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“Creatives, not marketing departments,” should make games political, Tim Sweeney says

Tim Sweeney says that game companies should avoid politics. That might seem like an odd stance for the chief of Epic Games to take. After all, the company published Gears of War – a story about militaristic factions destroying the world in a war for an oil-like resource – in 2006 amid criticism of the US’s involvement in the Middle East, and is more recently behind Fortnite – a game wildly popular among children which features numerous realistic firearms.

Sweeney’s comments during his keynote at this year’s DICE Summit sounded like a usual attempt from a gaming executive to distance the company from the political messages its games obviously convey (as Ubisoft has repeatedly done), but in clarifying comments on Twitter, he says that’s not exactly the case.

“If a game tackles politics, as To Kill a Mockingbird did as a novel,” Sweeney says, “it should come from the heart of creatives and not from marketing departments seeking to capitalize on division. And when a company operates an ecosystem where users and creators can express themselves, they should be a neutral moderator. Else the potential for undue influence from within or without is far too high.”

That nuance wasn’t exactly clear during the DICE keynote, as the response to Sweeney’s original comments has shown. “The world is really screwed up right now,” Sweeney said at the keynote (via IGN). “Right now our political orientations determine which fast-food chicken restaurant you go to. And that’s really dumb. There’s no reason to drag divisive topics like that into gaming at all.”

Sweeney says on Twitter that “I just don’t feel it’s appropriate for one person, like a company CEO, to draw their company and its employees into their personal politics outside of the company’s mission.”

Sweeney also referenced “controversy around political censorship” during the keynote, likely referring to Blizzard’s Blitzchung ban, and suggested that companies could avoid such incidents if they “divorce themselves from politics.” In the wake of the Blitzchung incident, Sweeney affirmed that “Epic supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights.”

It’s unclear how, exactly, that’s a non-political position to take.

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