Thursday 5 April 2012

Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil

Poor old EA, apparently they’re the worst company in America. Worse than The South California Crack Cocaine and Heroin Company, worse even than pre-tournament favourites Puppy Kicking Inc. (motto: “We Kick Puppies!”), EA beat the Bank of America in the final vote.

Back in 2004, when Erin Hoffman’s EA Spouse post drew attention to the working practices of the industry, and when EA had a reputation of swallowing up and crushing smaller studios, it would’ve made more sense, but since John Riccitiello became CEO in 2007 they’ve improved considerably. Course they’re not perfect, they’re a big company ultimately focused on profits, but *worst* company? How could they possibly earn such a title in a series of internet polls where a comparatively small number of motivated tech-oriented people across the world could easily swamp the… oh… Right. I suppose, in hindsght, those hit hardest by the financial crisis that the Bank of America played no small part in might have been a bit more worried about finding a job, food and somewhere to live than voting in an internet poll. The slackers.

Maybe there’s a little clue to the most monstrous evil of EA in the post on The Consumerist awarding the Golden Poo:

“Traditionally, the Poo has been delivered on its little red pillow. But this year, we’ll give EA three different color options for its pillow, though in the end it’s still the same old Poo.”

Even without the explicit reference it wouldn’t be a massive leap to connect a campaign expressing displeasure with EA to the Retake Mass Effect efforts. At least they’re gamers, though, motivated by their passion for games they love, if perhaps a touch overzealous in places, unlike some other online campaigners. It seems EA have been targeted over the inclusion of same sex relationships in their games, with Star Wars: The Old Republic being particularly singled out by the Florida Family Association. There’s a link in the piece, I’m not going to replicate it here (oxygen of publicity and all that), but you couldn’t ask for a better example of Poe’s Law. It’s headlined by an image of RuPaul’s head superimposed on Darth Vader’s body and the question: “Will the makers of Star Wars video games create Darth VaPaula, a (mock) transgender version of Darth Vader – RuPaul, for kids to choose as their action character?” I’m pretty sure the answer is “no, you deranged fuckwits”, EA’s Jeff Brown puts it a bit more diplomatically: “In short, we do put options for same-sex relationships in our games; we don’t tolerate hate speech on our forums”.

A cynic might suggest it’s PR driven, with EA pointing to the support of the Human Rights Campaign over their stance in a response on Kotaku to the “worst company” award. With the stock price of Starbucks climbing since a “Dump Starbucks” campaign was launched to protest the coffee company’s support of same sex marriage, possibly in part because of a backlash against the original campaign, maybe it’s just a sensible business decision, but regardless of EA’s motives it doesn’t sound like the behaviour of The Worst Company In America to me.

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