If you look at the upcoming release calendar on Steam, there are no fewer than five games that have the words COVID, coronavirus, or pandemic in their title. This is just in the next ten days. Is this an oddball coincidence? Certainly not.
However, the question is whether these small studios – many of which I have never heard of – are trying to make a quick buck or if there is a genuine interest in exploring a timely topic. If it’s the former, that is absolutely gross and a reflection of an increasingly sick culture. If it’s the latter, that’s fine, but it should be done in a way that is respectful.
As someone who has tremendous respect for the hard work of most indie developers, bad actors deserve to be called out. Rushing products to market is bad enough. Doing so to capitalize on a pandemic is even worse.
The problem, of course, is determining motivation. Frankly, that’s not something that I am equipped to do on a case-by-case basis. Readers are capable of deciding on their own. But I think it is safe to say that with this many games related to the pandemic being pumped out in such a short period of time, at least some of them are profiteering off of mass death.
To be sure, we here at Game Freaks 365 support creative expression. I, myself, am a published author. Writing fiction requires creative freedom. Likewise, indie games deserve that same creative freedom. But that freedom also demands reflection and accountability.
So here’s a rule of thumb: if you are looking to release a game (or a movie, book, etc.) based on or at least tangentially connected to a recent tragedy (or in this case, an ongoing one), think twice. It’s probably distasteful. And it’s possibly repugnant.