Howdy gamers, and welcome to Sidequest’s roundup of all the news that made us go “…what?” in games this week. But first, what have you been up to lately? I took some much-needed time off over Thanksgiving and got way too into Picross. I also started my first Assassin’s Creed game (Assassin’s Creed II) and took a couple of hours to fall totally in love with the gorgeous and atmospheric game If Found. But, okay, you’re here to read about Cyberpunk 2077 for the thousandth time, right? Well, read on.

Journalism Crunch Is Still Crunch, and It’s Also a Games Problem

On Monday December 7, a mere three days before the release of CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, a number of journalists brought to light the fact that they had not yet received review codes for the game. For journalists who do not yet have review codes, this likely means they’ll be forced to crunch when playing the game in order to get out a timely review. Though Senior Quest Designer Patrick K. Mills told PC Gamer that Cyberpunk 2077 would have “slightly shorter” main story than The Witcher 3, this could still mean the game takes 40-50 hours to play at minimum. As David Thier wrote for Forbes, the condensed timeline for playing and reviewing a game can ultimately affect the quality and judgment in a review.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped gamers on Twitter from directing harassment at journalists simply who are simply pointing out the realities of being a games journalist in today’s day and age. Since its first (of many) controversy, Cyberpunk has sat at the center of a number of important industry conversations, including crunch, cultural appropriation, and transphobia in games. Personally, I think the conversation around review practices is another vital topic, and hope that it allows more people to understand that industry norms have become such as a result of the devaluation of labor in both the journalism and development sectors of the industry.

If crunch, transphobia, and appropriation weren’t enough, reviewers have also found that Cyberpunk 2077 includes unavoidable sequences in which lights flash in patterns known to be epileptic triggers. What’s more, fans are sending videos with similar triggers to the journalist who originally reported on the sequences.

 

Nintendo Quietly Implemented Automatic Opt-Ins to Google Analytics in the Switch Store

Sharp observers recently noticed a new setting in their Nintendo store profiles after the Switch’s latest firmware update. At the bottom of the Account Information page is a setting for “Google Analytics Preferences.” If you haven’t touched this setting before and click the “change” button, you’ll see that the setting defaults to sharing your Analytics data.

It’s worth noting that Google Analytics isn’t the kind of data mining operation that, say, Cambridge Analytica was running on Facebook in 2018. Rather, companies use Google Analytics to collect anonymized data about the pages its users are visiting, whether they visit multiple pages, how long users are spending there, and other data of that nature. This is useful because it shows interest and demographic data, and can conceivably be used to make both marketing-based and user-friendly changes in the future.

Of course, the real issue is that Nintendo quietly implemented this feature and automatically opted in its users. As Nintendo Life notes, this setting has only been found in U.S. and Japan-based accounts so far, because the U.S. lacks more stringent data protection policies like the European Union’s GDPR measures.

If you would like to turn this setting off, go to your eShop profile. Scroll to the bottom of your account info page until you see the Google Analytics Preferences section at the bottom. Click the “change” button and select “don’t share.”

Nintendo also canceled a livestream event for the Splatoon 2 North American Open finals this week. Some players believe this cancellation is related to the earlier cancellation of the longest-running Super Smash Bros. tournament in November, which Nintendo abruptly shut down with a cease and desist letter. Despite the tournament’s nine-year history, Nintendo claims it required “illegally obtained copies” of Super Smash Bros. Melee. The tournament also made use of Slippi, a Melee netcode tool that allowed players to play the game online and added several other quality-of-life improvements to the game.

In response, a number of Splatoon players used the #SaveSmash and #FreeMelee tags in their team names in support of the canceled Smash event. Players in the Smash Bros. subreddit are speculating that Nintendo canceled the Splatoon event in retaliation for the new team names.

Two BioWare Veterans Have Left the Company

Last week, BioWare General Manager Casey Hudson and Dragon Age Executive Producer Mark Darrah announced they were leaving BioWare, the studio behind beloved titles like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. The departure of two longtime veterans left fans concerned about the future of the long-anticipated Dragon Age 4 and the recently announced Mass Effect remaster, though Hudson and Darrah assured fans the games are in good hands.

Things later got weird when voice actor Greg Ellis, who voiced Cullen in Dragon Age: Inquisition, tried to start a Twitter feud with Darrah over alleged mistreatment during his time with BioWare. Ellis later posted a 37-minute video (now private) on his Youtube channel, in which he addressed fans in-character as Cullen and complained about “cancel culture.” Ellis had previously drawn ire for lashing out at Darrah in September and for his support of U.S. President Donald Trump.

ICYMI

Nathalie Lawhead, who has been asking Kotaku for accountability over the abuse they received while sharing their story of abuse with Kotaku, has written a second blog post detailing the mistreatment of other survivors by Cecilia D’Anastasio. D’Anastasio was named as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees in the journalism category despite Lawhead’s serious allegations.

Failbetter Games announced Mask of the Rose, a romantic visual novel prequel to games set in the Fallen London universe.

The Monster Hunter movie has been pulled from theaters in China a day after release due to backlash over a scene that included a racially insensitive joke.

Riot continues to use fake influencers to foster parasocial relationships with its fans, and yes, it is still very awkward.