Sony just released a free Black Lives Matter theme for the PS4. It’s a good move for multiple reasons.
Sony has released a Black Lives Matter theme for the PlayStation 4. Like the recent Last of Us theme, it’s a free download on the PlayStation Store, app and Sony’s official website. It’s a good move on PlayStation’s part, although it’s also been divisive — which says more about certain gamers than Sony or this new theme.
It’s good to see PlayStation continuing to offer support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, Sony postponed its PS5 showcase event due to protests over George Floyd’s death. The company acknowledged that it was the wrong time to hype its next-gen games. Around the same time, Sony — and many other companies — issued a statement supporting Black Lives Matter and denouncing systemic racism.
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The fact that the theme is free is also encouraging, as it allows more users to gain access to it. However, a paid theme with profits going to bail funds or other mutual aid efforts would be even more beneficial. Alternately, Sony could make the theme pay-what-you-can, which would offer users a choice. Previously, Sony has offered Pride Month themes and other cause-related downloads.
The timing behind Sony releasing its BLM PS4 theme also makes sense, given the main character of one of its biggest games of the holiday season. Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be released in November as a PS5 launch title. It’s Morales’s first headlining role in a video game, after supporting playable appearances in Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.
Miles Morales is a big step forward for representation in pop culture at large and video games in particular. As the sequel to Insomniac’s wildly popular Spider-Man, it will also be a huge seller on PS5 and PS4. Sony will profit, in some part, from Miles’ status as a popular Afro-Latinx hero. Giving players a chance to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter is a good way of honoring that, especially considering the appearance of a Miles cosplayer at protests in New York City.
The negative responses to Sony’s announcement tweet could be boiled down to two categories. One was the popular refrain that politics should never mix with gaming. The other was that Sony had alienated customers, who would now back Microsoft in the next round of console wars — although Microsoft has also been vocal about its support for BLM. Regardless, the positive response far outweighed the negative, which is good.
It’s always worth remembering that corporations aren’t your friend. Downloading a wallpaper for PS4 isn’t a substitute for activism and allyship. That said, it’s certainly good that players have the opportunity to show their support for Black Lives Matter in the same way they can display their favorite NFL team or Vocaloid.
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