To borrow a phrase, Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe. Obviously he disagrees, but by the current, widespread definition of the word, it fits. To Card, gay people are "tragic genetic mix-ups," and legal gay marriages mean "an end to democracy in America." More than just casual homophobia, he stands on a bully pulpit and rages against gay rights, using enough lies and distortions to make a staunch conservative say, "Hey now, let's just back up a minute." He has every right to do it, and to his opinion, even if the only result seems to be an increasing antipathy towards him and his work. This is all well known to anyone who's been paying attention, so why bring it up now? Well, Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe with an Xbox 360 game coming out this week.
If Shadow Complex were a bad or mediocre game destined to flop, we could probably shrug it off as a punchline like Advent Rising. By most accounts, however, Chair Entertainment and Epic Games have created a high-quality adventure, a fresh take on a genre much loved by old school and hard core gamers. Of course, until the reviews hit, it could all be hype, but the pre-launch buzz on the title is putting it near the top of the heap as far as XBLA games go.
By his own admission, Card didn't have a lot to do with the day-to-day of the game itself: It is set in the same universe as his novel Empire and uses a few of the same characters, and takes place before the events of the book. Furthermore, the game is actually written by Peter David, a straight but extremely gay-friendly comic book writer. David recently participated in the Gays in Comics Panel at the San Diego Comic Con, where Fruit Brute quoted him saying, "I've always included gays in my comics because it never occurred to me not to." He also just "outed" two characters, Shatterstar and Richter, in Marvel's X-Force, giving the company its highest profile gay relationship yet. From what I can tell, Chair Entertainment, based in Utah, has no history of overt homophobia, although they have had a lengthy relationship with Card, and Epic Games, beyond a few cheeky achievements, has a similarly blank record on gay issues. Again, we can't be sure, but there is likely nothing homophobic in the game itself.
Still, money spent on the game is money in a homophobe's pocket, and no doubt some of it will be spent on efforts to end legal gay marriage or perhaps research ways to eliminate our "reproductive disorder." We're faced with fighting a potentially stellar game because some grumpy old man says mean things about us, or indirectly supporting attacks on our rights.
I still don't have an answer for myself. I think if you're obviously too disgusted to enjoy the game, avoid it, and speak out. However, if you want to play the game, play it. Enjoy it, but offset the hate: if you buy Shadow Complex, donate $5, $10, $15 if you can spare it to a gay charity. Let them know why you're giving the money. Card won't get nearly that much per game. In message boards or user reviews, in blogs or tweets, if it comes up, let people know exactly what Card has said on the matter, and where, and damn him with his own language.
Money is important, but far more important to him, and to history, is his legacy. You can tell from his reactions how much being called a homophobe rankles him. Increasingly and through his own work, the line on Orson Scott Card has moved away from "respected science fiction author" to "kind of insane about this whole gay thing." As his views become more and more fringe, and we continue to gain the rights he's fighting against, he'll retreat further into a conservative ghetto. At that point the country will either persist as it has for hundreds of years, or Card will be right, we'll lose our reproductive imperative, and civilization will be over. If that happens, I'll owe him a coke. Caffeine-free, of course.