Game Review: Shadow Complex, a very good game connected to a nasty anti-gay author, Orson Scott Card

The game itself is really a ton of fun. You play as a mostly generic reluctant hero Jason Fleming, who thinks he's out on a date hiking with his new girlfriend but ends up having to infiltrate a massive underground military complex full of helmet-wearing terrorist types who look (and act) like the latest version of Cobra from the GI Joe cartoons. The game is a 2D side scroller in the grand tradition of Castlevania and Metroid. In fact, it's pretty much exactly like Super Metroid, except that the 2D action takes place in a beautiful-looking, fully rendered 3D world. The game looks just awesome, and plays great. You'll sneak and fight your way back and forth through the Complex, gathering new and better weapons and gadgets that let you kill bad guys easier and gain entry into new areas. The shooting is fine and fun enough, but like Metroid, the real pleasure comes from solving the puzzles involved in navigating through the various rooms. Shadow Complex is an excellent platformer and at $15 is an absolute bargain. Assuming you hate gay people, you should have no second thoughts about buying it.

All right, all right, that was a cheap shot. I fully believe that Chair and the makers of this game have nothing against homosexuals, or if they do they're keeping it to themselves. This game has only the barest hint of politics in it — the Cobra-like terrorists are trying to start a new civil war by invading San Francisco, but it's unclear if their politics are left-wing, right-wing or (most likely) crazy nutball-wing. The game's writer, comic book scribe Peter David, certainly has no anti-gay agenda and there's not any suggestion of political content to Shadow Complex's not very complex story. If you didn't know about Card's public advocacy of anti-gay positions, you'd never have any association between Shadow Complex and homophobia — and most reviews and coverage of the game have steadfastly ignored this hot-button topic and focused on what is truly an excellent game.

But I don't think we should ignore the politics here. Epic Games, who own Chair, have deflected the controversy by pointing out that there are all kinds of political views represented within the game's design staff, none of which is expressed in the game. People are entitled to their views, of course they are, and as long as they're not out pressing for some agenda, their views shouldn't impact one's buying decisions. Orson Scott Card, however, is more than just a holder of views I don't like. He publicly writes and advocates for radical, anti-gay policies and engages in rhetoric that I do find absolutely horrifying. Keep in mind that Shadow Complex is a game about starting a new civil war in America and then read this quote from an article by Orson Scott Card on the subject of state-sanctioned gay marriage:

“If America becomes a place where our children are taken from us by law and forced to attend schools where they are taught that cohabitation is as good as marriage, that motherhood doesn't require a husband or father, and that homosexuality is as valid a choice as heterosexuality for their future lives, then why in the world should married people continue to accept the authority of such a government?

What these dictator-judges do not seem to understand is that their authority extends only as far as people choose to obey them.

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.”

I read that as a very clear call for armed resistance to gay rights. It's not hard to find other Card rants online about the evils of homosexuality, an antipathy that finds its roots in his Mormon faith. I for one find that kind of intolerance and prejudice to be intolerable, and the thought of any of my money going to that man makes me a little sick to my stomach.

I bought Shadow Complex knowing full well about Card and his hateful stance. I did so because I wanted to review the game on its own merits and so I would be in a position to talk about it and Card with full knowledge whereof I speak. And let me reiterate, Shadow Complex is a very good game at a great price. The question I'd like consumers to ask themselves before they buy it, though, is this: are they comfortable giving some of their money and support to an anti-gay activist who spouts ugly rhetoric like Orson Scott Card?

I don't have any reason to think 99% of the developers who programmed, designed or otherwise helped create the new X-Box Live Arcade game Shadow Complex hate gay people. I'm assuming they don't. But I do know that one man associated closely with the game is a talented writer and outspoken anti-gay advocate named Orson Scott Card, a man whose books I used to love and whose fevered anti-gay rhetoric I utterly despise. Shadow Complex is set within a fictional near-future America that is the setting for Card's novel Empire. That novel is also published in conjunction with Chair, the developers of the game. Chair previously worked with Card on the game Advent Rising and their Web site state plans for future projects based on his work. Card himself has done interviews promoting Shadow Complex. I lay all this out in advance because I want to make clear that Card is firmly connected to this game, albeit at an inspirational rather than hands-on level (as far as I can tell).

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