Shadow Complex is a recently released Xbox Live Arcade game that takes its gameplay inspiration from classic titles like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s an engaging, enjoyable side-scrolling platformer that’s well worth the $15 asking price. Unfortunately, Shadow Complex takes its atmospheric inspiration from Empire, a novel from noted science fiction author Orson Scott Card. Card, however, is also noted for his staunch opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians. He serves on the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, a group trying to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Even though Card had no direct involvement with the development of Shadow Complex, his association with the franchise is causing some people to call for a boycott.
I wasn’t aware of these issues before I downloaded Shadow Complex. If I’d known, it would certainly have given me pause. Anyone who knows me knows how repulsive I find this type of discrimination. As a friend of mine so eloquently put it, “Denying someone rights on the basis of sexual orientation is no less reprehensible than doing so on the basis of race or religion.” However, I don’t think these issues would’ve prevented me from purchasing the game. This is not because I disagree with the boycott, but because I have absolutely no faith that it would do anything but hurt me, the consumer, and Chair Entertainment, the development team.
Consider this analogy. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for about 13 years now. I don’t judge anyone who isn’t a vegetarian, because I don’t necessarily think that eating meat for survival and nourishment is wrong. It’s more so the abhorrent ways our society treats livestock, the disfiguring genetic engineering it uses to force increases in productivity, and the gruesome ways in which the killing is actually done that I take issue with. If given the choice between a typical chain restaurant and a restaurant that caters exclusively to vegetarians, I would certainly choose the latter in an effort to support an ethical standard that I agree with. However, if I were to boycott all large chain restaurants instead of simply choosing a vegetarian option from their menu, the only person I’d be hurting is myself.
In the end, it’s not that I disagree with the boycott of Shadow Complex. I’m just as dissatisfied with Card’s involvement in the game, however minimal his contribution was, as those who call for the boycott. It’s just that I’m no longer idealistic enough to believe that my purchasing decisions actually have any effect whatsoever on situations like this one.