Lightning Round! Or, The Pitch Meeting I Never Had

It’s been a busy week, and rather than let these story scraps mummify my computer in post-it notes, here are some quick takes on things I’ve been reading about:

First off, I had no idea what the “Steven Tyler Act” was, but it’s already dying. According to the Associated Press’s reporting on the subject, this was a “celebrity privacy bill in Hawaii.” Just shooting from the gut here, but even though I find paparazzi fairly distasteful, this proposed legislation seems inane. The idea of using public funds (and time) to protect just a small percentage of the public seems ridiculous to me; while it’s true that they’re more likely to be surreptitiously shot than your average Joe, I see no need for the distinction here. You get an act like this passed by making it a general privacy bill, in which we’re all protected from nosy long-range cameras. (In the Facebook age, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there are pictures we wouldn’t want leaked of us, say, stumbling out of a bar.) And sure enough, AP reports that the bill is failing on those grounds, with people like Rep. Angus McKelvey noting that “there are enough legal avenues available to them [celebrities], including taking the issue to court because privacy is protected in the Hawaii constitution.” Sure enough, Lifehacker’s got a fairly comprehensive report on your rights to take and sell photographs: in general, public spaces are fair game, unless you’re shooting a private space from a public space, or if the photographs you’re taking are compromising someone’s basic privacy — for instance, zooming in to capture phone numbers on their cell phones or account numbers in a checkbook. Celebrities, if you really want to go after the paparazzi, you ought to be suing over someone’s right to sell (and profit) off of your image — which for some reason is illegal in a commercial sense (e.g., I can’t shoot a candid picture of Ryan Gosling and sell it to Pepsi) but not in a tabloid sense.

Second, Polygon posted today that Apple had removed the U.K. game Sweatshop HD from the iTunes App StoreGranted, Apple is a private company, so it’s allowed to self-curate and impose first-amendment restrictions on its content (and it’s hard to complain, considering that you can just move to Android), but I feel as if they owe it to developers to be far clearer up front in regards to what they will and won’t allow. If I’ve spent hours and time converting my content to run on your OS, I expect that I’ll have the opportunity to get a return on my investment; from what I’ve read, it appears as if Apple (or Microsoft’s Live Arcade, or countless other distribution centers) could simply reject my project on the grounds that they don’t like me. Nobody’s asking Apple to promote Sweatshop HD just to sell it, and besides, there ought to be a Glass House Law that states that “Those who run sweatshops overseas can’t ban games about running sweatshops.” We’re at an age now where games are evolving into social commentary — another excellent Polygon article highlights how a Canadian Revenue Agency employee was fired, sight-unseen, because he released a game about working in a call center (I Get This Call Every Day) — and legislation may need to adapt in protecting the free speech of games (and their creators) as the barrier to entry gets lower and lower.  (Also, as others have already pointed out, isn’t it ridiculous that games about running a drug-dealing or mafioso empire are supported by AAA studios as well as Apple, but that games detailing the difficulty of managing child labor in a sweatshop aren’t? Is it merely because the former have been around longer than when I first played them on my TI-83 calculator in math class?)

Finally, I’m not thrilled about Orson Scott Card’s public stance against same-sex marriages. And I can understand Chris Sprouse refusing, on principle, to illustrate a comic written by such an openly homophobic man. But isn’t it time we got over this, really? Ender’s Game isn’t retroactively a worse book because of the author’s odious usage his First Amendment rights, nor is the film adaptation likely to be awful because of something the creator of the property (that has most assuredly changed many times within Hollywood since he sold the rights) happens to have said. It’s not as if the material in question is homophobic, any more than the Chick Fil-A nuggets contain anti-gay sentiments in of themselves. You can boycott, sure, but isn’t that really just punishing the people who happen to work at (or on) these franchises? (I’m also not sure it sets the right tone: we’re basically saying that anti-gay people should boycott anything in which an openly gay person happens to be involved, and that they’d be right to do so?) If George R. R. Martin suddenly announced that he was taking up a hate group, I don’t think I’d suddenly find his books any less gripping; then again, I’m also not sure why people who enjoyed A Million Little Pieces suddenly hated it when they found out that some of it was fake. Entertainment Weekly interviewed a producer on Ender’s Game, Roberto Orci, who notes that “It didn’t occur to me to do background checks of anybody,” and that seems like the right way to proceed. Let the material speak for itself and pay no attention to the idiot behind the curtain . . . especially when if it weren’t for all the hoopla in the media about Orson Scott Card, your average DC Comics reader or filmgoer wouldn’t even know about it.

3 thoughts on “Lightning Round! Or, The Pitch Meeting I Never Had

  1. I’d not heard of either of those games, but I like the idea of the trend.

    Unfortunately, with the way we consume games being controlled by major corporations, they’re always likely to be a barrier to clever satirical ideas.

    • Right! And here I’d thought that things were getting better now that technology had improved to the point where you could literally create, design, and publish a game on your own . . . I’d forgotten that the platforms you’d publish to were still in the hands of corporations. Still, I’ve heard fairly good things about how open Android is, and Steam looks to be doing good work by crowdsourcing its approval of new indie title. Even Pirate Bay has gotten in on actually selling/distributing games, as they did with a recent promo for Anodyne (after it leaked onto the site).

      Still, it’s frustrating. If copyright doesn’t get you, corporations will . . . even though Apple drew way more attention to itself for PULLING the game than it would have by leaving it alone.

      • Hopefully when it gets to the stage that Apple realise they’d be losing a valuable source of income, they’ll come around.
        Fox realised it was the smart choice to allow The Simpsons to take shots at them, and the same with 30 Rock and NBC. With the big corporations, ultimately, the bottom line will win out, for good and ill.

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