Just kidding. There is no violent hate speech in Shadow Complex. But there has been some minor controversy around the game, due to its affiliation with science-fiction author Orson Scott Card. I should say up front that what little I know about Card is based on hearsay. I know Ender's Game is considered a classic in some circles. I know that he wrote some or all of the Insult Swordfighting lines in The Secret of Monkey Island, a debt I will never be able to repay. And I know that an awful lot of people I respect consider him a crackpot.
Card apparently has a history of borderline insane comments about homosexuality, abortion, and the dangers of liberalism. I have not read his book Empire, which created the universe in which Shadow Complex takes place, but my understanding is that it tells the tale of a second American civil war, in which the un-American bad guys are a far-left group called the Progressive Restoration. I got that from the Wikipedia entry, and am not qualified to comment further, except to note the irony of a conservative warning about the dangers of politically motivated violence from the left, considering the past 20 years or so of American history.
Shadow Complex sidesteps most of these concerns. Yes, the bad guys are still the Progressive Restoration, and probably want to institute mandatory abortion and recycling laws, but in practice they're your usual video game foes: faceless drones whose only talent seems to be dying in dramatic ways. We hear bits and pieces about their grand plan, usually as our hero, Jason Fleming, is sneaking through vents and overhearing their conversations. The dialogue is boilerplate evildoer stuff, no more plausible than the rantings of an old-school Bond villain. Despite the creators' use of Card as a publicity tool, his involvement was minimal.
The actual plot goes something like this:
-Boy loses girl
-Boy rescues girl, but
-Boy finds true love with high-tech armor and weaponry
Which is basically the same as every other video game ever made.
The Progressive Restoration plans to nuke the gay-friendly city of San Francisco first -- an odd choice for such a left-wing group, so long as Houston, Texas still stands. But if that's the extent of Card's homophobia coming to the fore, then I think I can live with that. Every city deserves a chance to be the terrorist target in a book, movie, or video game.
The content of Shadow Complex itself may not be the main concern. The real issue, as eloquently laid out by GayGamer's Dawdle, is whether we ought to be rewarding Card with our money. It's a tough one. We should be rewarding the people who made Shadow Complex, because it is fantastic. Plenty of people worked on this game who don't share his beliefs, including the game's real writer, Peter David.
If some fraction of our dollars ends up in Card's bank account, that may be the cost of doing business. I could try to stop patronizing any business that employed people whose politics I disagreed with, but then I would have to drop out of civilization altogether, move to a cabin in the woods, and write angry but lucid tracts about industrial society and its future.*
Dawdle's solution is pretty simple: If you're against what Card stands for, but for awesome video games, consider tossing a few bucks in the till of your favorite LGBT charity when you buy the game. Not a bad idea. But I'd like to think that we can have it both ways. We can use the sweetness of Shadow Complex as an opportunity to discuss great game design, and to remind the world that Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe. It's the best of both worlds.
The progressive restoration begins now, my brothers and sisters!
*In case you thought that I thought that there was no such thing as left-wing violence.