One of my least favorite phrases in all of gaming is “Keep your politics out of my games.” It’s usually said as a means of telling companies to not be inclusive in their casting. To be frank, it’s a stupid thing to say. All art is inherently political, no matter how badly you want it not to be. In this one instance, however, I’m willing to join in the chorus. Keep your politics out of our games! Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order targeted at services like TikTok and WeChat. Unfortunately, the loose wording says it applies to the companies that own those apps, which in the case of WeChat, is Tencent. The problem? Tencent owns League of Legends and Valorant developer Riot Games.
Do we push the panic button?
Eh… yes and no. I would be more likely to say we’re at DEFCON 2. The vague wording of Trump’s executive order absolutely opens the door for companies like Riot to be affected. And make no mistake, American consumers being unable to purchase skins and cosmetics in League of Legends and Valorant would be crippling for Riot Games. However, LA Times tech reporter Sam Dean was able to get ahold of a White House official who confirmed that the ban was specifically targeted at WeChat.
You’ll pardon me if that doesn’t exactly assuage my fears, given the President’s tendency to change his mind. Imagine if someone in the White House lets slip that Riot runs a game that utilizes loot boxes. Would Trump then use the loose wording in his executive order to target Riot specifically? I don’t have the answer to that, which is why we sit at DEFCON 2.
So, what now?
The executive order is set to go into effect in 45 days. That makes Saturday, September 19th D-Day. The unfortunate truth is we’re probably not going to know how this affects anything until then. While I’d like to tell you that the specifics hows and whys of this playing out will be carefully outlined and detailed, that seems unlikely given the last four years. For now, the gaming industry is stuck waiting with bated breath. It’s really disappointing. I’ve spent the last year saying developers need to stop focusing on China because the government is unreliable. Now I’m facing down the possibility of the US government being equally problematic. While we’re not there yet, this has the potential to evolve into a major crisis in the gaming industry.
And that’s where my article ends. Yes, Trump signing an executive order that could potentially cripple Riot is terrifying. However, I’ve read too much irresponsible coverage saying that this has already sealed the fate of Riot and the gaming industry at large. Relax. It hasn’t happened yet. And if it does, well, there’s an election in November. Assuming COVID doesn’t evolve into the zombie plague by that point. In which case, all those years of Resident Evil might finally pay off. Told you, mom!
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