At this point, a day can’t go by without something causing backlash online, especially in gaming.
With more and more social causes and identities being distilled and truncated into easily digestible hashtags and buzzwords, the landscape that has grown up around marginalized identities, even online, has shifted. In a landscape where an athletic brand can sell discounts to law enforcement during the height of protests against police brutality, then turn around a short while later and put a face of those movements on their adverts, all serves to highlight how easily causes can be co-opted and hijacked for profit or malicious ends.
This is especially true in gaming spaces where reactionary voices can often twist and manipulate the chain of events to suit their regressive ideals and agenda. There’s a whole spade-full of loudmouth Twitter users whose entire shtick is whipping up controversy and sicking mobs on people for not toeing their line. These same mobs then project this flaw when called out, blaming their targets for the harassment received. We saw it happen with the Jessica Price fiasco, and we’re seeing it happen once again in this latest kerfuffle.
It’s this negative carousel of insensitivity that GOG finds themselves riding this week.
GOG social media, specifically Twitter, thought it was a good idea to post a Tweet hijacking a hashtag meant to highlight accomplishments and struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in order to pander to gamers. Things didn’t go as planned. Almost immediately, the Tweet was pulled and the controversy began.
For context, the WontBeErased hashtag began in response to the announcement earlier this month that the Trump administration was looking into strictly defining gender as only existing with male and female labels, primarily determined by reductive biological factors. As the New York Times reported, a leaked memo from the Trump White House could have serious implications for transgender rights. This classification not only flies in the face of modern science, which points to a spectrum of gender identities that exist due to a wide array of social, biological and other factors, but would likely roll back many protections and rights that exist for the LGBTQ+ community in the USA.
Why GOG thought this was OK to make into a joke is beyond me. It’s not even clever, so the “humor” excuse doesn’t really work, it feels a lot more like they’re just punching down at a really bad time, if they’re even trying to be funny at all. And aside from the reactions of general internet users, at least one company has pulled the plug on their relations with GOG over this issue.
Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, makers of geek and gaming film properties like The Gamers series announced that they were pulling their products from GOG. The official Zombie Orpheus Twitter account has shared an email sent to GOG from CEO Ben Dobyns requesting their removal.
The opinion of ZOE on the issue can best be inferred from the following quote:
As a company that makes films around the world with people from every race and background, we affirm that humanity is in the struggle for justice toegether. Setting race against sexuality against nation, speaking words that dehumanize and erase, staying silent, or claiming that hate speech is merely a joke: none are the actions of people who want the best for their neighbors.
GOG did release a statement apologizing for the remarks, although given that this isn’t the first time GOG has landed in hot water, it remains to be seen whether they learn their lesson and stop trying to engage in these stunts. In September, GOG’s owner CD Projekt Red invoked a transphobic catch phrase on the official Twitter account for Cyberpunk 2077. And that’s just one of several examples.
Do I think GOG acts maliciously when they make mistakes like this? Not as a whole, no.
Do I think the person in charge of the social media accounts that is directly responsible for these incidents needs to take a step back, pick something else to do at the company, and let someone else take over? Yes, if not for the image of the company, at least for their own sanity.
And as usual, there’s a pretty clear divide in response to these events. Some people accept the apology, some continue to call attention to the history GOG has of doing things like this. And some think that GOG did absolutely nothing wrong and should continue as before.
Whatever your opinion, it’s pretty clear that people who like internet drama will have plenty to talk about this week.