Content warning: mention of sexual harassment and misconduct, toxic work environments, and human rights violations in Palestine.
Hello and welcome to Get Your Game On. My name is Zainabb and I wrote this week’s GYGO while my tiny cat made lots of stinky yawns next to me, reminding me to buy dental treats. This week’s news is also a little stinky, with some absurdity chucked in for good measure (thank you, games industry). Please take care of yourself and remember to brush your teeth.
California Expands Its Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard, Who Announce a Name Change for Overwatch’s McCree
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has updated its anti-discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard to include temporary workers, and has also alleged that Activision Blizzard’s HR department destroyed documents relating to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit now includes temporary workers alongside full-time employees, in accordance with Californian anti-discrimination protections. This is an important change, made in response to allegations of a toxic workplace culture by Activision Blizzard contract workers this August. Temporary workers at Activision Blizzard reported low pay, intense crunch, and mistreatment from customers, alongside long unpaid breaks between contracts, forcing many temporary workers to leave the company and find more secure employment elsewhere.
The updated lawsuit also states that Activision Blizzard has “interfered” with the DFEH’s investigation by requiring its employees to speak with the company before they can contact the DFEH, and through the company’s work with union-busting law firm WilmerHale. The DFEH also claims that internal documents relating to the lawsuit have been shredded by the company’s HR department.
HR destroyed the documents related to the lawsuit…which means the fine for doing so was less than the penalty for what it was. Shame on HR. Time to unionize. I will be screaming this from the hilltops now. 💙 feels so fucking gross working here right now.
— Jessica Gonzalez 💙 #ABetterABK 💙 (@BlizzJess) August 24, 2021
Activision Blizzard denies that it has shredded relevant documents and states that it is “implementing reforms to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for every employee.” Meanwhile, the company has confirmed that it will change the name of popular Overwatch character, McCree, originally named after Blizzard developer Jesse McCree. The developer appeared in the lawsuit as one of various Activision Blizzard employees involved in alleged sexual harassment and misconduct. Activision Blizzard recently confirmed that the real-life McCree is no longer an employee at the company.
— Ultima | #вʟм (@UltimaShadowX) August 26, 2021
Blizzard announced the change on Twitter, referring vaguely to their “commitment to creating a game world that reflects [their values],” and promised that future characters will not be named after employees. Removing in-game references to alleged abusers is a vital initial step towards accountability but it is only an initial step, and cannot replace material and systemic change within the company. Some gamers have expressed cynicism over Blizzard’s timing of the news, which coincided with the DFEH’s allegations that the company shredded internal documents.
They should rename McCree to Shredder, currently the hardest working employee at ActiBlizzard.
— Leo (@IndoorSitup) August 26, 2021
Fortnite Opens a Virtual Exhibit on Martin Luther King Jr.
Fortnite players can now access a virtual museum featuring Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream…” speech alongside historical monuments from 1963’s Washington DC, including the Lincoln Memorial. The exhibit was launched to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Developed by community members, the exhibit was “inspired” by a 2020 virtual reality exhibition for DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, which also featured the speech. Gamers have expressed mixed feelings about the Fortnite exhibition, with some uncertain whether it’s an appropriate venue for Martin Luther King Jr.’s important speech. Others have pointed out that video games can provide an accessible platform for children and young people to learn about history, particularly at a time when critical race studies and Black history are being suppressed in schools.
Im conflicted, i think video games are a great way to teach history. but also the way its being delivered here … i have mixed feelings.
— Christopher Freeman (@Sabertooth0023) August 26, 2021
Every kid 40 years from now when they see MLK in the history books pic.twitter.com/5yro7zKk9v
— rozan (@monrozan) August 26, 2021
jokes aside fortnite about to teach kids more about MLK than the school system has ever had
— kira ~ (@Sadcrib) August 26, 2021
for double whiplash, consider that fortnite now has more material on MLK than southern state textbooks do https://t.co/8qn71AgAD9
— Freyja Katra Illustrious Valentine (@FreyjaErlings) August 26, 2021
The exhibition is an optional feature and can be accessed via the in-game Discover Menu or using the special island code: 3815-8892-143.
In other news…
IGN have updated their “How to Help Palestinian Civilians” article, originally posted in May in response to renewed Israeli airstrikes against Palestine. The article featured various resources to support Palestinians and was rapidly removed by the company’s leadership team. The new article is titled “A Resolution and New IGN Policies,” refers to the previous iteration as “How to Help,” and states that the original article was removed due to “controversial interpretations” of its contents. The refreshed article has been rephrased to dampen its focus on Palestinian casualties and centres IGN’s processes for removing articles and providing “corrections.” The new title will make it harder to search for and access the resources listed.
Meanwhile, Animal Crossing is partnering with Puma to produce a line of Animal Crossing-themed clothes and shoes. Puma is the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association, which includes teams from illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law. If anything was going to absolve my guilt for not visiting my island in months, it’s Animal Crossing seeming to support human rights violations.
I’ve seen a lot of friends sharing their excitement for this collab but just know…
Puma is violating international law & human rights as the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association, supporting illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.#BoycottPuma #FreePalestine https://t.co/SwwNoP8wlu
— Rim 💙 ريم (@rim_aj) August 26, 2021
Various characters have been confirmed for upcoming fighting game Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, including CatDog, April O’Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants, and Helga from Hey Arnold! This sounds like a dream for millennials and may introduce a world of lightly nightmarish cartoons to younger players. Follow the official Twitter for more announcements.
Amazon’s MMO coloniser simulator, New World, will be released on September 28, following several delays due to the pandemic. An open beta for the game will run from September 9–12.
Horizon Forbidden West—the sequel to another game with colonialism issues—has been delayed until February 2022, also due to the pandemic. The game will be released for PlayStation 4 and 5.
Space exploration game Jett: The Far Shore now has a release date of October 5, for PS4, PS5, and PC. A new trailer has also dropped, which you can watch below.
Former Twitch streamer Dr Disrespect (whose real name is Guy Beahm) has said he will sue Twitch after being banned last year. Beahm said that he is now aware of why he was banned and “didn’t do anything to warrant a ban.” No further details about the planned lawsuit or the reasons behind Beahm’s ban have been released.
Apple has agreed to make some changes to the App Store in a proposed settlement for a class-action lawsuit. These changes would allow game developers to directly communicate with customers about payment options outside of the App Store. This would potentially allow customers to buy game purchases directly from a developer, rather than via the App Store where Apple receives a cut of all payments made. Consumers will have the option to opt in and out of direct communications from the developer. Apple also agreed to make up to $100 million in payments for developers who have lost income due to their existing policy, which restricts developers from accessing contact information provided in-app. However, game developers still aren’t allowed to mention external payment options within their apps.
Netflix has begun testing mobile games on its platform, restricting its first batch to Poland. The test includes two Stranger Things mobile games for Android, which are displayed within the Netflix app but seem to require download via Google Play.
Developer Emika Games has stated that they’re “leaving game development” indefinitely due to a high amount of Steam refunds for their short indie game, Summer of ‘58. Steam users have been exploiting the platform’s refund policy, which permits refunds within two hours of purchase, to play the 90-minute game for free. While the policy is useful for consumers, it can also lead to a loss of revenue for indie developers who release short games on the platform, as in the case of Emika Games.
Friends! Thank you for your support! I'm leaving game development for an indefinite time to collect my thoughts. pic.twitter.com/q93NxWjyUI
— EMIKA_GAMES (@EmikaGames) August 26, 2021
Zainabb Hull is an editor at Sidequest, a freelance writer and videographer, and sort-of artist. They’re also a trans, queer, and disabled brown femme. They tweet into the void at @ZainabbHull.