The leaked Supreme Court decision reversing the historic Roe v. Wade case has sent shockwaves through the video game industry. Several game studios, including Destiny 2 developer Bungie and Xbox Games Studios’ Double Fine, have issued statements dedicating themselves to supporting employees’ continued access to essential reproductive healthcare including abortion. Some studios, like Halo Infinite developer Certain Affinity, are in a much more challenging position but are stepping up regardless.
Certain Affinity is based in Austin, Texas. Texas passed a “heartbeat” abortion law in September 2021 that would mean denying healthcare to those pregnant for as little as six weeks, a timeframe where women often don’t even know that they’re pregnant. Additionally, Texas enforces its abortion law through a bounty system that would allow those helping individuals seek abortions to be sued for $10,000 cash judgments. In other words, Certain Affinity could face serious legal liability for even saying it will help employees with their healthcare.
That isn’t stopping Certain Affinity from dedicating itself to doing as much as it’s able to support its employees, though. In a statement released by Certain Affinity CEO Max Hoberman on Twitter, the studio head describes states like Texas as “wading into … personal health and privacy matters” appalling. As such, in a demonstration of Certain Affinity’s company values, Hoberman says the studio will begin to cover relocation costs for individuals or families to a “safer state” where Certain Affinity operates.
While Hoberman commits Certain Affinity to follow this path forward, he admits that this is a legally complex and “tricky” issue. Hoberman says that formulating specific policies related to, nonspecifically, “these matters” must be carefully navigated. Otherwise, supporting the specific healthcare needs of vulnerable employees could lead to the company being on “the wrong side of the law.” The implication is that even stating that Certain Affinity supports abortion rights specifically could make it a target for Texas or other state governments that decide to regulate abortion.
Exactly what options Certain Affinity employees have before them isn’t clear. Certain Affinity does have another location in Toronto, and Canada guarantees abortion rights, but moving to another country is no simple matter. It does also offer remote work, though that may not make sense for certain roles in the company.
Women, transgender men, and non-binary employees at Certain Affinity at least have an option before them to ensure their healthcare needs are met. It’s a complicated, life-altering step for a right that was otherwise guaranteed to them one year ago, but it’s an option. That’s something that other game studios in Texas and most across the United States haven’t dedicated themselves to, so far.