Today, I wanted to talk a bit about boycotts and other actions, or more precisely how I feel about them. Just recently there was (and still is) this thing with Activision/Blizzards and an active lawsuit filed against them over the mistreatment and harassment of women, PoC, and others at Blizzard. There are stories of HR not taking complaints seriously and/or being close to the people that harassed women. There are stories there about this sort of toxic masculinity/frat “culture” thing that you may know from Riot Games. Belghast wrote up a great post on the Blizzard situation and I figure that you’d be better off to read up on the events over there or at PC Gamer. I mainly don’t want to go into detail as I have a rough idea but I’m not 100% sure on most things and I feel like linking to those two other sites instead of covering it myself on this blog is gonna be better overall for everybody. But you may ask me: “Magi, isn’t this already old news? Everybody knows about this already?” – And actually, I only heard about it a few days ago, so I don’t think it’s old news and since no actions or reforms have been made yet… or rather Blizzard hasn’t announced anything yet, I’d imagine that this post is still rather relevant.
Either way, my issue with Boycotts is that none of them really work. Sure, Blizzard may lose some money right now but at the end of the day, not enough people will quit Blizzard’s games just because of this story getting out. I mean, I don’t want to be pessimistic or anything but most people that stopped playing World of Warcraft, specifically because of this boycott, will most likely pick it up again eventually because they love the game or the community or the content. At the same time (as Bel notes it), boycotts can do more harm than good often as you’re essentially punishing the workers who may lose their jobs as revenue is cut for whatever the higher-ups are doing wrong. Those higher-ups essentially will end up going on a vacation and staying off social media while they enjoy all the money they bathe in. At least, as far as I know, the investors may get scared off for a while but in two to three weeks, the majority of players will come back to it because everyone forgets about it again.
Riot Games, the developers of League of Legends, had similar stories pop up and honestly, I can’t remember if there was a public statement or anything done to show their support of women and to punish the people that made rape jokes, that harassed women and PoC, or that were just huge douches all-day-long. I stopped playing League for a while because I didn’t feel comfortable playing something created by assholes… but then I noticed that not everyone at Riot Games is an asshole and that if my personal boycott worked, someone would probably just get fired because Tencent only cares about money. No matter how many people participate in any of these performative actions or boycotts or no matter how many people quit, it will most likely result in the rich getting richer and the employees getting laid off. And that sucks.
But still, it’s about the principle. I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting Diablo 3 up right now. I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing more Starcraft 2 or Overwatch. I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing or streaming any of their games because this stuff is happening. And if you’re okay with supporting a company like that where the HR department is close to the perpetrators, then do it. But I won’t do that personally because I hate the idea of getting associated with all of that stuff or potentially giving attention to them.
And yes, boycotts (even temporary ones) are a double-edged sword as I’d probably have to boycott more games out there as time goes on, and I’d have to look into every single publisher, developer or other person that has to do with any of the games I’m playing. Frankly, I’d be too lazy for that. Heartbeat was developed by a whole studio of individuals, yet, I was willing to boycott it because of one developer that doesn’t work there anymore because that one developer is/was a TERF. And that seems unfair. My idea of a boycott would have been stupid. I didn’t touch the game ever since I talked about it last time on here… I didn’t think about it too much but still, in theory, I’d be okay with writing about it. The TERF doesn’t work there anymore. The studio overall distances itself from that one dev and is overall really inclusive.
My main issue is: Where do you draw the line? When you’re okay with boycotting Blizzard, why are you not okay with boycotting other companies? What are the numbers necessary for a boycott? Why does it need a lawsuit to start a boycott, when this shit has been brooding over the years? – Essentially, a lot of questions that I can’t answer personally.
It’s just a tricky subject again and I’m not okay with a lot of their practices and I hope that the situation improves meaningfully. I hope that women and other groups of people start to get treated with respect again. I hope that Blizzard changes but I’m not sure if one small and short boycott is going to be enough to change the company’s many problems.
So, to sum it up, in my opinion it doesn’t make much of a different to quit a game for a day, a week, a month, if you’re just gonna return it while Blizzard did nothing. If anything, players would have to stick it out until Blizzard took action to change. The current stepping down of the CEO or whatever he was is a sign for a change but it’s most likely to appease the investors.
Essentially, boycotts aren’t as effective anymore as they were before and if Activision/Blizzard would actually make a loss there, they’d just lay off a thousand employees and hire new ones when they need them. For every person that is currently walking out, there are at least a 100 more that want the job. You can’t just quit your job and get a new one immediately in the same industry. You have rent, bills, loans, and all of that stuff. I’ve seen people blame the people that work there but I don’t think there is much of a choice in the gaming industry: Work for Riot, Blizzard, or EA. They all are shitty companies if you work under the wrong people.
This post is part of the Blaugust 2021 event. For more information on that, check out this post!