2014: A Year In News
Looking back on 2014 in the realm of gaming makes me look forward to 2015. The news for this year hasn't been the greatest, and hopefully that means next year we'll have some great things on the horizon. If anything, I'd love to see more MMOs announced that will make me excited. We have been in a lull for a bit, as far as new shinies, and I feel that we're due for new awesome things. Will Santa deliver to us a 2015 full of new games, a flourishing industry, and a community that actually comes together instead of being at each other's throats? I have hope. Sincere hope. It's almost 2015, so let's do this! In the meantime, let's see what happened in 2014.
Five of my favorite moments in gaming, in no particular order:
- EverQuest having its 15th year anniversary
- EverQuest II and World of Warcraft celebrating their 10th
- Goat MMO Simulator simulating MMOs in the best, goaty way possible
- Getting to co-host the Trials of Ascension AMA
- Wrting all of this gaming news for y'all to read
One of the biggest downside about working in the gaming industry is that you will be laid off. It happens to the best and the brightest of us. This year, like every year, we've seen a few studios get hit by massive rounds of layoffs. I was on a team once where our entire team pretty much got axed. I think we went from about 30 to 5 or 6. Of those who were kept on, a couple decided it was time to go. Those who did stay are now doing awesome things. It eventually worked out for most of us, but it took time – some longer than others. Notable studios hit this year include Carbine's WildStar team and ZeniMax's The Elder Scrolls Online team. It didn't stop there, because it never does. This always happens when a game is about to launch, as studios expand to bring on temporary contract help to put on the finishing touches and drive towards a launchable product. The downside of this is that post launch means these contractors (and often times regular employees) are let go and back to looking for work in the industry yet again.
Female Representation is Too Expensive
Remember that one time that Ubisoft said that putting a female assassin character into Assassin's Creed: Unity's co-op play would be too expensive? Sometimes people don't seem to stop and think how stupid their statements they're about to say in public are before they say them. While Alex Amancio, Creative Director for Ubisoft, was trying to tell the world that adding in a customizable lady assassin for co-op play would be too expensive due to the time that would be required to add in all of the voice overs, animations and everything else, and the game just needed to ship. However, an animator came out to say that all of this would have really only required a day or two of work. So, what is it? Amancio now talks a big talk about diversity and reminds us of the women from former games, but the internet isn't very forgiving. Ubisoft could have made an Assassin's Creed with only women, but the fact remains that they released the newest game with the choice to not put in a playable female assassin.
Several hashtag movements happened this year. Some of them tried to start out good, but they all ended up the same way: becoming one giant pile of misogynist shit. Adam Baldwin of Chuck and Firefly fame (and all around 100% crazy guy on Twitter) is credited with the start of GamerGate, which was supposedly started to bring integrity back to gaming journalism. Around the same time this came out, the Depression Quest controversy was already in full swing. Creator Zoe Quinn was placed front and center of all of this when her ex-boyfriend accused her of sleeping with a gaming journalist just to get reviews for her game. People began lashing out, saying that Depression Quest isn't really a game anyway. If it's not, then why do you care?
I've cut some people out of my life recently due to how they reacted to all of this. One of them might as well be a poster boy for the NotAllMen hashtag. He, and a few other guys who fall into the Privileged White Male category (some of whom are in their mid 30s and still live with their parents because that means they don't have to hold a steady job) were already sick and tired of hearing names like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, for no other reason than the fact that they weren't the ones harassing women in gaming. The girlfriend of Lives With Parents guy defended this point of view because she hasn't been harassed in games. She, too, was sick of hearing about it. The problem here is, if you're denying that harassment in the gaming industry towards women isn't a problem, if you're blaming the women themselves as the issue, or if you think that just by not being part of the problem that you're doing enough, you are still the problem. Show a little empathy and respect towards your fellow gamers, regardless of the color of their skin, the sex they were born as, the gender they identify with, or their sexual preferences. Stop victim blaming or denying there is an issue. Condemn those in our community who are these women hating jackasses and help unite our community. Gaming is for everyone, so let's make our community an accepting one.
Of Bomb Threats and Games
Unlike Sony Pictures, Sony Online Entertainment doesn't fold to the whims of people threatening them. I had a feeling that whole thing with The Interview was a huge PR stunt anyway, because, really? You're folding to threats from North Korea? I always thought they should choose a better villain, but I guess all they have to do is prey on the horrible memories of 9-11 and you end up with the dumbest PR stunt in history. Anyway, let's get back to SOE and gaming anyway. SOE was threatened by some internet nobodies. When these internet nobodies (who were then calling themselves Lizard Squad/Team Lizard, but looking through the tweet history of the person who called me a piece of shit on Twitter for calling them a bunch of petulant children throwing a tantrum, it seems they have yet another new name now) were not given a moment's notice, it seems that one of them stole $20 out of mommy's purse to buy a DDoS attack against SOE and PSN servers. Still, the Sony companies managed the attack and moved on without paying attention to the children's temper tantrum, so these guys had one more fit before retiring back into obscurity. When SOE President John Smedley was traveling cross country on a return flight home, one of these bad examples of the human race thought it would be hysterical to call the airline and announce that Smed's plane had a bomb on it.
At most, they managed to make the guy frustrated for a little while and delay his trip home. Good job.
Everyone Got DDoSed
Speaking of that SOE and PSN DDoS, Sony games were not the only one afflicted this year. I'd say that the only thing that happened more often than industry layoffs were games and company servers being attacked. STAR WARS: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft (also, bnet), and just about any other online game ended up getting a DDoS attack at some point this year. While not the only reason, but this is definitely a big reason of why we just can't have nice things. Some jackass on the internet has to ruin it for the rest of us.
Let's take a breather from all of the dumb shit that we've done to each other as a community this past year and turn to some news of the weird. Weird is almost as good as good, right? Since its rumors that began in 1983, people have wondered if Atari really did bury several thousand copies of the worst failure in gaming history to date, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, which is also supposedly one of the worst games ever released. I wonder how it would hold up nowadays with some of the truly spectacular flops we've seen in recent times. For whatever reasons, Microsoft decided to team up with the New Mexico government and some other companies to settle this once and for all by putting the rumor to rest. What we ended up with was a bunch of people hanging out in a landfill to see if Atari really did try to bury their shame back in 1983. Well, file this under No Longer A Rumor, as a small portion of what Atari said were some 700,000 cassettes, including E.T., became unearthed. I think one of the biggest parts of news this year just happens to be Microsoft throwing massive piles of cash at about anything. Hey, Microsoft, if you have a few million in spare change, I'll cook ya a nice dinner for passing it my way.
Microsoft Bought Other Things
Like I said, Microsoft ended up throwing all sorts of cash around this year. Since the above was more about Atari and possibly The Worst Game Ever (patent pending), I felt that Microsoft deserved their very own special section, which also has a healthy dose of super weird. Some of the news also has some dickish double standards (not at the hands of Microsoft, surprisingly) and even some weirdly happy news.
Part of the Microsoft money news is about that time that it was found out that Microsoft (they weren't the only ones, since some other big companies were also caught in the act) was paying money to YouTube personalities to promote Microsoft products and games. Here's where the dickish double standard comes in: if the perverse version of GamerGate that we're left with actually cared about keeping ethics in gaming journalism pure, they would have given even half a shit about gaming companies paying YouTube personalities for air time and good reviews, instead of finding more women in the industry to victim blame. Maybe stop being a bunch of hypocritical misogynist creeps, GamerGate hashtag warriors?
Now on to the weird and happy news. Microsoft spend quite a bit of money buying things this year, and positive YouTube reviews weren't the only thing. They also bought up Gears of War and Minecraft, which is the second largest selling game of all time. With a 2.5 billion dollar sale, Minecraft's now former head hauncho, Notch, got to laugh all the way to the bank. My favorite part of this story is when Notch outbid pop power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce on a “house” in California. I think my favorite headline from this story is “Who outbid Bey & Jay for this $70M mansion?” because I guess people don't know who Notch is or what Minecraft is, but we certainly know everything about “Bey & Jay”.
Two big things happened to Oculus Rift this year and it's not the part where games, like Rift, start adding in Oculus capability for the 3-D gaming goggles. Facebook threw down 2 billion dollars to buy the startup, which was met with mixed reviews. I'll admit that I didn't follow the story regarding the buyout too much, mostly because I have an eye condition that won't let me use the Oculus. Hell, I can't even use binoculars correctly, so I haven't been big on news that requires two eyes to work together normally. The part I did follow, though, was when ZeniMax tried to sue Oculus. Palmer Luckey and some other ex-employees from Zeni, who now work with Oculus, were targeted by their former company for reasons ranging from stolen code to developing Rift technology on the Zeni clock. However, this suit is seen as nothing but shallow, since Zeni only decided to sue after Facebook's acquisition.
If there was a buyout game, I'm sure Amazon wins this year with their 970 billion dollar acquisition of Twitch.tv. Amazon has stated that they don't plan to do much in the way of changing Twitch and said that for now, Twitch will pretty much remain the same. Before the Amazon buyout, it was rumored that Google was in preparation to buy Twitch. Since then, there's been plenty of speculation as to whether or not Google or Amazon would have been the better buyer, and what Amazon's end game plan is for Twitch. At least they've been good on their word in regards to not changing Twitch so far.
Speaking of GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian, and anonymous dickheads on the internet, one of the most public points of all of this was when Sarkeesian cancelled her talk at Utah State University a few months ago due to the threat of someone promising the bloodiest massacre we'd see on a U.S. school campus. This anonymous psychopath who swore we would see the worst school shooting to date and gun down women attending. The words "feminist whore" were said a few times. Yawn.
I bet you thought every image of Sarkeesian on the internet was that one bad picture, eh?
My favorite hypocricy in this whole GamerGate thing is having a bunch of dudes tell women in gaming that there is no issue of harassment, telling them they need to shut up and stop playing the victim card, while simultaneously harassing them to be silent. Way to go, guys. Thanks for proving the point that there is a huge issue with harassment in our community. Oh, and there's now a game out there featuring one point and one point only: beating up Anita Sarkeesian.
World of Williamscraft
To end on a good note (I swear, I'm more positive than cynic these days), let's talk about Robin Williams was memorialized forever in World of Warcraft. I don't think I need to go on about how this actor had truly touched the lives of so much of us, making this genie addition to the game something so sweet and touching. I've never been one to be bothered with celebrity deaths, but this year, two of them affected me. Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co) was another person I admired and respected, who also left us all too soon by his own hand. In closing, please enjoy his wonderful and talented songwriting with "Hold On Magnolia":