What’s up everybody, it’s officially the weekend, and in lieu of seeing Avengers: Endgame and “vaccinating myself against spoilers,” as someone online put it, we’re gonna talk about video game happenings from the past week.
The biggest news to come out this week in the video game space comes from Polygon’s Colin Campbell, who posted an explosive report detailing the massive labor issues at Fortnite dev Epic Games. You should go read the article if you haven’t but the general gist is basically, as soon as Fortnite got popular, Epic started making its employees work 70 to 100 hours a week for months on end.
One employee told Campbell, “The biggest problem is that we’re patching all the time. The executives are focused on keeping Fortnite popular for as long as possible, especially with all the new competition that’s coming in.”
This employee laid the blame at the feet of company execs. “The executives keep reacting and changing things. Everything has to be done immediately. We’re not allowed to spend time on anything. If something breaks — a weapon, say — then we can’t just turn it off and fix it with the next patch. It has to be fixed immediately, and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal.”
When you look at the entire industry and see this story with different developers’ names slapped on top of it, you know it’s not an individual problem with one bad egg. The whole basket is rotten. It’s time for a game dev union. It’s that simple. In the meantime, I very much enjoy and cosign this take from Nic Reuben (@nicthehumanboy) on Twitter:
Appreciate this is maybe a bit naive, but gawd! A joint effort between press and consumers where we have a ‘backlog week’ during a busy AAA release season and don’t buy anything new, part protest, part celebration of classic games, would be fantastic https://t.co/VbMnWLGsB5
— Nic Reuben (@nicthehumanboy) April 26, 2019
Another story – one that’s been in development for a hot minute: Riot Games is forcing two of the women who accused the company of gender discrimination last year into private arbitration, effectively preventing them from suing the company. Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio writes:
In the motions, obtained by Kotaku today, Riot’s attorney explains that the women agreed to arbitration clauses, common parts of employment contracts that are designed to insulate corporations from legal scrutiny. Said clauses force staff to take their complaints to private arbitration, an extra-legal system without a jury or a judge, rather than pursuing legal action. In these instances, employees are much less likely to hold employers accountable for bad behavior.
Some other bits of news from this week: Days Gone is kind of disappointing, the PlayStation 5 won’t be around for at least another year, the 3DS is on its death bed, and Chrono Trigger was named the best video game of the Heisei Era in Japan by readers of Famitsu newspaper.
Hot Take of the Week
Friends, I’ve been Online for a long time. Like, absurdly long. I’m only 28, but I’ve seen at least three eras of the Internet come and go, if not more. Right now we’re in the era of right-wing overreaction to video games that don’t ascribe to the philosophy that “sex sells”… as much as they used to.
This era has Gamers very mad online about things like toned-down jiggle physics in the latest Dead or Alive game; characters in Fortnite and League of Legends receiving outfit upgrades that portray them more “Tumblrified”; and in the latest brouhaha, the “desexification” of women in Mortal Kombat 11.
I’m not a fighting game person, so I probably won’t play Mortal Kombat 11, but to my eye the characters I’ve seen look pretty good. Sure, they don’t look like they came straight out of a Todd McFarlane or Rob Liefeld comic, but I’m pretty sure that’s entirely the point.
Of course, there’s another issue at play here. See, in addition to the uproar over the lack of masturbation fuel now in Mortal Kombat 11, people are mad that the international cast of assassins, fighters, and demons from other dimensions doesn’t look as white as it used to.
Reactionary gamers upset at “progressivism poisoning our games” and white supremacist politics have gone hand in hand for a while. It’s basically what propelled a bunch of the alt-right into the positions they were in at their peak – it’s what landed Steve Bannon a job as a high-level advisor for Trump. It’s why Trump is in office. But at its core it remains the same whiny bullshit end over end: “This thing doesn’t cater to me and I’m mad about it.” It’s sad as hell.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ignore the Internet for a good long time, maybe read a book or watch a show I haven’t seen before.