Happy 2014! I wish you all a great new year. As 2013 ended, the “politically correct police” were out in force in the U.S. Last year, the concept of political correctness reached the point where criticisms of individuals, groups or ideas by opposing individuals and groups often resulted in accusations of being racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist, anti-Muslim, violent gun lovers or multiple other destructive tags. You could almost pick any one to fill in the blanks.
It was also the year of the alleged offender’s apology. Some were sincere and others clearly done to remain employed. Demands for resignations and firings abounded. Some happened…some didn’t.
Isn’t is possible that there are times when you just don’t agree with someone and you’re not anti-anything? For me, intent should determine the consequences. Personal attacks against one specific individual differ from a vague reference. Also, how frequently does the alleged perpetrator insult people? Is it continuous or just one stupid comment? These people don’t consider their words before speaking, a glaring error since public figures should always curb their language.
This goes beyond social niceties, which sadly seem to be in short supply, in a civil society. It matters to the business community because these controversies may impact company revenues and investments.
The most recent high-profile example that consumed the media was the “Duck Dynasty” controversy. The reality show, which follows a Louisiana family named Robertson, is cable television’s most popular program with millions of followers. The Robertsons got rich from selling duck hunting products.
Phil, the patriarch, is extremely religious. Many found his off-camera interview comments that he attributed to the Bible, as both anti-gay and racially charged. The pro-gay advocates and many media types protested.
The show’s network reacted by denouncing Phil and publicizing plans to suspend him indefinitely. They then ran a multi-episode marathon, with him in every one, that same week. One family-style restaurant chain, operating in 42 states, reported their intention to remove Phil’s promotional items from the shelves.
The enormous public backlash motivated the network and restaurant chain to cancel their plans and reinstate Phil and his products. They cited their sensitivity to customers, but in truth, money talked. Both corporations recognized the downside of angering their loyal patrons and viewers to placate groups who would not be their customers.
Considering that popular trends are the foundation of many current and future gaming and coin-op amusement machines, what happens when that theme becomes controversial? Does public discourse impact the game‘s earnings and affect the gaming floor and equipment operators?
Free speech and content are always subject to individual interpretation. Although the federal and/or state/local governments often regulate and license machine operations, can they also regulate their content? Or, in a free-market society, does a company succeed or fail because of customers’ reactions and their business decisions? These are tough questions to answer.
While attending the recent theme parks show in Orlando, the new Duck Dynasty version of the Big Buck HD videogame drew attention. Selling everywhere, I then wondered if distributors confronted any operator blowback. One source, a multi-state distributor executive, reports no reaction at all. It’s business as usual.
I hope that continues because we always have enough to prove to the public without also defending the machines and gaming in general. We must remain ever vigilant.
Throughout the years, the gaming and amusement industries have battled negative public perception. High-profile people and companies often have their own agendas, so it remains vital that we expect judgment for our own performance instead of capitulating to their version of us.  
It’s enough that Hollywood’s politically correct class excuses their own hypocrisy. Whether screaming for tighter gun control, or threatening suspensions/firings for outspoken media and entertainment personalities, Hollywood continues producing shows and earning billions from both. If it makes money, just watch them adjust their criticism and moral high ground. If it is a “principled” position, they need to stick to them.
New to gaming, Geoff Freeman, AGA CEO/President, laments past complacencies and aims to focus on advocacy with several newly-hired team members. He fears the industry has subtly permitted its own victimization from events and unfair, targeted policies from outside groups and governmental agencies.
Geoff is right…we benefit the communities we serve. It is time to reject allowing our collective destinies to be ruled or affected by the reactions of an outspoken few who have a platform to scream the loudest.
Look for my full discussion with Geoff in the February issue.