Happy Wednesday! What games are you playing lately? I’m completely absorbed in the world of The Last of Us Part II. I’m over 11 hours in and it feels like I’m barely at the halfway point; the game is much, much more expansive in the sheer number of places to explore than the first game. If you’re a fan of the first game, I can (so far) recommend it. Ellie and Joel’s banter and adventures together are fun and emotional as ever, and Ellie and Dina’s interactions are sweet and organic. Let us know on Twitter what games you’re playing and looking forward to, and check back every Wednesday for more news!

Star Wars: Squadrons

EA’s press event last week, EA Play Live, included announcements for several games. Star Wars: Squadrons will release on October 2nd and will include a single-player campaign, five-on-five multiplayer PvP, and will be entirely VR capable. The game’s creative director gave more details about what will be included and how EA worked with Lucasfilm to develop the game.

Transphobia in The Last of Us II

The long-awaited The Last of Us II released last week and reception has been mixed, particularly on the game’s representation of LGBTQIA+ characters. The series has always been concerned with pain, but in featuring more queer characters, it also depicts queer pain—not just in having queer characters experience trauma and difficult circumstances, but also in direct, bigoted attacks. In her review, Maddy Myers cites the kiss that’s central to the 2018 preview of the game as one instance, noting that immediately after this tender moment, someone spits on Dina and calls her a slur. Likewise, the treatment of a trans character focuses on his pain, not because this is a dreadful, terrifying post-apocalypse rife with zombies and people out to save their own skin, but because he is trans.

Other critics have noted the potential for catharsis in this character’s story, but also the importance of appropriate content warnings, particularly as discussing the storyline in pre-release reviews was forbidden under the terms of The Last of Us II‘s embargo.

It’s situations like this that make including trans writers in the development process of trans stories so important. Though individual trans critics disagree about whether or not the character’s storyline is handled well, it’s still a game that includes trans trauma for a largely cis audience, particularly as the content is exclusionary toward many trans players who don’t want to experience the same bigotry they experience in real life in games, as well.

— Melissa Brinks

Apex Legends and More EA Play Live Announcements

Apex Legends will be coming to Steam and Nintendo Switch this fall. Notably, the game will support crossplay on all platforms. The Sims 4 and Titanfall 2 are also coming to Steam. Rocket Arena, a new multiplayer shooter that’s been compared to Overwatch, will release on July 14th on console and PC.

Another Wave of Sexual Harassment Accusations Sweeps the Games Industry

Game designer and writer Chris Avellone has been accused of sexual assault and predatory behavior by numerous people within the games industry. Techland, the studio behind Avellone’s current project, Dying Light 2, has said they are looking into these accusations and taking them seriously. Paradox Interactive, the publisher of Bloodlines 2, told Gamasutra that Avellone’s involvement in the game was minimal and not being used in the final game.

Chris Avellone is one of many games industry figures, including streamers, developers, writers, and others accused of sexual harassment in recent weeks. VICE has covered a number of these allegations, and Polygon interviewed numerous current and former Cards Against Humanity staffers about the culture of misogyny and racism they experienced while with the company. Several employers of those accused, including Ubisoft, Bungie, Cards Against Humanity, and Twitch, have issued statements about their investigations and a commitment to investigate, though many of those statements have been met with skepticism due to past unfulfilled commitments.

— Melissa Brinks

More News

Toys for Bob announced a new Crash Bandicoot game will release on October 2nd for PS4 and Xbox One. The title is, fittingly, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.

Vault Boy, the Fallout mascot, is coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a Mii Fighter costume on June 29th.

Kingdom Hearts Dark Road, a new free-to-play RPG, released for iOS and Android.

In other Kingdom Hearts news, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, a rhythm game, will release this fall.

17 staff have left Everything Board Games after the site owner refused to let staff post about justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks.

The Game of Thrones board game is being adapted for PC.

Mixer, Microsoft’s game streamer platform that attempted to compete against Twitch, is shutting down. Microsoft will instead partner with Facebook Gaming. Several high-profile streamers who had moved from Twitch to Mixer are now free to join either Twitch or Facebook Gaming.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be about half the length of the Spider-Man PS4 game, per Insomniac.

Horizon Zero Dawn is getting a sequel, and it’s coming to PS5 in 2021: Horizon Forbidden West. The developers say the new open-world game will take advantage of the PS5’s capabilities, including having virtually no loading screens. The game will have a larger map than the first game, and Aloy will be able to explore more underwater.

Cyberpunk 2077 has a new tie-in comic series releasing in September from Dark Horse Comics: Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team.