Welcome to another Wednesday with me, fellow game fans! Because I am woefully late, I’ve been dipping my toes into two common Game of the Year picks—Breath of the Wild and NieR: Automata. Both are giving me very different experiences, which speaks to the breadth of high-quality games released last year. The former captures the essence of exploration, as I climb mountains and solve puzzles while ignoring the story entirely, while the latter draws me along because of its focus on exploring humanity. Good, good stuff. Let’s get to the news!
Violence, Colonialism, and Why We Ought To Consider Tone, Sometimes
Well-known imperialism simulator Civilization (look, it’s fun as hell, but that’s what it is) has drawn criticism from Milton Tootoosis, Headman of the Poundmaker Cree Nation. Civilization, for those unfamiliar, pits historical leaders against one another in a race to capture as much of the globe as possible through a variety of victories, including military, cultural, and scientific achievements. The issue, Tootoosis said, is that the inclusion of a historical figure from the Cree Nation, Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, known as Chief Poundmaker in English, “perpetuates this myth that First Nations had similar values that the colonial culture has, and that is one of conquering other peoples and accessing their land. That is totally not in concert with our traditional ways and world view.”
Tootoosis said that the Cree Nation was not consulted on this portrayal of Pîhtokahanapiwiyin (though Firaxis’ composer said that the Poundmaker Singers appear on the soundtrack), something that is unfortunately common when it comes to representation of Native people. Adam Smith has a great discussion of why Civilization and the 4X system of gameplay (that’s “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate,” for the record) needs to change, including discussion of Tootoosis’ statements, over at Rock Paper Shotgun.
In other “you tried, but maybe this isn’t the way,” news, The U.S. Army, Department of Homeland Security, and a tech firm specializing in simulation programs have joined forces to create a simulation for teachers to experience school shooting scenarios in video game form. It’s a response to a problem, certainly, but is it the right one? Rami Ismail sums up my feelings pretty succinctly:
The United States is finally addressing its school mass shooting problem by strictly regulating weapons like a sensib-
Instead they're creating a tactical FPS experience to train teachers.
— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) January 5, 2018
Hatin’ On WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that gaming disorder, characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, and escalating amount of time invested in gaming, would be added to its International Compendium of Diseases. The organization also told USgamer that this change has been in the works since 2014, and represents the consensus of experts in the field of addiction.
The Entertainment Software Association, unsurprisingly, is not so sure. The organization claims that including gaming disorder in the ICD trivializes mental illness and that video games are not addictive. This is likely a debate that will continue raging on for some time, as we grapple with the perception of gaming in wider culture, the effects increased exposure to technology has on us, and our common understandings of addiction and its causes.
Sexual Harassment and Assault Accusations Continue in Gaming
New sexual harassment accusations against figures in the gaming industry continue to come to light. While it’s disheartening that so many people throughout the industry have been harmed by these figures in power, we’re seeing increasing numbers of companies and organization taking action against those who have been accused of misconduct, hopefully making our community a safer place where these actions won’t be tolerated.
Steve Butts, IGN’s former editor in chief, has been fired after an investigation in light of former employee Kallie Plagge’s allegations against another former IGN employee, Vince Ingenito, last year.
According to a source at IGN who asked to remain anonymous, Butts was asked to leave work the Monday after Plagge’s accusations came to light, and the HR person who handled Plagge’s case at IGN has been gone for some time. The source said that Butts’ termination was not unexpected, and that Samuel Claiborn, Terri Schwartz, and the rest of the editorial staff have been incredibly supportive during this time of upheaval. “We’re so lucky to have Sam because since this incident he’s been extremely supportive and wonderful and he deserves every bit of good will he will get in his life,” the source said.
Amra “Flitz” Ricketts, a member of the YouTube network Smosh Games, has left the organization after allegations of sexual assault. Ricketts announced that he would be leaving the channel via Twitter after sexual assault allegations levied by Raquey Strange in a now-deleted Facebook post. According to Kotaku, others came forward about their own experiences with Ricketts in the comments of Strange’s post. Ricketts denied the accusations on Twitter.
Gaming News Tidbits
itch.io is an invaluable resource in connecting indie developers with potential fans, and 2017 proved it. 68,000 new projects were completed last year, with over 100,000 pages created to home prospective games, pieces of interactive fiction, and other unique media.
If you’d like to turn the tables on your dungeon master and torture them for a change, Tyler Kamstra has kindly made a homebrew guide to playing some of Dungeon & Dragons’ finest monsters. Finally, I can be a bullywug!
Shaun Escayg, creative director and writer for multiple Naughty Dog games, including last year’s Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, has parted ways with the company after seven years. While Escayg has not stated what he’ll be doing next, his Instagram feed includes a picture of the Avengers logo, leading some to speculate that he’ll be working with Crystal Dynamics or Eidos Montreal on one of their Avengers games.
Ever wondered what the most popular searches for Overwatch ships are? Google did. The answers are both unsurprising and hella queer.
The Independent Game Festival has announced its finalists for various awards, and gosh, is it ever a great list of games.
Niantic’s new venture, a Harry Potter-themed alternate reality game, is due out later this year. Even if it’s over as quickly as Pokemon GO, I can’t wait to spend a month or two casting spells at my friends.
Last year was a great one for games, and 2018 has some great ones on the docket, too. Polygon has a roundup of 50 games we hope to see this year—let’s get hype, y’all.
That’s it for this week! And now, let’s see some deals.
Welcome to Games Bleat! I’m your guide Joesph Langdon, and I’m here to show you all of the hot new games and sales that have us here at Sidequest excited! There’s a lot of GYGO this week, so I’m gonna jump right into those absolutely saccharine deals!
I’d also like to give a special shout out to February’s Humble Monthly Bundle, which gets you Civilization VI and a bunch of DLC for only $12! Catch you on next weeks Bleat!
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.