A studio best known for blockbuster games about shooting aliens now increasingly has a reputation for not taking shit from the people who play them. Creator of Halo and Destiny 2, Bungie, took fire from angry gamers this week for coming out in support of abortion rights. Instead of flinching like so many other gaming companies often do, it hit back.
On Monday night, Politico published a leaked draft of a majority opinion by the Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade, and with it all precedent safeguarding access to abortion and many other protections not explicitly called out in the Constitution. The next day, Bungie published a blog post calling the prospective court decision a “direct attack on human rights,” and sharing links to organizations where others could donate to support access to reproductive healthcare.
A tweet sharing the studio’s unwavering stance on the question of abortion rights currently has over 70,000 likes and 4,000 responses. That’s even more than the studio’s January 31, 2022 tweet announcing it was being acquired by Sony. Many of the comments are as ugly as you’d expect. But rather than let the blog post and tweet speak for themselves, Bungie has fired-back at individual commenters respectfully but forcefully.
“You are a video game company,” wrote one Twitter user. “You are a toaster,” Bungie wrote in a reference to the person’s avatar.
“Literally this is just sad,” wrote another user. “You, as a gaming company, are really going to start choosing a side when you shouldn’t even be involved in this bunch of political BS. As a gaming company your focus should be how to appease people with your games. Not your opinions. Don’t. Seriously.”
“We’ve chosen our side and it wasn’t difficult,” Bungie responded. “Our company values exist beyond our games.”
Many of the comments Bungie responded to have since been deleted. Others have been preserved in screenshots which have continued to blow up even more than Bungie’s original post, as supporters pass them around in what is otherwise a dark and painful moment for the country, especially those whose bodies will be directly impacted by a slate of new draconian anti-abortion laws.
“Thank you for the kind words but the true praise deserves to go to our Bungie leadership who isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right,” the studio’s social media manager Griffin Bennett wrote afterwards.
Video game companies are notoriously conservative when it comes to potentially pissing off fans, even when it comes to the most lukewarm sentiments like “facism bad.” If you want to give someone a unique window into the disturbed id of a certain modern gamer, just show them the not insignificant controversy around Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’s glorification of murdering literal Nazis. Hence why publishers like Ubisoft now have a well-earned reputation for trying to claim their military shooters aren’t political.
In recent years that’s changed a bit, especially in the wake of revitalized social justice movements. Beginning with the George Floyd protests against police killings in 2020, gaming companies have been more outspoken on issues like Black Lives Matter, anti-Asian violence, and trans rights. Of course, actions speak louder than words, but Bungie confirmed to Kotaku that it’s not ready to share any more at the moment on its own plans to donate to abortion rights and reproductive healthcare groups.
But in an industry where companies invest tens of millions in annual marketing campaigns for their brands and products, it’s not nothing either. And as Jess Reyes wrote at Inverse, the silence throughout the rest of the video game industry, outside of some lone, senior voices, has so far been deafening.