Howdy, gaming lovelies, and happy Wednesday! I might not be caught up on Games of Thrones, but that didn’t stop my D&D group from having our own little “hold the door” moment Friday night. Thankfully it mostly worked out, even if the towns will be singing songs of our uninvited assistance, followed by us burning everything down. What’s your favorite personal gaming moment from the week? Let me know in the comments! Now, on to the news!

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Poised to be a Hit

At least so think the pundits, like the folks at CNBC. Harry Potter fans are anxiously awaiting the new augmented reality mobile game (think Pokémon Go for Potterheads) which has yet to announce its worldwide release date. The release marches closer as Australia and New Zealand got first crack at the beta release. Fans are being tided over with the latest trailer, which dropped last week, and has already amassed more than 3.5 million views.

ICYMI – There is No Homophobia in Magic: The Gathering Worlds

An internet kerfuffle over an unofficial Ravnica page led to a swift and open declaration from principal Magic: The Gathering game designer, Doug Beyer.

 

Employee of Flight Sim Developer Attempted to Smuggle Jet Fighter Manuals

This is definitely a strange one. An employee of the Russian software company Eagle Dynamics was indicted on charges of conspiracy and smuggling. His employer says the charges have nothing to do with his job at their company, which wouldn’t be strange except that the company is a leader in making digital combat simulators. Coincidence or a shared love of flight? Long story short: the dude tried to circumvent an Ebay seller who couldn’t ship the manuals out of the country.

Polygon sums it up perfectly for us non-aviation nerds: “It’s the same sort of thing you or I would do to get one of those really rare Funko Pop figures from Star Wars Celebration even if we couldn’t attend. It’s just that this particular Funko Pop shows you how to fly a fighter jet, and this particular convention more or less requires that you not be living in Russia.”

This Week In Crunch

As games and the gaming industry get larger and more ambitious, developers and studios have taken to forcing mandatory overtime on their workers to meet deadlines and demand. This controversial and exploitative workplace culture—where employees are overworked, underpaid, and burnt out, followed frequently by mass layoffs and ever-increasing wage inequality between workers and high-paid executives—is known as “crunch.” TWIC is a column within a column wherein Emily Durham brings you news about this week’s world of crunch.

First up: Riot. For a detailed synopsis of the events up to this point, check out my GYGO explaining the Riot Walkout. During the Walkout, Jocelyn Monahan and Indu Reddy, two Riot employees, explained that if Riot management didn’t make a commitment on forced arbitration by the Riot Unplugged meeting on May 16, she and others involved with the walkout would take further action. Well, the day after the Riot Unplugged meeting, Riot released a statement stating it would not be dropping the arbitration clause immediately, despite over 150 current and former workers participating in the walkout. Though Riot did make some changes, Monahan has gone on record to say that she and other Rioters will “continue to pressure Riot to end forced arbitration” and will be “involving more coworkers in the effort.” The extent of the continued action is not yet known, but I expect an announcement to be made this week.

Epic Games also continues to show very little remorse. In fact, despite a massive report from Polygon about the months of extremely terrible crunch conditions that surrounded Fortnite’s success, Epic Games has been chosen to receive a BAFTA Award. The timing of this award truly leaves something to be desired.

But it’s not all bad. We’re also following the case at NetherRealm, wherein the company is allegedly looking into employee concerns surrounding its crunch culture. According to Variety, NetherRealm “is in the process of collecting employee concerns and reportedly cut back on overtime hours in the past week.” It will also be sending out surveys for employees to fill out. So, for the time being, it looks like NetherRealm is moving in the right direction.

Blizzard has acknowledged the recent spate of crunch complaints in the games industry, stating that it’s working towards becoming a no-crunch team, but it’s “not there 100% yet.” But at least Blizzard is acknowledging it has work to do.

And the last interesting development in the world of video game crunch: on Tuesday, May 14th, the European Court of Justice ruled that employers in Europe must set up a system to track the daily working hours of their staff. This ruling marks a concerted effort to cut back on overwork, by properly enforcing the EU Working Time Directive. With all of the recent crackdown on crunch in the games industry, this ruling has implications for gaming as well. I, for one, have hope that this ruling could help protect game workers and developers from further exploitation.

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