So by now most will know about the Forthog Orc-Slayer controversy in Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
The nutshell is this; Exectutive Producer on the game, Michael Forgey, was diagnosed a couple of years ago with an aggressive form of brain cancer called a Glioblastoma. It accounts for 45% of all brain tumour fatalities, and is very nasty and hard to treat – and sadly, a year ago, Michael Forgey died from this disgracefully cruel disease. And so, to immortalise their friend, colleague and mentor – and to raise some money for the family and kids he left behind – the team at Monolith came up with the idea of Forthog Orc-Slayer, a Mysterious Stranger type which would cost a reasonable $5 as a DLC option – with $3.50 going to his family directly.
Now, if that was it – if that’s all there was to this story – I’d actually be the first to say this was a pretty damned awesome idea. Make your friend and colleague a bad-ass orc slaying beast in what is despite all the fuss going to be this holidays biggest selling video game (prove me wrong, games market. Prove. Me. Wrong.) – and put some money into the pot for his family, and particularly his three kids (College is expensive, after all…). Brilliant. Noble. Inspired. Ten out of ten idea. Unquestionably beautiful.
… and then WB Interactive come in to prove what a pile of gibbering douche-nozzles they are.
Though the video game press certainly didn’t help here – WB Interactive made it clear in the video by stating ALL sales through to December 2019, so a full years worth of sales (actually more since they opened up pre-orders FOR A SMALL MICRO-DLC but I’ll overlook that for the moment), would contribute to the pot for Mr. Forgey’s family. Except… no-one bothered to look at the small print or ask questions, taking WB Interactive’s marketing spiel at entirely face value. The reality is, six US states will -not- be contributing a cent to the port, as they are exempted regions from this. As for outside the US? NONE of the sales of this Micro-DLC will contribute to Forgey’s family. Nothing. Not a penny. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Bupkiss.
Whilst I understand that tax codes vary from country to country and charitable contributions can be a nightmare to navigate as a result due to so many different kinds of red tape, surely WB Interactive could have turned this into a more solid PR Win. Maybe by saying it would match the donations – particularly from outside the US, where admittedly they’d effectively be profiteering off a tribute to someone who died from that thing called cancer. Or perhaps it could have said it would donate to DefeatGBM – a charitable research foundation trying to find ways to treat Glioblastoma multiforme (the link is directly to their website if you fancy donating anything). Or any number of cancer charities, or foundations or nursing institutions that specialise in respite and hospice care for those dying of cancer. There are so many, and unquestionably they all deserve more funding for what they do – particularly the nurses, because these people are as close as this twisted world will get to angels. I can only admire and respect those who selflessly devote their lives to caring for those dying of cancer.
But no, nothing. Nothing like that. WB Interactive just stuck with this idea that 44 US States will give some money through this to Forgey’s family and the rest – from the exempted US states and the outside US sales – just goes straight into their bank. Seriously, WB Interactive, we need to ask this because EA and ActiVision never returned our calls on this so maybe you can elucidate us on the particulars of this issue… ahem. How the hell do you still screw up what should be the easiest PR win in the known universe?
Look, the gaming press – many of which still haven’t corrected their stories because it sounds so much nicer without the detail (of course it does, that’s the point…) – certainly shot themselves in the foot. When it comes to games news, the specialist gaming press is still – three years on – walking on eggshells after the cluster of fruit and nut bars that comprised GamerGate. And any attempt to not do the job gamers think they should be doing – or you know, reading the small print in the video – results in a flaring up of tensions. And I don’t always agree on this, and I think WB Interactive may be hoping this would end up deflecting from their insidious business ethics. Which is just even more disgraceful and should make us actively hate WB Interactive even more. Really gunning for that worst company in America title this year, WB Interactive?
But even then, the specialist press have a lot to worry about without having to also worry that WB Interactive are playing them against gamers, or that WB Interactive are being duplicitous or dishonest in their language and wording. Sure, they regurgitate a press release and yes, it still is amazing people actually get paid for that. However, the specialist press shouldn’t have to worry that a big multi-national company might be pitting them against their audience in order to hide what look and feel like unethical monetary gains. They really shouldn’t need to be afraid of a big company like that. They shouldn’t need to fear that every time WB Interactive try to spin some nice PR, that it’s coming at the expense of their credibility.
So yeah, this is… unpleasant, because I love the idea. Forthog Orc-Slayer looks awesome, there’s no question of that, and may Michael Forgey go to the Undying Lands. It’s a lovely tribute, a sound idea and should be an absolute no-brainer (and heck, even at the price, you know that WB will make some money from it and that’s okay too! This is more a crowdfunding drive for a family in mourning than actual charity but still… I’m all for that!). Heck, if it was successful and remained absolutely pure – which it should have – what you end up with is an entirely new character in the universe that gamers can get behind. You know, spin-off titles. Promotional materials. Novels and comic books. THINGS YOU CAN DO LONG-TERM TO ACTUALLY PROFIT FROM THIS WITHOUT TAKING AWAY FROM THE INITIAL GOOD IDEA?!
… all of that, being squandered, because WB Interactive are being dicks. And the people I feel worst for right now? Monolith, who are seeing their tribute to their friend and colleague, their devotional belief in remembering him by placing his likeness in a project he devoted the last years of his life to, their desire to help his family through this, all being savaged on the Internet by people who are furious that this is being done so… well… badly. And make no mistake, WB Interactive is handling this really badly.
If you want to directly donate to the family, I think their YouGiving page still tallies for that. If it doesn’t, I will look to edit this bit and provide you with other means of giving to the family. Because they, too, are being treated badly by WB Interactive. The memory of a father and husband is being dragged through the mud here. And that cannot be nice to watch. That must hurt, doubly or quadruply so.
But WB Interactive has been handling the PR for Middle Earth: Shadow of War terribly from the outset. Loot boxes, season passes and a host of other niggles and stupid comments like suggesting people think single-player story is boring and they might want to pay to skip it (?!) has taken what should have been the easiest sell after the last Middle Earth game and starting making gamers despise the very fabric of this games existence, and hating anyone who is even tangentially involved in it.
Still, to take a noble gesture like this and ruin even that is a truly special level of stupid, and I use the word “special” as an insult there. No insult to anyone else.
I wish a hearty godspeed to Michael Forgey, my condolences to his family and also to Monolith who worked with the man for so long.
As for you WB Interactive? What’s the largest wall you have?
I’d very much like to send you a big picture of me flipping the bird. I just need to know how large that picture needs to be.