Ohhhhhh boy. Oh boy. Welcome to Get Your Game On. It’s me, Maddi, back after taking November off to get married. How have you been? Play anything good lately? I’ve been hunting shrines in Breath of the Wild for the last month and a half to de-stress, though in light of this week’s news it’s… not really working, and I’m down to my last nineteen shrines. I’d say I’m excited to be back for your weekly news roundup, but it’s been an exceptionally rough week in a rough couple of months for the industry. Let’s get to it.
Activision Blizzard Workers Take Action in Face of the Company’s Passivity
Nearly two weeks ago, Activision Blizzard laid off twelve quality assurance contractors from Raven Software, a Wisconsin-based studio that primarily works on the Call of Duty games. This total represented about 30% of Raven’s QA team. In response, nearly 200 employees across different Activision Blizzard studios staged a walkout, including about 60 members of the Raven Software studio.
Employees previously staged walkouts in July and November, first to protest harassment and discrimination and again to protest the continued employment of Bobby Kotick as Activision Blizzard’s CEO, despite reports that he knew about (and covered up) abuse and harassment within the company.
The work stoppage continued throughout last week, with the Activision Blizzard King (ABK) Workers Alliance officially announcing a strike on Thursday, December 9. The ABK Workers Alliance also announced its intent to unionize with the help of the Communications Workers of America, and the establishment of a strike fund to help support striking workers. In response, Activision Blizzard sent a letter encouraging employees to please consider the terrible consequences of unionizing; they are certain all parties can come to an agreement without one. (Eye roll.)
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) December 10, 2021
In the middle of all of that, some truly abhorrent allegations came to light about the treatment breastfeeding employees received in the workplace.
If you've ever wanted a prime example of discrimination at ABK, this is it. This kind of negligence towards breastfeeding workers is criminal anywhere else, but it happened daily at Blizzard. Accommodating shouldn't be an afterthought. We can and should do better by our workers pic.twitter.com/ThXf5DI04z
— Jessica Gonzalez 💙 (@_TechJess) December 8, 2021
Ubisoft Makes a Foray into Playable NFTs
Ubisoft announced Ubisoft Quartz, a new platform that will allow players to collect digital assets in their games in the form of NFTs called Digits. Right now, this feature is in beta testing with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon. Ubisoft also promised “the first energy-efficient NFTs in AAA games,” but just in case it’s been more than ten minutes since you’ve heard: NFTs take an incredible amount of energy to mint, and offsetting their carbon footprint is not better than simply not minting them in the first place. Cryptocurrency is not energy efficient.
Ubisoft used a lot of buzzwords in the announcement, promising players things like “control” and “becoming a stakeholder in their games” and “ownership” over these assets. However, as Kyle Orland writes for Ars Technica, this simply isn’t true or even possible, considering the qualifiers Ubisoft has placed on who can own Digits. For example, at least one Digit requires players to have spent at least 600 hours playing Ghost Recon before they’re able to claim it. The takeaway? The blockchain adds nothing new to the experience that can’t already be found by just… buying cosmetic items like normal. (If you read one link from this section though, Kyle’s piece is a fantastic explainer.)
Oh hey, look at this amazing Ubisoft Quartz! Let's quickly check the terms to see how amazingly empowered they're making me and how much better than a normal store this is! pic.twitter.com/TD3to5GpeC
— Robert Anderberg (@bobbydigitales) December 7, 2021
Players reacted extremely negatively to Ubisoft’s Youtube announcement. Ninety-five percent of reactions on Youtube were dislikes. Ubisoft subsequently delisted the video.
The Game Awards Take a Vague Stand Against Harassment
Previously, host and executive producer Geoff Keighley said Activision Blizzard “would not be involved” in this year’s Game Awards after gamers called for the show to take a firm stand against the company.
Beyond its nominations, I can confirm that Activision|Blizzard will not be a part of this year’s #TheGameAwards
— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) December 4, 2021
Keighley opened The Game Awards saying, “We can’t ignore the headlines that are out there. Game creators need to be supported by the companies that employ them.” He then followed with “We should not and will not tolerate any abuse, harassment, or predatory practices by anyone, including our online communities,” a statement so vague and misleading that any unknowing viewer might think “online harassment,” not Activision Blizzard, was the defendant in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
This non-statement was almost immediately followed by the announcement of Star Wars Eclipse, a new game being developed by Quantic Dream. Y’know. The Quantic Dream whose toxic work culture was recently the subject of a lawsuit. The Quantic Dream whose founder (David Cage) isn’t shy about his misogyny and homophobia. That Quantic Dream.
Game by quantic dream pic.twitter.com/D3W0HG7SxW
— Catrina ⚔️ (@ohcatrina) December 10, 2021
In other news…
— Chandana එක Ekanayake (@Ekanaut) December 10, 2021
Garfield is unplayable on Mondays in Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl.
HOLY CRAP GARFIELD IS UNPLAYABLE ON MONDAYS. pic.twitter.com/9rDt8C8fHm
— 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗧𝗮𝘆𝗧𝗼𝗲💙 (@InsaneProtayto) December 9, 2021
The Garf renaissance is NOW.
Warning: do NOT feed your console lasagna.
— Xbox (@Xbox) December 10, 2021
If you made it this far, consider this your sign to go take a nap or grab a snack.
Madison Butler writes about advertising by day and about video games the rest of the time. She can usually be found crying about Final Fantasy and Nier: Automata on Twitter @madisonrbutler.