Are you committing a crime against art if you hate someone’s artwork solely because you dislike the artist as a person? Sean Vanaman, a game developer, recently received poor reviews on his game for that very reason. Firewatch, an indie game from Vanaman, is under hate after a controversial train of events over Twitter ensued involving the Youtuber PewDiePie.
Earlier this month, PewDiePie dropped the n-word followed by another negative comment in one of his videos when he was playing the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. This received immediate backlash from members of the gaming community and caught the attention of Vanaman. The game developer filed a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice against the videos where PewDiePie had been playing his game so that the Youtuber couldn’t make money off those videos. In a Daily Dot article by Michelle Jaworski, Vanaman stated, “‘I wish there was a clear way to say we don’t want our work associated with hate speech, even accidental hate speech if that’s what it was’” (Jaworski 5). However, this comment turned against Vanaman. Gamers and viewers of PewDiePie argued that Vanaman supported anti-Free Speech activism. They also commented that Youtubers rely on being able to make videos about copyrighted content and one word doesn’t make anybody racist.
Right after this happened, Vanaman reasoned that the company he works for is complicit and he was sure that they’ve made money off of PewDiePie’s videos about the game. You would think that Vanaman was disappointed that his company was involved in making money with someone who made this racist comment but that wasn’t the case. This reasoning probably got him thinking about the good that PewDiePie has done for the company and the money that he has made from all the people who decided to buy the game, because, he later regretted filing the DMCA notice. Right when many people thought Vanaman was doing the right thing, not allowing racist comments to go unnoticed, he in a sense dropped his whole argument altogether. This sparked a great deal of frustration in the gaming community because the developer just sold out the black community that he was trying to defend all because he realized that PewDiePie was making him money. All of a sudden, Vanaman became a hypocrite and is now just as in the wrong as the person he initially discredited. Because of this, some people started to negatively review his game in retaliation for the notice he placed and the way he handled the situation. At the moment, “reviews are more mixed with just 53 percent positive” (Jaworski 7). The game is at 86 percent positive overall even after these negative reviews.
This brings up the question, although Vanaman found money more important than committing to his words, is it still okay to disrespect his game or artwork specifically because of his actions, especially when it’s not his game that is displaying this message? This is comparable to the recent news about the artist, R. Kelly. He is well known for his songs, but he runs a cult where he keeps women locked up and on strict schedules, also making them please him sexually. The news recently spread that this isn’t just a recent development but has been going on for decades. Of course, he can be disrespected as a human being, but is being a bad person enough for someone to dislike his songs? Would it be considered a crime against art to hate the artist’s songs for that reason alone?