Content warning: sexual harassment and misconduct; murder, femicide, and violence (this is labelled below.)

Hi there, welcome to Get Your Game On! My name is Zainabb and I am tired. There’s some bleak news this week regarding harm caused to marginalised people and the failure within gaming to hold those people accountable. Please prioritise your safety while reading this week’s news, remember to support marginalised members of our community, and make space wherever you can for comfort and joy.

Hogwarts Legacy’s Lead Designer Used to Run a Toxic Pro-Harassment, Pro-Gamergate, Anti-Social Justice YouTube Channel

Hogwarts Legacy, the upcoming open world Harry Potter game from Warner Bros. and Avalanche Software, has already faced controversy due to J.K. Rowling’s long-standing anti-trans statements and behaviours. Now the game and its studio face further scrutiny after it was revealed that the game’s lead designer, Troy Leavitt, ran an anti-social justice YouTube channel from 2016 to 2018.

Leavitt used the channel to attack social justice and civil rights movements, as well as defend several men accused of sexual misconduct and harassment, including Pixar co-founder John Lasseter and Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. In some videos, Leavitt also supported Gamergate.

Leavitt continues to link to the currently inactive channel on his social media profiles, and previously stated that Warner Bros. and Avalanche Software did not express concern about his channel or political views. Warner Bros. recently released a statement confirming that Rowling is not “directly involved” in the development of the game (although she will profit from this latest addition to the Harry Potter franchise). However, they have not yet commented on Leavitt’s involvement, despite their previous statement emphasising their commitment to “fostering a diverse and inclusive culture” for both their employees and audiences.

In response to the news about Leavitt, popular gaming forum ResetEra is banning any promotional content for Hogwarts Legacy, including trailers and official announcements.

Whilst this is a positive step forward, it doesn’t do enough to protect marginalised gamers from hateful and bigoted behaviours, including the sort of harassment and abuse enacted by Gamergate and its supporters. While Leavitt and his ilk may not be able to post about Hogwarts Legacy on ResetEra, they evidently are not restricted from posting their harmful views on the forum in general. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. and Avalanche Software have not outlined any accountability processes for their pro-Gamergate lead designer, and Warner Bros. have reportedly told employees that Rowling is “entitled to express her personal opinion on social media.”

Viewing anti-trans behaviours and statements as “personal opinions,” as with any of the anti-social justice behaviours that Leavitt has expressed on his YouTube channel and social media profiles, positions trans and other civil rights movements as a political view rather than an assertion of the right of marginalised people to live and thrive without oppression from the state or discrimination and prejudice from others. To truly “foster a diverse and inclusive culture,” hate speech and bigotry must be acknowledged as such, and those enacting exclusionary behaviours must be held accountable. Excusing or defending people who dehumanise and target marginalised people—whether employees, players, or creators like Rowling—will never result in inclusion or transformation.

Zine Quest Project Perfect RPG Is Created, Criticised, and Cancelled

Okay, where do we even start with this one? This week, a Zine Quest project called Perfect RPG came under fire for… a whole bunch of reasons. The project was touted as a “collection of the perfect RPGs”, featuring several game creators working from a system created by lead designer Luke Crane. It was then revealed that Crane had included Adam Koebel on the project, a designer who has been criticised for his inappropriate conduct last year around sexually violent content in actual play series Far Verona. As a result, many of the other creators pulled out the project.

In addition, Crane’s own involvement with Perfect RPG is complicated by the fact that he is not only the creator of Zine Quest but also Head of Community and ex-Head of Games at Kickstarter, where the project was being crowdfunded. This suggests a couple of major conflicts of interest, especially when considering the hefty Kickstarter goal of $6,000 (compared to the average Zine Quest goal of $500 to $1,000).

The project has now been cancelled due to the number of creators who exited the project. Unfortunately, Crane does not seem to have learned anything about accountability from this, stating that “many designers withdrew or were harassed to withdraw due to my including Adam Koebel as a designer of one of these games,” equating gamers calling out the inclusion of Koebel to “harassment.”

Of course, Crane could have just asked Koebel to withdraw from the project or, better yet, not have included Koebel from the start. Instead of taking responsibility, Crane seems to have doubled down by “redacting” the list of creators from the Kickstarter page to “reduce future harassment”. Unfortunately, he has not redacted the hideous and distinctly unclear spreadsheet that supposedly explains the wildly-high funding goal.

Anthem Next Cancelled, Next Dragon Age to Be Single-Player

EA’s Anthem Next has been cancelled following a review of the project so far. A small team of BioWare developers had been working on the project for a year and a half after the critical failure of Anthem, which was released back in early 2019. Anthem Next aimed to restructure and overhaul its predecessor.

BioWare released a statement outlining the impact of working from home due to the pandemic on the team’s productivity. This resulted in the team failing to meet their goals for this review of the game although the statement suggests that BioWare chose to avoid attempting to achieve their goals through crunch.

Following the decision to cancel Anthem Next, EA and BioWare have decided to remove the planned multiplayer service from Dragon Age 4, causing many fans of the RPG series to sigh in relief.

 

The team that was working on Anthem Next will now be joining devs on the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games.

In other news…

Content warning: murder, femicide, violence.

A Call of Duty: Mobile esports player has been arrested after allegedly stabbing and killing a woman esports rival. Guilherme Alves Costa, 18, admitted to killing Ingrid Oliveira Bueno da Silva, 19, at his home where da Silva was participating in a competitive tournament for the game. Alves Costa then shared photos on social media whilst bragging about his violent acts. This event highlights the ongoing violence and threats faced by women and femmes in gaming.

 

Epic have created a new tool called MetaHuman that allows you to construct ultra-realistic faces inside your web browser. Epic hopes that MetaHuman can be used alongside motion capture and animation tools to create simultaneously impressive and terrifying photorealistic people in video games, television, and film.

 

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has been delayed indefinitely, with lead developer Hardsuit Labs no longer working on the project. This follows the dismissal of Hardsuit Labs’ lead narrative designer Brian Mitsoda and creative director Ka’ai Cluney back in August 2020.

Square Enix released the revamped opening cinematic for NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139, an updated version of NieR Replicant.

The next big patch for Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed following the recent cyber attack made on CD Projekt. The patch is now set to be released in late March 2021.

Amazon-owned Twitch has banned Amazon’s union-busting ads, stating that they “never should have been allowed to run” in the first place due to Twitch’s ban on political advertising. While not exactly expressing support for unionisation at their parent company, this ban from Twitch nonetheless moves in the right direction by shutting down the incredibly manipulative ads on their platform.

Sony is shutting down their oldest first-party developer, Japan Studios, which will be absorbed into Team ASOBI and PlayStation Studios. Japan Studios developed PlayStation classics like Ape Escape and Gravity Rush.

Square Enix has announced two mobile games set in the world of Final Fantasy VII, including Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier, a Battle Royale prequel, and Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis which is “a chapter-structured single player game covering the whole of the FFVII timeline”. The games are set to launch in 2021 and 2022 respectively, on Android and iOS.

 

The Pokémon Company has announced an open-world Pokémon adventure game called Pokémon Legends: Arceus, taking place before other Pokémon games and expected to launch on Nintendo Switch in 2022.

Developer Frogwares have stated that the version of their Lovecraftian horror detective game, The Sinking City, currently available on Steam isn’t the game that they developed. Frogwares “do not recommend the purchase of this version.” This comes during an ongoing dispute between Frogwares and The Sinking City publisher Nacon.

According to a new report, Dying Light 2 developer Techland has created a toxic working environment, exacerbated by poor management and planning, where employees have experienced misogynist and anti-queer behaviours and remarks from colleagues. Employees report communication issues, obstacles to development work, and concerns around the CEO having hired his wife as chief HR officer, despite no previous experience in HR. You can read the full report here.

There’s now a co-operative Stardew Valley board game, available to buy via the Stardew Valley shop (it’s currently sold out). You can watch the trailer for the game below.