Destiny And Spider-Man Studios Respond To Court Overturning Roe
On Friday the U.S. Supreme Court made good on a longstanding right-wing threat to overturn Roe v. Wade, and with it eradicate the constitutional right to abortion that had existed for nearly 50 years. Now some of gaming’s most well known studios, which had previously been silent, are speaking up about the issue, with at least one, Destiny 2 maker Bungie, directly condemning the Supreme Court’s ruling.
In a historic 6-3 decision—with the majority opinion authored by numerous Republican Justices who had previously stated under oath that Roe was settled law—the Court stripped away fundamental protections for abortion, bodily autonomy, and personal privacy, rejecting many of the legal arguments on which those protections had previously been based. States now have a green light to legislate abortion bans, and in places where so-called “trigger laws” were in effect, like Texas, these bans are already set to go into effect.
“The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade cuts off millions of Americans from that access and leaves open the possibility of even further restrictions on life-saving healthcare for all of us,” Bungie wrote in an update to an earlier blog post on the subject. “We remain undeterred in our commitment to stand up for reproductive choice and liberty.”
As a result of the ruling, the studio said it will now implement a travel reimbursement program to help employees access any reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare they require, even if such care is criminalized in the employee’s home state. While Bungie is based in Washington, where exist some state-level protections for abortion, the studio’s new remote-work policy means that’s not the case for all of its developers.
While the Destiny 2 maker has continually been outspoken on political issues, other studios are making their positions public for the first time, and some are committing to providing material support to employees. Both are things that more and more American workers are asking employers about as the country’s political institutions fail to meet the moment or remain captured by minority rule.
“We are human beings who make games,” Insomniac Games tweeted. “Reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are human rights.” The Sony-owned studio behind upcoming Spider-Man and Wolverine games, Insomniac had previously planned a $50,000 donation to the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP), which its parent company would match.
That was following an email from Sony Interactive Entertainment head Jim Ryan calling on employees to “respect differences of opinion” on abortion back when a draft opinion of the Court’s decision had first leaked. According to The Washington Post, Sony had also required that Insomniac remain silent about its donation to the WRRAP.
Now the dam of silence seems to be breaking. Fellow PlayStation studios Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica, Sony San Diego, Sony Bend, Sucker Punch, and Guerrilla Games have started weighing in today. “We will continue to uphold those values and actively support all our employees in receiving the care they need and want,” tweeted Naughty Dog. “Reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are human rights,” Guerrilla tweeted. While the Horizon Forbidden West studio is based in the Netherlands, its former boss and co-founder, Herman Hulst, is now the head of PlayStation Worldwide Studios.
But unlike Microsoft, which previously said it would also reimburse employees for expenses associated with seeking out-of-state medical care, Sony hasn’t yet confirmed if it is taking any similar steps. Its recently acquired studio Bluepoint Games is located in Texas, where a trigger law means abortion will now become illegal in 30 days. Sony did not respond to a request for comment.
Electronic Arts is another company that has waffled on the issue, previously steering away from promoting public statements regarding attacks on transgender rights and abortion access. It wasn’t until employee backlash and reported threats of possible walkouts that the company put out a blog post stating clear support, stating. “As a company, we are united that Trans Rights are Human Rights. Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”
While the publisher behind FIFA, Madden, and Apex Legends said it was working on a benefit plan to directly address employee needs to seek out-of-state care, it hasn’t yet shared further details on the status of that initiative. Ubisoft also recently came out in support of trans and reproductive rights, but is also still reviewing its benefit plans to see what financial support it will offer to employees.
EA Austin, where BioWare Austin and other EA employees work, is one of the many game studios located in the trigger-law state. EA did not respond to a request for comment. Texas is also home to Gearbox Entertainment and Devolver Digital. Neither company immediately responded to a request for comment. Nintendo-owned Retro Studios is located there as well. The Switch manufacturer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, either.
Certain Affinity, an Austin-based studio currently providing development support for Halo Infinite, is one of the few that has outlined a policy moving forward. “We will cover the pre-approved, documented, reasonable out-of-pocket costs of your relocation to another, safer state or province that we operate in.” CEO Max Hoberman announced back in May. Certain Affinity reiterated that commitment today.
Update, 6/24/2022, 5:18 p.m. ET: More and more gaming companies have begun putting out statements in response to today’s news.
“We believe the ability to make choices about one’s body and lifestyle is a human right,” Bethesda tweeted.
A spokesperson for the Starfield studio’s parent company, Microsoft, provided the following statement:
Microsoft will continue to do everything we can under the law to support our employees and their enrolled dependents in accessing critical healthcare—which already includes services like abortion and gender-affirming care—regardless of where they live across the U.S. This support has been extended to include travel expense assistance for these and other lawful medical services where access to care is limited in availability in an employee’s home geographic region.
The company declined to clarify what it meant by “lawful” considering that many states, including Texas where its Id Software, Bethesda Austin, and Arkane Austin studios are all located, could try to prosecute residents even for seeking an abortion across state lines. It also did not confirm if reimbursement would be available to all Xbox game studios employees, some of whose benefits packages differ because of the limited nature of their post-acquisition integration into Microsoft.
Companies from across the rest of the gaming industry, including Niantic, Innersloth, and others, weighed in with the following statements: