Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

Vote With Your Wallet?

The concept of voting with your wallet is an old one, and it makes total sense as a concept; don’t financially reward games that have, for example, sexualised female characters and instead pay those who are respectful and more deserving of support.

Unfortunately, the real world context means that it’s not this straightforward, and I’ve ever really liked it as a model, so let’s talk about the issues:

1)      Everything is problematic. No matter where you put your money, there will almost always be something critiquable and constantly worrying about that while trying to buy or play games isn’t good for anyone’s health.

2)      Especially in games, trying to avoid even large, non-nitpicky problems is going to severely limit your choices. It’s okay to like things whilst also critiquing them, so if you want to play something you don’t need to guilt yourself over it.

3)      AAA game companies are so large that they probably won’t even notice. This is pessimistic but I don’t really see a way around it.

4)      If they do see a drop in profits, they probably won’t know why it happened. In certain ways they might double down on marketing to the stereotypical teenage boy audience since they could assume their previous marketing just wasn’t enough.

And probably more things that I can’t think of off the top of my head. So, whilst it’s a nice theory, it doesn’t seem so good in practice. So what can we do instead?

1)      Support your local games critic. Let me get the slightly biased one out of the way first! The more people talk about this, and the louder we become, the more the culture surrounding games will change and the more developers will want to adapt their games accordingly. The same applies, of course, to talking yourself, whether that be to an audience or among your social group.

2)      Support diverse games! These will often be smaller indie titles, and in need of crowdfunding etc. Even if you don’t have the money, a signal boost can make all of the difference. Or for games that are already out, spreading the word is great!

3)      Support initiatives that help people to discover games that will represent them e.g. Queerly Represent Me.

And again, probably more that haven’t occurred to me.

Certainly putting your money towards more socially concious games and developers can be a part of a consideration as to whether you buy a particular game: if there are two games that you think you will enjoy equally and you want to decide based on diversity, representation, and inclusively, that’s perfect. It can be a greater or lesser part of your purchasing decisions based on your preference. But I’ve never found it useful as a definitive metric, and anecdotal evidence suggests to me that it’s more stressful to many than it ultimately needs to be.

The Game Awards 2016

Good Things in Games #1