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Game industry scrambles to respond to Trump’s immigration order [Updated]

Kyle Orland
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images + Aurich Lawson + Warren Davis and Jeff Lee
[Update (Jan 31): In a video posted last night, Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games said that the company "stand united in strongly opposing President Trump's immigration ban." In the video, CEO Ted Price points out specific employees who have come to Insomniac from "around the world" and says that all the employees flanking him in the video "support our policy of non-discrimination."
“We at Insomniac Games stand united in strongly opposing President Trump's immigration ban,” Price said. “There's no question that these orders will harm us as a company and many of our team members. So we ask: ‘Is this the American way? Is discriminating based on religious faith or national origin American?’ Absolutely not. This is a deplorable, discriminatory act that we and many others across the nation believe is patently unconstitutional. We have been, we are and we will always be a nation of immigrants.”
Price urges viewers to call their congressperson or reach out to an organization "creating opposition campaigns you can support."]
Original Story
In the wake of President Trump's sweeping order to severely limit immigration, visitation, and refugee status for people from seven Muslim-majority countries this weekend, game developers and trade groups are scrambling to respond in ways that protect their members and project a message of inclusiveness in the gaming community.
"We embrace the fact that the passion and skill for game development knows no boundaries—political, geographic, cultural, or demographic," the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) said in a statement. "Thus to restrict immigration on the basis of an individual's state of origin represents an ignorant knee-jerk [reaction] that assumes only the worst and wrongly stereotypes the people of an entire culture. We stand in absolute opposition to any policy in any government that would seek to unduly restrict an individual's ability to pursue their creative passion and chosen career path in game development."
The Entertainment Software Association, which represents most major game publishers in the United States, was a little more circumspect in its criticism of Trump's order, saying, "The Entertainment Software Association urges the White House to exercise caution with regard to vital immigration and foreign worker programs. As a leading force in technology and exporter of entertainment, the US video game industry thrives on the contributions of innovators and storytellers from around the world. While recognizing that enhancing national security and protecting our country’s citizens are critical goals, our companies rely on the skilled talent of US citizens, foreign nationals, and immigrants alike. Our nation’s actions and words should support their participation in the American economy."
A spokesperson for the Entertainment Consumers Association, an advocacy group focused on the concerns of gamers, deferred to the ESA and IGDA when offered a chance to respond, adding that "from a game industry perspective, it's really a business matter." (Update: This sentence originally misattributed the quote from the Video Game Voters Network. Ars regrets the error.)

Travel plans disrupted

IGDA Executive Director Kate Edwards tells Ars that Trump's immigration orders have had little direct effect on the organization's 8,000 members, only two of whom are registered as being from any of the seven targeted countries. That said, Edwards added that she "know[s] many developers who are nervous about the broader implications on their immigration status in the US, including a former IGDA board member who is now fearful of leaving the country as he maybe unable to return to his home and job."
Currently, Trump's immigration order is disrupting international travel plans for many game developers and industry members planning for conferences in the near future. The Game Developers Conference, which will host an international mix of tens of thousands of developers in San Francisco in March, tweeted over the weekend that "GDC is a global community—we're horrified by the #MuslimBan. Of course we'll refund affected attendees, and keep fighting for inclusivity."
Navid Khonsari, a Canadian-Iranian developer of the critically acclaimed 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, told Polygon he is canceling upcoming international travel plans because, as a green-card-holding legal resident of 17 years, he's unsure if he'll be able to return to America after such a trip.
"My setbacks from this uninformed, cowardly, ignorant, and racist action pales in comparison to the hardships of so many others," Khonsari told Polygon. "This humble position reminds me of why I made 1979 Revolution—we must learn from history and not repeat it."
British developer Shahid Kamal Ahmad said in a series of tweets that he is canceling his plans to go to GDC "given the current confusion, until the US position is clear... I might have legal grounds to go to GDC, but I’m not going to waste money trying to find out. I’m already on some list after all... The video games industry will definitely suffer as a result of this ban. The primary beneficiary will be Canada."
It's not just developers from other countries that have been affected by Trump's actions, either. Brandon Sheffield, an American developer for Necrosoft, writes at Gamasutra that he's had to cancel plans to attend the upcoming Tehran Game Convention because Iran may ban US citizens from entering the country in response to Trump's order.
"Make no mistake, this censors art," Sheffield writes. "Art is often a vehicle for peace and understanding. For ages, cross-cultural exchange of art has been a bridge that helps people to understand where they have common ground... I've understood so much more about these places and where people are coming from simply by working alongside different kinds of people. What an opportunity for understanding we're missing out on here!"
As an example, Sheffield points out that Mahdi Bahrami, who won the IGF Student Showcase Award for his breathtaking work in 2014, wouldn't be able to come to GDC to accept that award if he won it this year.

ACLU donations

Some individual independent developers are putting their money where their mouths are to protest Trump's order. Playdots, Inc., the company behind the popular Dots series of smartphone games, took the unusual step of inserting a message and an ACLU donation link visible to anyone loading their games Two Dots or Dots & Co. over the weekend.
"As an American company, we value the diversity of our team and players," the in-game message read. "We believe America should be a welcoming place, particularly for those most in need, wherever they come from and whatever their religion. Please join us in standing up for civil rights." Playdot cofounder and CEO Paul Murphy told Kotaku that 250,000 people had so far clicked an included link to go to the ACLU website.
Among other games urging action, Nuclear Throne maker Vlambeer donated 24 hours worth of revenue to the ACLU over the weekend. Kentucky Route Zero maker Cardboard Computer did the same.
Game industry scrambles to respond to Trump’s immigration order [Updated] Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 2:28 AM Rating: 5

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