Offworld Trading Company looks amazing, CEO is terrible

Last updated 4 months ago

As a straight cis-white guy there are very few problems that I have to battle. I'll never be pulled over due to the color of my skin. I'll never have to deal with the hate of someone telling me I'm wrong about who I am or worse physically hurting me because of it. These are things I've simply never had to worry about.

Over the last ten years I have by chance opened my eyes to the world that others live. I became aware of gay rights issues, discrimination against people of color, sexism, and recently the cavalcade of trans issues my friends and people I listen to deal with on a daily basis. Only over the last few months have I even started to break my blindness to neuro-normative biases. It took me until very recently to know how to properly support people who deal with these problems.

If you can listen, rebroadcast, and internalize the words then you can learn a lot about the people around you. Having successfully done that I assumed the hardest hurdle was going to be accepting that these are real things happening to real people. The reality of the situation can weight heavily. However the other day I encountered probably the hardest obstacle yet: I couldn't purchase a game and still feel good about myself.

This seems like an embarrassingly small problem. Internally I argued that I probably gave plenty of money already to problematic organizations due to the byzantine nature of capitalism. I realized however that this time was far too clear cut a situation for me to ignore. A large part of my internet activity recently has been around the horrific #gamergate movement. I've read the stories and watched the (cringe inducing) videos. Every few days I'll visit one of the hubs of activity in order to see what terrible behavior they're exhibiting lately.

One such situation involved the CEO of the company Stardock named Brad Wardell. He has said some pretty things, but the thing that cemented me against buying from him was his public offer to hire an artist who engaging in sexist harassment. This refusal to buy from him was an simple choice to make at the time. Most of the games from his publishing company I had never really gotten into despite being up my ally. In fact many of the people and products I've decided to never participate in buying have been easy choices. Turns out bad humans generally make bad things.

Stardock's most recent videogame release is called Offworld Trading Company (not linking for obvious reasons). It's a beautiful science fiction economy real time strategy game. The only reason I describe it and give it any attention is that I want to emphasize how many of my video game loves the game manages to score. I couldn't express how excited I was to see this game come out and then also thrilled when my favorite Youtubers were playing it! It seemed almost too good for an early access package.

It didn't take me very long to learn that Stardock was publishing the game. My first instinct was clear disappointment. I tried to work past this by aruging that they were only the publisher and that I shouldn't punish the real developers, Mohawk Games. It turns out however that the [President of Mohawk Games is also the one and only Brad Wardell][MOHAWK]. I was now faced with either betraying how I felt and playing a good game or avoiding the product completely.

The more I talked with my friends and significant other the less room I had to avoid recognizing the moral issue with paying for this product. In fact as one of my friends put it the CEO's behavior was so problematic I shouldn't even grace it with the attention of piracy.

This all sounds probably really lame and petty of me, but it's help me realize how little I have to sacrifice in order to be as egalitarian as I wish to be. I've never been doxxed, I've never been threatened, and I certainly have never had to fight for the rights of others in a meaningful way. A week ago I was proud of my ability to listen and express sympathy, but now I see that it's the smallest of efforts. I can't purchase a product I supremely desire and it's the bare minimum.