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Thursday, May 26, 2022

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Should you divorce a game from its creator?

Good games but questionable support?

I think in essence, before hitting the dusty trail of this topic, some amount of acceptance of business practices is inevitable. However, I think it was an interesting juxtaposition of the weeks leading up to Red Dead Redemption 2‘s release that everyone was talking about Rockstar’s 100-hour work weeks. Some say crunch is inevitable and that hearing stories of people disintegrating in order to get their games out is a necessary evil of some sort. Red Dead Redemption 2 is just one small example of choosing to purchase a game versus acknowledging the practices that were used to create the product.

For my part, I don’t think too hard on most games I intended to buy if something fishy happened in the background. I did buy RDR2 without thinking too much about it. Fez is a less comparable example, as it is a fantastic game that has a bit of drama behind its creation with Phil Fish, before getting into a polarizing figure. My go-to example, despite it not being video game related, is the manga Rurouni Kenshin and its mangaka being arrested for possession of child porn. There are a lot of different interpretations of this issue, but for me personally, I felt weird and uncomfortable reading the Hokkaido arc he last started and can’t imagine going back to reading the older content.

I asked the community a while back on their thoughts on the idea of disconnecting the nastier practices of the person or company behind the game and actually playing the game. RDR2 is the most recent example, but I also think it’s fascinating for the community to bring up their own examples of games and media they’ve thought about playing despite the actions of their creators.

Blanchimont, for example, brought up an anime I’ve watched, Gate, as well as referencing the implosion that occurred with James Gunn’s old tweets:

The answer is yes. Just because you love a work doesn’t mean you have to love their creator. They are two separate things. For example, the series Gate is written by a historical revisionist who denied the wrongdoings of Japan during World War 2. However, even though he glorifies the military in Gate, the historical revisionist ideas never seep through into his work, which is key to understanding this. Just because you like their work doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with their ideology.

The creator Rurouni Kenshin might be a pedo, but his work is far from it. James Gunn was fired for decade old tweets rather than his early works which included an incestuous version of Romeo and Juliet, but his work on Guardians of the Galaxy is very different from anything he has ever made in the past.

Punished Neitzseche continues the train of thought I had about Kenshin:

I do that all the time, especially when musician, actors or other personalities I liked turned out to be complete dipshits. Watsuki was always a weird guy (I’ve been reading Kenshin since 2005, when it was published in Spanish here) and even in the Q&A section of the volumes, you could see he was a little bit off… So, I disconnected the work from the artist and voila!

Voodoome has the perfectly reasonable stance of taking it one day at a time:

I take it on a case by case basis, but I divorce the art from the creator more often then not. Some things I just can’t forgive, but a lot of stuff I find to be overblown outrage for outrage sake. It comes down to personal experiences and how they shape my viewpoints on various topics. I never want to completely dismiss anyone that ever did anything wrong because a bunch of other people tell me I have to. I believe in second chances and forgiveness … when appropriate.

I also believe strongly in personal responsibility and that you have a right to say whatever you want, but you aren’t protected from the consequences of your actions. If people decide that Rockstar is wrong and that they aren’t going to support them then that is their choice. I support them making that choice, even if I am not willing to make it myself.

RottySiets makes a case that many developers these days are too far gone to make reasonable exceptions. Things suck out there, so we might as well make the best of it I guess:

I think I kind of have to do that with almost every developer nowadays, as nearly every company is guilty of some practice that in an ideal industry should be non-negotiable from my perspective.

For instance, I love Half-Life 2, but I don’t approve of online DRM being required to install the game even if you use Steam’s physical backup copy option (it still forces you to be logged into Steam and online during install). This creates a situation where there is always a dependency on outside servers even for offline single player content, and sure, Valve clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it also shouldn’t be up for them to decide when to just cut me off from my own game that I bought and paid for regardless. I firmly believe that when I purchase a game it should be my copy to own and use as I please without needing to phone home to somebody every once in a while to prove that it is legitimate. That goes for Origin and Uplay as well as Steam.

So right off the bat that puts like 90% of PC game developers on my shit list, and we haven’t even gotten into microtransactions, day one DLC, monthly subscriptions, and all that other jazz.

Even CDPR isn’t clean, because while I absolutely adore their GOG service, they suffer from the same problems as Rockstar with their working conditions. Their titles often go through a period of development hell and they experience long periods of crunch due to mismanagement at the top, and that’s definitely unfair for their workers.

It’s kind of sad to think that we’re long past the days when you could just buy a game and it was a complete game on launch, and all you had to worry about was just whether it was a good or bad game, not take into account a bunch of political nonsense and questionable business practices that went into its development.

Adzuken and Jetter Mars focus together on the issue of a large group versus a singular creator credited for a large part of a game’s identity.

Adzuken:Well, since I’ve been talking up Earthworm Jim lately, I generally try to disregard that its creation involved Doug TenNapel, whose treatment of LGBT+ individuals I strongly disagree with.

Jetter Mars:I was about to post something similar regarding TenNapel. I look at it as this, if it’s a collaborative effort between multiple people than I’d be more open to experiencing the game since I’m sure the others involved may not share the same views. If one person is the end-all be-all of a product, it would probably be much harder for me to separate the art from the artist. That’s just me though.

Sailor Zebes ultimately makes the important point that this issue is more complicated than yes or no, so there’s no reason to shame a person for their choices and decisions regarding it:

All the time. I can’t think of a game or whatever that I’ve decided against getting due to the creator or someone on the team.

Personally I think it’s one of those things where if that’s what helps you decide on getting something or not, for most people they probably weren’t all that interested in the first place.

What probably makes me grumpier is seeing people try and shame others for wanting to continue enjoying the game or whatever.

And something to keep in mind with video games, unless it’s an indie game, it’s not made by a single person. And it’s not made by the building they are in or it’s management really either. There’s probably plenty of good people who make those games, probably most of the people making it. Why fault them?

Baccus’ comment brings to mind how widespread backlash was what brought Star Wars Battlefront 2 to its knees for the better. A larger company with a collective of suits behind the steering wheel is certainly easy to decide against:

If it’s an individual and they haven’t done anything too extreme along the immoral scale then I’m all for separating the art from the artist. Wouldn’t have much art to experience otherwise. When it comes to companies I’m far less forgiving. Don’t like the business practices of certain dev/publisher? Then avoid ALL their output until you see substantial change in their methods.

Chris Hovermale has been going over the issue a little while, and it first popped up when it came to DMCV. There’s definitely an issue of severity, such as judging the entirety of Rockstar’s work hours against RDR2 versus his recent discovery of the very serious sexual harassment on Channel Awesome:

This is a very important question I’m still not entirely sure how to answer myself, even after watching an impressive 20-ish minute video on it several months ago when it was relevant to some anime I was considering trying to watch (but which would inevitably fail to fit into my schedule because since when have I actually made time to watch anime).

As far as RDR2 specifically goes, I never had interest in it to begin with (I respect cowboy settings but don’t enjoy them without some sorta spin on it, like Wild Arms or Wild Guns) but I believe the devs have specifically spoken out saying that if it doesn’t sell well, they won’t get their bonuses, so they want people to buy it? It’s still an iffy area but if I were interested I’d buy it anyway out of respect for that specific desire from the devs.

In general, it’s extremely iffy to relate any specific aspect of a product’s development or its creators to a piece of work. On one hand, it’s really hard to get across the specific message of “this specific reason is why I’m not supporting X product”, and boycotting alone usually fails to actually solve the problem in the long term. That’s why community outcries against cruddy practices are important, to eventually raise complaints that literally cannot be ignored, such as what happened with Battlefront II’s lootboxes.

On the other hand, I wrote that article about why I’m still looking forward to DMC5 despite microtransactions, and while I’m sticking to my guns about how I feel on that issue, I think I did a poor job of properly emphasizing that I’m strongly opposed to the addition of MTX in the first place (even though I did explain in the article WHY I’m strongly opposed to them) and I appreciate all of the comments that loudly voiced that concern. I’m going on a tangent that’s not so much about creators, but it’s founded in a similarly muddy principle.

I guess what I’m trying to say is personally, I judge this sort of stuff on a case-by-case basis in regards to development practices. When it comes to a specific individual’s ethics beyond their work, such as whether a lead developer regularly spouts nazi rhetoric on social media, that’s another issue altogether because supporting that person’s work directly or indirectly funds their own platform for spreading their views. So a creator spreading hate speech / supporting child porn / similarly extreme no-nos is the threshold where I start to feel disheartened and will probably boycott a product. If there’s a legal way to enjoy it without giving anything to the creator, like buying it secondhand, I’d probably still do that?

ADDENDUM: When I first learned about the sexual harassment and mismanagement from Channel Awesome / Doug Walker / etc, I instantaneously lost all desire to watch his videos and I still have no plans to ever watch them again. So that right there is an example of a time I continued to marry a creator’s unethical allegations to their content.

Dr Mel points out there’s a difference in the scope in how we interact with art we choose to confront, and this scope can mean just as much as the yes/no decision of interacting at all:

There’s an underlying context here because we need to know why we’re divorcing art from artist in this manner. The context you’re most likely to find is the one where the art is being sold and you don’t want to contribute to or reward a disagreeable person monetarily. However, this is a very limited scope of arts and artists.

If by not buying or supporting a thing you then do not support the person, that to me makes sense. But if a shitty person makes something and it puts you off of simply engaging with it at all or taking time to appreciate it without necessarily giving money, that seems much more extreme and the person would have had to have a very personally detestable history for me to do that.

But if someone is a homophobe, generally, or otherwise has really bad opinions and their art (be it a game or a movie or a painting) is in some way available to me, I’ll consider it still. There’s plenty of ways to engage with art without paying the artist (or, more likely, the rights holder of the art) and this has its positives and negatives.

m121akuma‘s also goes along with a case-by-case decision, but he admits it’s still very murky:

This is a question that has been plaguing me for years now, and I don’t have a clear answer. I think a large part of it depends on the level of involvement the creator has in the work, how much the creator’s controversial beliefs/actions come through in the work, and many other factors. I fucking love the Witcher games and am interested in Thronebreaker, but at the very least whoever in charge of social media at CDPR needs better training, because they keep posting casually transphobic comments. Will that stop me from buying the game? I haven’t decided yet.

RDR2 feels like a different beast altogether, since the controversy is baked into the game’s development. It’s not just “this guy did/said/believes awful things”, it’s “these guys actively abused people as a part of the game’s development”. I feel that makes separation even harder.

Also, that incident with the Kenshin creator still fuckin’ breaks my heart, man.

Hopefully reading through what some of our community members think about the issue gave you some unique examples that you’ve been through. I believe the video Chris Hovermale referenced is a video I also watched, from Mother’s Basement. That’s a whole extra forum of discussion of the topic. But obviously since posting this topic originally in the cblogs, not everyone has the same opinions on the subject and the discussion that comes from it is insightful.

Also, I hope the comments remain civil.

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