It was quite the day for discussion in the Blaugust discord. Favourite position- oh, for the task bar, I mean — to the retroactive banning of the American University Hearthstone team, around to discussion about a rather unsavoury group of people with a game. Oh and corporate responsibility (or the lack thereof) for the beliefs of those in their employ.

It’s those last two I want to focus on here. We can argue about best position some other time. (It’s bottom. Definitely bottom.)

Rambling Redshirt talked to the difference in holding a company to account for the views they — or their actions — express, vs. the beliefs of the individuals that make up the company. There was an acknowledgement that Activision-Blizzard (or a company of any size, really) is going to have racists. Transphobics. Trump supporters.

Holding a company as a whole accountable for the private beliefs of a select few individuals was seen as unreasonable.

To a point — I think this is true. When you’re talking about a company of hundreds or even thousands of people, not even the best of screening processes will catch everyone with values that you may not wish to support.

But…

  1. What about when the previously perhaps ‘private’ view of an individual becomes public? Does the company hold responsibility to react?
  2. What about when, proportionally, it becomes clear that a large number of individuals from a company holds values incompatible with- no, abhorrent to, your own?

On the first point I am more inclined to take each case on its merits. There have been cases where I wish action was taken. (And in the Israel Folau case, it even was!) On the other hand, there have certainly been cases of overreaction.

Just recently the Wellington bus company ran a series of ads for a driver recruitment campaign wherein they had existing drivers talk about why they joined. One driver had racist tweets dug up and presented to the company. Over $20k worth of advertising was pulled and the man was fired.

Pulling the ads — fair. At surface level — also fair to fire. Except that the tweets were old, years old, and already been repented before any of this came about. The man in question had already stated his immense regret and shame at ever having held such views.

That being the case I think it is a raw deal to be fired. A little forgiveness might have been in order.

The second case is far more problematic. At best it is indicative of a corporate culture that just doesn’t give a shit.

But at what threshold does it ‘matter’? What is the proportion where it becomes clear you shouldn’t support the company in question any more?

Well — I suppose the good news is you probably won’t need to wrestle with this one too long before they do or say something representative of their company or group to make it clear.

There was another discussion today. This one on a particular game that I have no desire to name. It isn’t one from a big AAA developer this time, quite the opposite as it’s the work of a small indie group.

The problems started with the girlfriend of the lead developer. Not even a direct member of the team! She expressed a range of transphobic views aligned to the ‘TERF’ philosophy, something I only personally learned about today despite the term apparently existing since 2008. It stands for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’. Essentially a bastion of the early era feminists beliefs that trans women were not women at all.

Perhaps making this worse is that the woman in question espousing this hate is herself gay. Someone who should full well understand the pain caused by such exclusionary and intolerant hate.

Publicly — her partner (the lead developer) neither condemned nor supported these views.

But then the leaks started occurring from a ‘secret’ channel on the developer’s Discord, wherein mocking the transgender among their following happened repeatedly. That’s terrible enough — but where it turns from the terrible to the actively sick is the discount they applied to the title in response.

The game was set to 35% off, and the game/soundtrack bundle to 41%. Now there is some room to choose to believe this is coincidence. Particularly where the bundle is concerned as apparently developers don’t set the bundle rate specifically. Whether it was intentional or not though — it was certainly leaned into with later comments.

35% is the suicide attempt rate for high school aged transgender people across the U.S.
This jumps to 41% when considering transgendered adults across the U.S.

This saw positive reviews of like-minded folk with things like:

  • “41% off? You’d have to be suicidal not to buy!”
  • “41% is nice, but maybe one day it’ll be 90% or even 100%.”

It’s fucking disgusting. And you know what just adds another layer of insult to this?

The game was protected by Steam’s ‘off-topic’ review bombing policy. There is a period of around 10-days where people expressing their views — be they of disgust or support — were written off as unimportant. Steam being the sole arbiter and gatekeeper of what is and isn’t relevant to someone’s purchasing decision was always my fear with their policy and this example certainly seems to realise that fear.

This game came up in the context of someone in the community struggling with whether or not to review it — and if they did, whether these factors should be called out.

Throughout the day I attempted to take a light touch approach to the advice given here. But that isn’t sitting right with me now, I don’t think it’s enough.

So instead I’ll change tack and plead — please don’t cover this as planned. Don’t give them any more oxygen than they already have. Reviewing the game even with a decision to make a note of this isn’t enough, as it has become clear that there are those willing to purchase it not despite of — but because of these views.

Don’t allow yourself to become a participant in that.


Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

9 Comments

Marathal · October 18, 2019 at 12:37 am

My sister has worked in upper management, and many different levels at a few large corporate temp agencies. When my niece was growing up and got to the age where she wanted a Facebook account, because all of her friends did, my sister helped her set up two. One for her as a friends and family, that should be used to wish Happy Birthdays, and share personal family news like graduating High School, getting her first job, graduating college. The other one was for when she was in High School, and only vaguely gave any personal information.

Why did she do this? Because she knew from her job experience what the corporate culture was looking at when they looked for people they wanted to hire. Some even tried early on to have prospective hires log into their Facebook, or Twitter accounts so that the employer could take a quick look. My niece probably never said anything that could be deemed Racist, or anything, she is a great kid, but it really shows how things will be in the future if a comment you made, even in jest, 15, even 20 years ago when views were different, could come back to haunt you. I saw a photo of a Democrat from when they were in college in Black Face with the headline, guess it only matters if you are Republican. It is sad that our culture has devolved into trying to find dirt from years ago in an effort to make someone look like they were a racist.

    Naithin · October 18, 2019 at 1:00 am

    I heard about all the kerfluffle that happened around employers trying to push people into logging into social media. It became a thing over here in NZ for a short time too before being rather firmly shut down.

    Even so, while we didn’t go to the lengths of setting up our eldest son with two FB accounts — we have ensured everything is locked down to a family only group as much as possible rather than broadcast to the world.

    But I agree — the longevity of information on the internet makes it increasingly difficult to be young and foolish and then grow. Or to find scope to shrug off biases or intolerances we may have learned from a prior generation without being penalised for the upbringing.

    To be fair — at least in some cases — it isn’t so much making someone ‘look’ racist. They *were*. But if it’s truly past-tense, how long is it reasonable to hold that against someone?

      Marathal · October 18, 2019 at 1:23 am

      Given enough time anything that is deemed acceptable or even funny today, could years from now be considered derogatory to any group.

      For me personally, I have stopped following those that seem to jump from one cause to the next, trying to be included in their righteous indignation. I realize that not everyone is squeaky clean, people have laughed at an inappropriate joke, or told one, have made a racial stereotype comment without thinking. I have been asked many times why I don’t run for some kind of political office over the years. The honest truth? I have no clue what someone may dig up from talking with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in decades. The world seems to be obsessed with labels, either placing them on a group, or using them to set themselves apart. I have friends and family that span just about any group or sub group you can think of. I do not look at them based on what the world wants to call them, to me they are a person, flaws and all. We’ve grown to dependent on labels to isolate people by saying “oh, they are one of those” no one looks at how they are in fact discriminating others, because they are not a part of their pronoun group identity. I look at people as people. If you claim you are self enlightened and that we all need to be tolerant and accepting of others views, yet still make comments about those you disagree with as idiots or worse? Yeah, I don’t have time for you. I have found these last few years that those trying to be out there, I’m an influencer, see what I’m doing? You can be as good as me, are the real problem. They feed into Jarred’s by fanning the flames. Their opinions aren’t necessarily wrong, they are just different.

Asmiroth · October 18, 2019 at 1:10 am

Three points here.

It’s a vocal minority issue. People will a lot of time, and little self-love attacking other people. From the start of time those people existed. Just that it was easier to ignore them since they had to be physically present.

Second, the medium/platform for these people is infinite and people are chasing the next insane story that is a fraction more insane than the last.

Third, I have a spam filter on my email. There isn’t one for social media streams, because clicks = $$$.

    Naithin · October 18, 2019 at 1:24 am

    Yep.

    To all three.

    It isn’t *just* social media either, the increased accessibility of… Pretty much everything, including the ability to make games and publish them, is pushing the ability to espouse these views into places of prominence whereas in the past they might’ve been seen as fringe nutcases. (Maybe not on these particular issues, since acceptance has been slow coming — but the equivalents for the time.)

      Marathal · October 18, 2019 at 1:27 am

      It’s a reason I step away from conversations when people start demanding gaming companies to include world views, political, social, etc into games because developers should have a moral responsibility to do so.

Bhagpuss · October 18, 2019 at 6:04 am

https://pitchfork.com/news/atlantic-records-uk-president-steps-down-after-wearing-offensive-run-dmc-costume/

Guy went to a party where the theme was “dress as your favorite musical icon”. He went as someone from RunDMC. I’m guessing guy in question was a different ethnicity to his hero. Seven years later, revelations of this choice and action led directly to his resignation from the post of president of a major record company. He aknowledged “While my intention was to honor a musical hero, I recognize my appearance was offensive and I made a terrible mistake.”

His statement continues, “As a consequence of this, I readily agreed to disciplinary actions by my employer last year. Since then however, allegations surrounding the party have continued to be made against me. I have therefore come to the conclusion that I should make this statement and step down.”

I thought it was interesting. I see a lot of this kind of thing on music news sites. And Movies. Gaming next?

    Naithin · October 18, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I don’t as much follow music news, but the James Gunn saga in the movie space did come to mind as a strong parallel to the bus-company story. And possibly this fellow attempting to (poorly) honour Run DMC as well.

    Main reason I say possibly here is that surely — actually intending to be racist or not aside for a moment — it displayed a stunning lack of judgement. Although I understand (after a brief glance on Wiki) that blackface was accepted even on UK primetime TV right up until 1981! So I wonder how long after this it took to become more widely understood that blackface was a terribly offensive thing to do — no matter the intent behind it.

    As for gaming… I don’t know. So far companies seem to have been very reluctant to take action when such things have come to light. And the example I ran through here they basically *are* the company, so not holding my breath for any changes there. ;)

Jacie · October 19, 2019 at 4:52 pm

I totally agree with you about the employee that got fired for old tweets. People can make mistakes and learn and grow from them. I do think some forgiveness was in order.

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