So, was the EA anti-gay campaign for real or was it astroturf?

If you interact with any kind of social media about gaming then you probably saw the story last week about EA and the homophobic lobby, and the white knights of the internet rallying to defeat the hatred via … a petition!

The story goes like this:

  • EA claims to have been inundated by thousands of letters complaining about same sex/ LGBT content in its games, specifically Mass Effect 3 and SWTOR. Apparently the letters had been directed to lots of high level managers.
  • Various US based hate groups are suspected of having been involved. Gamesindustry.biz (see above link) picks out a couple as having ‘calls to action’ (presumably to send spam to EA).
  • EA (who never had any intention of doing anything about this) issued a press release saying that they never had any intention of making any changes as a result of this.
  • Then there was a huge internet campaign/ petition involving e-celebs such as Stephen Fry encouraging people to sign a petition in favour of the gay romances.

Maybe I’m just of a cynical nature, but bearing in mind that EA has in the past sponsored advertising campaigns who set up astroturf campaigns against one of their games for publicity, I wouldn’t bet against them having done it again.

For us non-US folk, we’d easily believe that nutty US semi-political groups will campaign against /anything/ because we see it in the news all the time.

Also, who told these wacky US campaigning groups that there were gay relationships in SWTOR? Because there aren’t. I get that they’re politically out there, but do they really not check what they’re campaigning about at all? All Bioware have done with SWTOR is said that there will be gay relationships in the future (due to player feedback/ demand). That hardly seems worth mentioning when they could have picked out Dragon Age which actually does feature LGBT characters and relationships.

Good publicity for EA, Bioware, and SWTOR though.

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35 thoughts on “So, was the EA anti-gay campaign for real or was it astroturf?

  1. “I get that they’re politically out there, but do they really not check what they’re campaigning about at all?”

    Nope. They know what they know, and refuse to let trivia like “facts” or “reality” get in their way.

    • I’m curious what “facts” or “reality” you refer to? This is not trolling but a serious question.

      For complete disclosure I don’t care who or what they have in games. I just want more choices to do whatever I want, even including placing bombs on kids like in FO2. And while I say let them protest I also say ignore all protests if you want.

      • In the case immediately at hand? Screaming about the Evil Overlords brainwashing children by putting in same-sex relationships in TOR.

        That the game doesn’t actually include any doesn’t seem to have stopped them from railing about it, however.

      • I haven’t read the protest letters but in recent patch notes for SWTOR they did say there would be gay relationships. So that might be considered a fact or reality.

    • As said I’m not for this ‘boycot’. I’m just wondering what you meant by not living in reality? They boycotted the notice that same sex relationships would be in SWTOR according to a patch. That is reality. I don’t agree with their view but its a fact and reality.

      • Well no, that’s the problem. They didn’t boycott the notice that they were coming, which would have been cranky but grounded in reality. They’re fulminating because the game has them now, which it doesn’t. They’re not complaining about a dev post saying “We’ll be adding this feature, in some undefined form, at some indefinite point in the future”, they’re complaining about something that doesn’t exist because, well, they know what they know, and reality be damned.

      • Again I don’t agree with the FRC but this is what they sent EA about it:

        “My family and I were disappointed to learn that BioWare and Electronic Arts plan to add LGBT content to Star Wars video games.”

        Notice the word “plan”? So they are complaining about the plan to add it and that is reality. BTW that quote appeared on both the FRC and EA sites so its legit.

  2. Bioware gets slammed since launch for various scummy things related to ME3, despite paying for rave reviews public appeal was flailing. This is damage control! Create a non-issue from your golden goose and feign humanity long enough for people to latch on to the hot-button political issue. Totally side-stepping the fact they’re not changing anything that has to do with the non-ending.

    Bait and switch. Slick move EA.

    • Be honest. The final 10 minutes of the game certainly blow huge sacks of crap, but the other 99.9% of ME3 was fantastic. I still think ME3 was a great game, despite the ending, and that’s how most reviews are formulated; the full picture, not focusing on the last 10 minutes (which, by all rights, was perhaps one of the worst endings of all time when viewed against the amount of player investment in the series).

      • You know, I think it’s gotten to the point where Bioware are trying to slide on the dating sim stuff in place of stronger or mature writing. I’m tired of accidently having to sex up whatever iteration of Immoen they’ve decided to include in this bioware game.

  3. I don’t know if this was staged or not; it seems unlikely … I do remember hearing about Florida’s chapter of Family Association (or whatever they are called) being outraged that there were gay romances available in ME3. Here’s the original link:

    http://floridafamily.org/full_article.php?article_no=140

    BioWare is no stranger to ‘family’ organizations protesting their games; Dragon Age 2 had it, as well as some other games (I think the original Dragon Age: Origins was boycotted too, but I can’t find a link).

    I do know that EA is using this as a stage to defend their ‘artistic vision’ and promote themselves as defenders of the gaming community. While probably not staged, EA sure is taking full advantage of the situation to assuage some recent black eyes (*cough ME3 cough*) and restore a bit of faith in them as a game publisher. Whether or not it’ll work remains to be seen.

  4. People in the US did vote for Barak Obama as President a man with no experance and no other skills other than giving a good speech questioning our judgement isn’t a bad thing.

    That said I agree with your cynical nature because in all honesty EA/Bioware has played this card before to become a marter and considering the amount of bad Press Mass Effect 3 has been getting the LGBT community to rally around a game as a Human shield would be helpful. We seen much the same thing happen with Dragon Age 2, one person made a very stupid post about homosexuals in Dragon age 2, this got a huge litterary beat down which LGBT community was happy to see. Because remember diverstiy is only good in skin color and sex, not in thoughts.

    However what much less press from Dragon Age 2 was when Bioware told off the whole LGBT community saying that if they want gay characters in games they have to realize from time to time those charcters will be bad people. Making a chracters gay doesn’t mean they always get to be hero.

    and of course there was this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QLz0CqtMVc&feature=BFa&list=UUyjLGp8hQObJMm4lSQccjFw&lf=plcp

    The truth is the LGBT community has bad habbit of reflexively defending anything. Which is easy for people like EA to take advatage of.

    • I think Bioware has also genuinely earned a reputation as being a largely anti-sexist, gay friendly software producer (at least compared to the industry as a whole), but yeah, it’s possible EA is not afraid to trade on that.

      • You’re right, Spinks. BioWare has made same-sex options available in all their games since KOTOR. That’s a large reason why BioWare has become so well respected. Making high-quality RPGs doesn’t hurt either. ‘Course, after the DA2 debacle and the ME3 ending fiasco, the boys from Edmonton certainly have a bit of image-fixin’ to do, but fighting off anti-gay groups is nothing new for them.

        EA is certainly using this to their fullest advantage – they’d be dumb not to, considering ME3’s purported sales slump. Granted, take this with a grain of salt; VGChartz only shows brick-and-mortar data, not sales from online distributors or digital platforms, but ME3 has only sold 2.25 million copies worldwide (in stores!) compared to Gears 3 which sold 3 million in its first week.

        http://www.vgchartz.com/game/44118/mass-effect-3/

        When considered with all the other Mass Effect sales data, ME3 isn’t performing poorly at all; ME2 was the highest selling of the franchise, and it only sold 2.74million [IN STORES!] worldwide. But I bet EA was planning on a homerun from ME3 to shore up sales this quarter and this has got to be a devastating blow.

        http://www.vgchartz.com/gamedb/?name=mass+effect&publisher=&platform=&genre=&minSales=0&results=200

  5. Oh, the Family Research Council was upset about the gay relationships in an upcoming patch in TOR (just a quick search on “FRC upset about gay romance in the old republic” will pull the news articles out), so it doesn’t shock me at all that some groups decided to carpet bomb-style mail EA people.

    A company I used to work for once had its phone list stolen and consequently inundated with phone spam from a certain radical environmental group well known for its shock tactics. If something like that happened about a decade ago, I can imagine that it would be small potatoes for an anti-gay group to try similar tactics.

  6. EA probably exaggerated it more than invented it. The kind of associations that would send letters to EA have no real power, buying or otherwise, so EA was always free to ignore them without consequence.

    • I tend to be in this camp. I suspect that the letter campaign in this particular case falls into the ‘increasing the media profile for fund raising because look, the video games are teaching our kids about the gay’ category rather than the ‘This is a serious attack on those vile sodomites’ category.

  7. So why do people overseas pay so much attention to nutty US fringe groups? Are ours just more interesting that your own local grown nuts? I mean, the BBC seems to take joy in front paging silliness on their web site that doesn’t even make the first section of the local paper over here.

    @Milo – No experience at all… except for being a civil rights attorney, a political activist, a constitutional scholar (though he seems to have forgotten all of that lately), a state senator, a US senator… practically a blank slate. Thanks for helping to spread the dumb American cliche!

    • “I mean, the BBC seems to take joy in front paging silliness on their web site that doesn’t even make the first section of the local paper over here.”

      I assume the opposite is also true though. But as for the process by which stories get onto the front page, your guess is as good as mine. I was just commenting that because of that process, my first reaction when I hear about a nutty US group doing something is “Yeah that sounds plausible I guess.”

      • Well, you don’t have to assume. You could read US news sites to see. Try CNN. It aspires to be the BBC.

        I read the BBC and Al Jazeera daily, and often find what they pick for headlines about the US to be odd in a sort of “why would somebody thousands of miles away care?” way, especially when it something close to me and I don’t even care. Like Charles Manson getting a parole hearing. Top story on the BBC. Page six in the local paper. And, despite him being physically a two hour drive from me, not even an issue here because he isn’t getting out alive. No parole board would allow it.

        Distance distorts perspective I guess. The 40 people in the Westboro Baptist Church, for example, seem to increase in importance the further you get from them.

      • I honestly have better things to do than chase up minor US news stories whenever they come up. I was just trying to explain why the immediate reaction to that type of story here would be “OK, yeah.”

      • Methinks a combination of perspective and (to my mind) the general theme of the BBC to state something in a completely factual way but always with a surging undercurrent of negativity (usually when it’s related to facts and figures of government proposals it’s not even pro-Labour negativity or “here’s an alternative” criticism, it’s just pointing out that it’s bad).

        I’d assume that they pick up on these stories to make sure that British people have something to feel good about in that whilst we may have problems, at least we don’t have those people (and, yeah, I’m inclined to be grateful considering that Fox News link).

        For instance, none of your national policies that would make headlines actually matter to us all that much (we have our own, after all), but moronic Christian right pressure groups are interesting because we don’t really have an equivalent.

    • @Wilhelm, I have lived in Illinois all my life both in and near Chicago. As a state senator he was a blank slate. He did almost nothing. What he did learn was to never challenge the political machine here in Chicago, which is one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrput, in the entire US. You being from California might also have that same distance perspective thing going on.

  8. I keep thinking back to that EA marketing campaign of Dante’s inferno.. you know the one where they got fake protesters to march on their offices? sure a few people here and there madenoises about homosexual relationships in video games, but it was pretty small all things concidering. the timing of this particular petition/campaign is.. fascinating. not like they didn’t try to deflect the ratings of ME3 beofre in this direction, community merely set them straight. no its not becasue of gays, we’re fine with gays. its becasue your endings sucked and instead of actualy communicating with fans, you went into Bill Clinton like damage control mode – deny everything.

    do I think they got some hate male? probably. do i believe it was as huge as they claim it is? no.

  9. There was also that news last week of EA being voted the ‘worst’ company, and then this story occured shortly after about EA being all progressive and inclusive, I can be cynical as well and think that was some damage limitation going on there.

  10. The current GOP ability to ignore facts and reality is startling.
    Which is why they have attacked the Girl Scouts movement:

    http://www.politicususa.com/the-republican-war-on-the-girl-scouts/

    And announced that half of the democrat congressmen are commies:

    http://nation.foxnews.com/allen-west/2012/04/11/allen-west-half-democrats-congress-are-communists

    That’s this week. EA may well have made the most of a bad situation, but I totally believe some homophobes would have launched such a campaign.

    • Please lets not go down that path. I don’t want to clog up Spinks blog with hundreds of links where dems and liberals are ignorant and don’t know reality from fact.

      • “I don’t want to clog up Spinks blog with hundreds of links where dems and liberals are ignorant and don’t know reality from fact.”

        That’s what the rest of the internet is for :)

      • Spinks expressed surprise/disbelief that some ‘out there’ groups do ‘not really check at all’ on the information they are campaigning about. I supplied evidence that some less ‘out there’ groups do – which is entirely relevant to the question she raised as to whether it was credible that EA had been the recipient of a (To her eyes) ill-informed campaign.

        Had she raised a question about whether the MSM were so ‘out there’ as to use only respectable pictures of Trayvon Martin, and disreputable ones of George Zimmerman, I’d have provided samples of that. But it wouldn’t have been in any way relevant to Spinks’ point, so I didn’t.

        I’m from the UK. You have to understand that we regard both your main parties from a view of smug colonialism :).

    • Nick, what West was referring to are the members of the congressional progressive caucus. members of that caucus have appeared at communist party sponsered rallies and gave speeches. This is all available to be found out easily enough. In the late 1980’s a number of representatives actually displayed their communist party id cards at a rally. So not sure if this qualifies as fiction. He might be wrong on the number but I guarantee there is at least one card carrying member of the communist party in the US House. After all there are representatives that are/were members of the black panther party and weather underground.

      • And…this is where the internet is a problem. See, you make a statement like the above (25 years ago there were some communists, there is one in the house currently). But that’s not anywhere close to what West – a congressman, with a staff, who really *should* ‘check at all’ what he says – stated. He stated that “I believe there are about 78 or 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party, it’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus”. It’s entirely possible he meant it as a joke, but, again, in our era, it was (at best) foolish, and at worst deliberately stirring up political division…and I have no doubt it will be being quoted as ‘fact’ by many many people on the Tea Party wing…many of whom would also be quite likely to boycott EA, or the Girl Scouts, on equally dodgy factual grounds.

  11. As a PS, the only affidavited card-carrying Communist Congressman I can find is Hugh De Lacy, who was in Congress 1945-47.Even these guys – http://commieblaster.com/progressives/index.html – who describe Bill and Hilary Clinton as ‘Progressive Communist’ and ‘Marxist’ can’t actually produce any evidence, even hearsay, that any congressmen are actually Communists.

    Part of the problem (On this particular issue of misinformation) is that many on the right don’t appear to actually understand that there *is* a difference between the terms Marxist, Socialist, Communist, ‘member of the Communist Party, and, indeed, Democrat and Liberal.

    Which is as silly as conflating GOP, Tea Party, Fascist, Racist, and Klan members – these are all different things, of course, and there may be some overlap between some of them, but they are *not* the same.

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