So when have "politics" affected gaming?

I couldn’t decide if this should go in the Politics and religion forum or not* but I’ll take a chance on the games forum in hopes that it will remain calm and more people will see it here.

The first person I saw mention Orson Scott Card and Shadow Complex was about a month ago when a reviewer I follow on twitter mentioned he was skipping the Shadow Complex because of OSC’s politics/agenda/whatever (and that’s why I have “politics” in quotes, the answers may be a little broader than that word and that’s ok). I didn’t think much of it then, but I’ve seen many more people echo that since, and maybe it’s just cause I wasn’t paying attention, but I don’t remember the last time I heard of a similar situation.

So regardless of what you think about Orson Scott Card, whether you agree or disagree, and in light of that whether you care enough for it to personally affect your decisions, when was the last time this happened? Is it the buzz that Shadow Complex is going to be a very good high profile game that sets this one apart? Were people protesting the religious basis of that Left Behind game, but no one cared?

So don’t start arguing about if it’s stupid to boycott or not, just fill me in on some gamer history if you can remember situations like this in the past. It probably isn’t too hard to think of a game that was controversial, but a game being avoided just because of a name attached to it must not happen too often, does it?

*surely a sign that it does belong in P&R, but it’s too late now!

Good idea for a thread, Wholly. I recall Shadow Warrior being dinged for potentially offensive stereotypes. Certainly 9/11 changed a lot of game development, from the Twin Towers and building collision detection take out of Flight Simulator series to whole projects being re-tooled or reconsidered. At the risk of inciting Lizard King’s weird accusations that I’m hysterical or hypocritical or whatever, I’m glad to see Six Days in Fallujah had a hard time getting a publisher after the developers’ blundering attempts to drum up publicity.

Most recently, I was surprised that Ubisoft selected Jenny McCarthy as their celebrity face for a fitness game. By selecting her as a health and fitness authority, they’re implicitly endorsing her vocal stand against childhood vaccination.


I liken the reaction to his involvement like that of people that have reacted to stations that continue to carry (what the protesters consider to be) hateful bigots and racists and the like. Certain gamers will not look past the idea that by supporting this game they are supporting what they consider to be a hate-monger pushing out a hate-monger story. One of the differences here, and in my mind probably why the situation is getting as much attention as it is, is because not everybody is familiar with Card’s open views about homosexuality, gay marriage and the like.

Another difference in this situation than the one surrounding the Left Behind games is that the Left Behind games are blatantly marketed as religious game appealing to religious people. There’s no point in attacking those games, because sales for those games are most likely the result of religious types wanting to play a religious game. Shadow Complex is a game marketed to everybody more or less. Because this is seeing wide release, intended to attract a wider market, there are certain people who feel all these markets should know what gamers are supporting when putting their money down on this product.

Whether this type of grass roots campaign will have any noticeable effect on the sales of the game is hard to say, but I’m sure if the game fails some people will be taking credit where it may or may not be due.

Kind of off topic i guess, but it is kind of sad to see all of the Orson Scott Card hate. I remember reading his books (well one series at least) quite a while ago and liking them very much. I still watch tom cruise movies too even though he is a pretty obvious nutcase.

Tom’s link above has had me thinking about this for a few days. We need to seperate the question of games with overt political statements versus games that involve someone who happens to have chosen a position we might disagree with. Should Will Wright’s support of certain conservative causes make you hesitate in purchasing a game with his name on it? Should Jenny McCarthy’s fringe position on the vaccine/autism issue impact your choice on whether to buy Ubisofts excercise title?

I guess I view it the same way I view music. Some of my favorite singers or bands advocate political positions I disagree with, but I still like their music even when those issues are part of their song lyrics. So to me good entertainment or good art transcends the political position of the creator, barring some really horrific act on the part of the artist.

Oddly, this was Hitler’s position as well. :-)

There was controversy in World of Warcraft maybe 2 years ago, when Blizzard took the stand that folks couldn’t recruit for gay & lesbian friendly guilds in General chat. Blizzard felt that the word gay might offend some players. Gay & lesbian organizations were riled up, some folks boycotted, & eventually Blizzard started the guild recruitment channel, where all guild recruiting chat, gay-friendly and otherwise, is supposed to go.

I can’t think of a situation where the political views of a specific game developer caused controversy throughout broad sections of gamers. The closest I can remember is from 2004, when Kristen Salvatore, during her time at Games for Windows, posted some critical comments about Bush in her 1UP blog around election time. She took some flak for that from some readers, if I recall correctly.

I also remember Temple of Elemental Evil having some people taking issue about a gay NPC in a brothel or something. I think your character could marry him. I don’t think the game was big enough to garner much attention from either side of the debate.

I’ve been surprised that I haven’t heard much noise being made about the gay sex in The Sims games. Perhaps someone has made noise, I’ve just never heard about it.

I have no problem with Electronic Arts hiring Jenny McCarthy to play, um, whomever she played. Tanya? I forget. She’s still an anti-vaccination wacko, but to me, it has no bearing on watching her as an actress.

But it’s an entirely separate matter when she’s hired and promoted as an authority on health and fitness. In your music example, the band might do a fine job of entertaining you and making some sort of statement about an issue, even if you disagree with it. But would you be comfortable with that band being hired to write a textbook?


I thought C&C: Generals was pretty hideous with its borderline racism (generic arabic terrorists that blew themselves up while yelling “allahu akbar”, generic chinese soldiers that talked in a horribad “chinese laundromat” accent) but I don’t recall many others dinging it for that; maybe it was just me.

Thankfully there aren’t that many cases, and in general games have moved to the point where they can have objectionable characters without being objectionable (GTA4 is a good example of this, I think).

As far as I know Ubisofts game isn’t a textbook, but rather a variation on Wii Fit or EA Sports Active. So I don’t think that’s an apt comparison. What we’re talking about is a game that presumably trying to teach the user something about exercise and nutrition. Which seperates it from McCarthy’s stand on the vaccine issue, even if McCarthy is actually contributing some of the actual content as opposed to the more likely scenario that she is mainly being paid to attach her name to it.

It seems to me that your main concern/argument is that you are afraid that people will play this game, decide that McCarthy is worth listening too, and then fall under her spell when they go to her website and come across her views on autism and its causes. So this isn’t really about the game and more about how it might promote her views indirectly.

For anyone on the Shadow Complex fence, I honestly didn’t realize the paramilitary wackjobs I was up against were supposed to be left-wingers. I associate that kind of thing (revolutionary babble, weapon stockpiling, etc.) so strongly with the right at this point in time that it never occurred to me they weren’t a bunch of high-tech birthers with an underground base. I guess you have to have read the book to get a firm grip on the propaganda?

At any rate, I couldn’t care less what someone’s ideology is if they make games as good as Shadow Complex. I imagine Card has been paid his money already anyway.

Ah, so you’re not supposed to learn about health and fitness if you play Your Shape? Glad to hear it. Oh, wait:

Oops. Anyway, I should know better than to use an analogy on the internet, because then it becomes a conversation about the analogy. :)

Well, yes. As I posted in the thread:

But, yeah, I don’t know the first thing about the game. I just think her role as a spokesperson for a particularly insidious type of junk science is fair game in this instance.


Anti-Semitic game!


Would you be comfortable knowing that part of the money of your concert or movie ticked ended up at Freedomworks as donations from the act or corporation (or if you’re conservative, umm, I think it’s legitimate to consider that as part of your value you system (and when you pay for things with money, you are literally valuing them). Where you spend your money is a statement about how you see the world and what you value in it.

You may be comfortable with it, which is fine, but it’s perfectly reasonable if someone else isn’t and decides to excercise their voice and values in that way.

But don’t you think that the same argument could be made about Orson Scott Card and his involvement with Shadow Complex? Won’t people that enjoy the game think “hey, this Card guy wrote this, I think I’ll go look at his website.” And then they get exposed to his whacky ideas.

Then again, I think that anyone who falls for “Jenny McCarthy, expert” to begin with has issues. :-)

Poppy game insult to war dead

Lots of movies I like could probably be said to espouse conservative viewpoints, but if they’re good movies it’s just another motivation for the story - like, maybe Knocked Up could be held as a poster movie for the pro-life movement, but that’s not the reason it exists. I think it’s only really a problem when the political stuff is the raison d’etre - maybe Orson Scott Card’s books are about pushing an agenda, but you can bet that the people who actually worked on the game are more concerned about level design and power-up progression. It’s not like this is Left Behind, or that Christian rock Guitar Hero.

It is kind of an odd choice to make, but who knows. I want to play the game for the game, so I’ll just make sure I have my left-wing intellectual hat firmly secured on when I do.

In Japan there was a recent ruling to ban certain types of adult PC games due to outrage of it’s localized versions in the UK (I think it was the UK anyway…).

Does this count? :P

I’m really very interested in Shadow Complex. It looks like the type of game that will really appeal to me. I didn’t even know about the Orson Scott Card connection until well after the game’s announcement at E3.

I read the book Empire in mid-2007 and was saddened by the experience. I used to really like Card when I was younger. Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead were terrific. Perhaps because I was young and held simpler political/moral views, the books were easier to digest? I don’t know. I had heard that Card had gotten deep into the homophobia and right-wing nuttiness during the 90’s but I hadn’t really read any of his stuff since I was a teenager. I picked up Empire and Ender’s Shadow on a whim.

If Shadow Complex actually had a stronger tie-in to the book and made more of the crazyiness, I could see passing on it for having an openly hostile agenda. As it stands, the Empire storyline seems completely hidden.

I have no issues with buying this game.

The story in Shadow Complex is a very light layer of narrative. It’s just an excuse to get you moving in the game and kicking some ass and jumping through some air vents.