Welcome to GYGO, our weekly news roundup, hosted by me, your humble editor in chief with a sinus infection! I bring the sinus infection up only because it means I’ve had less energy and more dizziness than usual, which means I’ve been wanting to spend my time playing games that simply do not ask a lot of me. Thankfully, the last game I pulled out of my game jar was The Lost Art of Innkeeping, which you also have if you purchased the itch.io anti-racism bundle last year. It’s a delightful little innkeeping sim, but what I really love is that I literally just have to click on things. I click to move. I click to interact. I can play it while holding a cup of sinus relief tea under my nose because all I have to do is move my mouse and click with the other hand. I can play it without issues on my definitely-not-for-gaming laptop. Is this… the perfect game? Time well tell.

Anyhow, let’s get into less than perfect things, because gaming news is always happening and it’s never all that great.

Discord Teases NFT Integration, but Walks It Back

If you’re as tired of hearing about NFTs as I am, please scroll on.

On November 8, Packy McCormick, founder of Not Boring, a newsletter on business strategy and investing, tweeted about a partnership between Not Boring and The Generalist, a tech newsletter:

Jason Citron, founder and CEO of Discord, responded to that tweet with “probably nothing” and a screenshot of Discord showing a connection between MetaMask, WalletConnect—two cryptocurrency wallets—and Discord itself.

The same day, internet archivist Jason Scott tweeted a screenshot of a Discord survey that seemed to be taking the temperature of Discord users toward NFTs, with one large problem—the survey options allowed responders to respond warmly toward NFTs, or state that they hadn’t heard of them. There was no option to state opposition to them.

The combination of Jason Citron’s response to Packy McCormick and the Discord & Web3 survey caused immediate backlash toward the chat platform. Many users of Discord Nitro—a subscription system that gives the user additional features in Discord—canceled their subscriptions in protest. Two days later, Citron responded to his initial tweet toward McCormick stating that the concept was internal and there was no intent to ship, but that more information would be available soon.

NFTs, aside from being a baffling blockchain-based cash grab, are also incredibly wasteful and destructive to the environment in a world that absolutely cannot afford it. Fingers crossed that the “more to come” from Citron is not some other form integration with blockchain, but rather a disavowal of the technology altogether.

Court Cases, a Better Ubisoft, and Blizzard’s Reckoning Continues

Content warning: The section on Blizzard includes descriptions of a sexist work environment, including a threat of violence against women.

It never ends, does it?

First up: Blizzard.

Jen Oneal, who became co-lead with Mike Ybarra at Blizzard three months ago to replace J. Allen Brack, is stepping down from her position and leaving Blizzard in its entirety at the end of 2021. In a goodbye letter posted on Blizzard’s website, Oneal stated that she is not leaving because she doesn’t have hope for the future of the company, but rather that she is “inspired by the passion of everyone [t]here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts.” Activision-Blizzard-King (ABK) has pledged a $1 million grant to Women in Games International, where Oneal is a board member, to further their mission of establishing more equality and opportunities for women in the gaming industry.

On November 16, a Wall Street Journal article detailed claims that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick knew about and did not adequately respond to claims of sexism, harassment, and abuse at ABK. According to this report, Kotick also participated in harassment himself—in 2006, he was accused of leaving a threatening voicemail for one female assistant that said he would have her killed. The report also explains the reason behind Oneal’s departure less than three months after she was appointed co-lead at Blizzard: according to an email obtained by WSJ, she experienced harassment at the company herself, was paid less than Ybarra, and was “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.”

Following the release of this report, it was revealed that Dan Bunting, co-head at Treyarch, developer of Call of Duty (published by Activision), quit his position. Bunting was investigated for accusations of sexual harassment in 2019, and the investigation recommended that he be fired, but, according to WSJ, Kotick intervened and Bunting was allowed to keep his position. It’s unclear from the Polygon report whether Bunting left after WSJ reporters inquired about his position and punishment or after the article was published.

In the hours since the report was published, employees at Activision Blizzard have demanded Kotick’s resignation. Over 100 employees have gathered outside the company headquarters, per Kotaku, in the second mass walkout this year. The walkout is led by ABK Workers Alliance, a group of Activision Blizzard workers advocating for a better work environment.

Over at Atari, a jury has rejected the company’s claims that merchandise featuring classic arcade logos and artwork on Redbubble violated the company’s intellectual property rights. Because Redbubble is a marketplace rather than the sole creator of this merchandise, the jury’s decision was that they could not be held responsible for any IP infringement. Other similar lawsuits Atari has filed have settled, while a lawsuit against Teespring is still pending.

ABetterUbisoft, a group of current and former Ubisoft employees seeking accountability for abuse and exploitation at the company, has revealed that 100 days have passed since their first open letter to the company with zero of their demands being met. Those demands include the removal of people who harassed employees and more employee involvement in developing processes for handling abuse and exploitation. With this new statement, ABetterUbisoft is inviting fans, journalists, streamers, and anyone else to demand improvement from Ubisoft by signing a second letter.

In other news…

Mihoyo, the developer behind Genshin Impact, has created clear guidelines for products and fanart made for sale featuring characters or other elements from the game so that creators don’t have to fear a cease and desist letter. So long as the merchandise can’t be said to harm the reputation of Mihoyo or the game itself, Genshin Impact fans can create whatever products they like and sell up to 500 units, or 200 if selling as part of a group. Those who would like to go beyond that unit limit may ask Mihoyo for permission.

Game development software company Unity has acquired the technology arm of Weta Digital, Peter Jackson’s special-effects company. The deal cost Unity some $1.6 billion. We are now one step closer to my ideal world: one in which hobbits are in everything. No, I don’t care that the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings films were not CGI. Put them in anyway.

Bandai Namco will end all sales of Jump Force, the crossover fighting game starring characters from various anime and manga franchises featured in Shonen Jump, in America across all platforms on February 7, 2022. The online servers will be shut down from August 24, 2022. Offline content, online battles (excluding ranked matches), and any DLC purchased before February 7, 2022, will still be playable.

The Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remaster has met with criticism for its graphics, as well as the fact that it was literally unplayable on PC. Because time is a flat circle, it turns out that the San Andreas game files in the remaster still include the “Hot Coffee” content that caused such a stir literally 17 years ago. The content, which was inaccessible through normal play but discovered by modders, kicked off a series of lawsuits, a rating change, and increased scrutiny for the games industry. Rockstar has pulled the remaster from Windows—where the content would have been most easily accessible—likely to fix this problem alongside a different problem with Rockstar’s own game launcher, another problem with some unlicensed music, and who knows what else. As of 11/15, the game is once again available on PC.