I had an interesting conversation yesterday.
My company is finishing work on a mobile sports game, and the way the art is done each player is the same body with different heads placed on top to create unique characters. It occurred to me that with very little programming time you could simply leave the player's heads out and replace the ball with a head model. Then you'd have a game where headless players where playing with a severed head.
To me this is obviously a much better idea than a normal sports game, so I jokingly suggested we include this "mode" as an easter egg. My colleagues liked the idea, but one mentioned that you need to watch out what you do with a license. He then mentioned something I'd never heard of, a case
where a designer was fired from Maxis for putting male "bimbos" in SimCopter. This is a game I haven't played, but from what I gather SimCopter was already full of female "bimbos" so there was already an element of exhibitionist sexuality in the game. This designer, who was gay, wanted equal opportunity eye-candy, so he put some men in. Maxis freaked and fired him, allegedly for "putting in unauthorized content."
This really pissed me off. I told my colleagues that this was totally different from putting in severed heads in a game. They were using it as an example of how one has to be mindful of working on someone else’s IP, that you can't just exploit it for your own agenda. I can agree with that, but as a socially conscious individual I also think it depends on the agenda. If a publisher wants a family game and you fill it with blood and guts, that's one thing. But if they have a game that is already sexual and you merely include another sexual orientation, it is a clear case of discrimination for them to fire you. The fact that this man added the content without authorization is just a convenient excuse. If he'd added, on I dunno, people of mixed races without "authorization" do you think he'd have been fired? I somehow doubt it.
When I was at GDC I asked Warren Spector a question that has been bothering me lately. "Can you be an iconoclast and a nice person in the videogame industry?" I asked. He said, "Of course. All the people I know who are innovation-minded are some of the nicest people in the industry."
I dunno if I buy this. How can you be "nice" and respect the job security of your co-workers when the "right" thing to do is to make a (dangerous) statement against what is obviously an unjust double-standard? I suppose the guy could have brought the issue up with his superiors first, but on the other hand it seems silly since, had they said 'no', it would have been a clear case of discrimination all the same.
I'm not sure what the answer to this question is.