Happy Halloween, and welcome to GYGO! This year I’m excited to stream some Oxenfree with Melissa Brinks, our lovely EiC, and hopefully hand out candy to kids. Of course, they never end up coming to our house so usually I just go to town on it. With luck y’all get to live your life just as deliciously (in whatever way that means to you).

Chinese Government Halts New Game Distribution

The Chinese government has reportedly stopped distributing licenses for new games. In the past, an approval process overseen by the Cultural Ministry checked games for possibly sensitive topics—such as graphic violence, or gambling—before allowing license for distribution. Some distribution platforms, such as Steam, have been able to temporarily avoid this process due to the overseas location of their servers. Chinese gamers have flocked to foreign distribution platforms for this exact reason, otherwise sticking with games already licensed in the country. It’s unclear how this will affect the Chinese games industry, though some are hopeful that the ban will be lifted soon, judging by the fluctuating price of distribution licenses on the grey market.

An Inside Look at Labor at Rockstar Games

Jason Schreier over at Kotaku interviewed around 90 current and former employees of Rockstar Games after the company lifted its policies around interacting with members of media. This is coming in the wake of Dan Houser claiming people were working 100 hour work weeks at the company, then backpedaling to say it was only the writing staff, including Houser. Schreier’s article is a harrowing long read that describes a company beset by a “culture of fear.”

Rockstar Games, which just put out Red Dead Redemption 2, has a long history of sketchy labor practices. Employees on previous games describe being forced into sixty hour workweeks (that’s about 10 hours a day, 6 days a week), without any direct compensation for it. An unfortunately common practice in the games industry is to compensate salaried employees for how well their games perform, either in sales or through review aggregates like Metacritic. For the team on Max Payne 3, a game that did poorly by Rockstar’s standards, this means that bonus for the game’s performance was small, and those extra hours of work went unpaid.

It’s this legacy that’s lead employees of Rockstar to ask people not to boycott Red Dead Redemption 2. Most of their bonuses get paid out as a result of sales this year, and on top of any unorganized movement to vote with your dollar being insignificant in the face of Rockstar fans who don’t care about labor practices, it would also directly harm the employees who are being exploited. Instead they recommend that people support labor movements (such as Game Workers Unite), and put pressure on Rockstar, and other games companies, to hold themselves accountable for exploitative practices and make a meaningful change in their work culture.

SAG-AFTRA Widens Pathways for Indie Contracts

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a union that represents many voice actors in the game industry, recently released a new pay schedule that allows greater accessibility for indie games looking to hire union actors. Previously SAG-AFTRA required studios to hire actors for a four hour minimum session. For many indie games, this was an unnecessary amount of time. That is why SAG-AFTRA is now allowing games with a budget under $1.5 million to negotiate sessions in two hour increments. The new schedule also requires companies to pay 15.5 percent into SAG-AFTRA’s pension and healthcare fund, and raises the fees and rest required for vocally straining work. These changes will allow both smaller studios to hire union actors, and less experienced actors to join the union, which I believe benefits the industry as a whole.

In Other News…

Games Bleat

Welcome to Games Bleat! I’m Joesph, your local Halloween enthusiast, and I hope you’re in costume, because I’ve got some delightful treats for your video game buckets! First are the (mostly spooky) deals!

PC

Next are some new releases that are sure to carry you past tonight’s fun!

Orphan is a game about kids and aliens, and not the fun kind of aliens. It has an aesthetic somewhere between Limbo and War of the Worlds, but the gameplay of an action platformer. It looks spooky, and hectic, and a little uncertain which is just enough to pique my interest for November.

Coming to Steam this week is Heavy Burger, a mash of brand new arcade style games that could have easily found a home in the late 80s. It’s all local multiplayer, and have some ridiculous premises that hint at self-awareness. Burger chefs with gatling guns? Sounds like a good time to me.

RHYTHM GAME! RHYTHM GAME! Look y’all, I was raised on Dance Dance Revolution. I’ve spent hours on Para Para Paradise. And I just know I’m going to be sinking a solid amount of time into Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! The arcade classic is getting ported to the Nintendo Switch, and I no longer have to make do with the broken drum set at my local GameWorks. That being said, this may be the game that finally convinces me to put the wrist straps on my JoyCons.

Anyway that’s it for this week’s bleat! I hope you all have a great night of festivities, or if you’re reading this after Halloween, and great night of other stuff! Catch you next week.

A genderless eldritch beast bound to mortal flesh. Interests include games, gardening, magical realism, and the complete restructuring of America’s political and economic systems. Once designed their own Full Metal Alchemist style transmutation circle for the weeb cred.

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