Welcome to another Wednesday! I have been preoccupied with other tasks and haven’t had time to play games recently, other than terrible phone games. I’m deep into season three of Love Island The Game 2, which is… I mean… it’s like… I guess it’s okay, but it lacks season two’s awful dramatics and entirely lacks the charm of Love Island The Game. I’ve also just learned that there’s a Too Hot to Handle game, which so far is pretty dull. Why are all these people so respectable? This is not what reality TV is for!
Anyway, here’s what’s been going on in the news lately.
Twitch Streamer Kai Cenat Arrested
Kai Cenat, the most-subscribed to user on Twitch, was arrested in New York City after a large crowd gathered in response to his promising to giveaway a number of computers, PlayStation 5s, and other gaming and streaming equipment. Thousands of people showed up to the giveaway, and, according to NYPD, Cenat did not have a permit for the gathering, making it an unlawful assembly. Cenat was one of 65 people arrested, and was charged with inciting a riot and unlawful assembly, as well as other charges.
According to NYPD chief Jeffrey Maddrey, the crowd quickly grew from 300 to several thousand, and the police department responded by activating a “Level 4” response, the highest in their disaster response plan. The NYPD also stated that the crowd stole items such as shovels and axes from a construction site and began throwing those items at each other and toward the police. Some attendees were also accused for lighting and throwing fireworks.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams stated during a news conference that he believed “outside influencers” may have been to blame for the escalation, and that the gathering was a “parenting issue.” 30 of the people arrested were juveniles.
Since the arrests, people who attended the giveaway have posted videos of the police at the gathering, suggesting the police used excessive force in their response.
The End of Feminist Frequency
After almost 15 years in operation, Feminist Frequency, the non-profit organization created by Anita Sarkeesian, is closing. Sarkeesian cited burnout and exhaustion as major causes for the organization’s closure, no doubt because so many gaming fans are still unable to stomach even the mildest discussion of sexism and the objectification of women in video games even in the year of our lord 2023.
Along with the criticism that Feminist Frequency is known for, other services and activities operated by the nonprofit such as the Games and Online Harassment Hotline will end as well. Some operations, such as the Feminist Frequency Radio podcast and ReSpec, a program headed by Jae Lin that is targeted at people in the gaming industry who have caused harm, will continue on.
Though Feminist Frequency’s videos didn’t always land for me and my understanding of media has sometimes clashed with Sarkeesian’s, I’m also a fucking adult. I can disagree with somebody and not whip myself into a frenzy about that disagreement, let alone launch a decade-long harassment campaign to get a woman to shut up, thereby proving her point. The non-profit and gaming spaces are notoriously difficult to operate in, and I can’t help but want to scream until my throat turns raw when I think about the level of harassment Sarkeesian and others in this space have received over the years for doing work that in pretty much any other artistic industry would be seen as normal and even necessary.
Labor Complaints at TCGplayer and eBay
Several unfair labor complaints have been filed against eBay on behalf of workers at TCGplayer, a company eBay acquired in 2022 that won a union election in March of this year. According to Briana Thomas, a member of the TCJ Union-CWA (part of the Communication Workers of America) and part of the group’s organizing committee, eBay and TCGplayer have attempted to undermine the union by challenging the election and refusing to recognize it. Because neither company has thus far recognized the union, they have not been able to negotiate a fair contract.
EXCLUSIVE: Workers at ebay subsidiary TCGplayer have been fighting for a fair contract amidst claims that eBay has been dragging its feet refusing to negotiate with or even acknowledge the union https://t.co/FF09NqSElT
— Ash Parrish (@adashtra) July 31, 2023
Before the union election this year, TCG workers planned to vote on unionization in 2020, but TCGplayer management promised to improve benefits and create more pathways to promotion. The workers agreed to give the company a year to improve, and were given raises, and the union vote was withdrawn. However, according to Thomas, no further raises have been offered, even after eBay acquired the company for just shy of $300 million—notably, two years after they promised to make improvements.
Thomas told The Verge that eBay and TCGplayer have used intimidation tactics, as well as working with notoriously anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, to prevent the union’s formation. Those intimidation tactics include encouraging employees to call the police on one another and spreading rumors about union organizers harassing people at their homes.
The official complaints include refusal on the part of eBay and TCGplayer to recognize and negotiate with the union, refusal to provide information on collective bargaining, refusal to afford Weingarten Rights to employees, and implementing changes to terms and conditions of employment without negotiating with the union.
Activision Sues Music Critic in Response to TikTok Sound Cease and Desist
Activision is suing Anthony Fantano, a music critic who runs the YouTube channel The Needle Drop, after Fantano sent the company a cease and desist letter for using a TikTok audio he created in a video promoting Crash Bandicoot shoes. The clip—in which Fantano reacts to a video of someone cutting a pizza into absurdly small pieces—was reportedly in the “Commercial Sounds” library, which Activision’s lawsuit claims makes it available for advertisements.
Fantano’s cease-and-desist letter, sent in June 2023, demanded that Activision stop using the audio and pay him a six-figure settlement or face litigation, stating the video Activision created functioned as a false endorsement. Though Activision has deleted the video using the audio, the company responded with a lawsuit stating that thousands of other videos use the audio clip, and that Fantano is therefore trying to game the law for personal gain. The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for legal expenses and a ruling that would prevent Fantano from suing people who use the clip in their own videos.
According to Richard Hoeg, a lawyer who spoke to Kotaku about the case (but who has not seen the entire lawsuit), Activision has a good case against Fantano because the audio was in the commercial library for use by anyone, including corporations Fantano does not like, for free. However, Hoeg stated that there were potential complications, such as if Fantano did not submit his own audio.
In other news…
Post Malone has purchased the rarest Magic: The Gathering card in existence—the single special edition copy of the One Ring card, featuring gold foil and Elvish Black Speech. A representative for Brook Trafton, who found the card, confirmed that Malone bought the card for $2 million. Trafton, a fan of Malone, instantly thought of the rapper when they found the card, and stated that meeting him and selling him the card was “literally a moment straight out of a fairytale.”
Kickstarter has announced their new policy toward art generated with AI, which goes into effect August 29. Under the new policy, AI-generated art is not prohibited, but all projects on Kickstarter must include human creative input as well as proper credit and permission for any artist’s work. Creators using AI-generated art, text, or other material must disclose that on their project page, as well as what elements will be generated and which will be original. Projects that develop AI tools, software, or technology must discuss the databases and data used to create them. Projects that do not follow these guidelines may be denied, and misrepresentations of the use of AI may result in restrictions from creating further Kickstarters.
Yuka Kitamura, a composer known for her work on From Software games like Bloodborne, Dark Souls, and Elden Ring, has announced she is leaving the company after some ten years. Kitamura will continue composing as a freelancer.
Thank you all for your continued support.
Today I have an announcement to make.
I have decided to leave FromSoftware, the company I worked for, and to start working new as a freelance composer in this August.
— Yuka Kitamura / 北村友香 (@_Yuka_Kitamura_) August 1, 2023
Neopets is back, baby! Well, many of its best games are, after World of Neopia, Inc., took over the company. Many of the site’s games died with the ending of support for Flash, but now have been brought back in HTML-5 form. These games include Meerca Chase, Turmac Role, Snowmuncher, and my personal favorite, The Castle of Eliv Thade. Oh, and they’ve got a trading card game on the way, if you don’t want to be screamed at by a zombie Kacheek every time you guess a word wrong.
Relive the magic of Neopia with our Neopets Battledome Trading Card Game! 🃏
Come by Upper Deck’s Booth # 307 to see these cards in person! pic.twitter.com/5hH7euonYr
— neopets (@Neopets) July 21, 2023
Team Fortress 2 has added some new maps, but, more importantly, one of those maps contains a seal that you must feed fish to. No gaming objective has ever been this important.
The Electronic Sports League (ESL) has ruled that Crocs are not allowed at the IEM Cologne 2023 competition. OK, the real rule is that the “open” shoes are not allowed, and the ESL confirmed with a July update that Crocs are in fact “open” shoes. Players also cannot wear shorts, flip-flops, or “headwear.” For players who break the rules, ESL will provide clothing that is allowed, and will subtract the cost from prize money.
The Overwatch League is in financial trouble, and could potentially shut down later this year if the current teams do not vote to update the operating agreement.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has updated its guidance to include rules for how online influencers should disclose partnerships with brands who provide products and perks to them. Specifically, the FTC now advises that when reviewers and other creators receive those products, they should disclose that they were received for free even if they were not asked to do so, such as if they receive a board game for free and post a picture of themselves playing it. Failure to follow these guidelines could result in the FTC suing the brand and the influencer, as well as anybody else who is involved in violating the guidelines.
Wizards of the Coast has been accused of using AI-generated art in the upcoming Bigby’s Glory of the Giants book. The company, through the D&D Beyond Twitter account (or X account? are we calling it that now?), stated that they became aware that the artist used the AI and that future artwork for the game will not be used. However, the company did not disclose whether any changes would be made to the book, which comes out August 15, nor to future editions.
Is Wizards using AI art in official sourcebooks?
— GmBen (@NevernotDM) August 4, 2023
In a Reddit post and YouTube video, a former media artist at ZeniMax who worked on Elder Scrolls Online accused the company of transphobic behavior and work practices. These actions including misgendering, outing the employee without her consent, and pressuring her into resigning in order to receive gender-affirming surgery. The video features screenshots and audio recordings detailing her experience. After battling with the company and human resources, the employee accepted the resignation deal, meaning that she cannot bring any legal action against Bethesda. According to TheGamer’s report, court filings suggest that she has taken some kind of legal action against ZeniMax, but the reasons behind these filings are unknown.
Do you like pizza? How about Ninja Turtles? How about a pizza-scented, Ninja Turtles-themed Xbox controller? Well… I have great news for you, because you can enter to win one of a limited number of “ooze green” controllers to celebrate the upcoming release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. I can’t relate to you, but I am happy for you nonetheless. Also, I created this (with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Logo Generator) to celebrate:
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.