Opinion: Why I'll never back a Kickstarter that takes a dump on gay marriage

Opinion: Why I'll never back a Kickstarter that takes a dump on gay marriage
I can't remember ever actively wishing for a Kickstarter to fail before.

Anyone who knows me will be aware that, when it comes to crowdfunding as a whole, I'm not exactly sold on the idea.

To date, I've only backed one Kickstarter campaign – Charles Cecil and co.'s Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse, which should be evidence enough of just how much I value that particular series.

But, even if I think platforms such as Kickstarter pose just as many questions as they answer, I've never previously wanted a particular game or project to miss its target. Not until Armikrog.

Down to earth

The bizarre thing is, I'll admit that my mind was already made up about Armikrog before I'd even clicked on its page on Kickstarter.

If you, as I was then, are unaware about just what Armikrog is, it's a new stop-motion point-and-click adventure being developed by some of the folks behind Earthworm Jim, including said character's creator Doug TenNapel.

Though an animation introducing some of the game's characters is all we have to go on, there's also reason to believe it might prove to be rather good, too.

If nothing else, it boasts the kind of promise many Kickstarter games come to the table with – a solid idea that, in the mind of the developer, just isn't the kind of commercial property publishers will take to.
Armikrog set out with a goal to raise $900,000 and, though it ran the deadline pretty close, achieved said total before the end of its campaign.

Indeed, with more than 18,000 backers behind it, Armikrog actually ended up reaching its stretch goals too. As a result, as well as the previously announced PC, Mac and Linux versions, it's also heading for Wii U.

The controversy surrounding Armikrog has nothing to do with the game itself, however. Rather, it flourished on the web when comments reportedly made by TenNapel on the subject of gay marriage made more than two years ago suddenly picked up traction on Twitter.

A total dump

TenNapel's views were covered by GayGamer at the time, and stemmed from an alleged conversation between the Earthworm Jim man and a 'fan' in the comments section of his webcomic, Ratfist.

The page has since been removed, but GayGamer reported that, after initially being questioned as to why he thinks America "kicks ass", TenNapel was then asked why he's against the idea of two men being allowed to marry – a leading question that suggests the commenter in question (using the name '21st') had prior knowledge as to TenNapel's views.

Nevertheless, rather than simply objecting to gay marriage, TenNapel instead made the following comparison when asked what his argument was:

"The same argument I have against letting a man take a dump in the ladies room," replied TenNapel.

"And office appropriate for one sex isn't automatically appropriate for another, no matter how much a man loves taking a dump in the ladies room."

It was a comparison that, once exposed to Twitter, generated a strong reaction from many, and resulted in plenty of people calling for a boycott of TenNapel's work – including the Armikrog Kickstarter.

That's a course of events it appears TenNapel himself could see coming:

"You realise this conversation is going to be used by your people to justify a permanent boycott of my work," he reportedly said in a later comment.

"They would probably use this argument to justify me not being able to visit anyone in any hospital while they're at it. This argument isn't about laws and marriage, it's about cultural witch hunts.

"There are a lot worse things than not being able to marry your same sex."


Following the successful conclusion of Armikrog's Kickstarter, TenNapel has gone on to suggest that his views have nothing to do with his work, and that "many of our donors are outspoken LGBTs and a majority of them are for same sex marriage."

In principle, TenNapel has a point. If a developer I meet happens to illustrate that they have vastly different political viewpoints to my own, for instance, then it's unlikely to have any bearing on my view of their games.

There are friends I have who have made games I'm not all too keen on. Likewise, there are plenty of developers who have said things I don't agree with that make what I consider to be wonderful games – there's no direct relationship between the two.

What makes TenNapel's comments harder to stomach, however, is both the subject matter, and abject and flippant comparison he makes between a man wishing to defecate in the ladies' loos and two people in love being allowed to marry.

This may not have been TenNapel's intention, but on the one hand it draws a direct comparison between gay marriage and what appears to be a somewhat perverted act. On the other, it's also especially dismissive – it pushes the notion that two people of the same gender wishing to marry can be equated to a daft and rather bizarre whim.

From whatever angle I look at the comments from, I can only say I find them extremely offensive. I've yet to see anyone successfully defend them.

A dangerous balance

But why does that matter? What makes these comments different to others?

In my mind, such is the level of offence generated by TenNapel's comments that, in my mind, it's not over the top to suggest that they're akin to someone saying something especially misogynistic or racist.

Such a statement comes with a caveat: It's always better to listen to a statement being delivered by someone rather than merely read it on a page.

That may appear to be an odd declaration given my status as a web-focused games journalist, but the subtleties and nuances of a comment can be lost when you can't hear exactly how it was delivered.

What's more, it appears TenNapel was goaded into making his views known. The man or woman who pushed him clearly knew that asking him such questions would make his stance on gay marriage public, and he'd undoubtedly receive the scorn of many people as a result.

Nevertheless, if TenNapel had, for instance, made a similar comparison in order to suggest that it wasn't "appropriate" for women to vote, or something equally abhorrent, it's likely that the press would still be holding him to account for his views to this day.

The real issue

I don't want to get to the stage where judgements are made about developers based on their personal views. I have no wish for the private lives of those working within the industry to be exposed to the glare of gamers.

Likewise, I would never look to stop anyone from speaking out about something they believe in, or giving their take on a particular issue if they feel moved to.

Nevertheless, comments such as TenNapel's should be seen to have consequences.

As a friend of mind very eloquently put, there are enough developers in the world working on encouraging projects desperate for support without us having to put our money behind people who promote abhorrent views.

TenNapel is obviously a very talented chap, and Armikrog may turn out to be every bit as good a game as it looks. But some things will always be more important than games.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.


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Robert Cummings

Preamble: I'm not opposed to gay rights or anything which restricts human freedoms. Put in perspective, gay people represent 10% of the world's population - a similar amount to deaf people. Deaf people have subtitles on almost everything now, but still suffer prejudice. The same for gay rights.

My point here is that you being 10% need to remember there will be at least a % of people who don't have to accept LGBT nor should they have to accept LGBT. It's a free world - both ways, for good or worse. Will LGBT's 10% loss in sales (at best) be enough to force people to keep quiet (and still think the same thoughts) ?

It's an interesting question. Should we be forcing silence, because pressure certainly never forced acceptance.

IMHO I believe the answer is education, not surpression.

Fraser Ross MacInnes Product/Design Director at Danke Games
I can't tell you the number of musicians, authors and film makers who have permanently ruined their respective creations for me, by espousing utterly heinous views. On some level I worry that raising this issue legitimises a debate about it, when to any sane minded person there is no debate to be had. That said, calling out bullshit when we see it is also important. It may sound harsh of me to say so, but it's a shame the project has already achieved its funding goal.
Kevin Corti Chief Evil Officer at Evil27 Games Limited
Very well said Keith - we choose not to buy other goods and services from companies that have views we don't agree with (banks, petrol, music etc) so games should be no different.
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