My thoughts on the moral minefield

Roger at Contains Moderate Peril wrote about the moral conflict of supporting some development studios, in the context of the many revelations of manipulative practices surrounding cash shops or outright abusive treatment of their staff. I’ve been catching up on some reading and came across this piece and the post by Wolfyeyes that inspired it.

The development industry seems pretty shady if you read all the meta-news about goings-on, or the various “kiss and tell” stories about what it is like to work in said studios. Since the free-to-play revolution swept across MMORPGs there have been increasingly blatant attempts to coerce, what seems like at least, increasing amounts of money out of players. More like macro-transactions than micro-transactions.

As Roger notes in his post, it’s not so simple a problem to solve. If everyone boycotts EA, Riot, Blizzard or some other studio over working practices, reactions to China’s politics or other incidents then a lot more people will potentially suffer far earlier any actual decision-makers feel the pain. If profits are down it won’t be directors who get the sack in the short-term.

I’m no developer, but I know *a lot* of actors. The entertainment industry is just as manipulative and stingy with the pay of those lower-down the hierarchy. If a film or theatre piece sparks enduring protests, you can bet the actors and other creatives would suffer long before any director or producer does. Whether it is a lack of up-front pay, profit-share type arrangements, or the fizzling of follow-on work – the actors will loose out.

That’s not to say that some form of complaint over bad practices shouldn’t happen. In large enough numbers some form of protest on social media does seem to be the way to at least be heard nowadays, regardless of how effective it is in the long term. The quickest way, it seems, to get an answer out of a corporation is to loudly complain on Twitter while @ing the company and the appropriate industry watchdog – forget email, web-forms or ringing them.

But I feel that boycotting a whole studio’s output is unlikely to change that studio’s treatment of its staff or its other politics. As Roger pointed out, Western civilisation is highly capitalist and consumerist in nature. Being a customer is the only way, perhaps, of getting yourself in on any meaningful conversation with a company. That’s not a position I’m 100% comfortable with, but it’s the reality I live in – in this country at least. So I will complain voiciferously about bad practices within a specific game or that game’s features. But boycotting a whole game, studio or other company doesn’t seem an effective use of my time or emotional energy.

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1 Response to My thoughts on the moral minefield

  1. bhagpuss says:

    People will do what makes them feel most comfortable – or least uncomfortable. When it’s very clear what that is then it’s no problem. You either do or you don’t and you feel good with whichever choice you made. The problem comes when it’s not clear, which is the case with most of the things we see and read about in the gaming press. It’s all happening to people we don’t know in situations we have no personal experience of and frequently there are conflicting versions of the narrative. Meanwhile we do know how we feel when we play the games because that’s direct personal experience. So we have to abnegate our direct pleasure for an uncertain and often unlnowable result. Even if what we deny ourselves makes a difference we generally won’t ever know about it.

    What we do know, though, is whther we we feel better or worse about and in ourselves by playing or not playing, paying or not paying. And also by how we feel when our peer group hears of the choices we made. So in the end it still comes down to doing what makes us feel more comfortable or less uncomfortable, only now we might have to try it out before we know which that is.

    Modern life is such fun, isn’t it?

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