When Microsoft put the download-only Shadow Complex on sale this week for a mere $10, it renewed my amusement in a politically-motivated boycott of the game.
The reason for the boycott is a little drawn out. Shadow Complex takes place in the same world as Orson Scott Card's Empire novel. Besides being a sci-fi author, Card is also a vocal opponent of gay marriage. While Card was not directly involved in the development of the game and his unwelcome message is not included in the game, he did receive royalties from Epic Games.
While the Shadow Complex boycott failed to make a significant impact, it's mean-spiritedness and feigned outrage is reminiscent of the campaigns to scare away the advertisers of radio hosts Glenn Beck and Don Imus. The difference is the Shadow Complex protesters sound like they would indeed like to play the game, while the anti-radio protesters don't actually listen to those programs.
Other superficial video game protests included a push to not release Devil May Cry 4 on the Xbox 360 and a general whine-in that Left 4 Dead 2 came out too quickly after the first title.
When did gay marriage become the litmus test for human decency? Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong supporter of gay marriage and it will be a victory when it becomes the norm. That being said, it is not equal to the American civil rights struggle that peaked in the 1960's.
Some on the left try to compare the quest for the rights of blacks to the modern gay rights movement. You can't compare an era of reckless racial violence and oppression to a period with rude talk from religious figures. Indeed, it seems some on the left have a nostalgia for the civil rights struggle - when good and evil was easy to see - and wish they'd had the chance to participate in that noble effort.
While Card is on the wrong side of the gay marriage debate, his view is actually pretty common and his involvement in Shadow Complex is minimal. In addition, Card's view on gay marriage is completely separate from the Shadow Complex experience - one has to read up online to know anything on the subject.
Compare that to some of the direct progressive political messages in video games. The Mirror's Edge intro cutscene includes a left-wing fable about the evil police state beating up peaceful protesters. Every Mass Effect subplot involving a corporation reveals they have zero ethical standards and break the law whenever it can result in higher profits. Even the Fallout universe has an intact Republican party to draft evil presidents from.
While these sort of views may make me groan, I have learned that video games are just one more place I have to tolerate different ideas. Perhaps the people who really want to play Shadow Complex, but won't allow themselves to, haven't learned this lesson yet.