Early March 2013 big video game production company EA co-hosted the LGBT summit “Full Spectrum” with the Ford Foundation. Their support for gay rights caused quite a hubbub but now that the news has had time to settle down the gaming community’s opinions are surfacing. Turns out gamers are a lot less concerned with EA’s stance on gay rights and more interested in EA’s intentions behind making such a socio-political stand.
EA has produced many of the few games to include homosexual characters. Titles such as “Dragon Age” and “Mass Effect” allow players to pursue relationships with members of the same sex in game. It makes sense that EA would support the LGBT community and has openly opposed the Defense of Marriage Act.
However, EA has made news for more than their support of gay rights and inclusion of homosexual themes in the video games they produce. The company has been under fire for some of their unpopular business choices. A recent and notable issue was the overwhelming cry of disappointment from fans of the “Mass Effect” trilogy created by the ending of the third game.
While a large number of fans found the ending of “Mass Effect 3” to be disappointing it was also considered to be falsely advertised. A selling point of the game being that the choices players made in game would decide the fate of the world however the actual ending had a far smaller diversity of outcomes than those decisions would have dictated.
It’s also been a point of contention and legal action for gamers against EA when it comes to DRM. The company has taken aggressive action when it comes to anti-piracy for their games. Some acts resulting in issues with the Better Business Bureau. Many gamers have taken much more issue with these newsworthy actions from EA rather than their public support of gay rights.
Perhaps it’s because the demographic of individuals playing RPG games such as “Mass Effect” or “Dragon Age” which portray homosexuality is more liberal than those playing other Popular EA games such as “FIFA” or “Madden” but the inclusion of gay characters isn't much of an issue within the gaming community. Still many individuals have responded to the news of EA’s recent public support for gay rights are simply a diversion of attention from their less savory business practices.
A facet of the gaming community is the ability to hold a grudge. Years in the future bringing up the ending of “Mass Effect 3” to a disappointed fan will still instigate a wrathful rant. It is also true that people are far more likely to remember and speak out about negative experiences than they are a positive one. So a combination of these things is likely contributing to the negative response to EA’s recent news. Just hearing the companies name mentioned may set off a flag of distrust for players who feel cheated or spurned by the company.
Still EA isn't doing anything to hurt the LGBT community or gay rights. It’s likely that the company could use the platform as a press mongering diversion, hoping to get liberal fans to turn the other check. Their open display of support for the political issue has garnered a swarm of hate mail for EA, however there’s no such thing as bad publicity right?
The games that have explored LGBT themes weren't exactly EA’s idea. They only produce all these titles. But from “Sims” to “Dragon Age” they've never turned down the addition of homosexuality in their games. Including same sex partnerships may have been a risky move for the huge company with a large following of conservative sports fans; however they went ahead and put their name on these games anyway.
Even if EA is trying to do a little prestidigitation in the press to divert people from more notably negative events, a good act is still being done. Speakers at the conference did not only speak about homosexual themes in the video game industry but about the industries environment as well. The industry and community are predominated by white males and has deterred other minorities such as gays and women from being fully accepted into the gaming fold.
Especially in a time when online gaming is at its zenith minority groups have an opportunity to get involved in gaming communities without stereotyping and bigotry. Still however the industry isn't making characters and games that welcome and include these growing demographics. From diversity in the workplace to acceptance on the virtual battlefield it’s good to know that groups like the Ford Foundation and EA are aware of the issues and are willing to take a stance.
It’s very possible that EA is putting their necks out for gay rights in an effort to save face. Those who feel wronged by the company will likely not be changing their opinions anytime soon. Yet for gamers in support of gay rights EA’s actions will entice more thought. People may be asking themselves “Does the end justify the means when it comes to civil rights?” Surely the large company’s weight on the issue counts for something regardless of their motives.