctity” of marriage hate hot lesbians going at it like rabbits. They’d much rather have some guys in there too…

  3. Now, as to whether or not I’d buy something from a person I don’t agree with politically…Hmm.

    And again, this is not a case of “a person I don’t agree with politically.” Card is a person who’s making statements that are just plain hateful and wrong. Look at his various writings again; I’m tired of linking to them and tired of summarizing them. It’s not just some difference of opinion.

    Take the example of Will Wright above. According to public record, he donated money to McCain’s campaign. Therefore, he’s most likely a person I don’t agree with politically. And the McCain platform was full of issues that I not only disagreed with, but felt were dangerous to America. But there are multiple valid sides to those issues. That’s what discourse and debate are for.

    Over on that Gamasutra post (which I can’t respond to, because I can’t register for some reason), the comment was made: “it’s like boycotting a game because one of the developers supported overturning Roe v. Wade.” But it’s not like that, either. Abortion is another topic people feel passionately about; I’m absolutely convinced it’s necessary to keep it legal, and that trying to make it illegal would be dangerous. But I have to acknowledge that there is valid opposition to it, even if it’s one I strongly disagree with. That’s why compromise is essential.

    What Card says, though, is indefensible. There is no valid opposition to same-sex marriage. There are not two sides to the issue. It is inherently unjust, unfair, and intrusive to be rewriting Constitutions to limit rights only to heterosexual people. Card’s statements on homosexuals and their relationships are objectively wrong. When someone says that blacks or jews are inferior, or for that matter says that the Earth is flat, I don’t “disagree” with him, I know that he is wrong. And I don’t have any obligation to treat his statements as if they have any validity.

    I can’t help but feel that, if the masses were wrong and a small group were right, and then a member of the minority wrote a book about their beliefs and were boycotted (and hence ruined) because of it…it’s a large negative. Imagine someone writing a pro-Jew book in Nazi Germany.

    I’m pretty sure that if you wrote a pro-Jew book in Nazi Germany, you’d have more to worry about than poor book sales.

    In the United States, we guarantee that people are permitted to have and to voice unpopular decisions. A person writing an antisemitic book and a person writing a Zionist book are both equally protected. Neither is guaranteed an audience or media coverage. We’re supposed to make sure that all voices have the potential to be heard, not to make sure that they are heard; that’s the responsibility of individuals.

    And I believe that’s the key point that people overlook: individual responsibility. The government cannot and must not do anything to prevent Card from stating his opinions, no matter how wrong and toxic they are. Otherwise, the government would be free to prevent groups in support of civil rights from stating their opinions. The government must remain objective to allow the free exchange of ideas, both good or bad. That doesn’t mean that individuals have to do the same; it means the opposite. Individual citizens have even more of a responsibility to be discerning. The government is basically lazy: it’s not going to make a decision about the merit of what’s being said. People can’t be lazy; they have to speak up and say, “No, this is right” or “this is wrong.” Even at the so-called “risk” of being hurt financially or hurt in popularity.

    Oh, and one more thing. I’ve never understood why gay rights is still an issue.

    The reason it’s still an issue is because opponents have done such a depressingly good job of manipulating people’s apathy, their concept of free speech, and their desire for tolerance and objectivity.

    They’ve managed to present this issue as if it were merely a difference of equally valid opinions, instead of the oppression of a minority.

    They’ve managed to re-define the word “tolerance,” so that they can call a person “intolerant” simply for saying that an idea is wrong. “Tolerance” means that I have to live with the fact that people like Orson Scott Card exist, just as he has to live with the fact that there are people who are attracted to the same gender as themselves. It does not mean that I have to let him say whatever he wants without telling him he’s wrong.

    They’ve managed to spin every situation around so that they’re the victims. So that even as they rewrite Constitutions to say that homosexuality is wrong, they can complain about being victimized by the liberal majority who are trying to “control how people think.”

    They’ve managed to deflect and obfuscate the issue, to convince people that they’re not voting to decide whether same-sex marriages are legally protected; they’re voting for free speech, or state’s rights, or whatever other tangentially related issue they can whip up support for.

    They’ve managed to decry rational, defensible rulings as being “legislating from the bench” (or Card’s “dictator-judges”), so they can move it back into a forum in which people aren’t obligated to have a rational basis for their opinions.

    They’ve made sure that it’s always a popular vote, so that apathy and distance and the law of the majority are on their side. So a voter can say, “it doesn’t affect me directly” and vote on an issue that does affect other people directly. There will always be more heterosexuals than homosexuals, and unless more straight people take responsibility and realize “Hey wait a second, this actually does affect other people!” then a popular vote will always be in favor of the majority.

  4. Also: before, I said that it wasn’t much of a sacrifice for me because I wasn’t interested in the game anyway. After seeing this video of the game, though, I’m interested. It looks like a pretty cool and cleverly-designed game that could be a hell of a lot of fun to play.

    Card’s involvement, however tenuous, is still enough to make me too uncomfortable to buy it, but again, everybody should make his own call. I don’t want to come across as if I’m dismissing the game itself.

  5. Hi Chuck! I mostly read your stuff on Google’s RSS reader, so I hadn’t seen the redesign before. Nice!

    I’m really glad you spoke out on this. I read about it on Kotaku first.

    As I read people’s writing on it, what jumps out at me is how we all need to discuss this by creating analogies or talking about formulating abstract principles. You know, like saying “well what if [hypothetical related situation]? does that mean we should [obviously inappropriate response]?” Or, “I believe in [principle x] therefore [logical/ illogical/ wingnut conclusion y].”

    I like your conclusion, because it escapes those muddles. This is this situation and no other. Do what you can to understand it, then make a choice.

    (and hey, didn’t Card contribute to the swordfight insults in Monkey Island? Was he a known hatemonger at the time?)

  6. P.S.: man, I hate to say it, but I gotta quibble about your use of objective vs. subjective. Them being wrong still doesn’t make it objective. The only things that are objective are events, and those just barely.

  7. (and hey, didn’t Card contribute to the swordfight insults in Monkey Island? Was he a known hatemonger at the time?)

    According to that kotaku article you mentioned, he’s been spreading his garbage since at least 1990, and that’s when Monkey Island was released.

    As for his contributions, you may know better than I do. The version I heard is that he wrote the insults and then the team had to write the responses (in other words, the only parts that are actually clever). I’ve got no idea whether he were credited or paid for it or not; I got the impression from somewhere that it was done as a favor.

    Even that small amount is still more direct involvement in the production of Secret of Monkey Island than he supposedly had in the production of Shadow Complex. The major differences, though, are:

    1. I’m 99.99% sure that he is in no way compensated for or benefits from sales of the Monkey Island re-release.
    2. I never saw Monkey Island promoted by Card or marketed using Card’s name to drive sales.

    And that’s it. Neither game promotes Card’s agenda, apparently, and neither game had his heavy involvement. For me, it’s as simple as this: I’m not willingly giving any of my money to a bigot, or to a project that profits from its connection to a bigot. So I won’t be buying The Dig re-release, either, even though I know people who worked on that game. (I’ve got a copy of it somewhere, but I had no idea who Card was at the time I bought it. Damage is already done).

    P.S.: man, I hate to say it, but I gotta quibble about your use of objective vs. subjective. Them being wrong still doesn’t make it objective. The only things that are objective are events, and those just barely.

    Nope, I was using the word correctly. The Earth is an oblate spheroid. Race is irrelevant in determining a human being’s aptitude. Same-sex couples can and do have stable and lasting relationships. Proposition 8 does discriminate against same-sex couples. These things are objectively true. They don’t depend on any person’s interpretation to be true.

  8. Aw, there’s only so much point in quibbling on this. In fact, there may be none, because I’m sure I agree with every point you’re trying to make and opinion you have. And I don’t see a need to be the ACLU, either, defending people I don’t like.

    Let’s put it this way: if one allows that certain human values are axiomatic, the statement “discrimation is bad” follows as an objective corrolary. Under other axioms, it does not. The fact that the validity of the statement depends on the given axioms means the statement is subjective.

    But it’s a quibble and I grant your point.

  9. And just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to make any provocation like “if people don’t buy Shadow Complex then they shouldn’t buy Monkey Island.” I hope I didn’t come across that way. I don’t think the purchasing of Monkey Island can be seen in any way as a support of Orson Scott Card.

    That said, I’m curious now: I think I actually do recall seeing Card’s name mentioned on the back of the original Monkey Island boxes. Not prominently, mind you. I wonder if one of those obsessive fan sites has a scan…

    Again, not that it matters. It absolutely does not. This is all trivial digression, and I don’t mean to cut at the real and important issues at hand. Mostly I just want to say I agree with you, I won’t be buying the game.

  10. Well, I was going to write some pithy variation on “tl;dr”, but your updated notes stole some of my thunder. First of all, for me the discussion is still solely academic as I don’t have the money right now to afford Shadow Complex, no matter what my feelings are on the subject.

    I think that even in your revised statements you still end up too close to an association fallacy of one kind or another for my tastes. With the number of people involved in a game like Shadow Complex, I find any logic that purports that purchasing Shadow Complex directly goes to hate-works rather strained.

    Beyond that, I have a hard time getting worked up about bigotry at this point in my life. The world is full of bigots and if I boycotted everything that I thought was somehow related to bigotry I wouldn’t have much left in life. But then, I had a cap-A Atheism period where I strongly felt that just about every religion was bigoted and backwards and holding our species back. The relativism is not lost upon me that when I do stand upon that summit, many in turn think I’m a bigot…

    Particularly on this issue, I know a lot of people that are against same-sex marriage and certainly I try to explain why they are wrong every chance that I get, but I can’t stop doing business with them or living with them, just because I know their ideas/memes are wrong.

    I know that your screed above already discounts my opinion on the subject as mere “obfuscation”, but I’ve got a sense that you seem to be living in a different world than I do. I’ve gotten screeds that are worse than what Orson Scott Card wrote ranted to me by waiters and clerks in businesses that I otherwise trust. I don’t have to tolerate it, but I do have to live with it. I’m going to make my decision to purchase the game based upon the merits of the game itself, and I don’t consider it “apathy”: I’ve thought long and hard about all sorts of bigotry and decided that I would pick my battles with bigotry in ways that I feel like I can make a difference.

    I’ll leave my opinions on the “hatred offset” to another time.

  11. Uh, just to clear-up what I was saying (I wrote my comment at the end of one very long and exhaustive day):

    What I meant by “disagree with politically” is what you’re saying: we can disagree on the merits of socialism vs capitalism, and that’s fine; but I am not buying a CD from a musician that supports, say, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, or is opposed to gay rights, etc. It’s why I mentioned Ann Coulter.

    And the pro-Jewish book (or even statement) in Nazi Germany was just a way of me saying that there has been a case of someone being right against the wrong majority, hence my reluctance towards boycotting. But, even assuming your original post was correct and that Card might be getting a bit of cash from sales…well, GayGamer did the right thing, I think, by saying you should donate to a gay charity if you end-up buying it.

    It’s an interesting issue I’ve been kicking around my head all day. Good post.

  12. I’ve got commenter’s remorse. This is an important subject and my nit-picking can only be counter-productive. I can imagine it might be quite irritating to be provoked into such dickering. I’m sorry. I don’t mind if you want to delete all but my first post.

  13. Time for the other side to have a say. It’s funny how every commenter seems to just “know” that it’s wrong to be against gay marriage. Well, guess what. I KNOW that homosexuality is wrong. So where do we stand now? We can’t all KNOW that both sides of the issue are the right ones. One or the other must be wrong. My opinions are dictated by my religious beliefs, as it is with many around the world. I don’t really understand the atheist who is for gay rights since homosexuality is, by and large, not evolutionarily beneficial. You can’t make babies that way and that’s kind of how we, as living beings, are able to continue living on. If the entire world went gay, perhaps in this day and age we’d be able to keep going by growing babies in labs or something, but that hardly seems efficient. (How’s that for a reasonable and valid opinion?) On the religious side…well…it shouldn’t even be an issue of debate.

    Now, about the game. Do any of Card’s anti-gay beliefs pop up throughout gameplay? I’ve only played the demo so I don’t know for certain, but I’ve read from others that they do not. So…why is this an issue? Are we going to now boycott every artists or creator who has a viewpoint we disagree with? Because the WOULD stifle their willingness to create new things and the world would definitely suffer because of it. I think the writer of this article is full of puffed-up ideas of what is right and wrong, tending to the side that pretty much all of his viewpoints are the right ones. Really? Are you that arrogant? I side with a higher belief, in a God whom I know to be omniscient. I think the day will come that I can safely say my beliefs were correct because I followed the One Who Knows Everything. And what are you basing your beliefs on? The changeable, fallible knowledge of man. Please don’t argue this point because it’s so glaringly apparent. I just read an article on how the appendix is now believed to have purpose, whereas it was previously thought, by evolutionists lovely Darwin no less, that the appendix was a pointless vestige. Not so. Also, the world was once flat and it revolved around the sun. Blood-letting was also a good idea. Oh, and leprosy was contagious. You see what I’m getting at here? Is it any wonder that, Mormons, who refrain from smoking, drinking, and other harmful substances, tend to have the highest rate of longevity in the country, if not perhaps the world? Refraining from the substances was a decree from God. Remember? The One Who Knows Everything? Yeah, it would seem He did us, Mormons well on the matter.

    And now that I’ve outed myself as a member of the Mormon church, let me give my support for Card in his viewpoints. While I may not be as adamant about publicly declaring my beliefs on gay marriage, I still agree with him. It’s wrong. I know it’s wrong. It’s a sin against nature and God. It’s a sin against yourself. It poses no benefit to society, whereas the union between man and a woman does. Though, in today’s world, marriage is still tossed about like a hockey puck, thought of as hardly nothing anymore. To me, it’s sacred and it’s a privilege. Not something to hand out like candy to whoever thinks they’re entitled to it. There are many heterosexuals that I don’t feel should get married either, but at least they can produce offspring and bring children into the world. Now, I’m going on a rant about homosexuality as opposed to the game, but I feel it must be said because too often the whiners on the side of the gays and lesbians are heard more than those against. Yeah, the writer also called them a minority who was being ignored. I laugh in your face because that is clearly not true. Ninety percent of the arguing is produced by those for gay marriage. The other ten percent don’t feel the need because to them, it’s not up for debate. It’s not something that has to be argued or deliberated over. It’s truth and truth is unalterable. Why should gays and lesbians feel so offended? Why was it that for the past several thousand years, homosexuality was considered wrong? Why have those people ever felt the need to hide? Because, deep down, they know their guilt. You should never have to hide if you know you’re doing the right thing. That is becoming more and more accepted today is a testament to the growing wickedness of the world we live in. Ever heard of Sodom and Gomorrah? Yeah, they thought the homosexual stuff was A-OK too. Haven’t heard much from them for awhile.

    Card has every right to express his opinions. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with them or not. It doesn’t matter that you foolishly believe you’re right without any question. It’s still his right as it’s your right to disagree. I can’t force you to believe my side. You can’t force me to accept your side either. That’s called free will. It’s something we all have, that we’re all entitled to regardless. You can’t take it away from me. I won’t try and take it away from you. You can disagree with me all you want. I’m not going to try and stop you or no longer support you. Oh, and I just love how the writer of the article loves that Peter David guy. Why’s that? Oh, it’s because you largely agree with him on everything (and then this came along, but you’ll still be okay with it for now)? Shocking! You think he’s brilliant and intelligent and that he’s a man who knows what he’s saying. Unbelievable! Is it possible that this is because you agree with him? Would you be so keen to love him if he had more viewpoints you didn’t agree with? Doubt it.

    Here’s my equation and I feel it’s a good one. Tear it down for your own self-benefit if you must. I like music. I listen to various kinds of music. The music I listen to is created by bands with people in them. These people often live lives that I am against, do things that I would never condone. Yet I listen to them anyway. Because I like their music. I think it’s good. It’s fun to listen to. That I like and listen to it does not mean I support their lifestyle. It doesn’t mean I have to change my views to come in line with their views. It means I can appreciate their creativity and willingness to share it with the world. Often times I don’t even care about the band who makes my music. I often don’t care about the author who writes the books I read. Doesn’t mean they can’t create one heck of a story. If their agenda is apparent in their work, I’ll probably toss it aside if I don’t agree with it. But I will never take away their right to express that belief and I will never try and suppress their creativity by boycotting them. This is asinine and immature. Quite frankly, this whole issue is childish and it needs to die. Those that are against Card for his involvement need to grow up and get over themselves. I’ve ranted long enough, but I’m just trying to balance the playing field. Right?

    As for the writer of the article, your opinion is no better than mine or anyone elses. What gives you the right to believe it so? Since when did you become better than us peons? Every argument presented with clarity and intelligence is reasonable and valid. You don’t get to pick and choose just because you like this one or that one. That makes you a comment Nazi and nobody liked the Nazis when they were around. Guess what. You don’t come off as very likable either.

  14. Thanks for a well-written article. I agree with most, if not all, of your points, and I would never have been able to voice them so clearly. Like yourself, what this decision ultimately comes down to for me is whether or not he is making money on the game purchases. I just really don’t want to support Card in any way (and your links throughout further justified that).

    But what I’m most thankful for in your writeup and others’ is that it brings these issues to light. You can bet that future developers will consider the possible rammifications of basing games off of source material from controversial authors, artists, etc. I’m almost willing to forgive this game, if only because I’m sure the developers didn’t give the association w/Card much thought. But now that developers/publishers recognize that consumers do care about issues such as these (and are willing to boycott if need be), I would be much less tolerant of associations like these in the future.

  15. @JD: You know, if you could prove to me that any god existed, I’d put some worth in your arguments. But you can’t, so the rest of it becomes meaningless to me. As an ex-Christian of 25 years, I never felt sure of a supreme being’s presence. I just can’t live with that kind of doubt.

    And is it really so bad that homosexual couples can’t reproduce without surrogacy? I personally believe that the overpopulation of earth is becoming problematic, and would actually be happy if fewer people reproduced. As a homosexual, I can tell you that any guilt I do feel (which is basically nonexistent) is from people like yourself who try to make homosexuals feel less than human.

  16. @JD

    You know, I’ve heard people from various religions express those exact same sentiments about THEIR religions as well. And while you may feel that way, I also know (being raised as a Muslim) that repressing your desires can sometimes be very harmful. I’m sure there’s SOME Mormon out there who wants to try a cigarette.

    As to religion being a reason against gay marriage. I’ll quote these two posts I wrote last week on some thread discussing the issue:

    In reply to the question “Give me one good reason gay marriage should be legalized (and don’t mention equal rights crap)”:

    I’ll tell you why it’s wrong.

    1. Because our orphanages aren’t full yet.
    2. Because we need to waste more money on issues like Americans having their freedom instead of actually improving the country.
    3. Because if they’re not married they won’t have sex, right? Chastity, etc.
    4. Because hot women makin out is a terrible, TERRIBLE thing. Just ask any gay-hater. They’d be MUCH, MUCH happier if there were some men involved…

    (The OP, clearly the brightest bulb on the tree, said “i think u misunderstood what i asked.

    i don’t agree w/ same-sex marriage. i wanted a reason y it should be legal, not illegal.”)

    and

    “Why should gay marriage be illegal?”

    >> Let’s assume that God exists. Assuming being gay is a sin, it’s YOUR job to educate – not to prevent. You’re saying you love America, the freedom it provides. But then you turn around and stop people from a true chance at happiness, thereby destroying the WHOLE point of the United States. All of it. Washington would be one PROUD dude.

    What I’m saying is, God would probably want YOU to TELL people not to do it, but there’s NOTHING in the Bible about you stopping men from getting married. Your job as a Christian is to educate, then live and let live. The guys are having sex ANYWAYS, might as well not make the United States look like one big joke that says it’s about freedom but then stops minorities from getting married, because YOU’re worried about YOUR marriage, and you want to blame it on the weirdos who “broke the sanctity” of marriage by sticking with the person they love instead of having an affair.

    Now let’s assume God doesn’t exist…Any reason to stop gay marriage then?

    And,

    >>
    I believe homosexuals are wrong in their choices. However, I do not wish them to be abused or descrimnatied against.

    Scientifically speaking, it’s about as much as “choice” as the colour of your skin.

  17. @Kroms

    Uh, just to clear-up what I was saying (I wrote my comment at the end of one very long and exhaustive day):

    To be clear: I wasn’t arguing with you, although it sounded like I was. I was picking lines out of your comment to try and clarify my own. Sorry I came across as being belligerent.

    @Luke

    But what I’m most thankful for in your writeup and others’ is that it brings these issues to light. You can bet that future developers will consider the possible ramifications of basing games off of source material from controversial authors, artists, etc.

    I’m a lot more interested in the first part than the second. I’ve read a lot of messages online that said, “What’s the point of a boycott? It’s not like it’s really going to affect anyone’s bottom line.” I’ve also read a lot of messages that said, “Wow, I had no idea Orson Scott Card was such a bigot.” That’s the point of it. To let people know what’s being said and what’s being done, and to let them decide whether they have a problem with it.

    I don’t have any desire to make companies shy off from working with “controversial” artists. If they think twice before working with ranting bigots, fine; I’ve got no sympathy for them. But controversy is good. That’s the distinction that no one seems to be getting. That’s why it’s so annoying to see people keep calling it a “difference of opinion” or saying “I can’t refuse to buy things from anyone who disagrees with me.” Card isn’t just “controversial;” he’s batshit loco. He crossed the line. Actually scratch that: he crossed the line, circumnavigated the globe, crossed the line again, then turned around and peed on the line.

    This isn’t about stifling controversy, to me. It’s about saying, “this isn’t trivial, this is extremely important, and this is exactly the behavior that I find unacceptable.”

    @Max Battcher

    Well, I was going to write some pithy variation on “tl;dr”, but your updated notes stole some of my thunder.

    Well, it’s a damn good thing you didn’t say “tl;dr” because nothing brands someone as an arrogant asswipe faster than that. Praise be to the internet for raising the level of discourse to the point that people actually believe it’s acceptable to say, “I don’t have the attention span to respect the time you took to express your thoughts, but I am arrogant enough to assume you care that I didn’t read it.”

    I think that even in your revised statements you still end up too close to an association fallacy of one kind or another for my tastes. With the number of people involved in a game like Shadow Complex, I find any logic that purports that purchasing Shadow Complex directly goes to hate-works rather strained. [...] The world is full of bigots and if I boycotted everything that I thought was somehow related to bigotry I wouldn’t have much left in life.

    See my above comment to Luke, or for that matter, my post. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass whether Jim Bob in accounting hates black people, or the company CEO voted for Prop 8, or the lead designer can’t stop telling jokes about how Asians can’t drive. Card is a capital-H Homophobe, as much as he finds the word “ugly.” And he doesn’t keep it to himself; he spreads it. And he’s not “somehow related;” he’s a well-known name and that name was being used to sell the game.

    Anyone who wants to call it “cherry-picking” is welcome to, but for me, there’s a line that’s been crossed there that’s not crossed elsewhere. You’ve got 1) a guy as virulent as Card, 2) being used to promote a game based on his name, and 3) my assumption that he was getting money from sales of the game. That means no sale. What people fail to grasp is that people wouldn’t be making a big deal out of it if it weren’t a big deal to them.

    And if somebody could give me proof that Card doesn’t profit at all from the sales of this game, then it wouldn’t be as big a deal to me, and I might even buy it if I weren’t too busy writing on this website to play games. Anybody’s welcome to call that “hypocrisy,” but I don’t think it is: the idea of Card getting my money is part of why this is an exceptional case, why I’d get all up in arms about a game that by all other accounts isn’t really “his work.”

    I know that your screed above already discounts my opinion on the subject as mere “obfuscation”, but I’ve got a sense that you seem to be living in a different world than I do. [...] I’m going to make my decision to purchase the game based upon the merits of the game itself, and I don’t consider it “apathy”: I’ve thought long and hard about all sorts of bigotry and decided that I would pick my battles with bigotry in ways that I feel like I can make a difference.

    Nope, we’re all living in the same world, which is why we’ve got to pay attention to what we’re saying, what we’re buying, and how we treat each other. I believe you’re taking things from my “screed” that I didn’t intend.

    “Obfuscation” in the same-sex marriage debate is something like: “While you’re getting so worked up about gay people being able to get married, there are people in Iran being killed for protesting their government! Why aren’t you arguing about that instead?!” Which I equate with “There’s so much bigotry in the world, why make a big deal about this one dude?” The response is that I do care about all of those injustices and would do whatever I could to stop them. But at the moment, I’m concerned about this particular one, and it is important to me, and the fact that there are others doesn’t make it any less important.

    And “apathy” isn’t deciding to judge a work of art completely separate from the artist. Apathy is saying “There’s no way you can win, so why bother?” Or “I don’t want to think about politics, I just want to play a videogame.” (You can, of course, think about it and then still play a videogame; they’re not mutually exclusive). Thinking long and hard and making decisions for yourself is the opposite of apathy.

  18. @JD

    As for the writer of the article, your opinion is no better than mine or anyone elses. What gives you the right to believe it so? Since when did you become better than us peons? Every argument presented with clarity and intelligence is reasonable and valid.

    I agree; come back when you’re ready to present an argument with clarity and intelligence. The reason my opinions are better than yours is that I put a little thought into them before I put them on the internet. And what gives me the right to believe it so is the first amendment to the US Constitution.

    You should check it out; it’s short, and it’s one-stop shopping for everything relevant to this discussion. It’s got the bit about free speech, which you and I and Card enjoy, but it’s also got the establishment clause. That’s the part that your church is having a hell of a time with right now. (And over a hundred years ago, for that matter).

    It says, basically, that whether you think homosexuality is wrong means jack shit as far as the law is concerned. Because religious belief is not, cannot, and must not be the basis for legislation. You can believe whatever the hell you want to, no matter how unjustified or ill-informed. What you can’t do is force your beliefs on someone else, or change the law to discriminate against those who don’t share your beliefs, or break the law and then run back to the safety of your “religious freedoms.”

    Proposition 8, and measures like it across the country, introduced unfair discrimination against people for being homosexual. That’s not an opinion; that’s what it does. It can’t be defended on religious grounds, since it discriminates against people who don’t hold the same religious beliefs as its supporters, and because religion can’t be used as the basis of law. It can’t be defended on ethical grounds, because (at least in California and other states where it was put to a popular vote) it doesn’t grant the affected parties equal representation. It can’t be defended on moral grounds, because there is no demonstrable evidence that same-sex marriage has any negative effect on society. It can’t be defended as an imperative for reproduction, because it makes absolutely no provisions restricting marriage from infertile couples or couples who choose not to have children. It can’t be rationalized as a “defense of marriage,” because it has no legal effect whatsoever on heterosexual marriages.

    People far, far smarter than you have tried to present justification for these measures, and they’ve failed every time. To make it simple for you: your opinion is not law. Your religion is not law. Law is subject to interpretation, it is not subject to faith or belief. The reason for that is clear: because I don’t share your opinion or your religion, but I am subject to the same laws. People understood that over 200 years ago; it’s unacceptable that they don’t understand that now.

    And because you and Card and others like you enjoy running back to your religion to defend whatever they try to do to other people, I’ll make this absolutely clear: I’m a Christian. I have no particular beef with organized religion except when it’s used as an excuse to violate the Constitution. I have no problem with Mormons except when they don’t recognize themselves as citizens of the United States. I am sick of the blatant hypocrisy of people trying to martyr themselves or complaining of religious persecution when they are actively restricting the rights of others. Or as I said before, calling it “thought control” when they’re promoting laws that serve no purpose other than to impose their beliefs on others.

    Seriously, go educate yourself. Find any one of the nine billion forums on the internet where a debate about gay rights is taking place, and read it, and unlike you did with my post, pay attention to it. (Where did you get that bullshit about how I agree with everything Peter David says, anyway?) See if you can find one that actually has examples from all sides, and isn’t just someone spouting back their toxic interpretation of church doctrine — the kind where the people pat themselves on the back for being such good Christians while simultaneously shaming thousands of gay Mormons into committing suicide. I’m fully aware that your comment was an internet hit-and-run and you’ll never read this, but just in case: dude. God gave you a brain and He let you have the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Use it.

    As for Shadow Complex and whatever you were trying to get at with what bands you like: whatever, dude. It’s just a videogame.

  19. On the religious side…well…it shouldn’t even be an issue of debate.

    Absolutely it shouldn’t. So why did you bring it up? If you can’t defend your argument without resorting to mysticism, you have no argument to defend.

  20. Well I am going to give this a shot I hopefully will not get skewered in the process.

    I am sorry but I don’t agree with you. I think that there are many valid reasons for why there shouldnt be gay marriage. While they are valid reasons to me and others, validity is purely subjective as what is valid to me may or will not be valid to another. I think that the one thing that sums it up best for me is the fact that like it or not marriage is a religious institution. I know I am going to hear ” No its not its a contract for distribution of property yada yada yada.” For the most part in the U.S. it is a Christian or Judaic institution, though with recognition given to wiccans and other religious institutions over the last 50 years it has opened up. But it is still largely a religious institution with the majority of the rites based on a christian bible or muslim Koran.

    So being largely a religious institution why push to have the name marriage? Why not push for legeslation that will give you the EXACT same rights and Priveleges as Marriage, you just dont call it marriage. By forceing churchs to perform same sex Marriages you are hopeing to alter their doctrine of faith to allow that homosexualtity is an acceptible christian lifestyle when currently it is not. This is a way for those that are christians but are homosexual to be able to reconcile the two. Because once it is allowed it will slowly force a change in church doctrine. Lawsuits will spring up out the wazoo for any church that refuses to perform a same sex service or refuses to allow a same sex service to be performed on church property. Like it or not the New Testiment is clear homosexuality is not permissible to a christian, and anyone who calls them selves a christian follows the New Testiment. Please dont bring up things from the old testiment as with the coming of christ a new testiment was established between mankind and god hence the name new testiment. If I hear one more no meat on friday or an eye for an eye deal I am going to puke.

    God created EVERYONE with flaws, struggles to be overcome, and lessons to be learned. God didnt create man to be perfect as we kinda screwed that up when we exercised free will and ate the apple. We have lessons to be learned and struggles to overcome in order to prove our love and devotion to our god. Is it cruel to create us to be a certain way but tell us that acting upon that is a sin? I dont think so, we are commanded by our creator to follow certain guidelines no matter the obstacles that the creator puts in our path as a means of proving our devotion and love. God doesnt have to prove his love for us, we have to prove ours to him.

    Granted this is a purely theological argument, but I have found that those who are the most adamant about forcing same sex marriage are those that profess to be christian or to haveing a strong faith in god. Most people that I have talked to that are Athiests dont really care if its called marriage or not so long as they get the same rights as Married couples.

    You asked for a valid argument so here it is, but again validity is subjective….

  21. Marriage by any other name would still smell as sweet. Or something.

    Everyone seems to be saying that the issue is subjective. It is a different issue for Christians than it is for non-Christians (although plenty of Christians disagree).

    So the real issue, in the end, is: how do you build a society built on such subjectivities?

    The answer: separate church from state. Which is what most of the western world has done. Once you remove religious doctrine from state decisions in this way, there is only one answer.

  22. While they are valid reasons to me and others, validity is purely subjective as what is valid to me may or will not be valid to another. I think that the one thing that sums it up best for me is the fact that like it or not marriage is a religious institution. I know I am going to hear ” No its not its a contract for distribution of property yada yada yada.” [...] You asked for a valid argument so here it is, but again validity is subjective….

    You’re not going to get “skewered” as long as you present your opinions reasonably. But while you presented your opinion reasonably, it’s not valid.

    The whole problem is what you casually dismiss with a “yada yada yada.” Marriage is not a religious institution. The government issues marriage licenses. The government is subject to the first amendment to the constitution. The government can’t condone one religion’s beliefs over another (or over the lack of religion).

    Do you truly appreciate why that’s the case, and why it’s a good thing? So many religious groups decry it as an endorsement of atheism, which is nonsense: it’s the very concept that keeps those religious groups free to practice their beliefs however they want, within the law.

    Your interpretation of Christianity is different from mine; I say that it’s perfectly acceptable to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity, while you say it’s forbidden. There are hundreds of churches that agree with you, and hundreds that agree with me. You may be 100% convinced that your beliefs are the right ones, but the government doesn’t care. The government does not and cannot make a call as to which one is right: otherwise, the government could declare neither of us is right. And it’s not just “Protestant Christians” or “most religions” or “most western religions,” but all religions. When you want to legally impose your beliefs on me, that just opens the door for other groups to impose their beliefs on you.

    You say that most atheists you’ve talked to don’t care if it’s called marriage. Again, “most” doesn’t cut it for law. There are plenty of Christians or other religious couples who do care. They want to celebrate their marriages just like every other couple is able to, their church is ready and willing to perform the ceremony, but the government is standing in their way? That is invalid, and there’s nothing subjective about it: it is simply unfair. That is a violation of the separation of church and state.

    You say that “lawsuits will spring up?” First, what might happen is completely irrelevant: what is happening right now is unfair. If and when churches get hit with lawsuits, they will simply direct the objecting parties to the first amendment to the constitution, which guarantees their right to deny marriage ceremonies to anybody they choose. The case will get thrown out. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is just using scare tactics to manipulating you into believing your religion is under attack.

    Once again, because so many people choose to ignore this fact: Churches don’t issue marriage licenses. They perform ceremonies, and they’re free to choose which ceremonies are performed.

    Thousands of couples get married all over the country all the time. They’re not asked what their religion is. They’re not asked if they plan to have children. They’re definitely not asked to show their genitalia for verification. They’re free to have their marriage sanctified by a church, if they want. If you extend that to some, you have to extend it to all. There’s nothing subjective about that; it’s only fair.

  23. I have no problem with the idea that the game company, whether the people working there are the nicest most liberal and enlightened people on earth otherwise, would be in some way punished.

    Perhaps it’s overkill, but I’m hoping controversy like this will be enough to starve the bigots out. Consider if they’d had some sort of seer peering into the crystal ball to see this all coming. Consider this especially if word of this *does* financially impact the sales of the game…

    Something like this might have happened. “Yes, Mr. Card… we’re sorry, but the deal’s not going through. We’re going to license to some other author instead. Our company clairvoyant has reliably informed us that we don’t want to be associated with a douchebag.”

    Well, there may not be any future-seers out there warning companies of this sort of thing, but there are certainly board members who learn from their mistakes.

    I’m sorry, Mr. David, but if you didn’t want to be potentially damaged by this, as you say, you shouldn’t have signed up to write a game associated with an asshat. As for you developers, you have some say in your company, too. Say it and stop kissing arse. The worst that can happen is that you can get fired over expressing an unpopular opinion, and that’s way less of a bad thing that having a company on your resume that has known bigot associations.

    If there is collateral damage in stopping bigotry, the bigot is to blame.

    I agree that a bigot’s right to say what they want is important. Is it evil that I think of this in a practical way: If they didn’t have the right to say it, we would never know, never be able to ferret them out and destroy them?

  24. One other point that I am bewildered that so many people miss:

    Under the current laws, I, as a man, am allowed to marry a woman.
    My girlfriend, as a woman, is allowed to marry a man.

    I am not allowed to marry a man. Granted, as a straight boy, I don’t want to, but that’s irrelevant. The fact is that men and women have been granted different rights from one another. This takes it out of the realm of gay rights and into plain sexism, a foundation on which there is sturdier ground.

    Applying separate laws to who a man and who a woman can marry is a concept called “separate but equal” and it has been found in the arena of race to be NOT valid. This concept is what was used as the basis for Jim Crow laws and apartheid, and has no place in an intelligent, enlightened society.

  25. Heads up to the anonymous twat who expected to share his nugget of insight about whiny gay liberals: I don’t delete comments on here for not agreeing with me; I DO delete them when the writer won’t man up enough to at least put a real name & email address behind it.

  26. Very interesting. Please do future readers a favor: Re-Edit and Re-Post this.I don’t mind striking through a line or two of inaccurate material with corrections posted, but you have so many edits after the fact that it stretches your article beyond the normal point of interest. I was half-tempted to dismiss it, but then again that sort of thought is usually what pushes me to try to slog through the rest.

    Let me make this perfectly clear: I am perfectly fine with every man and woman having equal rights across the board, be they political or religious views, so long as they don’t harm a living person unnecessarily. I’m for gay marriage, the legalization of pot, and and the illegalization of abortions in every non-extreme, non-crime-related case. I think that free health care for all is not a socialistic view but a right that all humans should have, and that every person who is capable of forming an opinion and expressing it in non-lethal ways should be allowed to do so, even when they are at an extreme and I disagree with their views.

    I also think, though, that some people, like yourself, take this narrow-minded view to an extreme that is neither necessary nor relevant to your causes. As you stated, a lot of people simply don’t care about Card’s views, nor anyone else’s, when it comes to whether or not to buy a game, a movie, or a book. It simply boils down to whether or not it interests them. Sometimes you take it to such an extreme that you voice inaccuracies or read more into views expressed in the work than are really relevant or real.

    I’m not saying that you are wrong for choosing not to buy anything with Orson Scott Card’s name attached to it: You obviously dislike him and disagree with his views, and you live in a place where you’re allowed to have and can voice them. I personally find it stupid for people to judge or refuses to try anything created by someone with obviously different views from your own. That said, beyond voicing that opinion I just expressed, it’s not my business.

    Where you cross the line is in saying that my apathy and indifference in either my purchases or my likes makes me a bad person. Just because I care about some other social injustice more than yours or can enjoy something made by someone people disagree with doesn’t make me a bad person; in many ways, I feel it makes me a good person, because I can appreciate it on its own level without saying “I can’t do X because X’s creator does or believes in this.” I’ve learned that there are more important areas to worry about than by boycotting or protesting an artists or their creations, be they in music, movie, video game or book format. So long as I am not forced to do something I dislike, I don’t care, and the fact that I don’t care does not make me a bad person – it just means my priorities in life are different from yours.

    My apologies in going a little long in response.

  27. I don’t mind striking through a line or two of inaccurate material with corrections posted, but you have so many edits after the fact that it stretches your article beyond the normal point of interest.

    I don’t make invisible edits to this blog except for typos or extreme grammar mishaps, and then only if I catch them before they’ve sat a day. If you’re arrogant enough to be broadcasting your opinions out on the internet, you have to stand by them and leave them for the record, even if your opinion has changed since then. As for the part of being “stretched beyond the point of interest,” then with all due respect I’d say: welcome to my personal weblog that I pay for with my own money.

    I also think, though, that some people, like yourself, take this narrow-minded view to an extreme that is neither necessary nor relevant to your causes. As you stated, a lot of people simply don’t care about Card’s views, nor anyone else’s, when it comes to whether or not to buy a game, a movie, or a book. It simply boils down to whether or not it interests them. Sometimes you take it to such an extreme that you voice inaccuracies or read more into views expressed in the work than are really relevant or real.

    I was pretty clear in saying, repeatedly, that Card’s views are by all accounts not expressed in the game itself. The only “inaccuracy” I voiced — and repeatedly acknowledged it was a big one — was stating that Card gets money from sales of the game as if it were an established fact.

    I said that I don’t believe in separating a piece of work from its creator, since they’re all part of what he’s putting out into the world. There’s nothing narrow-minded about that; it’s exactly the same act of setting priorities that you defend for yourself. This is a priority for me, as it is for anyone else who said “I’m not buying the game because Card’s name is attached to it.”

    Where you cross the line is in saying that my apathy and indifference in either my purchases or my likes makes me a bad person.

    That would cross the line, which is why I’m glad that I never said it or anything like it. In fact, considering how much I’ve gone on about people choosing and thinking for themselves, I don’t like your implying that I said it.

    If you don’t care about the issue, fine. If you care about the issue but don’t think any harm was done here, great. If you care about the issue, you do think serious harm is being done, but you really really want to play a videogame, then that kind of sucks but hey, that’s your prerogative.

    What’s not fine:
    1) Saying that because it’s not an issue that affects you, it’s not an issue at all.
    2) Saying that because you don’t think it’s a big deal, other people shouldn’t think it’s a big deal.
    3) Voting on something that affects other people, based solely on your gut reaction or what your church has told you instead of what is legally fair, because you’re too lazy or don’t care enough about the issue to make a rational decision for yourself.

  28. Gosh, Chuck.
    Your post is incredibly interesting.
    I’ve been struggling with those issues (I don’t mean gay marriages, which I would accept if my country – Italy – wasn’t still knee-deep in older issues): freedom of speech, separating life from art/work, etc.
    I have one question: what would you do if you discovered that the place you’re working in is striking a deal with a guy like that?
    I’m not provoking you, I’m just curious to know your opinion about such a predictament, because I’m living in that kind of situation.
    Would you quit your job because of that?
    Don’t worry, I’m not a psycho who’ll base my decision on your answer, I’d just like to share some thoughts.
    It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to be coherent, especially when money is involved (and I don’t mean “money-to-get-rich”, I mean “money-to-get-a-living”).

  29. Gee, I dunno; it’s a tougher decision when you’re talking about a $15 game vs. your career. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing where you work, so even if you’re talking hypotheticals there’s not a simple solution.

    If I found out my boss or the owner of my company were writing the kind of things that Card has written, about any group — religious groups, races, sexual orientation, whatever — and sitting on the board of a political action committee against them, then yeah, I’d do whatever I could to leave.

    If I were working for a company that were striking a long-term deal or partnership with somebody like that, then I’d try to find out the details; how much of my work is funding them? Then base the decision on that.

    If it were a one time deal or a tangential relationship, I’d probably just let it slide. And still speak out against the guy wherever I could online, making it clear that my opinions aren’t the company’s opinions, etc.

    But who knows? It’s easy to guess what you’d do in that situation, but harder to know until you’re in it. It all depends on how strongly you feel about the issue, how offensive the actions of the people you’re talking about, and how much luxury you have in deciding where to work.

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