Monday, August 24, 2009

Orson Scott Card’s Complex

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

Last week, I discussed Shadow Complex, a derivative action/platformer based on classic games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s a very well-designed, fun little game, and an incredible value at fifteen dollars. If you like the “metroidvania” style of games, you’ll probably like it. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that if you buy it, some small amount of money is going into the pocket of Orson Scott Card, who is an anti-gay activist. The storyline of the game is loosely based on one of his books, Empire, which chronicles the rise of a group called the “Progressive Restoration,” a far-left liberal organization which attempts to take over the government of the United States.

Now if the game itself were clearly a propaganda piece, purchasing it would be far more questionable. But, having finished the game, I can confidently state that the dialogue and story present is entirely apolitical. The villains are classic, rote evil: they think something’s wrong with the country, though they don’t say what, and they are going to take over and fix it, their way. Card’s anti-gay speech and political agenda don’t figure into the scenario at all.

So the remaining question is just one of financially supporting homophobia. Even though Orson Scott Card did no actual work on this game (the dialogue and story is only based on his book, and written by Peter David), some of the money from each sale is going to him. Since a great deal of Card’s time and money goes into groups like the National Organization for Marriage, where he is on the board of directors, that money may be directly contributing to an anti-gay agenda.

The question of a boycott has been raised on the forums at NeoGAF. A very thoughtful discussion of the idea has been posted by Christian Nutt at Gamasutra. Both the discussion thread and Nutt’s article make one thing evident: the issue is a complicated one. Yes, one anti-gay rights activist will be receiving money from the sale of this game. The people who actively worked on the game, however, are also reliant on the sales of this game to continue to do the work they love. And apart from someone making the decision to work with a controversial figure like Card (and I can’t help but wonder who made that call), they’ve done an excellent job.

Personally, I’ve decided to take the advice of Dawdle over at I paid fifteen dollars for Shadow Complex and donated fifteen dollars to the Human Rights Campaign, a group that works for gay rights. This is considerably more than Orson Scott Card will make off of my purchase, so hopefully this tips the scales in the other direction. Sort of like a carbon footprint, I’m hoping that this keeps my homophobia footprint low.


  1. Is it assumed that most gamers support gay rights? Serious question. Everyone who has bothered to write up on this say how bad it is to support Card.

  2. I wouldn't assume that most gamers support gay rights, no. As a matter of fact, it's been fairly exciting to me, as someone who does support gay rights, that most of the write-ups of this issue have taken that angle. Considering the homophobic speech that runs rampant on services like Xbox Live, it's nice to see that the gamer community as a whole has less of an anti-gay bias than one might assume.

  3. It seems pretty uncommon for a game to receive this kind of attention, so my first thought on this subject was that the internet must be somewhat overreacting. However when I thought about it more I realized how I really don't know what the money I spend on games gets used for, for the most part. If Card himself didn't have his name attached to the project, and the developers decided to donate X percent of their profits to a homophobic organization, would anyone ever know? This may be why this situation appears uncommon, the lack of public information. I don't have the knowledge to say either way though, which somewhat bothers me.

  4. I would be remiss if I let my personal convictions limit my interaction with creative expression.

  5. As defined by, homophobia is the unreasoning fear of or antipathy towards homosexuals and homosexuality. While I think it is fair to disagree with Mr. Card's views on gay marriage, I do not feel it is fair to call him a homophobe. I believe there is a clear distinction between not supporting gay marriage and harboring hatred or geniune dislike against gay people. The article was great read, but please refrain from attributing a hatred towards gay people by Mr. Card simply because he does not support gay marriage.

  6. He's gone considerably beyond opposing gay marriage, and his statements on the subject, I believe, make his homophobia quite clear. Let's pick a few of note:

    "They [gay people getting married] steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes."

    "Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society."

    "The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to "gay marriage," is that it marks the end of democracy in America."

    Still think he harbors no fear or antipathy towards homosexuals? He seems to fear that they will end democracy, he thinks they should be punished for being who they are, and they steal what he treasures most. Sounds like fear and antipathy to me. And if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

  7. I want to make it clear that I'm not here to dictate Mr. Card's views on the matter, as I do not know him personally and cannot safely say I know his exact feelings. My main point was to call into question the wording and possible bias in the article.

    After reading the quotes stated above, it is quite clear that Mr. Card does not support gay marriage and thinks it is against the democratic process for a judge to rule in favor of gay marriage. It looks like he also believes that gay people steal marriage from him but in turn gain nothing from it because they will not be truly married under his definition of the term.

    His point about keeping laws against homosexual behavior seems to be consistent with his anti-gay behavior sentiments. This does not means he hates gay people, only the act of homosexual behavior. It seems he is making a distinction between the person and the actions they perform.

    Here is quote stating what he means:
    "The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity's ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships."

    All of these points are moot though, because for all we know, Mr. Card could or could not be homophobic. All I am asking is that you stick to the facts in your articles.

    Do you know for a fact that OSC does not support gay marriage? Yes. Do you know for a fact that OSC hates gay people? No. Do you believe OSC hates gay people? Yes. Labels only help us to cast aside the individual and bring to the forefront what we choose to see. Set aside the labels and stick to the facts. They don't crown champions just because they think someone is going to win; they wait for the dust to settle and let the facts speak for themselves.

  8. Anonymous,

    In response to your statements:

    "This does not mean he hates gay people, only the act of homosexual behavior."

    This sounds an awful lot like "Hate the sin, love the sinner." This is a logical fallacy, of course, because homosexuality and homosexual behavior are not too separate things that can easily be divided in two.

    "' encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community...'"

    Sounds like fear of homosexuality again, one of the qualities you previously set out as an attribute of homophobia.

    "Do you know for a fact that OSC hates gay people?"

    Maybe not all gay people on an individual basis, but the quotes I used above certainly display a strong prejudice against homosexuality, homosexual individuals and homosexual behaviors.

    As for the term homophobia itself, you mentioned before the definition, which has to do with fear and antipathy. Merriam Webster defines it as: "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals." Even if you don't accept that he fates or fears homosexuality, it is certainly clear that he has both an aversion and a prejudice.

    And finally...

    "All I'm asking is that you stick to the facts in your articles."

    If you care to make the argument that all this is opinion and conjecture, and that my arguments here just aren't good enough to carry my thesis, you can chalk it up to opinion and personal belief. We all carry personal bias into our articles, thoughts and essays. It's impossible to stick entirely to the facts, and even if it were possible, it would make for a much less interesting discussion of opinions and ideas about the social and artistic merits of video games.

  9. I think Daniel has an excellent point, I would imagine that it is extremely hard not to put some form of bias in an article such as this and without putting that bias in the article it would be hard to have a discussion about other reader's opinions on the topic. The fact that this blog discusses the social and artisitc merits of video games means that the writer's and commenters would have to form some of sort of an opinion for this to be an interesting discussion. Otherwise people would just be stating facts and we'd be denying the personal thoughts and opinions in our head. Whether you know the facts or not you always form a first opinion in your head. It's your choice whether you believe this initial thought is true or not, but nonetheless there is some thought or opinion in your head. My point being is that everyone has a bias and that bias is what forms those first thoughts. So whether the things that are written in these articles are fact or not they are still the personal opinions of the writers of this blog and that is the purpose of this blog: to discuss something that the writers have strong personal opinions about that they'd like other readers to discuss about. At least, those are my thoughts on the matter.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.