Devolver Digital said it will represent game studios that can't attend the next Game Developers Conference because of the U.S. immigration ban.
The company is known for publishing not-quite-indie titles like Enter the Gungeon, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and many others. Now it's offered to set up gaming PCs and HTC Vive headsets to show off games from devs affected by the President's ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The games still won't be shown at GDC proper--Devolver set up its own "Devolver Underground" nearby.
"Our team strongly believes that games are art and art is above politics," Devolver's Nigel Lowrie told Tom's Hardware. "Devolver strides to bring wonderful little games to a larger audience and [this effort] is simply an extension of that belief."
Rami Ismali, a co-founder of the Vlambeer game studio behind Nuclear Throne and other well-regarded games, shared his experience as a Muslim game developer in the Guardian:
As one of the few visible Muslims in the games industry, I frequently talk about my experiences on the road with fellow Muslim developers who are flying to the US for the first time. In the wake of the executive order, many that spent years of their savings on the trip to San Francisco have learned that they won’t be allowed into the country any more. Even if they’d be allowed into the US, many are afraid of anti-Muslim sentiment from a population that can elect a president like Donald Trump, especially in the country with the highest homicide rate with guns in the Western world.Many other Muslim game developers that live in the US – or even non-Muslims who only hold dual citizenship with a majority-Muslim country they’ve rarely if ever visited – are now stuck in the United States with no way to visit family or friends abroad. With many highly talented engineers coming from Middle Eastern countries, this not only limits the available talent pool, but also effectively prohibits travel for many workers in the US games industry.
Lowrie said it's too early to tell how the ban will effect gaming in the long term, "but we know for sure that some people can't come to GDC because of the ban and wanted to help where we can with some small gesture of support," he said. "If the ban continues, instances like these will become more common and in some sense limit what voices we have in the video game community's conversations."
The immigration ban has also been felt in the larger tech industry.
GDC 2017 will take place in San Francisco's Moscone Center from February 27 to March 3; Devolver Underground will be open January 27 to March 1. Devolver Digital said on its website that "submissions and inquiries should be sent ASAP as space is limited" and that "due to the limited space, preference will be given to those developers that were set to travel to GDC and were forced to cancel their plans due to the immigration ban."
Here's Lowrie on Devolver's plan between now and GDC 2017:
Once we know what games will be presented at our space we will update gdc.devolverdigital.com to highlight those and invite everyone that can make it to come by and check them out. For those that can't attend, we will have information and links to more about those games - just want to put the spotlight on developers and games that had it taken away from them unfairly.