The culture wars surrounding pride month have reached the gaming world. Nickmercs is a content creator for – and co-owner of – FaZe Clan, a popular esports company. According to his profile on the FaZe Clan website, he has 4 million YouTube subscribers, 6.2 million Twitch followers, 2.5 million Instagram followers, 2 million Twitter followers, 1 million TikTok followers, 78,000 Facebook followers, and a partridge in a pear tree. His profile also lists Call of Duty as the game he’s best at, which probably had a hand in Call of Duty creating a skin of Nickmercs for Call of Duty games Modern Warfare II and Warzone. But over the last couple of days, Call of Duty players noticed that the Nickmercs skin was no longer available. After some questions came in, the official Call of Duty Twitter account tweeted this explanation:
Due to recent events, we have removed the “NICKMERCS Operator” bundle from the Modern Warfare II and Warzone store. We are focused on celebrating PRIDE with our employees and our community.
— Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) June 9, 2023
Nickmercs must have said something truly heinous for this kind of response, right?
Of course, he didn’t:
They should leave little children alone. That’s the real issue.
— FaZe Nickmercs (@NICKMERCS) June 7, 2023
Nickmercs’ crime was saying publicly that sexuality should be kept away from children in school; obviously, he must go away forever. This is pure insanity, and presumably Activision, the company that makes the Call of Duty games, was pressured by activists to remove Nickmercs’ skin. But even sidestepping the fact that nothing Nickmercs said was hateful, given recent events – like those that see Anheuser-Busch and Target losing billions of dollars over this kind of thing – is that a smart move on Activision’s part?
What’s fascinating to think about is that, while the Anheuser-Busch and Target boycotts involve different issues, the Call of Duty situation has elements of both. Like Bud Light, Call of Duty is typically enjoyed by guys who like violent games and stories. It’s a masculine game, and like Bud Light, has been accused of having a similar “fratty” culture surrounding it, one where you have to have thick skin to withstand comments that range between criticism and insults, and it wouldn’t hurt to be able to give as good as you get. Telling those guys that a popular entertainer is being kicked out because a bunch of LGBTQ-etc. activists want him gone while saying the game is all about pride this month is probably going to please them about as much as Dylan Mulvaney becoming the new face of Bud Light pleased those customers. And as for Target, the issue was not pride clothing, which has been sold for several years now without complaint (though maybe a few laughs, God forbid), but targeting that clothing at children. That’s the sort of thing Nickmercs was decrying, so Activision is effectively coming down on the other side of that issue.
As for Nickmercs, he’s responded to this twice. Once was during a Twitch stream, a clip of which is below:
Good; he shouldn’t apologize because he said nothing wrong, unless you believe that activists should be coming between parents and their children on the topic of sexuality.
He also tweeted a thank you to those who are sticking by him:
Friends are created in good times, but families are built through adversity. Appreciate all of you that have my back, understand my position as a new father & recognize the love I have for all. Ain’t no hate in this heart. P&L 🤝
— FaZe Nickmercs (@NICKMERCS) June 9, 2023
It’ll be interesting to see what happens now. Recent weeks and months (how long has that Bud Light thing been going on?) have shown that the real-world support for these causes is much smaller than these companies think. How many people started buying Bud Light or shopping at Target to support them in the face of the boycotts? Based on the numbers, few to none have. And video gaming is a smaller niche than shopping at a huge department store or drinking the most-bought beer in America, so supporters will probably be harder to come by. Is Activision going to hurt the way Anheuser Busch and Target are? Call of Duty is awfully popular, which means it may be hard to tear gamers away from it; the flip side is, if its customers do leave, it’s got a long way to fall.