Hotline Miami and Dropsy developer Devolver Digital recently announced an offer to developers from countries affected by the United States travel ban to demo their games at the upcoming Game Developers Conference. Devolver announced on their website that developers and creators who are unable to showcase their games at GDC 2017 can submit their builds and demos, which the studio will showcase at their offsite location dubbed the “Devolver Underground”. Devolver is asking for submissions until February 20th, to give them time to prepare them for presentation during GDC weekend at the end of February. Co-founder Mike Wilson said in a press release about the call, “We are happy to have the opportunity to help create a bridge in some small way for some of the talented developers who will unfortunately be unable to attend this year’s GDC.”
— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) February 2, 2017
The special showing by Devolver is in response to an Executive Order that was signed into effect January 27th intended to prevent allowing entry to potential terrorists. A portion of the Executive Order restricts all travel for those with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. There’s currently no indication how many offers Devolver has received. One of the affected countries, Iran, is the primary producer of video games in the Middle East and is home to its own foundation for games. The Iran Computer and Video Games Foundation hosts its own annual gaming conference, this year in Tehran. Polygon reported that there are 18 million gamers in Iran alone or about a quarter of the population.
Iranian developer Navid Khonsari, a co-founder of the studioiNK Stories(based in New York) recently denounced the ban and said proceeds from his most recent game, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, would be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. iNK Stories said in a press release that many who were involved in the development of 1979 Revolution are Iranian and some are refugees from high-conflict zones. Khonsari praised Devolver for their showcase and for reaching out to developers from these countries:
“That’s exactly the kind of support that we need. This cannot be a message that comes from those that are directly impacted by it. This needs to be a message that comes from the entire industry, and it needs to come from white, brown, black, man, woman, gay, straight, LGBTQ. This needs to be a statement made by everyone. If it just comes from those that are at the forefront like myself, who are making content and being impacted, it’s just going to be seen as our issue. The fact is, if you play games and you want to enjoy really good games, you probably have no idea who’s working on them.
There are a diverse group of people making these games that you love so much, and if you want that game to be good, and you want them to continue to strive to be better and better, and entertain you, you need to be concerned about the impact this is having on limiting those that can be involved in making them. It’s an industry issue, and a world issue, and a social issue, this is not just a ban on seven countries. We need to look at the universal statement that this is making, and draw a line in the sand on which side we’re on. This isn’t about right or left or about Trump, this is coming together as a cohesive group about what we think is right or wrong.”
Devolver has asked that developers who are interested in having their games showcased act quickly, as time and space are very limited. The Game Developers Conference will be held in San Francisco from February 27th to March 1st. Devolver will hold their own showcase at “Devolver Underground” during that time offsite.