Art vs. Artist: Kingdom Come Controversy, Explored

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Kingdom Come Racist Controversy

Getting to the bottom of GamerGate is a lot like picking a lock on the console version of Kingdom Come: Deliverance – intensely frustrating and ultimately futile.

The controversy began with a targeted harassment campaign, and then mutated and churned into something different involving people being awful to one another on the internet regarding, among many things; sexism, misogyny, game journalism ethics, racism, inter-sectionalism, death threats, free speech, and free expression, where no one bothered to listen to one another and instead just shouted loud as possible – sans nuance, turning serious issues into character limited team declarations, until we all just got too tired to care anymore.

People took sides, and now, years removed, the wounds remain open and seeping.

What GamerGate was, what it became, and what it is now, is an unrecognizable mush lost in a sea of articles, biased perspectives, and closed minds and clenched fists – how it’s perceived is based almost entirely on your political affiliation. However, generally speaking, if you were any kind of GamerGate ‘supporter’, you are considered to be on the wrong side of history.

1. A Bad Idea

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Czech Born Kingdom Come Developer, Daniel Vávra, is tangled up in that history; and now, for better or worse, his chickens are coming home to roost. Vice’s Waypoint has thus-far refused to cover / review Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Instead opting for a forum post and podcast about why they refuse to review a game created by a GamerGate supporter. Listen here.

A GamerGate supporter who refuses to put people of color in his game – in fact mocking those who suggest he should. Vávra seems emphatic in his belief there were no people of color at the time and place Kingdom Come: Deliverance is set, and to include them would be historically inaccurate, when historical accuracy is a major selling point for the game – though as Waypoint points out, there are healing potions, which aren’t particularly accurate.

There’s also the counterpoint that there were Moors, and there would have been at least *some* of them in Europe at the time. I am not a historian, and with rigid details from the time period being limited, any sort of definitive answer on the subject is hard…despite what Mr. Vávra and a team of historical experts may suggest.

There’s also this:

And this...

Anddddd all of this (Credit: Resetera Forums):

Svatá hovno! This is not a good look. It’s brash and rude and seems to fall in line with the traditional ‘outspoken conservative’ mold; which does favors for exactly no one. You’ll agree with it or hate it. No wiggle room. Depending on who you are, he’s either fighting against the thought police, or a flat-out bigot.

In a political landscape that tends to skew a very specific way regarding media and entertainment, anyone riding against the tide – right or wrong – has a long and challenging swim ahead of them. In the above cases, Vávra managed to appear racist, xenophobic, sexist, and in favor of an armed revolt against Muslims. Additionally – and perhaps a bit under-reported, Vávra has addressed many of these comments. Doing so in January…in Czech (again thanks to Resetera):

I grew up in a country dominated by a communist regime after being occupied by the National Socialists. The Nazis killed over 300,000 people alone in the territory of today’s Czech Republic. My grandfather was imprisoned in a labor camp from which he luckily escaped. After the war, the Communists confiscated my family’s home and business and repressed our freedom for another 40 years. I am not a friend of any kind of totalitarian rule and consider the accusation that I am a Nazi or close to any ideology that even remotely goes in that direction, therefore as absurd, even personally offensive and offensive. Anyone who follows me on social networks will know that I cherish the antifascist movement of our past, and the people who follow me always remember our past or honors for our ancestors who were fighting against this regime , I do this to remember the history of our country and its fight against two unjust regimes so that my fans – especially young people – will not forget them.

My point of view to GamerGate I have stated in various interviews, among others, at Kotaku. In summary, I would like to say that for me at heart it was always about the freedom of speech and the freedom of opinion and thoughts. The freedom for artists to create art, free of political influence. For me personally and I speak only for myself, should the artwork initially always be seen free of political or ideological views, unless the art clearly and aggressively communicates racism or any form of discrediting of minorities. Such messages can, do and will not be good, not only me, but our entire team.

The timing of that, about a month out from the release, does make the statement seem a little…suspect.

Regardless of how you feel toward Kingdom Come: Deliverance, it’s completely reasonable to understand why folks may find themselves offended by these comments, and why Vice Waypoint may choose to ignore the game, and Vávra, entirely.

2. Good Intentions

This brings us to Vice, Waypoint, and questions of journalistic standards, ethics, and prerogatives – which ironically, was a component of GamerGate. The question isn’t whether Vice’s Waypoint can choose not to cover a game due to a developer’s politics, but rather, should they? The notion of taking a stand like this is commendable; as a major release with oodles of content, there are guides, reviews, discussions, and deep-dives to be had regarding the game – which means lots of traffic and money, all of which Waypoint is jettisoning. That’s a bold and fundamentally principled move, and one not a lot of outlets would take.

But now, having drawn a line regarding Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the question is now how will that line be defined in the future. The visually dazzling ‘The Last Night’ is being developed by a gentleman whose made some off-color comments regarding progressiveness among other topics. Would that disqualify the game from coverage?

What my singular journalism class taught me 11 years ago was Journalists and writers are seekers of capital T Truth, no matter how messy. You tell people what they need to know, not what they’d like to hear. To bury or ignore a story because it goes against a person’s beliefs, or because it may settle with someone uncomfortably, was, according to my teacher, the price of doing business. Is Vice Waypoint concerned that Kingdom Come: Deliverance may get a good score, and then they’re in the business of ultimately endorsing a game whose lead developer they believe is a racist?

The elephant in the room is people like Vávra aren’t outliers. For better or worse his mentality and ideology isn’t isolated, in America alone there’s at least 60,000,000 people who agree with him in some way shape or form. You can’t ignore a problem away, nor can you shame the people with problematic ideas into changing their minds. Vice Waypoint, with its incredibly talented roster of writers, critics, and ponderers, would, in a perfect world, tackle this head on. A well-written article debunking the lack of POC, or even better; contemplating the nature of ‘bad people’ being capable of good things, is an article I’d love to read.

Or better yet, invite Vávra on the Waypoint podcast. Not only would it do the best numbers ever, it would be enlightening. Having a conversation like Kotaku did a few years ago when they stated they’d never refuse to cover a game based on a developer’s political beliefs could go a long way toward mutual understanding: “I was gathering my things and trying to talk to Vávra about fears he says his colleagues had last fall that their game wouldn’t get covered because he’d sided with GamerGate. (Kotaku, for what it’s worth, would never deny coverage to any video game because of its creators’ political views.)”

Perhaps more poignant is a comment below the Kotaku article: “My general take-away from this is that hey, if you actually talk to people you can learn something instead of shouting at each-other endlessly and fruitlessly across social media. People may not always agree on things and that’s fine, but Twitter/etc. just turns everything so toxic so quickly. It highlights the extremist and radical elements of any idealogical lean and blows them up to make it seem like that’s all there is.”

If only we could all be so level headed.

Perhaps Vice Co-founder Shane Smith put it best regarding his take on politics: Revolutions don’t always go the way we want them to. That, to me, was very telling. We have to make this democracy work because that’s what makes America great, and great place to emigrate … which I did. The tone we wanted to strike here was not right or left. The system broke down for a number of reasons, and it’s up to all of us — politicians, media, voters — to try and have some sanity and not go to extreme right or left solutions.