Losing a Customer, or "Misfit Studios is a Communist-Leaning Company"

Steven Trustrum Commentary

Sometimes life really is full of unusual, funny moments.

When I woke up this morning before heading out to the Day Job, I went downstairs to read my emails, as I do every morning. Unlike most mornings, however, today I found an email from a customer who had previously purchased Misfit Studios products but wanted to be sure I knew he would no longer be doing so.

As anyone in this industry will tell you, gamers are full of opinions — sometimes they will rave about your products and sometimes they want nothing better than to tear a strip off of you. While the former are always a nice thing to hear, the latter are par for the course. Sometimes we mess something up and deserve criticism and, of course, there is the fact that you simply can’t please everyone all the time. Criticism that ranges from the polite to outright threatening are a part of doing business, more so the more accessible you make yourself to the public. So, although surprised to see this email, it’s not the sort of thing that I’ve never heard of before. Figuring I should at least see what I did wrong, I sent a reply asking as much. The former customer was online at the same time, so a quick back and forth quickly followed.

Here’s a summary of what we talked about.

When asked why he would no longer be purchasing any Misfit Studios products (and I expected he would explain some grave screw up in my products considering someone must feel fairly strongly to send an email letting a publisher know about such a decision), I was surprised to find out they didn’t like how, on my personal Facebook page, I periodically criticize the American Republican party, the Tea Party, and their respective (and, in my opinion, more extremist) members and policies. It was, in his mind, “un-American.”

Well, I pointed out, I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian. Indeed, although the majority of our market is in the US, Misfit Studios is a Canadian company licensed in the province of Ontario and based in Toronto.

Why then, came the next response, do I care about American politics? Why do I post things like my recent commentary about migrant workers in Georgia and Alabama fleeing Republican implemented anti-immigrant laws that are destroying those states’ agriculture industries? “What’s my problem?”

Without getting into the details of a specific argument, I informed him that the policies being shaped in America right now, be they by the Dems or the GOP, are affecting global economies, are influencing human rights, embroiling their allies in wars overseas, and are otherwise shaping the world beyond the USA’s border.

The last response before I ended the conversation with little more than saying I’m sorry he would no longer buy from Misfit Studios and that I wished him well (because, honestly, what’s the point of arguing such a thing with an anonymous former customer via email?) can be summarized as: ‘as a Canadian, I should stay out of America’s affairs and keep my “communist-leaning” opinions to myself.’

I’m certain some people will read this and want to tell me there are dangers to a publisher making their personal opinions known. They will tell me how I deservedly lost this customer because I should have kept my mouth shut about politics and the like. Well, to such people I say the following.

It is true. I am a Canadian and not an American. I cannot vote for either the Republican or Democratic parties in the US during the upcoming (or any) election. This does not, however, mean that I have no horse in the race currently going on south of the border.

As someone who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, I have an interest in seeing the rights associated with those beliefs protected in my southern neighbour because, not being an idiot, I fully realize how such policies in America ripple outwards into the rest of the world.

As a Canadian, I live in a country that shares with America some of the strongest economic ties between two nations that exist anywhere in the world. It is thus relevant to me to not see politicians come to power in America who idiotically believe unfettered “free” markets and capitalist policies will “take care of themselves” and can effectively and safely run without regulation because if people of such opinions take control in the US that means it will have detrimental repercussions for the Canadian economy (again.)

There is also the fact that much of the air, water, and other aspects of the environment that is directly influenced in America has a secondary (if not direct) impact on the environment here in Canada. It’s not like the US and Canada have separate atmospheres to breath, different oceans to fish, or their own, distinct ozone layers. The ramifications of America’s trending away from environmental protection and the realities of global warming in favour of unfettered economic and corporate agendas are not limited to that nation’s borders.

And, ultimately, I also have lots of friends in the US I’d rather not see run roughshod over by politicians shaped by self-interested and corporate designs because they are too short sighted to realize how closely tied together the well-being of a society’s people is to the well-being of that society’s economy.

All of this means that, despite being Canadian, I will continue to point out that much of what is going on in the US regarding foreign and domestic politics and policy — ranging from the presidential race, to the wars and environmental agendas — is harmful, not just to Americans but to those nations that share this planet with the US. And although I consider the American Democratic party to also be at fault, I cannot deny that the GOP strikes me as the worst of the lot because they are the party backing homophobic morons who are ruled by their (mis)interpretation of a religious text, corporate shills who blame the poor for not pulling hard enough on their boot straps and want to set up electric fences along the Mexican border, dishonest panderers who have flip-flopped on just about every major issue in order to suit opinion poll results, and cartoon characters who think a nation can survive without an income tax, not to mention that most of them have signed on to Tea Party pledges that are destructive to America and outright antagonistic towards specific groups of its citizenry.

America is a nation where “socialism” is synonymous with “communism” because no one bothers to educate themselves on the fact that there are different types of socialism, meaning anything that falls under this extremely wide umbrella is Teh Eval. For instance, in Canada we have a social-capitalist economic model in place rather than the self-destructive, unregulated capitalist system the GOP wants to run amok in the US. To clarify the two, an unregulated capitalist system is like going out and buying the most expensive car on the market, no matter what it does to your bank account, and then never spending any money maintaining it because, hey, you’ve paid for a car in tip top shape so shouldn’t it stay like that forever without further investment? Of course, years later when the transmission finally falls out of the bottom and the pistons seize and shoot up through the hood, you are totally taken by surprise and can’t understand why your car isn’t still as good as the day you bought it. Social-capitalism is like recognizing that you can’t afford the best, most expensive car on the market so you make the best choice you can pay for, and then acknowledge that by spending more money on maintaining the car as time goes on–replacing the tires, changing the oil, taking the engine in for regular check ups–you maintain those parts that keep the car going, thus ensuring you get more and better use out of a car that, at its peak, may not ever perform as well as the most expensive car out there, but it stays on the road longer and gives you fewer problems along the way. This is a big part of why the Canadian economy weathered the global economic crisis much better than did the American economy, and yet many American right-wingers continue to point fingers north of the border at the Canadian system while muttering “commies!” under their breath (if not openly.)

Yes, I own Misfit Studios and, yes, it is a Canadian company, but ultimately I am still a person with opinions and an interest in what is going on with my fellow man, and I won’t stop expressing those opinions even if some of my customers are unable to separate a publisher from the products he brings to market. If anything, this former customer’s emails have just underscored how truly unaware of how ridiculous the situation in America is to the rest of the world. We outsiders watch what is going on and cannot decide between laughing our asses off at how insane the situation in America is becoming or to cry because we cannot help but acknowledge that what is being decided there will influence what happens in our own homelands. Regardless, the opinions I express on my Facebook page won’t be changing any time soon, nor will how Misfit Studios puts out product.