OPINION: Do we Really Need to Leave Politics out of Gaming?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect oprainfall as a whole.

Author and YouTube Manager Dalton recently released an article in which he spoke of his opinion on politics in gaming. He asked me to look over the article and give him feedback. This is something we do quite often with opinion pieces, as it gets all parties involved thinking. In this case it definitely got me thinking. Unfortunately I was going around in circles trying to decide where I stood.

In general I have no problem knowing which side of things I stand on. As I read this opinion piece, however, I realized that I had a lot of questions. I could see Dalton’s side of things but I wasn’t sure I agreed. Sure politics and gaming are separate entities. I want my games to be fun too, but can you really do that? I guess I could if I never knew any of the politics behind a game. That isn’t the world we live in though, is it?

As co-owner of this website I realize that we have people volunteering here of all different mindsets. We don’t all agree on a lot of things and that is OK. We also have disclaimers everywhere. Hell I have a disclaimer on my social media accounts stating that my opinions do not represent oprainfall as a whole. Is that true though? When people think of me do they think of the site? Do they think that my opinions must be reflected on the site? I am after all one of the people who has final say on everything we do here. Why wouldn’t you think that my personal opinions would be called into play? Does that disclaimer really make you think that my personal opinions don’t represent the site? If people won’t buy a game because they don’t like someone affiliated with itwill they not visit this site if they disagree with me? If so is that fair? The site is about so much more than me. I am a tiny tiny part of it.

Anyhow, realizing that I was going back and forth on how I felt about this topic, I decided to ask Dalton to do a Q and A. The hope here is that picking his brain would help me see where he is coming from, get me thinking even more, and help me to make up my mind. Do we really need to leave politics out of gaming? Can we honestly do this?

Q1: Do you think this (politics being so prevalent in gaming) is a new thing or is something we are just more aware of now with the internet and news traveling so quickly?

1A: Politics have always been there, saying that games are causing kids to be violent, are killing brain cells, etc. However, I do think that the internet has made it a lot easier for people to get information on their games. This, combined with the tiny political renaissance that we’ve been in of late, has made a nasty combination.

Q2: If you had a business would you hire people whom you fundamentally disagreed with or who you thought might harm your brand?

2A: If I had a business, I would never deny any employee a job just because they disagreed with me politically. Everyone has different thoughts and opinions, and that’s what makes the world go around. A bunch of my friends disagree with everything that I’m about, but I’m still friends with them. Disagreements get people thinking about more than just one side.

Q3: Do you think there are any situations in which you would agree with politics being brought into gaming?

3A: There are plenty of instances where political issues have been fused into a game’s story to make it better. Take for instance Pokemon Black & White, which was largely about truth vs ideals, or relative vs. absolute truths if you will. On one side you have an absolute truth (forcing Pokemon to fight is evil), and on the other you have the relative truth (fighting with Pokémon increases your friendship and brings you closer, and also helps them grow). This is the main premise behind the games and is incorporated into every little detail of the game really well.

I think that the behind-the-scenes politics are what’s ruining gaming, not so much in-game politics.

Q4: As stated in my intro, I am back and forth on this issue. I do agree that games are about fun, however. Do you have any suggestions on how we can get back to that fun and get over all of this political crap?

4A: I think we should go back to focusing on the game and how it plays. Censorship should never go without criticism, but at least that way we’re focusing on how it affects the game. We aren’t just giving mounds of hate to a game where the developers did something really dumb, which admittedly they did. We can go back to playing games and judging them for what they are.

Q5: You mention being a fan of Jon Jafari. Do you think this fact has anything to do with you being upset at his being removed? Would you care as much were this some random person that you were not a fan of?

5A: I think it escalated the issue because a lot of people are fans of him. I think people would still care because it is an issue, but they probably wouldn’t care quite as much.

Q6: As a website we put disclaimers everywhere. We do this so that everyone knows not any one view point represents oprainfall as a whole.  Do you think the disclaimers help or do you think people still look at that person and think they represent the company they work for in at least some capacity?

6A: I think they help for the people that read articles online, but there are going to be those cases of people not entirely reading into it. Some people will always put the blame on the company that they work for, but I believe that a firm majority will see that disclaimer and heed what it says.

Q7: You state that if people do something wrong they should be punished for it. What about people that see not buying a game, or firing someone over something they did, as a punishment? What other course of action would you offer or why do you think they shouldn’t be punished in that way?

7A: To me it all depends on how wrong they’ve done. In this case all they did is remove a voice actor. The developer should be called out, but a game should be judged as a game. They can judge the developer for the situation, but saying the game is going to be a terrible game because of it isn’t really the right thing to do.

Q8: Were you surprised by Jon’s reaction to this situation? Given how outspoken he is, his reaction was quite understated. Do you think he should have made more of an announcement or fought it at all?

8A: I really wasn’t that surprised about his response. I’ve been a fan of his for a while and he seems like a really respectable person. He’s a gamer at heart, and in the end even if he isn’t in the game, he’ll still probably play it because he has a deep love for those games. I disagree with him politically, but that made me respect him as a person and was one of the main reasons I wrote this. Because no matter how outspoken he is about his political stance, he still just wants to play games and enjoy them.

Q9: Playtonic was very clear in their reason for dismissing his work from their game. I know you don’t agree with the decision at all, but do you think it was better that they were open and honest about it or do you think they should have just removed him and not offered a reason why?

9A: I think the way they went about stating it was one of the things that really hurt them. They did the right thing by being open and honest, but they said all of the wrong things. They stated that “in light of his recent personal viewpoints we have made the decision to remove JonTron’s inclusion in the game via a forthcoming content update”, and that “Playtonic is a studio that celebrates diversity in all forms and strives to make games that everyone can enjoy. As such, we deeply regret any implied association that could make players feel anything but 100% comfortable in our game worlds, or distract from the incredible goodwill and love shown by our fans and Kickstarter backers.”. This caused the opposite effect, because by removing him they alienated his personal fanbase, and people who agree with him. To me they made it look like he was evil, like they were purging him from their game. This isn’t the right way to go about it, and it made them seem really unprofessional. You should always be 100% clear with your fanbase, but be professional about it.

This Q and A session barely breaks the surface of the issues here. There are so many more questions and debates to be had. You all had fun on Twitter, and the original article, discussing this. Please use this opportunity to continue to do so. Let us know if you agree or disagree with any of this. Ask us questions and leave your comments below.

About Crystal Colwell

What's up everyone? Crystal here! I spend my time writing up the news for you all and keeping us all up to date with incoming game info from Japan. I do a little bit of everything else around here, too. 🙂 Happy Reading!

  • I think Question 9 is the important point here. The way they went public with this was not only unprofessional, but made it look like they were trying to score political points before launch. They made it clear that they are against JonTron’s personal views (maybe this was just a mistake on their part in the way they worded the announcement), so others who hold similar views are going to feel antagonized.

    A lot of people are crying censorship over him being removed, but I don’t consider this censorship. Banning people from talking about it on the YL community forum IS censorship, however, and I think that is where they really screwed up and made asses of themselves. That shows they are intolerant of dissenting views despite their hypocritical claims of being pro-“diversity”.

    • Panpopo

      Sometimes less is more. There are always going to people upset no matter what you do, but they simply should have structured their response better. They had plenty of time to think about it, as the game has shipped and needs a day one patch anyway.

  • Lynn Kitty

    Well, from what I heard when it happened, it wasn’t just Playtonic that was dissappointed with him. He lost quite bit of subscribers ever since that day (even before playtonic said anything)

  • Mr0303

    I don’t think most people are judging the game when they decide not to buy it, but rather the company behind it – they don’t want to support the dev, but this doesn’t mean that they think that the game is crap.

    The opinions of one employee do not represent the company and Playtonic completely failed to realise that. Their unprofessional behaviour and the poor way they handled the situation brought them tons of bad PR. What remains to be seen is how this will affect sales.

  • Well this is a Hard topic indeed.

    If I was in Playtonic position i would probably do the same thing. Let’s face it most of the people that are against Jon are going to drop support for any proyect he’s associated with, and that could harm their product. Yes his opinions have nothing to do with the game or their company, he’s not even part of the company, but the general public will associate one with another and that will harm their IP.

    In a perfect world, this shouldn’t have happened, he was a contractor with no real relationship with the game, he was providing his voice only, it’s not like the game was suddenly a white nationalism propaganda kind of thing, but most people won’t see that.

    And this is unfair, I like Jon’s Content, i don’t think his viewpoint on things has anything to do with the content he has created so far.

    If suddenly a Nazi flag shows up on one of his shows, well sure I’ll stop watching, but as long as his content is the same he can believe in lizard people for all I care.

    I was getting a little off-topic though. Political contect exist everywhere, it can make a show or game better, or it can take from it.

    For example, recently I was playing Read Only Memories, the game was heavily sold as a “Pro SJW agenda” which will definitely hurt some of the sales, but while the game has gay and trans characters, it never gets in the way of the narrative, they are people living in this world, which happen to have their sexual preferences or a different gender to what we’re used to (most of us) but the game is not about that. I would prefer that this was not its selling point, that way people against “SJW” would have played it, found out that there are powerful women in this game and be like “hey this made me think, maybe some of my viewpoints are wrong” but now they will ignore it and never know.

    While i don’t want to play the next final fantasy and have to fight trump in order to get free health care and unlock resting at an Inn, there are games that need their political points, Papo and Yo get’s heavy on the drug abuse references, and child abuse, but the game is literally what the creator went through as a kid, if you remove the political commentary, you kill the game.

    We need both, games that are just games, or make us forget our world for a while, but also we need this commentary on our world, videogames provide a whole new way to express ourselves, and it’s cool that artist are using this medium as a way to transmit a new message

    • Mr0303

      “Let’s face it most of the people that are against Jon are going to drop support for any proyect he’s associated with” – I don’t think that them dropping him from the game will make those people buy it. They will already have the mentality that if they allowed him to do voice work then the product is tainted. I would even argue that most of the people who have a problem with JonTron’s views aren’t even gamers who were going to purchase the game. What Playtonic did with that move was alienating Jon’s fanbase, people who agree with his viewpoints and free speech advocates in general.

    • Maybe that’s just my assumption on the matter. However it was Kotaku who first reported it and we know that certain videogame websites are very sensitive of these topics, so maybe it is worth it for them to have these websites “on their side” by removing Jon from the game?

    • Mr0303

      Kotaku is indeed cancer, but if Playtonic wanted to have SJW shitholes like it on their side they are free to do so. I don’t think consumers will like that move though. In fact I doubt 4-5 negative articles from Kotaku would be comparable to the shitstorm they currently have on their hands.

  • Nin

    Yeah, behind the scenes politics are mostly what people mean when they want politics out of gaming. Sometimes, it can refer to ingame politics, but that’s usually when topical politics or behind the scenes politics start influcing a game to the detriment to the game as a whole. Like adding modern political issues to a medieval fantasy or something jarring like that.

    As for this incident in particular, I can’t say that I am boycotting the game since I wasn’t really interested in the first place. However, I have doubts that the company is in tune with their audience with their rampant banning, which does make me hesitate in the future if they do make a game that I would like otherwise.

    To elaborate on 9, Playtonic also implicitly insulted people who do agree with Jontron politically. I would be mad if I contributed to a company that insulted my political views as being so undesirable that content has to be removed.


      This pretty much sums up my view on this completely.

  • Paychi

    The best thing for anyone and anything is to leave the bullshit out because the only color that is universal is $green$. Playtonic cut their audience in half by basically saying anyone who isn’t in line with their politics should be silenced because they’re basically racist bigoted white nationalists otherwise. A ton of Western publishers think because I like tits and ass that I’m a closet rapist and I’m sexist every time a swimsuit is cut or sexy things are altered/removed. It’s essentially the same thing so I won’t support them anymore. You can disagree with me, but when you result to insulting me and forcing your own viewpoint is when I fight back, by not giving you my money. This is why Estival Versus and Nier were top sellers on Steam, because they represent freedom of speech and ideas now in this god awful political climate that infects EVERYTHING now.

    • Mr0303

      Kickstarter in general is a very flawed system.


      Unfortunately for VN fans who want physical copies, you often have to back these Kickstarters half the time to get them.

      A bit annoying, but at least it’s better than nothing.

    • Mr0303

      I’m not a fan of VNs, so I suppose this is true, but crowdfunding in general is a terrible practice.

    • Miqubi

      Being outside of the VN niche probably doesn’t make you see the positives, but without crowdfunding there would be zero chances in hell we would have gotten a western release of titles such as Dies Irae or an official version with physical goods of Muv-Luv, so no it’s not a terrible practice in general it’s a tool that can be used well or very badly depending on the user.

    • Mr0303

      It is a terrible practice in general. Developers get all the benefits from it in terms of finances and publicity and backers have absolutely no safeguards or guarantee of the quality of the final product. Kickstarter funding a couple of niche releases in the West doesn’t change that fact. Also do you really want to see this becoming a trend? “Our Kickstarter for a super niche title that was terribly advertised failed, so we’ll never localise anything from the franchise.” – I don’t think this sort of mindset is healthy.

    • Miqubi

      First of all VN are titles that are already “developed” they need translations, which sometimes is MORE costly than developing a new VN in Japanese, the “guarantees” aren’t exactly hard to figure out for visual novels, if someone makes a prefundia page in broken english and came out of nowhere saying they’re trying to localize fate stay night or white album 2, well that’s probably a scam.

      It didn’t fund only a “couple”, Clannad, grisaia, Muv-luv, Dies Irae, Root Double, libra of the vampire princess, it’s also thanks to those kickstarter that frontwing took an interest in the west and are bringing over island, same for Dies Irae.
      Advertised or not chuunige like Dies Irae were going to be stuck in Japan till the end of times if kickstarter didn’t exist and I see no reason why people can’t be allowed to throw money at a project if they’re willing and that’s the only way to bring it over.

      Also it’s not “our kickstarter that was terribly advertised”, some VN wouldn’t see the light of the day at all in the west full stop since localizing plotheavy chuunige 50+ hours long isn’t terribly rewarding, and I see no reason to not let fans step in to accomplish it.

    • Miqubi

      Ugh my prev comment has been automoderated likely due to length and multiple edits, btw you have just described the western VN scenes, as per your own admission you’re not interested in the medium so it’s probably hard for you to see some positives, but without kickstarted titles we wouldn’t see a good chunk of decent games coming over short of a miracle happening (Mangagamer and Jast USA).
      Kickstarter is 99% the only way to get physical goods and also the only avenue to get some games since localizing 50 hours long plotheavy chuunige isn’t very rewarding, and frankly I don’t see a reason not to let fans step in and get them over if they’re willing to fund them.

    • Panpopo

      While I enjoy my VNs, and I understand what you are saying, I have always been distressed how games can be held hostage if a kickstarter fails. Dies Iraes is a recent example – there was a time where it looked like it would fail and we will never get it. Root Double is another example.

      I am really worried that either JAST or Mangagamer may go this route for some of their more niche passion projects, like myth. I know that the porn games pay the bills for them, but we may never get these niche titles again if they go this route.

    • Miqubi

      I don’t like it too much either, it would be better if those projects managed to pay the bills themselves but atm the situation for any VN that isn’t porn seems a bit grim (maybe it isn’t but at least that’s my perception when it comes of It).
      I don’t think we’ll ever see mg or jast usa do that unless they try to license something out of their reach though, well at least jast releases one title per decade so they shouldn’t need crowdfunding 😛

    • Mr0303

      “as per your own admission you’re not interested in the medium so it’s probably hard for you to see some positives” – me not liking visual novels has nothing to do with my critique of Kickstarter as a platform. I mentioned several major issues like the total lack of accountability from the developer/localiser. What if the translation of said visual novel is terrible? What if they decided to remove or alter a scene? Kickstarter backers have absolutely no control over the project.

      I’ll say it again – bringing over some visual novel doesn’t magically remove all the negatives of Kickstarter.

      As the visual novel market grows in the West the excuse of “this game would never come over if not for crowdfunding” will become mute and Kickstarter will still have the same issues. What that expression means is that developers don’t want to take the financial risk and responsibility of bringing over their game.

    • Miqubi

      I worded it badly, what I meant is that not being invested in the medium you might not be aware that previous localized plotheavy titles didn’t achieve stellar results, and that doesn’t bode well for future sales of similar games, in general currently porn games pay the bill, anything else seems to be doing either average or badly, hence those games aren’t coming over no matter what, not in the current situation at least, maybe in 10 years.

      The points you bring up about translation and altered content are fair, hence people shouldn’t fund projects when they don’t know who is handling that stuff or if content is being cut (if mystery-company-x is handling the kickstarter giving them money is usually a bad idea).

    • Mr0303

      ” that previous localized plotheavy titles didn’t achieve stellar
      results, and that doesn’t bode well for future sales of similar games, in general currently porn games pay the bill, anything else seems to be doing either average or badly” – well, tough! That’s the nature of the free market. Kickstarter is a workaround that I suppose, but this doesn’t mean I have to accept it with all it’s negatives.

      My point is that any company can abuse Kickstarter, because of how it’s structured. This is why I have a problem with crowdfunding – even if it is a well known company or “trusted” people like all the super successful campaigns from industry veterans they can still mess up badly. Tim Schafer, Keiji Inafune and now the ex-Rare people. When the platform is based on trust rather than some solid rules, I don’t consider it to be good for consumers.

    • Miqubi

      And they aren’t “good” but the current landscape for VN is that and it’s better than “never ever” or waiting till nipponese skills are at an acceptable level.
      Personally I hope the market will slowly grow and kickstarter will be obsolete and used only for OELVN (which I rarely care about) and be used only as a last resort and not a localization tool.

    • Mr0303

      Well, OK – I hope for your sake the market grows, but this doesn’t mean that Kickstarter is crap.

  • MusouTensei

    Of course using real world politics as plot devices and inspirations is nothing bad (as long it isnt too preachy, I mean you can do that but I will either not buy it or stop playing if I bought without knowing, and then become rather warry about your company’s future games), my own game would be like that too (though rather loosely based on reality as it’s a sci-fi story).

    As for this game, like I said in the last article, I don’t support censorship that goes beyond the change or removal of character ages, I don’t support censorship of violence, I don’t support censorship of sexual conten, why should I support censorship because of political differences? Hell I even boycott Tales of Berseria despite me loving the Tales series and Zestiria, but the censorship is simply not acceptable anymore (I know previous games had censorship as well but you could say I’ve grown very sick of it in the last year especially). I don’t want to give Playtonic a single cent of my money for what they did, doesn’t mean I will never play the game, it gets a retail release so a used copy could find its way into my collection someday, just like with Berseria which I do want to play for sure, I just can’t give Bamco money for it, that would be imo wrong.

  • braneman

    Here is where you need to take other gaming “news” sites into account because Kotaku and Polygon which unfortunately are very popular are likely to start leaning on them if they keep him in the production. All it takes is the right person in the right place to say “Jontron is now the enemy” and suddenly you’re on the defensive for keeping a fairly minor voice role in at all.

    Maybe even Rock Paper Shotgun could start leaning on them as they have SJW leaning views and they’ll show up DIRECTLY inside the page on steam because steam pulls news from RPS for its newsfeed. I think that gives them far too much power to negatively impact the perception of a game.

  • Joshua Taylor

    Remember the Boondocks episode where Riley tries to victimize a white teacher to lose his job by getting him to say the “N” word? Those SJWs are feeling the same way as Riley (including Destiny and Milo Stewart). PewDiePie and JonTron are now in jeopardy of losing their YouTube channels because of political correctness. SJWs are a bunch of globalist cronies who wants to turn the Earth into a land of Rainbows and unicorns, and those who don’t agree would be put in the gulag

  • DariusQ

    From my perspective, politics in gaming is fine so long as it follows the developers’ views and aren’t being coerced/dictated by outside forces. The exception to that rule is the publisher since their money does entitle them to input. Developers essentially hand over creative control in exchange for opportunity. That’s one of the reasons I love indie games, because they self publish and don’t have any obligations to fulfill. Crowd funding, however, complicates things since now the developers have willingly taken on thousands of ‘publishers’ in exchange for money. At that point they have taken on an obligation to listen to donor feedback.

    So whatever Playtonic may feel about JonTron, if their backers have a beef with the decision to axe him then the company has an obligation to at least publicly address the feedback. If Playtonic does continue to ignore the will of its backers then I wouldn’t expect them to last much longer as an indie developer. Let’s not forget the circus that was Mighty No.9.