2018 is drawing to a close pretty soon, witch makes it a good time to look back at the year and examine what has occurred in the world of gaming. We do this partially so that we can learn about our favourite industry, and partially because it is only by realising the mistakes we made can we hope to learn from them. There were a lot.
Looting, Looting, Looting
Loot boxes where an interesting fixture of the earlier part of this year. At the end of 2017 Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War both release with loot boxes as part of the core gameplay. As it turned out this had pushed monetization too far.
By not very late into 2018 the Belgium gaming commission had decried the practise of loot boxes as gambling aimed at children. Following their report and recommendations of prosecution or fines for several game companies both EA and Warner Bros Interactive removed the loot boxes from their games.
No matter how you feel about the games themselves it is at least apparent that the practises that some companies employ to monetize their games need to be more closely examined. The truth of the matter is that both companies who were majorly involved with the loot box scandal are multi-million dollar companies. It’s hard to see loot boxes as anything other than corporate greed.
There are two real reasons why Loot Boxes as a practise need to be gone. Firstly because it is a consumer unfriendly practise which preys on the young and vulnerable to make as much money as possible. It seems obvious that this sort of thing cannot be allowed to continue in an established industry which claims to be legitimate.
The second reason is that this sort of behaviour from some of our industries biggest companies is just going to lead to an over-zealous regulator cracking down on the industry. While that will probably end certain practises like loot boxes, it will also likely create problems which may hit smaller developers and publishers harder than the bigger ones.
CD Projekt Rekt
Another big piece of news for the industry in 2018 has been the death wish that CD Projekt Red seems to have for their own image. At least twice throughout the year two twitter accounts associated with the company tweeted things that could be considered transphobic, or at least wildly distasteful and tactless.
The first incident occurred in August. The CyberPunk 2077 twitter account responded to someone requesting more guys in the game by asking “Did you just assume their gender?”. If you’re not aware this joke is a jab at the mis-gendering that a lot of trans people have to put up with in their daily lives.
Obviously for any company this joke was a bad idea, not to mention not really all that funny. Some trans people considered the joke offensive and problematic, some considered it in poor taste but not that big of a deal, over all the general consensus seemed to be that CD Projekt Red had tripped up in a big way.
While on it’s own this first case was bad enough, most people where at least somewhat happy to move on once the developers had apologised. Unfortunately barely 2 months later another CD Projekt Red account, GOG, made another huge blunder.
For some reason whoever was in charge of the twitter account that day decided to tweet out an advertisement for the GOG website using the #WontBeErased hashtag. The hashtag in question is used to call attention to the struggle that trans people are going through, both globally and in America where the big D himself (Dickhead) has been rolling back rights and protections for trans people.
A Question of Perspective?
Now there are two ways to look at this last tweet. Maybe the person making the tweet didn’t check what the trending tweet was about and just used it because it fit in with the promotion. If this first thing is the case than it’s simple human error and they should probably try to teach their staff how social media works.
The second option, and possibly the more likely seeming one with how their tweets have been shaping up this past year, is that they knew what the hashtag meant and used it anyway. If this second option is true then the team over at CD Projekt Red need some serious help.
Even if you ignore the insensitive, tactless and downright thoughtless use of the hashtag and the possible political motivations behind it this sort of mistake/joke is just a bad idea from a business stand point. Not only will you be alienating a chunk of your audience who are trans, but anyone who is a trans ally will be having serious second thoughts about backing a company that keeps behaving this way. No matter how stunning their games are.
If there is a lesson that needs to be taken away from this it’s that you need to pick your social media people very carefully. Make sure it’s someone that has a decent grasp of how social media works, is tactful enough to know when an ‘edgy’ joke is in bad taste, and for the love of god make sure this person isn’t a total shit box.
Cap’n Crunch Time
The final major event for gaming in 2018 has probably been the release of one of the world’s most highly anticipated sequels, Red Dead Redemption 2. While the game has been on a lot of people’s wish lists for a long time now it stirred up a decent amount of controversy when it was released because of some reports from the development staff.
Basically it all started when Dan Houser, the co-founder of Rockstar, tweeted that they had worked 100-hour weeks to get the game out on time. After this the floodgates were opened and numerous reports from workers came out of the terrible conditions that they faced while making the game.
In turn this raised a bunch of questions from a lot of people about how hard big game companies push their workers. On one hand people were claiming that the crunch was necessary to have games of the same scope as RDR2, on the other people were saying that if they had to push people to breaking point for big games then they weren’t worth it.
Learning the Lessons of 2018
Regardless of how you personally feel about crunch time or the worth of massive experiences like RDR2 it should be obvious that this sort of practise needs to go the way of the loot box and be discarded swiftly. No one should have to suffer as much as some of the Rockstar employees have done, just so a company can make money, and people can play a video game.
The final lesson that 2018 had to teach us as an industry is that we need to value our people over our revenues. Yes RDR2 has made a lot of money, and yes it has received a ridiculous amount of critical success, but people could very well be permanently damaged in the process. Nothing in this world is worth scaring innocent people, not even if it’s something that you really, really want.
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