EA Tells Devs It Won’t Take Stand On Abortion Rights, Encourages ‘Healing Circles’

EA Tells Devs It Won’t Take Stand On Abortion Rights, Encourages ‘Healing Circles’
Photo: EA / Kotaku / Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

Electronic Arts won’t be joining some other big game studios in publicly supporting abortion and transgender rights, Kotaku has learned. Asked about it during a May 24 company-wide town hall meeting, the gaming publisher told staff it couldn’t take a stance on every public issue and that “being an inclusive company means being inclusive of all those points of view.”

The remarks came during a meeting with company leadership to discuss topics like EA’s upcoming games, corporate strategy, pay raises, and other issues on employees’ minds. Following the news that the Supreme Court is reportedly preparing to overturn landmark 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade, one of the topics was abortion rights. Another is trans rights, with Texas recently ordering gender-affirming healthcare for minors to be investigated as “child abuse.”

According to one source familiar with EA’s town hall yesterday, many employees called on the company to make public statements in defence of both abortion and trans rights. Chief People Officer Mala Singh responded that the company only speaks out when it will “actually have a positive impact” and it is a “consistent perspective” among all 13,000 employees around the world, based on a transcript of the meeting verified by Kotaku.

“The thing about the world today is there is a lot of division, we know this right, we see it every single day, but the thing that unites us is that we’re all here to make amazing games and experiences for our players, and that is how we have the most positive impact on the world,” Singh said. “These things are hard and they’re personal and we all have our own perspectives and sometimes we won’t speak, and that will be upsetting and I understand that, we really do.”

In recent weeks, Destiny 2 maker Bungie and Halo Infinity co-developers Certain Affinity made statements condemning attacks on reproductive health. But other companies have been much more cautious to weigh in.

In a bizarre May 12 email first reported by Bloomberg, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan mixed anecdotes about cats with calls for staff to respect “differences of opinion” on the issue. A few days later, The Washington Post reported that Sony would match a $US50,000 ($69,410) donation by Spider-Man studio Insomniac Games to the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP), but required Insomniac and its staff to keep silent about it. Kotaku understands that some EA employees feel similarly frustrated and hemmed in by the company’s silence.

Once source of dissonance for a number of developers throughout the games industry is its response to the Black Lives Matters protests following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. Dozens of studios and publishers, including EA, put out statements saying they supported the movement and calling for an end to systemic racism. EA in particular donated $US1 ($1.41) million to racial justice organisations.

Some staffers feel that EA supports diversity and inclusivity when it’s good PR, but is unwilling to take a stand when the stakes are more controversial. However, the publisher did join Gearbox Entertainment and others in sponsoring a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News denouncing Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “anti-LGBTQ+ efforts” in the state. It doesn’t appear that EA ever publicized the ad on its social media, however. A week later it did tweet a statement calling for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the ongoing wave of enraging headlines isn’t letting up, as the U.S. passes its milestone of 1 million covid deaths and sees one mass-shooting hate crime in Buffalo, NY followed by a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — the deadliest since Sandy Hook in 2012.

In lieu of public statements, Singh instead encouraged developers to make use of one EA benefit: “healing circles.”

“I know these have been tough issues, whether it’s the shootings that happened recently in the U.S., the Roe v Wade issues, these are hard,” Singh said. “And so, one of the other things you’re going to see is we’re going to be making some more healing circles available through modern health.”

It’s not clear what exactly the healing circles are, or how they work, but Singh called on staff to “join and process” the events going on with each other and praised the strength of the community within EA.

“But please know that every single time one of these things comes up we really put a great amount of care and thought into it, and consider multiple perspectives and then decide what’s in the best interest of EA and the various communities of stakeholders we have, including our people, our players, our fans and stakeholders, [and] our shareholders.”

Comments

  • Why take a stand when you can stick your head in the sand chanting ‘thoughts and prayers’. Though, I guess that is the US on virtual every subject.

    • Naww… *Pat pat*

      It must really suck watching a company decide that it’s better to show compassion and understanding to all types of people, and allow a place for them…

      Tell me again when the side the opts for othering, demonising and silencing was on the right side of history?

      • Bahaha… and I bet you are one of those people who thinks HR is there to look after employees?!!! You seriously think this has anything to do with valuing their staff, its more likely to do with fear of a backlash from their stakeholders.

        Imposing religious values via the political mechanism of the Supreme Court, on a secular matter in 2022, is hardly the right side of history, a bunch of despite people holding on to a past that is long gone. Am I ashamed of demonising them, nope, I just happen to believe that separation of church and state SHOULD exist for a reason, and women SHOULD 100% be responsible for everything ethical decision to do with their body. But by all means defend EA, a company that has prove for decades it has no interest in ethics.

        • Oh, I know HR doesn’t look after employees.

          “…fear of backlash from their stakeholders”. Very true… Instead of alienating them, they’ve said “everyone is welcome to the table”. Sucks hey.

          The rest of the drivel… blah blah blah. Long winded way of saying you’re pro-abortion, pro eugenics and racist. Separation of Church and State, especially with respect of the US does not mean what you think it means… but considering Americans don’t even get that, I’ll forgive you.

          Cool story bro. Your right, a woman “should be 100% responsible for everything (sic) ethical decision to do with her body,” as long as it doesn’t impact upon another human being… oops. Now if you want to discuss health reasons, then for sure, I’m with ya. But convenience… yeah, nah.

          I’m not “defending” EA, I’m more having a laugh at you. Don’t confuse the two.

          I hope you continue your boycott of them then, how dare they and all that jazz.

          • “pro eugenics”

            Even for you that is a stretch of logic or reading comprehension.

            “I’m more having a laugh at you. Don’t confuse the two.”Thats okay because I am doing the same to you… pro eugenics?!!! Anyways, thanks for the laugh.

          • Yeah. “Pro eugenics”.

            Have a look at abortion rates of fetuses with prenatal diagnoses of Down Syndrome.

            Scientists are currently working in a pre-natal diagnosis for Autism… What do you think is going to happen once they work that out?

            Pretty certain aborting a fetus because it may may be neuro-divergent is as eugenics based as you can get.

            Interesting that you took offence to being called “pro-eugenics”, yet not racist. At least you own it 😉

    • Blackmailing a company into taking a stance means that stance is not honest. They will only take that stance for purely PR reasons. They don’t believe in the stance, they just want to placate you so you’ll give them money.

      • I want companies to freely choose to take a stance, not be blackmailed into it by activists threatening to harm the company unless they adopt X position.

  • I heard that publicly listed companies MUST make ALL decisions to maximise profits. So I guess they weighed up their options and decided this was the most profitable?

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