“Why yes, money IS more important than people.”

 

Wow, what a week it’s been, huh?

For those not in the know, Blizzard Entertainment banned Hearthstone player Blitzchung and two casters over the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong.”

Here’s the video in question if you wish to watch it:

To be honest, after much of what I’ve been reading about Activision-Blizzard, from the devil horn headed CEO Bobby Kotick to the company earlier this year laying off nearly a thousand people in order to prop up the profit of shareholders, Blizzard banning a game player for making a political statement is of no surprise to me. After all, Activision-Blizzard has shown its number one priority is the money it makes.

However, what truly concerns me was this phrase I saw in the ruling of the Hearthstone Grandmaster, which you can read on Blizzard’s own website:

2019 HEARTHSTONE® GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4   p.12, Section 6.1 (o)

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. 

‘Or otherwise damages Blizzard’s image’ is such a vaguely worded phrase because of how easily it can be used to view anything negative about Blizzard as damaging. In this case, as Activision-Blizzard has 5% of its shareholders owned by a Chinese company called Tencent (who has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies from what I’ve heard), Blitzchung’s comments were easily seen as damaging to Blizzard’s image. After all, you don’t want to anger your investors who are bringing you in a lot of money via streaming overseas.

Now, Activision-Blizzard will want you to believe it’s ruling had nothing to do with China or Tencent’s investment in them, but don’t kid yourself. It was, and is, even if Activision-Blizzard has refunded Blitzchung’s prize money and reduced the ban on both him and the casters. More and more, entertainment companies are seeing China for the money making machine that it is, and they desperately want a slice of that pie.

And if human rights happen to be trampled and are being trampled by the Chinese Government? Well, you can just sweep all that aside. Bobby Kotick needs a new yacht, and you don’t want to be selfish and deny a man whose net worth is a measely 7 billion dollars, do you?

 

Bobby Kotick

I heard once he finds it difficult to get dates on account of all the devil horn drawing. Allow me to immaturely continue that tradition.

Now, on a live stream of a game, they’ve banned someone for saying a political statement that could damage their image, I have to ask who else could they ban, block, or come down hard on. Say, you’re just a regular streamer on Twitch playing WoW classic and you note about some of the improvements on the game followed by criticism. Is that considered damaging the image of Activision-Blizzard? Would Activision-Blizzard send out a cease and desist to the streamer, maybe get in touch with Twitch and ask them to do something about it? Because the only other thing companies fear aside from losing money is litigation… which would also cost them money.

And yes, I know this decision was made within the context of a competition, but that phrase scares me, and it should scare you too. If some other competitor is wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt or showcasing the Pride flag somewhere in their room, would those political statements also be seen as damaging Activision-Blizzard’s image? What reassurances do we have from a company that values profit over human rights that they won’t ban other players for any kind of political statement, overt or otherwise implied?

And what of the precedent set now? Blitzchung and the two stream casters may have had their bans shortened, but they’re still bans. Will other companies follow in this stead? What if Fortnite’s company, Epic Games (who Tencent also has an investment of 40% of the shares) doesn’t like what someone says during one of their tournaments, will they also be banned? Or if someone gives thanks to the queer community for the help they received, or the black community… lord knows how over-reactive gamers can be another any kind of social justice, up to and including harassing developers and writers.

AreaNet, best known for Guild Wars 2, fired writer Jessica Price on account of some comments she made about the bigotry, sexism, and misogyny of gamers, something that is very real. AreaNet showed itself to be more in line with keeping the loyalty of some truly revolting people in a fandom that’s given rise to one of the most sadly influential hate groups/harassment movements online: Gamergate.

And she had done that on her own private Twitter, not in the midst of any stream in a competition.

All in all, game companies have shown time and time again their main concern is money, from breaking people down via the crunch period to instigating horribly addictive gambling practices that they’ve tried to pass off as ‘surprise mechanics’. That one would ban someone because of a political statement about very real government crackdowns is just not that much of a stretch.

Before I finish though, I want to add in one more thing, which is that currently, #BoycottBlizzard has become quite the trending hashtag on Twitter, and to those who want to boycott them, all the more power to you. While I have uninstalled Battlenet from my PC and all of the games from Blizzard I’ve bought, I realized I still had an account and wanted to delete it.

There was just one… small… snag…

Screenshot_8

Government ID?! You want me to trust YOU with MY government ID?

I am in no way giving Activision-Blizzard a copy of my government ID, ANY of them. Not my Driver’s License and certainly not my Passport. While they say that all personal data would be deleted, I find it mighty suspect that they want a copy of my government ID, especially after this public debacle* they’ve been rightfully raked over the coals for. Companies are always releasing statements about how the personal data they’ve collected is leaked, and I can’t help but wonder if Activision-Blizzard would accidentally ‘leak’ your government ID to, say… the Chinese Government.

It would make visiting the Great Wall a tad difficult.

At the least, I was able to delete all of my payment methods and some personal information, so they can’t charge me for anything, but in the meantime, I’m stuck with an account I no longer want.

*Although I’m unsure how long this policy has been in place, if it’s something more recent or been there all along.

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Resident Evil 2 – A Long Time Coming

WARNING: Mild spoilers for this review.

It’s a faint, hint of a song from long ago, wafting beneath the ambient noises of the RPD Hall as I checked on the storage and looked for bullets the first time around… but it’s there, and it’s says welcome home.

Continue reading “Resident Evil 2 – A Long Time Coming”

Brain Food – Episode 70

It’s another week, and another novel review, as this time I delve into one of my comfort reads, the novelization of the Resident Evil 2 game by SD Perry, Resident Evil 2 – City of the Dead!

For more information on SD Perry and the many books she’s worked on, check her out on these places on the Internet.

Twitter

Website

Ending theme music was found on the No CopyRight Music youtube channel, so be sure to check them out as well.

Horizon Zero Dawn’s White Saviour Problem

It’s been awhile since Horizon Zero Dawn has come out, in fact it’s been a year, and after watching so much of its fans talk about it on tumblr, sharing fanart and fanfiction, I finally broke down and borrowed my niece’s copy.

I wasn’t too impressed with its trailer, which depicted its heroine, Alloy, dressed up in an outfit that was part post-apocolyptic and part hipster who just took an DNA test and found out she was 5% Indigenous and put together a quick outfit from the Halloween sale at the local dress shop.

In fact, I discussed my feelings before on what bothered me about the game initially. 

Now, having put more than a number of hours into the game (in fact, I’m close to the end I believe), I find myself enjoying it, yet bothered by the White Saviour Narrative that underlines it.

As it’s been out for a year now, people should know there’s going to be spoilers abound in this, but I’ll still say, from here on there be spoilers.

Continue reading “Horizon Zero Dawn’s White Saviour Problem”

Pandering and the Default

So, in the midst of the continued fall out from Weistein, the accusations against Kevin Spacey increasing by the day as more come forward to tell of his predatory nature, Twitter continuing to not do a thing about Nazis but erasing bisexuals, this bit of criticism about Jeph Jacque’s Questionable Content from a fan, and Jeph’s subsequent response, came across my feed.

Now, in the picture provided in the link here, there’s a lot to unpack about what the fan has to say to Jeph, especially the subtle bit of transphobia by saying Marten isn’t in a hetero relationship. The bit not said is that since Claire is a transgender woman, she’s not a REAL woman, and so Marten is in a gay relationship.

That is some TERF Laci Green level of logic right there.

However, I want to focus on the Pandering bit of the statement, that in having so many characters who are LGBTQIA, Jeph Jacques is somehow pandering to people who identify as such, and that this is somehow a bad thing.

It is, as my friend Tim Yang, the producer behind the podcasts All Comics Considered and Race Invaders, said on his Facebook page in discussing this, “It’s code for “why aren’t you pandering to me?!”

This is hardly a lone example in the past few years of people angry that changes are being made to something they like, and it says a lot that the people who are angry are straight, white, cisgender, able bodied men.

Game Critic and article writer Tauriq Fousa was the recipient of mass harassment on Twitter and elsewhere for his article being critical of The Witcher 3 for having a predominantly white cast.

Leslie Jones was the target of a mass harassment campaign simply for staring in the remake of Ghostbusters that had an all female cast.

Marvel Comics came under fire for having a female Thor, a black Spider-Man, a Muslim superhero in Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel, and accusations of becoming overrun by SJWs.

The fallout from the new Doctor being a woman? Same thing.

When straight white, cisgender able bodied men like me complain about these things, and other showings of diversity in our movies, comic books, video games, and books, it comes from a place of insecurity, I feel. For so long, in Western society, a lot of what we enjoyed was made for us by us, and so many of us were so used to this for so long that to see even the smallest increase in diversity of any kind is, on some level, a threat to our very existence. It is something worth going to war for, as evidenced by the Gamergate Hate Movement against women and diversity in games.

In a way, the straight white dudes who complain about creators pandering to people not like them come off as Dudley Dursley, face twisted up in rage as he receives one less present than the previous year for his birthday, decrying the injustice of it all and demanding recompense for this mild slight against him.

Dudleyangry.jpg

They can’t possibly understand WHY others wish to see themselves in the games they play, the books they read, and the movies they watch. After all, we grew up seeing so many white men inhabiting all sorts of roles, and if they can’t relate to them, then that’s their problem, not ours.

It’s not FAIR! They had Winston in Ghostbusters, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why make Spider-man black!? Women had She-Ra and Xena, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why have Thor be a feeeemalllee…? Or Valkyrie be a black woman in the new Thor movie?! Or the new Doctor?! It makes no sense for a time traveling alien who regenerates into different bodies to avoid death to change his gender!

What guys like that don’t understand is that for as much diversity as we are seeing, people of colour, LGBTQIA people, basically people who aren’t straight, white, cisgender, male and able bodied are still woefully under represented in our various forms of media.

Part of the problem that lies within was explained perfectly by Rebecca Kuang when discussing the diversity panel she’d been a part of at a recent convention, in this wonderful thread I’d highly recommend you check out.

When you have unfair, heightened standards for a movie, a book, a game to succeed when the lead is not a straight white cisgender man, you are setting it up to fail.

It was a problem with superhero movies as lead by women, wherein movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra were not given as good a treatment in terms of production, writing, promotion etc as their male counterparts. It becomes, in effect, a self fulfilling prophecy that other gatekeepers can then point to as evidence that, hey, people just don’t like female lead superhero movies.

It was something that Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter did, without even taking into account how many male superhero movies bomb, either critically or financially, such as Ghost Rider, Amazing Spider-Man, Batman Vs Superman, Green Lantern, and Daredevil to name a few.

So lets see about rebooting Spider-man and Batman for the millionith time, eh?

Until Wonder Woman arrived on the scene, that is.

JL_Wonder_Woman

She’s arguably, single handedly saved the DC movieverse with its success of over 800 million dollars world wide, making it the highest grossing superhero origin movie to date. Who did it beat out? One of Marvel’s most popular characters, Spider-Man from 2002, directed by Sam Raimi.

The truth of the matter is that as we continue progressing forward, the default of the Straight, White, Cisgender, Able Bodied Male is becoming less the gold standard for an assured success, and more a sign of the gatekeeping that merely thinks that people only want to see straight, white, cisgender able bodied men.

And that they will ignore all evidence to the contrary. One only need look at the poor performances of The Great Wall, The Last Airbender, and Iron Fist to see that people don’t want to see all white people all the time, and still studios will try to hamfist white people into roles not meant for them, such as Scarlet Johansson’s leading role in Ghost in the Shell, because the people who make the decisions still believe that audiences only want to see white people in leading roles.

The Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies come from this line of thinking as well, believing that science fiction and fantasy should not pander to people not like them (straight white cisgender dudes) and tried to influence the votes of the Hugo Awards.

That they failed should be seen as a sign that people want more diversity and not the outdated views of bigots and racists, although their very presence should also be taken with caution that said people will not go quietly into the night.

There’s a great deal of progress yet to be made, especially where hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite continue to garner incredible traction, across all forms of entertainment, and that barriers to the success of creators who ‘pander’ to people like them need to be dismantled.

This feels especially important in the light of Trump becoming president of the US last year, where there was an incredibly vocal and violent pushback against people who didn’t have it so great in the good old days of the distant 50s Americana.

Pop Culture is more than just a means of entertainment and escapism for us. It can educate us about social issues important to us, as Star Trek did when it first started, and can show us a better, brighter future that we can work towards.

To remain rooted in the out dated way of thinking in terms of representation is a failure on the part of fans who want nothing different and the people in charge who see money only in the faces of people who look like them.