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.