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 gaygamer.net. 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.
Monday, August 24, 2009
by Daniel Bullard-Bates