Content note: COVID-19, mentions of harassment and abuse.
Welcome back to Get Your Game On! My name is Zainabb and I’m fed up with the ableds. There’s been an awful lot of awfulness this week, in gaming and beyond, so please remember to take care of yourself. Allow loved ones to support you just as much as you support them, and step up for the most marginalised members of our communities.
Here’s this week’s gaming news.
PAX East Enforcer Dawn “Deestar” Wood Dies from COVID-19
On April 30, PAX East Enforcer Dawn “Deestar” Wood passed away from COVID-19 after working at the in-person convention. Her sister, Margrette Domingue, also caught COVID while attending the convention and is currently in the emergency room.
While PAX East required attendees to show proof of vaccination and to wear masks during the convention, Boston dropped its mask mandate on public transport days before the event. It’s also unclear how consistently masks were worn during the convention, including during off-site events. PAX East did not require attendees to test for COVID before or during attendance, instead recommending that guests did not attend if they felt unwell (COVID is contagious several days before symptoms appear and some people don’t show symptoms at all). Refunds were not offered, even if an attendee could no longer attend due to COVID symptoms.
PAX Enforcers manage in-person operations at the conference, including welcoming attendees. They’re paid the local minimum wage alongside being provided with a four-day pass to the event. In the wake of Wood’s death, members of the gaming community have resumed discussions about the need for in-person conferences during an ongoing pandemic, especially after the rapid spread of COVID at the Game Developers Conference and MAGFest earlier this year.
It's profoundly irresponsible to be hosting or attending in-person events right now. Just because *you* probably won't die from it doesn't mean your vulnerable friends and colleagues might not still die from COVID. https://t.co/LxptLKDOve
— Jason (@jasonthinks) May 3, 2022
Was holding Pax East this year, in a COVID-19 hotspot, during a major spike, worth Dawn Wood's life? Because it cost her life.
The Penny Arcade Expo now officially has a body count.
STOP HOLDING INDOOR EVENTS DURING COVID. https://t.co/1hFhwlC4WM
— anna phylaxis (@quatoria) May 4, 2022
CW Covid, death
12 days ago, PAX East opened to applause for its "safety," requiring vaccines and masks, days after Boston dropped mask mandates on public transit and not long after indoor masking was dropped. An Enforcer got sick. She died on Saturday. And she didn't have to.
— Simon | Color Spray Games (@LuchaLibris) May 4, 2022
PAX described Wood as a “beloved member of the Enforcer community” but did not acknowledge her cause of death. Wood’s sister and mother have set up a GoFundMe for her funeral costs.
Bungie Takeover Investigated by the FTC and the Studio Defends Abortion Rights
Earlier this year, Sony announced plans to acquire Bungie for $3.6 billion. Now, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened an enquiry into the purchase, as is standard practice for takeovers like this (the FTC is also currently investigating Microsoft’s plans to buy Activision Blizzard). Specifically, the FTC has reportedly cited concerns that future Bungie games will become Sony exclusives, but Bungie has stated that it will continue publishing across platforms.
This week, Bungie also spoke out against the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protects abortion rights in the United States. Bungie stated that the draft decision “represents a blow to freedom in America and is a direct attack on human rights.” While this may very well be a move to rebrand Bungie’s image in the wake of accusations of sexism and a toxic working culture last year, it’s nonetheless positive to see a large games company asserting the need to protect reproductive rights.
Activision Blizzard Is Sued Again but Insists They Don’t Need to Report on Anti-Harassment Progress
Over in Activision Blizzard news, the company has been sued yet again, this time by New York City. Specifically, the lawsuit was brought against the company by New York City Employees’ Retirement System, who are Activision stockholders. They accuse Activision Blizzard and CEO Bobby Kotick of rushing to secure the pending takeover deal with Microsoft in an attempt to escape liability for misconduct, and devaluing the company as a result.
New York City is requesting access to various Activision documents related to the Microsoft deal and potential alternative buyers, alongside financial data and internal documents to understand how much Kotick knew of sexual misconduct at the company. They argue that the company was significantly undervalued when it was sold to Microsoft.
Meanwhile, and shocking absolutely nobody, Activision Blizzard has recommended to shareholders that they vote against a proposal by New York State that the company annually publishes a discrimination and harassment report. The proposed report would measure the effectiveness and outcomes of the company’s (supposed) efforts to combat abuse and toxic working environments. Additionally, Activision has advised shareholders to vote against a proposal to include an employee representative on its board. You couldn’t make it up.
Activision insists that it is “deeply committed” to ending abuse, harassment and discrimination at the company but argues that the proposed report would “create a set of metrics that are simply not the best measures of how the Company is responding to employee concerns.” The proposed report would include information about the total number of pending complaints against the company, how the company is reducing the time taken to resolve complaints, how much money the company has spent on resolving complaints, and consolidated data on pay and time worked. Activision did not suggest alternative metrics or alternatives to a report that would promote transparency around complaint processes.
In other news…
Staff at esports companies TSM and Blitz have spoken out about workplace abuse, including from CEO and founder Andy Dinh, who has been accused of bullying. Some workers at TSM and Blitz also allege that they were misclassified as contractors rather than employees, impacting their pay and benefits entitlement.
Several union organisers, including Alex Speidel from United Paizo Workers, met with President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh at the White House this week to discuss the importance of unionisation efforts. Chris Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union, was also present and testified before the Senate Budget Committee.
Microsoft is teaming up with Eve Online to allow players to import in-game data into Excel. Further details haven’t yet been announced but gamers can look forward to spreadsheets in space.
This is not a joke: EVE x Microsoft Excel is happening. Soon you’ll be able to transport in game date directly into Excel. Spreadsheets in space made easy. Crowd is loving this. #evefanfest pic.twitter.com/723wnpFlkQ
— EVE Online (@EveOnline) May 6, 2022
Since launching its beta last week, Overwatch 2 has lost an incredible 99% of stream viewers. The huge drop-off comes as Blizzard wrestles with its plan for the game, which is expected to eventually include single player content alongside a multiplayer mode.
Microsoft has announced a streaming device that will let gamers play Xbox games without a console. The device will make use of Xbox Cloud Gaming, providing access to Xbox Game Pass content alongside film and television streaming services. The device is expected to release in the next year.
Nvidia has been fined $5.5 million by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC stated that Nvidia failed to properly communicate to investors that revenue earned in 2018 was significantly affected by cryptomining. The SEC explained that this prevented investors from making informed assessments about the company’s market performance.