Today, the court refused to reinstate President Trump’s ban on travel to the US from seven, largely Muslim countries. The executive order has become known as the ‘Muslim ban’ and of all the alarming things Trump did in his first week in office, this one worried people the most and had an immediate impact on people’s lives.
As a truly global industry, gaming will be breathing a sigh of relief today, along with many others. Ours is an industry that has no borders, in terms of the diversity of nations in a team and publishers with offices all over the world. Developers are travelling all the time to events such as E3 and GDC, but Trump’s ban had people stopped at airports around the world, from the moment it was in place.
The timing of the ban meant people with green cards who were abroad were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get back to their home, in the US. Others found their visas revoked, which could be life or death for refugees trying to get their papers in order for years. Some boarded a plane with a visa that was no longer valid by the time they landed and were either sent back or detained.
During the days of the ban, US immigration was in a state of chaos, as British citizens with Middle Eastern names were turned away at Heathrow, despite not having any connection with the banned states. Game developer, Rami Ismail, wrote an article about his concerns as a British Muslim, if the US is now closed to him and others like him. On the flip side, Muslim game developers living in the US feel like they can’t travel for work, in case they can’t return home, if the Muslim ban was suddenly reinstated .
The video games industry responded in a variety of ways. Games trade body, the Entertainment Software Association, issued a press release, which urged the President to rethink:
“While recognizing that enhancing national security and protecting our country’s citizens are critical goals, our companies rely on the skilled talent of U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, and immigrants alike. Our nation’s actions and words should support their participation in the American economy.”
Read the full statement here.
The Game Developers Conference (GDC), set to take place in San Francisco at the end of the month, is one of the biggest events on the gaming calendar. With many games professionals scared to travel, the event organisers spoke out more stridently on Twitter.
In a similar show of solidarity, Insomniac Games released a video statement. CEO, Ted Price, stands surrounded by his multicultural team to say, “we employ employ of all national origins and religious faiths…who have joined us from around the world to create unforgettable experiences”. Watch the whole thing below.
Harmonix, the studio behind Rock Band and other rhythm action games also released a statement on its Twitter account.
We encourage everyone to work together constructively to make your voices heard. pic.twitter.com/tM07yqygiL
— Harmonix (@Harmonix) February 1, 2017
The publisher behind Hotline Miami and The Talos Principle, Devolver Digital, offered support to developers who wouldn’t be able to show their games at GDC due to cancelling their travel plans, as a result of the ban.
— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) February 2, 2017
Other developers decided to take a different approach by donating the proceeds of game sales towards the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Both Cardboard Computer, the team behind the atmospheric indie game, Kentucky Route Zero and Polytron, the makers of Fez donated sales. Ink Stories is also donating revenue from its adventure title set during the Iranian revolution, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday until 10 February.
It’s heartwarming to see the industry offer public and practical support and solidarity to Muslim game developers and professionals. As part of an industry that relies on talent from all over the world, it’s difficult to imagine how we’ve come to an age when people can no longer travel freely, especially when we depend on it so much.
Within minutes of today’s ruling, Trump tweeted his intention to fight the decision. This means it could go to the Supreme Court next week, leaving many holding their breath once more.