Hello and welcome to GYGO! I’m Kael, your local island-dwelling gamer. Summer vacation hit finally Japanese schools last Monday, just in time for a string of typhoons to barrage the southern coast (i.e. my house). I can’t really complain though, it gives me the excuse my adult brain needs to finally get shoulders-deep into Kingdom Hearts III. I just hope I can make it to the store later for a trove of sea salt ice cream.
Anyway, here’s the news!
Collective Bargaining Helps Studios Big and Small
Writers for Lovestruck, a visual novel collection published by Voltage, finished their strike last week. 21 women, nonbinary, and LGBTQIA+ writers formed an informal union, the Voltage Organized Writers, and fought for a pay raise. Following the strike, the writer’s pay moved from 3.5 cents per word to 6.5 cents per word. This is a reversal of Voltage’s earlier statement that they were looking for new writers to replace the organized group, reported Vice. The strike came with the aid of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, a campaign from Communication Workers of America (one of America’s largest unions representing tech and media employees).
Meanwhile, Blizzard employees also took steps toward collective bargaining, according to Bloomberg. Employees reportedly used company Slack and spreadsheets to compare and discuss salaries and work conditions across the gaming giant. Bloomberg reports that a draft of demands that will be presented to the company include “changes to how promotions are doled out, increased vacation time and pay bumps for members of the customer service and quality assurance departments.” Anonymous sources told Bloomberg that Activision Blizzard pays far less than its competitors in the industry.
A Week Later and the Army Is Back to Esports
U.S. Army Esports is getting ready to move back to streaming. The military unit took a brief break following backlash for their actions on Twitch, such as hosting giveaways that direct viewers to a page that offers their information to recruiters. This notably comes after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment to prevent military from using the federal budget to fund streaming failed last week.
PCGamesN dug deep into the structure of the Army’s esports team. They report that despite its name, the team maintains only a light presence in video game tournaments. Instead, they focus on reaching the largest audience in a variety of popular games. Soldiers apply for the assignment, which typically lasts two years, after which they return to their previous career field. With over 8,000 applicants and only 21 team members, some in the military have called making it onto the team a pipe dream.
Fortnite Parent Company Targeted by Executive Order
BREAKING: Trump has signed executive order that prohibits transactions with TikTok and WeChat parent companies Bytedance and Tencent (!!), effective in 45 days
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) August 7, 2020
Trump signed executive orders last week prohibiting American transactions with Chinese companies Bytedance and Tencent from September 22nd. Tencent has considerable power in games, particularly the esports market, including stakes in both League of Legends developer Riot Games and Fornite‘s Epic Games. According to the Washington Post, the order is not aimed at game companies. Aimed or not, they say at this point it’s unclear whether games will unintentionally fall into the scope of the orders.
In Other News…
Ubisoft continues to make changes to address their workplace culture. Last month, employees reported instances of sexual harassment in the company and more general workplace toxicity. Ubisoft stated that they would investigate these claims. This week, PC Gamer reports that VP Tommy François was fired as a result of these investigations. Ubisoft has not yet released an official statement.
Limestone Games, the developer of Aeon Must Die featured in PlayStation’s State of Play Event last week, was accused of mismanagement by former staff and owners. In a Dropbox cache filled with testimonials, staff alleges that chief executive Yaroslav Lyssenko left the team understaffed, organized brutal deadlines with publisher Focus Home Interactive, and wrestled control of the studio from chief creative Aleksei Nehoroshkin. Focus Home Interactive released a statement via Twitter that they were looking into the matter.
The People’s Republic of China will start requiring players to verify their legal name before playing video games. The use of this log-in system allows players to be associated with their national ID number. The reason is reportedly to implement restrictions on the amount of time minors are allowed to play games, currently set to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on holidays.
The Games and Online Harassment Hotline is officially open. They provide text-based support for those who make or play games. The games space can be a hard one to exist in—if you or someone you know needs support, please reach out.
Skip, the studio that developed Chibi-Robo! and Art Style, has possibly closed its doors. Nintendo Everything reports that, although no official statement has been released, many signs point to the studio having been closed for good.
Riot Games is addressing crunch and overwork by giving employees a week off. No statement was issued regarding changes in management styles, deadlines, or staffing issues that lead to crunch in the first place.
Openhouse is hosting a 45-minute Zoom seminar with Stephanie Ijoma on August 18th. The seminar, titled “Openhouse: we need more black women in gaming” focuses on Ijoma’s path into the games industry and the path forward for making it a more inclusive space.
Yoshinori Ono is leaving the Street Fighter franchise after 22 years as an executive producer. Ono started as a music producer on the Dreamcast title Saturday Night Slam Masters and went on to have a hand in at least 33 games released by Capcom.
— Yoshinori Ono (@Yoshi_OnoChin) August 9, 2020
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. Frequently orders too much food at restaurants. Tweets @unnnez.