Thoughts: Microsoft Buying Activision

It has been a while since I have done a post like this. This is just my personal opinion on a situation and nothing more. I am not arguing for or against it or wanting to pick a fight with people with varying opinions, although if you want to comment and discuss, please do; just know I don’t want to fight with you.

I see the good and bad in this. As a creative, I think the slow build towards monopolies is always a bad thing. I believe with the movie industry that Disney’s slow take over of the studio system has been bad for movies and will continue to be so. It is not that I don’t like Disney or what they produce, the opposite, in fact. It’s that the less competition you have, the less room you have for creativity, experimentation, and a multitude of voices. I think in any and all creative industries, it is always bad when profits become the number one priority in all cases and when you start to shrink things down. I would also point out the fact that we have lost a lot of publishing companies and books. The number of producers and music. So I can’t say that I am thrilled that Microsoft is buying up so many developers. Even as a mostly Xbox fan who has seen the benefits of this, there is always a cost; and as someone who considers myself a creative, that cost is usually creativity, and that is never good.

However, I can’t say that I am sorry that a company that has managed to dodge any ramifications for their clear practice of abuse is going to see massive changes. Someone on a news show I watch lamented that this would slow unionization efforts, something I am sympathetic to but find to be a pipedream as long as Activision is what it is. The company wrote new rules of conduct, making sure to specify that their abusive CEO was not required to follow them… A company like that was never unionizing.

If Microsoft sticks with a lot of their talk and post-transition implements new policies that make the working environment better for the employees, that is ultimately a good thing. The accusations and stories coming out of Activision were some of the worst in an industry that is plagued with problems as far as the mistreatment of workers.

Is it the best outcome? No, again, I don’t like the slow take over of developers by the big system producers, but if it means workers are more protected, then… I can’t pretend that is not a good thing.

As far as unionization, I think anyone that knows me knows I tend to be pro-strong unions. However, I believe that game developers would be better served with a union like SAG rather than individual developers having unions. If you have each company unionize or dodge, you are going to end up with a mish-mash of responses. One that I fear is a handful of development teams with a strong union and everybody else being just as mistreated, if not more so, in every other company. A SAG-like union puts standards on all developers. It is obviously not perfect, but I think it is the better outcome.

Either way, that is part of a much larger whole.

The merger itself – as long as Microsoft actually walks the walk and makes Activision a better company for developers to work for, I will celebrate that. I do think we as consumers need to take more care and be more concerned about how limited all of our entertainment is becoming though and put efforts to fight that. Support indie content, demand more variety, and stop becoming so obsessed with defending major corporations who don’t care about art and just about a buck – I think you know if you are part of some of the fandoms I am talking about –

By the way, the last part doesn’t mean stop enjoying big entertainment. Just maybe consider how you watch it and what other forms you do or don’t support at the same time. Maybe skip one of the big blockbuster movies that come out during its opening weekend and instead spend that time watching an indie movie?

Anyway, sorry to ramble. There is good and bad news in this, but mostly I just hope the developers are treated better, and we can keep working towards an industry standard of better treatment for them. I hope, as gamers, we keep awake about companies with terrible practices and use our voices and wallets to do what we can to say, “this is not okay.”

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