Over a year ago I wrote about the toxicity in gaming culture, recent events have brought my feelings towards that to the forefront of my mind again and I feel the need to put something down on Bar Harukiya about it. In recent months this place has mostly become a combination of reviews and playthrough updates, but that wasn’t my intention when I started writing again at the beginning of 2019. What has got me riled up enough to drop the safe posts I’d been making? Well, look around! *waves arms*
First, there was all the discussion around the crunch culture at Naughty Dog (which isn’t anything new, Amy Hennig talked about it back in 2016!), then the treatment of so-called “fans” towards one of the games voice actors.
Man. I try to only post positive stuff on here… but sometimes this just gets a little overwhelming. I blacked out some of the words cuz, ya know, spoilers.
Side note. Thank you to all the people sending me positive messages to balance it out. It means more than I can say.❤️ pic.twitter.com/kGyULWPpNu
— Laura Bailey (@LauraBaileyVO) July 3, 2020
Then I read this post on Mental Health Gaming.
But most of all, and happening during whilst all these other things were in my mind, was the revealment of institutional abuse at mega-producer Ubisoft.
If Jim’s presenting style puts you off, then Jason Schreier has written a piece for Bloomberg about the disgusting behaviour of many of Ubisoft’s most powerful staff members.
Now, this year we’ve seen a number of events delayed or cancelled, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But more recently, when cities across the world were seeing protests as part of the Black Lives Movement (here’s the link if you’d like to financially contribute towards that), some companies decided to shine a light on world events rather than their own specific ones, such as Sony delaying their PlayStation 5 reveal to allow social media to be used as a voice and communication tool to further the BLM movement. Ubisoft, however, decided to ignore the allegations. Oh sure, they essentially put some of the accused out onto gardening leave, but did they put a hold on their E3 replacement event “UbiForward”? Did they bollocks! Did they acknowledge that serious allegations had been made regarding pretty much every single one of their studios, allegations that included their HR departments covering up lead creatives because “that’s what allows these people to be creative” (or words to that effect)? Nope. The show must go on, they claimed they couldn’t even add anything to their video showcase because it was “pre-recorded”, which begs the question: If its pre-recorded, and a lot of people involved in the products you’re trying to show off are under any kind of scrutiny, then why fucking put it out there? The answer is that Ubisoft just do not care. They know the excitement surrounding the next fucking Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Watch Dogs, they had it confirmed that a large number of fans just do not give a shit about the people involved in creating their products, they just want to see the latest shiny trailer, and that really fucks me off.
It also fucks me off that this attitude is prevalent within the entire games industry. The media who provide these companies with the platform to showcase their wares do the bare minimum in regards to tackling the toxic behaviours within the industry and its surrounding community. It’s all about the bottom line. Websites need hits to generate ad revenue to keep going, in order to get those hits they have to provide positive coverage of those big-budget games and in order to have access to said games the games media needs to play nicely with the big publishers, studios and creative leads. That includes turning a blind eye to pretty much most issues, from the use of downloadable content, brushing over technical issues, ignoring the “need” for day one patches, the list goes on. These are all absolutely things that should be used to discuss a games worth when reviewing it, you’re supposed to be looking at the product in front of you as it is when you play it, not the possibility of that product when it has been rushed out to hit a release “window”.
Games reviews should totally be looking at the culture that created the product they’re reviewing. Of course The Last of Us Part 2’s production levels are going to be sky-high, it had a ridiculous amount of money, time and people thrown at it, it should absolutely be the peak of what is capable on the current generation of hardware, but if Naughty Dog’s staff have suffered and had their willingness to work abused to get to that stage, then was it really worth all of that? I can’t possibly comment as I’ve not played that particular game (and dare I say it, but TLoU didn’t grab me as much as it did a lot of other people). If an individual is creating a game and sinks everything into their creation, that’s ultimately their choice, but if a studio is employing people to create somebody else’s vision, then those people should be afforded a certain level of care and protection. Whether that’s working unsociable hours, planning and protecting against crunch, creating an environment where staff feel safe from sexual predators and generally treating them as humans, that’s the bare minimum a company should be doing.
But we, as consumers, need to be doing more. We need to be holding companies to account, listening to and providing the platforms that allow people to speak out against these behaviours instead of shutting them down because they occupy space within an industry that many aspire to reach and be a part of. If that means “missing out” by voting with your money, well then so be it, because that’s the only thing that matters to these companies. That includes not hiding behind “well, that punishes the good people who work on these games too”, because that’s ultimately a smokescreen that ignores the bigger picture, those good people are themselves being abused by the meat grinder that is the games industry and the only way their work environment is going to improve is if you the consumer and those who work within the games media call out the bullshit, insidious, toxicity that exists within the culture that is attached to what is essentially a hobby.