Why I’m Not Contributing to Earthworm Jim Creator’s Kickstarter Campaign

armikrog

Yesterday, lots of gaming sites reported that Nintendo has fast-tracked Pencil Test Studios to become an officially licensed developer for the Wii U, a move related to specifically to the developer’s efforts to Kickstart their adventure game project, Armikrog. With 48 hours left before the funding period ends, the campaign is a bit over $160,000 short of its $900,000 goal, with a $950,000 stretch goal to make a Wii U port a possibility. From what I can see, the game looks pretty damn cool,

But despite the fact that the video game world might be a bit better with the presence of a game like Armikrog, I’m not going to be contributing. That’s because of the involvement of Doug TenNapel, the artist responsible for creating Earthworm Jim and on whose work this game is entirely based. Don’t get me wrong: I really dug Earthworm Jim back in the day, and I even liked his shortlived cartoon series Project G.eeK.eR. But I’ve discovered that TenNapel has made his views on the world pretty clear in his columns for Breitbart.com a few years ago, not to mention some unfortunate public comments about same-sex marriage. Every person has the right to express his or her opinion in whatever way they like, and that’s one of the most important rights we’ve got here in the United States. On that same note, I have the right to express my opposition to those views with my words and with my dollars—specifically withholding them.

Now, we’re running into some tricky gray area here. Shouldn’t I support the project despite the creator’s views? After all, the game doesn’t seem to have much to do with TenNapel, nor will contributing to it mean that I’ve suddenly changed my views. Many people can—and do—separate the artist from the art.

But over the  years that I’ve been consuming art in various forms, be it film, novels, music, and games, I’ve tried to take a more conscious approach to what I support with my money, and what I don’t. And when it comes to Mr. TenNapel and the way he uses his platform as an artist, I have chosen not to support this project. I don’t want my contribution to help him find more ways to promote a worldview that I don’t agree with.

As an example, let’s talk about Orson Scott Card. His novel, Ender’s Game, is being made into a major blockbuster this fall, and the trailers look pretty great. But because of Card’s membership on the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage, an organization with which I disagree pretty strongly, I decided that as much as I may have enjoyed his books, I don’t want my dollars going to a person who’s going to turn around and fund initiatives I despise. That was a choice I made, and one I’ll continue to make when Ender’s Game shows up in theaters later this year.

The act of “voting with your wallet” doesn’t end with people you might disagree with. Sometimes people who make art are particularly unappealing, like the by-now infamous Roman Polanski. There’s no doubt that his movies are fantastic—Chinatown is one of my favorites. But I find Polanski to be a reprehensible human being, and now that I’m old enough to understand that, I feel better about not supporting him despite missing out on what I’m sure are amazing films.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that by even participating in any level of consumer culture, I’m supporting entities that aren’t necessarily good for the world in one way or another. If I started adding up the good and bad things that companies like EA or Best Buy or Exxon do every day, I’d end up not buying or even doing anything. I’d have to go live under a bridge in rags I found in the river, subsisting off of moss and fish I caught with my bare hands. Simply put, your money always goes somewhere, and it’s impossible to live in society without engaging in some form of consumer hypocrisy. I love my smartphone, but I’m sure I wouldn’t love the conditions under which it was manufactured.

So I admit the fact that I have to accept a certain level of frustration with the way my money goes to places I don’t like. But the age of Kickstarter brings with it a certain amount of transparency and intimacy that games coming from big companies don’t have. That means that we as consumers and gamers can curate the kind of art and artists we want to succeed—and withholding support in the form of not contributing to Kickstarter campaigns means that we have more direct control over what kind of art populates our world.

I may have had problems with Square Enix’s Tomb Raider based on what I’d heard the game’s executive producer had said. But whether I bought it or not wouldn’t have changed the fact that the game was going to come out anyway. And whether or not I was right to skip it is kind of a moot point: the reimagined Tomb Raider is out in the world no matter what I thought. That’s one of the perils of big businesses producing art in the form of books, music, movies, and, yes, games.

Kickstarter gives consumers of culture the chance to bring the art we want into the world, and to support the artists whose work and worldview we believe in. Simultaneously, it offers us the chance to decide what art and artists we don’t want to support. That’s why, whether you agree or not, whether the game would be good or not, I’ve chosen not to support Armikrog. I’m glad that I know more about where my money would’ve gone, and that I have the power to keep it in my pocket and out of making the world into something I don’t like. And if the invisible cost of that choice is the possible loss of a great game, I’m okay with that.

  1. Your boycott of this game is solely based on personalities rather than principles. Obviously you can vote with your dollar as a consumer, but who cares? Watching Chinatown is not going to make you a supporter of rape. I also doubt this game has anything to do with neo-con politics, Christianity, or homosexual marriage.

    • You’re probably right, but for me, it’s a question of the ability (or inability) to separate and artist from his or her art. Obviously there’s some cognitive dissonance in terms of what we buy and support tacitly by just existing in first world cultures. But in cases like this, where it’s a more direct artist/patron question, I feel the need to stop and take a look at WHO I would be supporting, rather than just what.

      It’s important to note, too, that I’m not calling on others to boycott his work or this project, as I freely acknowledge the hypocrisy inherent in a position like this. But I did want to explain why I was choosing not to participate, and that others may feel similarly if they’re presented with not only the person behind the project, but also my own reasoning. At the end of the day, it’s just another example of freedom of speech. And I totally see where you’re coming from, too.

  2. Just because a developer likes the way nature have put us in – men being men and women being women, you would boycott him? Gee, what a retard.

    • Wow, you are just gross all-around.

    • Totally agree with you. If you look at it scientifically it’s wrong, because 2 people of the same gender cannot reproduce. _Imagine if everyone in the world was homosexual, there would be no more reproduction and the human species would die out_ Plus why not support him because he expresses his opinions? It’s like judging someone’s IQ by their skin color. It’s wrong.

      • Uh, what?

        He said unfortunate things about same-sex marriage. Marriage has pretty much nothing to do with reproduction (seeing as how sterile people can marry, and unwed couples can have kids, and old people who can no longer reproduce can still stay married, not to mention couples who just decide not to have kids), and how does the argument of ‘the human race would die out if everyone was homosexual’ make any sense? Not everyone is homosexual. Stopping homosexual people from marrying does not eradicate homosexuality anyways, so I’m just really confused at your logic in general. Homosexuality has no bearing on the population of homosexuals, nor does it have any bearing on reproduction in general.

      • >implying Earth does not have an over population problem

        Haha, I see what you did there.

  3. I very much agree with what you’ve written here and I’m not going to be supporting their kickstarter. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if this man ended up enormously rich from this game and then started dumping all his money into propaganda that I don’t agree with at all.

    The world would be a better place with this game in the short run, but in the long run, HOLOCAUST. err.. yea, let’s hope not.

  4. Wouldn’t it be just as bad if I we’re to boycott an artist because I don’t support gay marriage, and they do? Just because I disagree with someone’s views doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate their work. Mike Bithell is very outspoken about his views, but that doesn’t stop me from buying Thomas Was Alone.

  5. I’d agree with you if the game had some sort of anti-gay marriage message in it. But it’s clear it doesn’t. Every single product, entertainment or whatever will have SOMEONE work on it that has those type of views. It’s just the way the world works. One thing I think you have to take into consideration is that this artist isn’t using his money to fund anti-gay movements. He’s just one person on a team who happens to have a viewpoint different than yours. We disagree with it, but art stands on its own merits.

  6. This is probably one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. You are giving money towards supporting the game. The money is not going towards supporting the developers to support gay marriage.

    Gay marriage is really not that big of a deal when it comes down to it and it really shouldn’t change your judgement on the game itself.

    • Gay marriage is a pretty big issue to people who are gay. Check your privilege at the door, son.

      • I didn’t mean that it isn’t a big deal. I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be a big deal. People have different opinions.

        “Gay marriage is a pretty big issue to people who are gay.”
        I agree with this. So unless you yourself are gay, than what does it matter to you.

      • Because it’s a civil rights issue. If only interracial couples cared about their own right to marry, then they probably still wouldn’t be allowed to marry. Sometimes the majority has to look out for the minority.

  7. I think the issue of dividing “art” from “artist” is an interesting one. I’ve always been told that I need to make the distinction, but I’ve always refused to. Art – and since we’re all posting here we can probably all agree that a video game is Art – is always going to be a reflection of the person creating it. And even if the game isn’t overtly (or even subtly) homophobic, I still don’t want to financially support somebody who is.

    I want to live in a world where bigotry causes people to fail.

  8. When it comes down to it, I don’t see a lot of gamers boycotting games made by people with pro-homosexual sentiments. It’s obviously something that people disagree on right now, so we can’t expect everyone to just switch views in the snap of a finger. I’m a Christian, but I don’t see someone’s sexual preference as a deterrent to me liking then as a person. It’s someone’s person decision, and even if I disagree with it, I’m not going to refuse to support their work. Does Doug support gay marriage? No. And in an interview, he expressed that. Did you expect him to lie? It’s his personal decision, and he was honest about it. Lets not attack him because of that. As a Christian, I’m attacked on a regular basis because my views don’t align with other people’s. I’m not going to lie about my faith, but I don’t expect others to treat me as less of a human being because of it. So if you like Doug’s game, support it. Please don’t punish him because you disagree with his views. I’m not saying this as someone who’s taking his side, as I’m on neither side here. I’m saying this as a human being that just wants everyone to agree to disagree in this situation, and move past it.

    • It isn’t so much simply that I disagree with his views. That happens, and that’s fine–it’s America.

      For me, it’s the regular column on Breitbart.com that signals to me that this a person who is actively campaigning against a particular worldview I hold. Breitbart himself is responsible for some pretty heinous examples of political “discourse” in this country, and I’ve found that his site does far more damage to the world than good. It’s more than a different opinion; it’s misinformation.

      As to the same-sex marriage thing, it’s not that he simply expressed his opinion. That’s his right. It’s that, in doing so, he compared people’s right to marry to “letting a man take a dump in the ladies room.” It’s an extremely unfortunate metaphor, and an extremely ugly comparison to make. You can disagree with me all the live-long day. But if you compare what many consider to be a human rights issue to where someone can and can’t take a dump…well, that’s reason enough for me to not support him. But it’s also important for me to point out: I’m not trying to PUNISH him. I’m just choosing not to support him. My lack of support does not equate punishment, rather a conscious decision to back up my own beliefs with my money.

  9. And @adhesiveslipper, I don’t see what makes this man a bigot. He was asked a question, and he answered in the best way he knew how. He didn’t say it with hate and malice, not did he do it to try and attack anyone. People attack Christians and other conservative religions on a daily basis, why don’t we call them bigots and cry out against their slander? When it comes down to it, everyone is different and we won’t always agree. But simply because someone says something you disagree with doesn’t mean you should want them to fail.

    • Being against gay marriage makes someone a bigot. I don’t feel any need to clarify that any further.

      I think bigotry based on religion is problematic as well.

      • I’m sorry, I didn’t notice your statement “I for one do not condone homosexuality as I’m a Christian” before.

        When I said “I think bigotry based on religion is problematic as well,” I intended it to mean that I think ALL discrimination is bad, including discriminating against a religious person.

        However, I disagree with your general sentiment, because not all Christians are opposed to same-sex marriage, or homosexuality at-large. In the grand scheme of Christianity, one passage from Leviticus should not be influencing anybody’s view on an entire subset of the Earth’s population. Leviticus uses the word “abomination” to describe homosexuality, but then goes on to use the exact same word to describe eating shellfish. So if you’ve ever ordered lobster at a restaurant, you are exactly as bad as a homosexual in the eyes of the writers of the Bible.

  10. I don’t agree with your conclusion, but I love the fact that you have clear, concise, and compelling reasons behind your decision. Way to go!

    IMHO, far too many people have been shouting the “Armikrog’s creator hates gays so let’s boycott the game!” viewpoint, which is just inaccurate on several levels. You, however, not only did the research to come up with the real story, but have a very well-supported case for why you decided not to support the game. Kudos.

    Personally, the views of the artist have zero impact on my decision to buy or not buy a product, but I love it when people like you disagree with me in a polite, confident, and well-reasoned way. That way we can all have a mature, productive discussion with multiple viewpoints.

    So thanks for promoting a healthy conversation around this topic!

  11. @Brian, thanks for explaining that further. I for one do not condone homosexuality as I’m a Christian. But for someone to behave the way he does, I wouldn’t support him. Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I’m going to spread lies and misinform people. And as you said, I think that was an unfortunate metaphor. When dealing with a delicate topic such as this, you should have a but more tact. It’s people like him that make conservatives look like irrational and backwards loonies. I think your stance in this situation is completely justified, and I myself wouldn’t fund someone who behaves like him.

  12. Not sure that it really matters on way or the other. Gay and lesbian people make up about 2% of the population, perhaps higher out side of America(but the game is being developed in America so not sure that foreign demographics even apply.). Either way it’s publicity for the company which probably has numerous employees who do not support anti-LG viewpoints. There are perhaps as many people who who might choose to fund it simply because they share the view points of Doug TenNapel as those who would withhold because of it. Gays and lesbians are a super minority and only receive new coverage because the morality of it is hotly contested as a human rights issue. Spend your money or don’t, If i were a company I would be more concerned with focusing on demographics that matter to sales, for example non-english speakers(specifically spanish), women, and larger minorities. Even simply being see as patriotic to the country where you are producing product is more profitable than being pro-LG. In case I haven’t been clear, the monetary contributions or lack thereof of lesbian and gays don’t really make a difference in the end. It might even be profitable to be seen as somewhat anti-gay.

    • If you honestly think that only homosexual people care about anti-homosexual viewpoints, and that it is perhaps more profitable to come off as ‘anti-gay’, I think you need a reality check.

  13. And @Brian, as @Will said, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your politeness and research you put into your discussion. It’s refreshing to see people on the Internet willing to discuss something without hostility nor lack or research.

  14. Thanks for the laugh. I wasn’t even considering to support a point and click adventure, but hey, if I get to upset a bunch of heterophobes, why not?

  15. You are entitled to your opinion and you can spend (or not) your money on whatever you want.. but the views of Doug Tennapel on gays is probably one of the last thing I would ever care about in connection with this kickstarter project as there is no connection whatsoever. I personally support this game because I loved Neverhood and dont give a fuck about authors views on anything.. he can join the church of scientology and I would still support this game. Becuase it’s about games not about authors opinions.

  16. Good read brian. one question thoe when you said you like art in the forms of music, books, film & games. I found myself wondering if you like art art?

  17. Not wanting to support someone because you have a different opinion about something completely unrelated to the development of this videogame is stupid. He’s not asking for 900 grand to donate to an anti-gay group, he’s asking for 900 grand to make a videogame.

    Furthermore, as people that want to play videogames we should vote with our wallet to increase the quality of videogames. That should definitely be above voting with your wallet on an opinion the developer has.

    • Except money from the development goes to him, which he can then turn around and spend on anti-gay movements and the like.

      You’re thinking in the incredible short term if you think funding a video game is just funding a video game and nothing further happens.

  18. And the real biggot here is the OP. the OP condemns a work of art be abuse one of its creators has expressed his opinion in calm tones and that opinion just happens to be different to the one of the OP. really, what is wrong with you, OP? This project shall not fail but I will always blame people like OP for blocking potential supporters because they are narrow minded bigoted hypocritical and politically correct pricks.
    The game deserves to be made nd to be made good, and the OP is on his soapbox high horse yelling: this person is not politically correct, STONE HIM TO DEATH!
    Really, I expected better from machinema than this BS…
    Oh, nd to your information, Doug stated that he would like the marriage thing to a separation of church and state, thus making it legal and leaving the churches to decide for themselves, whether they support it or not.
    Oh, and I’m an atheist from a third world country, so incase you go with “human rights” and “check your privilege” to me – there are no such things as rights, only privileges, which are dependent on your status.

  19. Brian has every right to voice this opinion and I believe he did it respectfully. He’s also not stating that other people should just blindly agree with this as an argument. I’m confused as to why so many flames are happening. Nowhere in reading this did I feel like he was shoving not buying this game down my throat. This was his opinion and well executed writing.

    I’m an artist; I used to respect and separate art as art when I was a younger. But when said artist starts voicing extremes of sexism and bigotry I morally choose not to support them. This applies in all walks of life. As the potential consumer I have that right. I can absolutely understand both sides of this argument because there are many other people involved with this project who may not encourage the same ideals. But ultimately I cannot support someone who openly says frequently ignorant commentary like this:

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2009/07/15/I-Now-Pronounce-You-Government-and-Wife

    Regardless of the end result being a potentially fantastic game I’m on board with Brian. Kudos for standing up for your voice. I very much enjoyed read this.

  20. Hmm, your post is an interesting read B, but isn’t this more of a personal blog like rant than a game article?

    Interesting nevertheless, most of what you sourced I had no idea.

  21. I agree with the decision made in this article. Both sides are entitled their decisions, and both have done what their consciousnesses have said to do.

    If the author doesn’t want to contribute based on the developer’s view, okay. It makes sense from his end and, in most cases, that should be good enough for everyone else.

  22. you’re like literally so brave.

  23. Re: Earthworm – Not to support the game, so it doesn’t bring unwarranted negativity, is probably good wisdom…

  24. I find myself agreeing pretty whole-heartedly with this article, to me the idea of ‘voting with your wallet’ is so important in the 21st century, and as gamers/consumers I strongly feel like we should support the ethical companies and developers that represent and set the best example in the industry.. Brian’s specific example is a good one as it highlights how, as a consumer, you can voice your personal opinion about a specific issue- and it’s my opinion that you should, you should find out who you’re giving your money too, and you should care.

  25. @ShadowMomentum
    Why would we imagine if everyone was homosexual? Reasons why that is an invalid statement:

    1 – The current population is over 7 billion, we are in no way threatened as a species by some people choosing to engage in a relationship that has no hope of directly producing offspring.

    2 – There are plenty of couples who choose not to have children. If your statement had an validity would it not make more sense to go after those already in a relationship primed for baby making but deciding not too? How about those members of the church who took vows not to marry or have children? The pope should really get a move on and bust out some little popelets if we’re save ourselves from under population!

    Seriously hiding behind science in this case is ludicrous. There is zero scientific evidence that allowing homosexuals to marry would effect the gene pool in any negative way.

  26. Okay so, people who don’t understand this, look at it like this,

    - There is a homophobic developer attached to a project, in some capacity.

    - You give money to the project.

    - The developer gets a cut of the project’s profits, clearly, since he worked on the game.

    - Homophobic developer then may choose to spend his money on homophobic causes, such as anti-gay marriage campaigns and movements, or something similar.

    In such a scenario, you would then pretty much be directly funding a campaign going against gay marriage, whether you are aware of it or not. Obviously this doesn’t happen in every situation regarding a guy who has views like that, but it’s still a possibility, and when a project involves someone who’s really outspoken about it, it becomes more likely.

    I can’t say that this is what Mr. Rubin was thinking, and I think he expresses himself fine. The post above is just food for thought, if anyone reading the comments is having a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of, well, have principals and not giving money to things that go against your principals.

  27. Actually, just because I support traditional/natural marriage and due to your ridiculous article, I just funded my first kickstarter.
    Cheers

  28. the game was fully funded and will be coming to wii U :D

  29. To necro-comment for my own sake, I wouldn’t doubt if there were major players of a game’s creation whose hard-held views would clash against my sensibilities, but in the case of TenNapel, I’m made aware of things amiss.

    But for me, my problem’s in having already spent on EWJ games (the first on PSN for a few bucks, the first and second on GOG.com for hardly more), but feeling torn about if I could play them without misgivings. Damage is done, but even just considering the games, I don’t know how well I could push an honest playthrough without feeling iffy about everything, especially about how much of the game might’ve been shaped with these views in mind, or if my enjoyment of the game would have me aligning with such sensibilities I would otherwise decry.

    tl;dr – I’m not self-assured enough to put my purchase to the test after the fact.

  30. Well, congrats. You’ve caused TenNapel to pull all of his articles from BreitBart. You and the rest of the gaming press economically coerced him into self-censorship.

    Good job, I guess.

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