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.