Welcome to Wednesday! My husband was out of town this weekend (more on that later) and I played roughly one thousand years of The Sims 4 in his absence. Since the last time I played, they seem to have added a mechanic that makes my sims unhappy because I don’t fulfill enough of their wishes and desires. Um, hello? This ain’t about you, Alexis and Michael. This is about me and my desire to have a beautiful Victorian-style home and chickens. I don’t care if you hate your job as a critic, we are going to build this damn house with your salary! Sorry about it!!

Anyway, here’s the news.

The Games Industry in a Nutshell

Normally I try to group news items on some kind of theme, but looking through this week’s big events I see a lot of “Yeah, that tracks,” with regard to what’s going on (with some notable standouts). Usually bigger news items get their own section and smaller ones get tidbits. But this week’s news feels like, “Yeah, that tracks,” over and over again, so let’s approach the news from that angle.

Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Ybarra told employees at a Q&A meeting, which was held in response to an employee satisfaction survey last week, a few pieces of bad news: that they’d be receiving a lower percentage of profit-share bonuses for 2022 profits (likely due to a decrease in profits, but don’t worry, CEO Bobby Kotick was still on track to receive a $22 million stock bonus in 2022!) and that all employees will be required to return to in-person work for at least some time every week. This discussion also reportedly included Ybarra downplaying the importance of QA and customer service roles and implying that managers and executives at the company are equally impacted by the profit-share cuts. There are many horrors in this report, but the one that’s really sticking with me is the fact that, according to Game Developer’s sources, chat was disabled during this Zoom meeting and employees could only voice their dissatisfaction via emoji react. A sea of thumbs-down emojis to express frustration with chronic exploitation in the games industry. Ugh.

Sega, meanwhile, is increasing the average salary of its employees by 30%. What does Sega have that Activision Blizzard does not? Well, in a press release, Sega cited the move as an investment in their employees, stating, “We will continue our efforts to realize a system that allows our employees to grow while realizing diverse work styles, and to provide further experiences that move the heart globally.” Sega raked in a substantial profit in 2022, and if I can set aside my games industry cynicism for a moment, it’s nice to see that profit improving the lives of employees rather than (solely) lining the pockets of executives.

The Saami Council, which represents the indigenous Saami people that inhabit regions of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, has demanded that Square Enix remove the “Far North” clothing from Final Fantasy XIV. The outfit, which costs $18 USD, does not in any way support the Saami people. The designs on the in-game clothing have specific cultural meaning to the Saami people, and the council believes that Square Enix has knowingly engaged in intellectual property violations by making the clothing available in their shop. As of writing, the clothing is still available and Square Enix has not made any kind of statement.

Tetris movie is coming. Not about falling blocks. This film, starring Taron Egerton, will follow Henk Rogers, who believes he has bought the rights to Alexey Pajitnov’s game design legitimately and ends up embroiled in a Cold War-era struggle over who has the right to publish the game outside of the Soviet Union. It’s a genuinely compelling story of video game history, and I hope they do it justice.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told investors this week that the cancellation of seven unannounced games in the past year or so is nothing to worry about—it’s just the natural result of trying to make too many games at once. And like, yeah, that tracks. Why the publisher was trying to make so many games at once remains a mystery. The company still has six games due out in the next year or so, as well as one unannounced title, so… don’t hold your breath for Skull and Bones just yet.

Elliot Gindi, who voiced Tighnari in Genshin Impact, has been removed from all future recordings from the character. The Genshin Impact Twitter account cites a breach of contract as the reason, which likely stems from accusations of predatory behavior toward fans, including underage fans, made on Twitter by several people. The accusers include a moderator for Gindi’s Discord server. Gindi responded to these allegations and admitted wrongdoing, but denied interactions with underage fans and accusations of transphobia.

Super Nintendo World Now Open in Universal Studios Hollywood

I know you’re all waiting on the edge of your seats for why on Earth I think you’d care about why my husband was out of town this weekend. He was at Super Nintendo World, which opened this weekend at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was not there because I hate fun*. Thankfully, my husband, who inexplicably asked to be identified as “Husband,” is now our man on the ground for insight into what Super Nintendo World was like, and I present to you: a little interview.

Melissa Brinks: Please describe in one word the experience of being at Super Nintendo World.

Husband: Awesome.

Melissa: What was your favorite part?

Husband: That’s a tough question… Probably the ride [Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge]. There’s just the one ride, but I think even though there’s a lot going on in the ride all at once, it’s still a really fun experience. And it took me maybe halfway through the ride to really figure out what was going on, because there’s so much chaos going on, but on my second ride through it, I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got this.” It was just like playing a video game.

Melissa: Did you feel like you had been truly transported to the Mushroom Kingdom?

Husband: I did, in certain instances. A lot of time was spent waiting in line for the minigames. Some of that kind of took me out of the experience, because I wasn’t looking around at the world, I was just looking at the lines. But once I got into the interactive stuff there, it was really, really cool. Especially the ride.

Melissa: I know you, avowed mushroom hater, did not consume any mushroom-based foods on this trip. What percentage of Super Nintendo World’s offerings were mushroom-based, would you say?

Husband: Most. I think a lot of them were. I think there were only a few options on the menu that didn’t include some form of mushroom. I ended up getting the Luigi Burger, which was basically a chicken burger. It doesn’t come with mushrooms on it. It was very good. I don’t know how much in detail you want me to describe the burger that I ate. There was a green bell pepper on it. Spinach. I think it was spinach. And pesto. I think they just picked green foods and threw it on a burger. But it was delicious.

Melissa: How do you feel about the lack of Wario and Waluigi in Super Nintendo World?

Husband: Justice for Wario and Waluigi. I don’t know why—well, I guess they can’t really include them without including more characters, because there’s so many characters they could include, and I think it would just kind of snowball. But I think those two should have been included. If anyone, those two should have been included. Also, the lack of merchandise for anybody who isn’t Mario, Bowser, Yoshi, Luigi… is very slim pickin’s. So, a Toad fan, such as myself—I was very disappointed in not being able to find very much Toad merchandise.

Melissa: On a scale of one to ten, recommend the experience of attending Super Mario World in its current state.

Husband: I think a nine. There are still some things they can work out with the line situation, because some of the lines were running into each other. It was just too crowded to figure out which line went to which game, because they were crisscrossing across the land. But the land itself felt pretty big for the space that they had to work with, because it’s not a huge area, but the scale of it feels big. And it is almost completely immersive. I think there’s only one building outside of the land that you can see from inside, and that’s only from certain spots in the area.

Melissa: Anything else you think people should know about Super Nintendo World?

Husband: I think it’s worth it to get the Power[-Up] Band—

Melissa: Do you think that’s capitalized [referring to the words ‘Power-Up Band’]?

Husband: Absolutely. [Pause.] Wait, I thought you meant like… capitalism. Yeah, I think it’s probably capitalized. Especially because you need the Power[-Up] Band to unlock… a lot of the interactive areas of the land. In my experience over the weekend, the land got very busy in the morning like right away, and then it started slowing down and the lines got less long in the early afternoon. I think that probably has to do with the timed entry and that there is no timed exit, so you can go in, and if you wanted to, you could stay all day in the land and they wouldn’t kick you out. You’re going to need a reservation, and probably get to Universal first thing in the morning, within the first couple hours of opening, and grab the first reservation that pops up. If you get there right when the park opens, then it will be the first reservation in the morning and they fill up really fast after that. And that’s just to get inside of the land. It’s not a timed entry to the ride or any of the interactive games there. It’s just to get into Super Nintendo World. But once you’re in, you’re in.

Melissa: Any last thoughts?

Husband: You don’t need to do the minigames to do the ride, but you do need them to get keys to unlock the Bowser Jr. interactive game, which was a very cool experience and really made it feel like I was in a video game.

Melissa: On that note, if you die in Super Nintendo World, do you die in real life?

Husband: I didn’t experience that to confirm, nor did I witness anybody. But I would guess yes.

*Actually, January was a hell month and I felt like I deserved a little time to myself, loudly playing Florence + the Machine, dancing around and injuring my knee because I am 34 years old, and playing many, many hours of The Sims 4.