It's About Ethics in Gaming Purchases
May 22, 2016 8:20 PM   Subscribe

It sounds like I'd really like Offworld Trading Company as a video game but there was some dispute in this thread about the Civ 6 announcement as to whether or not buying the game puts money into the hands of publisher Brad Wardell, who has apparently been complicit in the harassment Zoe Quinn and other icky stuff. I absolutely do not want to support harassers. Help me figure out where my money's going.

I'm not a gamer, a programer, or more than superficially knowledgeable about computers. I buy a new game maybe once a year. I hadn't even heard of Wardell before that thread. But I know enough about gamergate to know I don't want my money going anywhere near anyone that has directly harassed women or enabled harassment. I did a bit of Googling which seems to corroborate that his actions have been problematic at best. Further down the thread, someone quotes Wardell saying he doesn't actually get any money from game sales. So I guess my two questions are:

1) Is Wardell as odious as these people say when it comes to harassment?
2) Will he benefit from my purchase?

NB: I believe Quinn and women who deal with harassment from within the gaming community, and you won't convince me otherwise, so if by some your chance you are someone who doesn't share this perspective, best to either not respond or keep your answers focused on my specific questions.

Thanks in advance for your input!
posted by dry white toast to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know him from an old forum i used to post on and Wardell can be kind of a clueless doofus and had a sexual harassment suit against him for being such, which was settled out of court.

Any connection between Wardell and actual harassment in the Gamergate sense (death/rape/harm threats) is going to be homeopathically slight at best. But he's very likely not on your 'side' - he's the sort of person who'd term himself 'proudly politically incorrect'.

So if you want to punish a developer for not choosing a publisher who agrees with you politically then follow your heart.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:30 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, here's Wardell "defending himself", if that helps. To your second question: he says that he doesn't profit from the games but I suspect that's a very stringent definition of profit, meaning that he doesn't derive royalties. He's CEO, President, and founder of the company that publishes the games, and it's privately held, so presumably the money is plowed back into the company, but equally presumably he profits from the company's success.
I don't think that he's directly involved in GamerGate but he certainly puts it right out there that women aren't gamers and he doesn't care about making products with an eye to including women.
posted by gingerest at 8:55 PM on May 22, 2016

Wardell can be kind of a clueless doofus and had a sexual harassment suit against him for being such

There is not actually a cause of action under the U.S. sexual harassment laws for being a clueless doofus. There are, however, actions for a wide variety of forms of mistreatment of women.
posted by praemunire at 8:57 PM on May 22, 2016 [47 favorites]

Long story short, assuming Brad Wardell was dishonest in that tweet and takes a cut of Mohawk's profits indirectly, he probably still won't get much/any money. Based on Steamspy, Offworld is not selling all that well which means it needs to pay several hardworking people with the revenue before profits distribution becomes meaningful. If the only thing keeping you from buying the game is this worry, I think you can be confident that you're mostly paying Valve and the (non-wealthy) people at Mohawk.
posted by michaelh at 10:20 PM on May 22, 2016

He's not a clueless doofus; that's an excessively gentle way of dealing with the fact that he has some serious issues with women, and identifies with the aggrieved men of GG.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:44 PM on May 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

I made my peace with this choice. Wardell might make some incidental money here, but it's going to be a lot less than the team makes. My guess is that when you're a small indie like Mohawk/Soren making an unconventional game, you take whatever publisher support you can get.

OTC is super fun, too! I've enjoyed my time with it greatly.
posted by heresiarch at 10:45 PM on May 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

Brad may have a variety of really questionable personal beliefs, but I would tend to believe his business explanations, he's generally been shown to be trustworthy with contracts over the years. Having worked in the game industry MOST publisher CEOs are unethical in a taking-money-from-needy-people sense, or else they end up as some other role in the company. Game companies tend to be run very poorly.

Basically if you feel that supporting the specific GG brand of unethical behavior is significantly worse than supporting other types of unethical behaviors then you probably won't be comfortable buying it, but if you're thinking in terms of practical benefit to GG vs benefit to a healthy ecosystem of indie games the benefit to GG is incredibly negligible. It's up to you if you want to be practical or idealistic here, personally I know enough about game development that being practical is my only available option to purchase games with a clear conscience.
posted by JZig at 12:08 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

It seems from the posts here as if your $40 will probably help GG-related causes by somewhere between $0.01 and $0.50, so if you could simultaneously donate $5 to the good guys, you'd be pretty comfortably in the clear.
posted by piato at 4:09 AM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

He's not a clueless doofus; that's an excessively gentle way of dealing with the fact that he has some serious issues with women, and identifies with the aggrieved men of GG.

Fair enough, I chose my words poorly. Here's a useful summary of the suit from Polygon.

I think Piato has the right of it.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:46 PM on May 23, 2016

Thanks for your input everyone. I made a $10 donation to Girls Who Code.
posted by dry white toast at 6:54 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think of this kind of thing as buying "asshole offsets." Like carbon offsets, but for products or services that you want/need to buy but fear may support a cause you hate.
posted by oblique red at 2:50 PM on May 25, 2016

« Older From EDI sans car   |   Seeking diversity in family movies Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.