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Examining What Politicians Game Developers Support and Donate

While there’s not many Republicans, the ones that exist donate heavily

Even though some gamers might want to see politics distanced from video games, the two will inevitably be paired at the hip as politics impact all parts of life including entertainment. Regulation and current events inevitably impact not only how games are made, but also the themes found within their stories. As such, we’ve documented the political leanings of several of gaming’s biggest companies and decision makers.

As far as some marquee individuals go, former Uncharted director and writer Amy Hennig supported Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Meanwhile, John Carmack gave $2,500 to Ron Paul in 2012. Finally, Tim Schafer was a vocal supporter of Obama in 2008, as he donated $250.

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In total, Bobby Kotick has donated over $100,000 to the RNC. Photo from Flickr

Perhaps the most interesting individual is Robert Kotick, the current CEO of Activision Blizzard. Rather than constantly donating to one party in particular, Kotick has supported politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. One of his earliest contributions was $250 to the Republican National Committee in 1996, yet less than six years later he gave $10,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He's given thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years, although he has primarily skewed Republican since 2004. In total, he has donated over $100,000 to the RNC. As far as individual politicians go, the late John McCain was the most frequently supported as Kotick has given over $20,000 to McCain since 2007.

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While it's not much of a surprise if you follow him on Twitter, Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski is a staunch supporter of the Democrats. He's been consistently donating to the party since 2016, and gave nearly $30,000 to the DNC. He also supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. He might make violent entertainment, but that doesn’t mean he can’t support gun reform in real life.

The most high profile right-wing supporter is Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. He gave $86,100 to the National Republican Congressional Committee since 2017. In total, he's spent over $100,000 in his own money supporting Republican candidates and gave to several Republican supporting PACs including Atlas, Give Me Liberty, Reinventing a New Direction, and Great America Committee. This is all in addition to his funding of a pro-Trump meme page that caused a scandal in 2016.

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Obsidian Entertainment skews largely left, as Bernie Sanders and other Democrats received small donations during the 2015 election. The same can be said for Bethesda Game Studios and XCOM developer Firaxis Games, as they all leaned left except for one of their UI programmers who donated to Gary Johnson. Bernie Sanders was also quite popular at Epic Games as he received over $3,000 in donations in 2016. Similarly, Valve leaned heavily left as many in the company including founder Gabe Newell gave to Democratic candidates. Interestingly, Newell prefers to support politics on a local level as he's given money to Washington candidates rather than presidential campaigns.

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Rockstar Games is another developer which heavily leans towards Democrats. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders received donations within the company. Of note, President Sam Houser, who donated several times to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, did not contribute to anyone in 2016. Electronic Arts is another company that follows the status quo. However, former EA CEO and current chairman Larry Probst has given to politicians on both sides. He supported Republican Lamar Smith, and Democrats Howard Berman, Adam Schiff, and Anna Eshoo in 2004. He also is a Hillary Clinton supporter, as he gave $1,000 to her in 2005.

Ubisoft tends to lean left as well. Thus, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton received multiple donations from several Ubisoft employees in 2016, $1,200 and $6,000 respectively. The same goes for Barack Obama, who received $2,800 back in 2008.

Rockstar's parent company Take-Two Interactive is more divided than most. Several republican candidates including Rand Paul and Donald Trump received small donations. Mitt Romney also received $650 from Take-Two's Ian Schmidt in 2012, who also gave over $6,000 to the Republican party during his previous stint at Electronic Arts. However, the biggest support went to Democratic candidates as Take-Two lawyer Gena Feist has consistently given thousands to Democrats, as did former CEO Ben Feder.

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As far as PACs go, it made sense that the Entertainment Software Association (which runs E3 each year) consistently came up as a donation. Some of the largest donations came from within Epic Games as Paul Meegan gave $7,500 to the organization since 2016. Ubisoft executive Laurent Detoc has given $135,000, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer did the same. Executives from EA, Activision Blizzard, and Zenimax also gave thousands individually to the ESA.

Overall, the gaming industry (much like the greater tech world) heavily leans left in their political beliefs. However, Republican support isn’t unheard of and those that are on the right tend to donate more to their causes as both Bobby Kotick and Palmer Luckey donated more than any of the Democrats we found.

Tyler Treese November 3, 2018