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.
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This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well. If you find this post on a website other than Indiecator.org, please write an e-mail to me. Thank you!
There isn’t, and never is, a one-stop solution to this sort of thing. I was considering picking up the D2 remaster on the Switch and this whole thing pushed the needle back into the no-go zone.
I have a small problem with the “but it hurts the employees” approach to this situation. Does that benefit the employees or the corporation? I’m having a difficult time finding the right metaphor. I hate to invoke Godwin’s Law, but it’s kinda like saying we should keep the Nazis in power so the innocent soldiers and staff get to keep their job. Other companies will arise to take Blizzard’s place in the world. Perhaps we should be constructing better unemployment programs to protect people from this corporate foolishness and making room for new responsible development companies for them to work at.
The whole thing reminds me of one of Mario Savio’s well-known speeches:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels … upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
Yeah, it’s an ineffective solution, but the powers that be say that problems should be solved through the “free market” and boycotts are part of that. How else are we the consumers supposed to indicate to the powerful corporations that their behavior is unacceptable?
It’s a very cold and callous approach, which is why I haven’t bothered to address it directly in a post of my own.
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I don’t think it’s good to compare Blizzard to the Nazis. That kind of puts harassment, sexism and bullying (+ one suicide) on the same level as the holocaust. In Germany, that comparison at least would sound like you’re playing down the holocaust but cultural differences apply.
It’s fine to stop supporting something as an individual but I just don’t think that boycotts will do too much in this day and age. As someone else said, a lawsuit like that is basically pocket change for Blizzard. If anything, a lot of people will get laid off to save money and then even more people will apply to get a job at Blizzard because it’s their dream job. Boycotts don’t do enough in my opinion when they only last a month or two. Instead, I think that they are great to show support and that individual actions mean a bit more to the participating people. As a whole it’s not gonna change unless the people at Blizzard are willing to change.
“How else are consumers supposed to indicate to the powerful corporations that their behaviour is unacceptable?” – I just don’t think that boycotts do much. There must be a better solution. Like, I don’t know the answer to that question but I just personally think that boycotts won’t help because Blizzard doesn’t care.
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Wasn’t meant to be a literal comparison, just a cheap shortcut to illustrate a point. Protecting an organization for the sake of its innocent members only allows them to continue exploiting people.
I also agree that boycotts are a largely useless gesture, I just don’t see any readily available alternative.
I’m curious, though, how many people can Blizzard churn through before their reputation catches up with them? My employer used to think the same way. “There’s a hundred people lined up to take your job, why should we care?” Now they’re starved for people because there’s a garbage culture, a bad reputation, and not enough pay to make up the difference. It would take a lot longer for Blizzard to reach that point, if ever, and the products will suffer tarnishing their image further. They’re doing far more damage to themselves than a boycott could ever hope to accomplish.
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Personal thought? Boycotts, walkouts, sit ins, picket lines, in this day and age no longer have the meaning they use to. Our culture has been shaped by the likes of Twitter and Facebook where we see something, focus for a few seconds, then move on. Investors don’t care what employees want, they just want to know if they made a 8% return or a 20% for this year. The lawsuit in itself is pocket change to the company. It’s maybe a few days revenue, and they will treat it as an expenditure to offset gains for taxes. The thing is, for every 100 employees protesting for better pay and treatment, there are 1000 people willing to take what’s there so they can get a job there.
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If the employees are working for a toxic company, that’s really on them. It is not my obligation to make sure they continue to be employed just because I like them but hate the company. Certainly, Actizzard would not hesitate to fire the employee at any time they wished, for whatever reason they liked. Company loyalty flows in just one direction.
Otherwise, should I seek out toxic companies to support, just in case my doing so would prevent just one employee from being sacked? Right? It doesn’t make sense.
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Let’s say it like this: Quitting some Blizzard games for a few days, weeks, or months is not gonna mean anything because the majority of players will come back eventually anyway. The revenue they lose now doesn’t mean anything to Blizzard in contrast to their usual income.
Meanwhile, people that work there that need to feed their families can’t just quit their jobs because of a walkout. Not everyone has that luxury. For every person that works at Blizzard that is thinking about quitting, there are at least 100 that want to work there. Meanwhile, I don’t think that people can just quit the job and get a different job in the same industry right away.
Saying that it’s on the employees is a bit fucked up in my opinion. It’s not their fault that the company is toxic. I doubt that it was common knowledge that the company is “bad” or “toxic”. Rather, I’ve seen a lot of people play, write about or stream World of Warcraft like it was nothing while the investigation was happening, even though there were enough videos of toxic masculinity available for people to see. Saying that it’s on them, doesn’t make sense and suggests that everyone knew already what the company is like and that they just should have chosen to be employed somewhere else. At least in Germany, you can’t just quit your job and get a new one right away but I guess in America it’s different.^^
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I am fortunate enough to be in a financial situation that allows me to make ethical purchasing decisions. Boycotting only works when there is a choice, so any monopoly breaks that.
I didn’t buy a single EA game for nearly 10 years due to the Mass Effect 3 day 1 DLC. And when I did support them, it was for games that were “whole”. I still have that mindset today, where I don’t suffer from FOMO.
It’s less about boycotts (e.g. organized “ethical” choices) and more about the individual’s decision on where to show support.
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I find that fair enough. My opinion is just that one single choice against it won’t help the situation at all if nobody else is doing it, too, but it still can be great for your mindset.
I mean, I’d feel bad right now writing about Blizzard Games. Hence, I don’t write about or play them right now. Meanwhile, there are other people that aren’t bothered and even more people that don’t care. All the people quitting World of Warcraft for a month are making a small difference but it’s not gonna be enough, I think.
But yeah, it’s less about if it’s working or not but more about the individual’s decision of supporting a movement or not supporting the culprits.