The Overwatch 2 trailer gave me chills. After years of lore fuckups and retcons, seeing Overwatch get back together in the trailer was a thing of beauty. Between that and the announcement of a desperately-needed PVE mode that I will likely enjoy the hell out of, and actual story content, Overwatch 2 is easily the biggest victory a fan of the first game like me could have gained, seeing as my interest was mostly in lore (I'm a massive fan of Talon, particularly Reaper, whose edgy 90s charm drew me to him instantly.)
That is what I should be saying. That is what life should be. That is not what I am saying.
Everything about this trailer was a success. It was thrilling, it promised a definitive evolution of Overwatch's story, it was gorgeously animated. I'm absolutely going to hand it to Blizzard's animation team just as I did with the people that designed Overwatch. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried at seeing Overwatch reunited.
I won't make myself out to be the victim here. I am a supporter of this system, often willingly. I give money to massive companies that abuse human rights. After all, what am I supposed to do? I have no power to stop them. In the end, it boils down to nihilism. What do I say or do that matters in the grand scheme of things?
It hurts knowing that some of the victims here are the people making these spectacular things. The people who crafted this trailer are not the perpetrators, lest we forget Blizzard's layoffs last year. (These ones specifically: https://www.polygon.com/2019/2/16/18226581/activision-blizzard-layoffs-executive-pay-unions)
I supported Activision Blizzard for years. So did many of you, I'm sure. It was never a surprise to me, their immorality. It was just surprising how far it went.
Diablo Immortal was something I saw dealt with a lot when talking about Blizzard. Bullshit. Diablo Immortal is a cheap phone game. Bad? Sure, but definitely not the garbage that Blizzard deserves to rot for. No, that comes with their layoffs, their support of Communist China's censorship.
I saw some say that Diablo IV was what they needed to get back on track. Some said Overwatch 2 was the ticket. I agree that both of these look so fucking brilliant.
I can't, though. Gaming is an inherently toxic and greedy industry. Just today, I purchased Metro: Last Light Redux, which is published by the now infamous Deep Silver. You bet I have my eye on DOOM Eternal despite all Bethesda has done.
If I did research on every single thing I bought and concerned myself with the morality of it all, I'd probably never buy anything. The anime clothes I wear are probably manufactured by someone who is abused. The food I eat is manufactured by animals that are abused and pumped full of chemicals. It's not new, either.
This leaves people like me in a precarious position. I want, so badly, to #BoycottBlizzard and say to hell with them, but some people work so damn hard to make these things. The animation team has to have worked so hard to create something like this trailer.
Weirdly, that got me thinking about Mary Poppins Returns. Mary Poppins Returns is a fun little film, made enjoyable by fun songs and excellent performances on the part of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is also the result of the rights to a dead woman's children's stories being stolen by a multi-million dollar corporation against her wishes.
Detroit: Become Human, a game I personally hate but my significant other loves, is made by Quantic Dream, a company that it is now known has serious issues with sexism and abuse in the workplace. Everything we see created is the result of something bad, because that's just the nature of what we have created as an industry. Yet I will state I am a supporter of that industry. Stress level 99% starts to feel less like a funny picture, and more like a worry in the back of my mind about the employees of Quantic Dream.
I joked about disbanding capitalism in film to get Spider-Man back to Marvel one day. They reminded me that Spider-Man and the MCU in general is the result of capitalism. In fact, everything, including some anti-capitalist works, are the result of capitalism.
So that basically means two questions. First off, how responsible are us consumers for this sort of thing? The second being what we can do to fix it.
The first question has no simple answer. Sitcom The Good Place even points this out satirically by revealing that nobody has gone to Heaven because every little detail of life is driven by some horror beyond the scenes, something awful and nightmarish. I have dedicated years of my life to this medium and to many of the companies' work. Despite the fact I'd very much like to say I refuse to purchase Overwatch 2, I admit it's still tempting.
There were two sorts of chills on my back when I saw the trailer for Overwatch 2. The first was a good chill, the sort you get in the reunion at the end of Lord of the Rings. That chill represents a catharsis, dragged out through a long period of time and beautifully manifested.
The second chill was far worse. It was the chill of knowing that by getting that first chill I am handing myself over to an industry I oppose, to higher-ups I oppose. On the other hand, when some people want Blizzard boycotted, I think about how many layoffs that mean. After all, if Blizzard laid off people in mass numbers during a record-breaking financial year, what will they do? Essentially, they are holding countless jobs for ransom here. All it would take would be to say "If we get boycotted, we'll have to lay off more employees." Sure, it's a bald-faced lie, but they've already shown their true colors by supporting Chinese interests and markets despite the human rights abuses going on there.
The nature of fiction, especially nowadays, can't just be taken by the content of the fiction alone. Now there are many things that lie outside the domain of fiction that must be thought of as well. Taken on its own, Overwatch 2 is possibly the thing I am most enthusiastic for.
With all that's gone on, however, there is a harsh knowledge in my mind knowing that I am assisting in these terrible things by giving Blizzard my money. Do you think about these things every time you make a game purchase? Of course not, neither do I.
The only reason there is attention on solely Blizzard is that it was easy to rile up offense at them. To point fingers and say "these are the bad guys". No doubt, the execs at Blizzard are bad people, but most companies have this. It's only since China is the enemy of the people right now that we call them on these things. (Not that calling them is a bad thing, obviously, anytime a corporation receives justice for amoral acts is good.)
Us consumers are responsible for these rises to power. Obviously, we are not responsible for the acts of those who have it. In the end, I can't make some grand statement of purpose. Most likely, I'll be one of countless forking Blizzard my cold hard cash for Overwatch 2 with the rest of the masses, justifying myself with the knowledge that I can do nothing and the simple, nightmarish truth that even if I didn't give them my money, a lot of people would, and Blizzard would still be rich.
In the end, we are responsible, but unless we can convince a majority of gamers, many of whom don't care about this at all except for maybe the token anti-China political believer. I personally will state that while we might not be responsible, and many of us here at Destructoid will likely protest Hong Kong's mistreatment and the Blizzard debacles, and even boycott Blizzard, in the end, there are millions not like us who we cannot force to care. The only thing we can do is struggle against the tide and withhold our support and money for evil people like Blizzard, and try to encourage others to do the same.
The second question has a much more straightforward answer. We can stop the tide. Blizzard can be forced to change their practices. They can have the thing they value most, money, taken from them. EA in 2017 proved that these creatures can be felled, they can be beaten.
Yet the world will refuse to change. Even if every single member of Destructoid refused to give Blizzard a cent, even if every single one of us got out there and told everyone we could, some wouldn't care. Some still wouldn't know. Some, I know, would even support Blizzard's actions.
And even then, even if we beat Blizzard, what do we do next? Blizzard is our enemy today, but even if we force them to change, what do we do? Do we find every injustice, every single abuse any company has committed, and allow that to influence us? The only way to prevent the rampant corruption and horror of the gaming industry, and of entertainment media in general, is to abandon it altogether. For people like me, who rely on it to function, that can't be done.
I am not the victim here. I am the perpetrator. From the beginning, I have given Blizzard my money. Before the layoffs, I spoke in support of them and encouraged my friends to consume their works. I still offer my love and support to the Blizzard employees who made this beautiful trailer. I still appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the shorts for the first game.
The question of how separate the executives are from the employees is similar. Overwatch claims to stand for the oppressed, and many have accused Blizzard of hypocrisy. That is a fair accusation, but we can't just say Activision Blizzard are the villains here, because not all of them are. There are many perfectly good employees working there, producing the things we love, working constantly and never getting enough credit or compensation. Obviously, in theory, we declare the men at the top of the tower the villains, and the rest simply people. In practice, I never see this happen, because we want to break the tower at its base very often just to see the men at the top fall.
The solution isn't as simple as stop letting Blizzard have our money. Even if we do that, we then create a situation where executives will likely lay more people off than ever. There is no way to answer a question like this in a manner where nobody innocent comes out hurt, but we have to try to do something.
I am an utter hypocrite in my opinion toward Blizzard. I am someone who will buy Cyberpunk 2077 on launch despite accusations of bad treatment toward employees directed at CD Projekt Red. I still purchase Konami works despite their horrible treatment of many people. I will not say that I, as the consumer of the work, am the real victim.
I will not claim a moral high ground. I will not stand outside Blizzcon. In the end, I know that no matter how loud I scream, to many, my voice will never be heard.
In the end, I am part of this nightmarish system I decry as well. Many of us are. Some know it. Some don't.
Are we evil for this? No. Hell no. We are human, we are flawed, but that does not excuse these things. We need to do something about this. I just don't know what.
What I'm going to do is tell everyone I know to boycott Blizzard, and when we find a new enemy, I will tell people to do the same to them. The sad inevitability of the situation is that I will swim in with the tide just as I will swim out with it. By tomorrow, I may forget my hatred of Blizzard, and Overwatch 2 may be amends enough.
But tonight I say no. I may not even stop with boycotting Blizzard. I will try something. Although I am swept in with the tide, I will struggle. I will fail, it is the likely result, and I will brand myself a hypocrite and a perpetrator in the end. Such is life.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing I can do. And I refuse to do nothing. I have done nothing for too long. If only for tonight, I say no. I can only hope the me that wakes up tomorrow carries on that solidarity.
Anyways, if you made it to the bottom, sorry about putting you through that long rant. I wrote this at 12 at night because I had to get it off my chest, and you can definitely tell. (Hell, I'm sitting here at 12:30 hoping it wasn't the dumbest thing I've written in my life.) I hope you take what I've said into consideration, and I hope you have an entirely nice day. Here's a dog.