Hello, and welcome to Get Your Game On! I’m Zora, and I’m here to report on… well, frankly, whatever moves me when my turn comes around. This week we’re taking a close look at global human rights abuses and whatever the hell is going on with Microsoft, but I did get deep into the weeds on the bizarre branding partnerships that have come out of games marketing in the last few weeks. So… stick around for that, I guess.

But first:

There Is a Genocide in Palestine, and the US Is Not Interested in Stopping It

On Friday, December 8, the United States was the sole veto against a resolution to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The resolution was backed by 13 of the 15 nations on the United Nations Security Council (the UK abstained); per the Associated Press, a US deputy ambassador reasoned that it was “imbalanced” because it didn’t condemn Hamas or “acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself.” The UN General Assembly has since voted to make the ceasefire demand, but General Assembly votes are not legally binding in the same way that Security Council resolutions are.

Readers of Sidequest know that we don’t “keep the art separate from the politics” or whatever the Twitter weirdos like to yell, but I want to be absolutely clear about why I’ve included this as part of this roundup: this shit matters to all of us. The “strategic” bombing of a dense urban area, the deliberate herding of a large population into compressed spaces with no escape and miserable living conditions, the routine targeting of hospitals and medical personnel: these are not acts of self defense; they are systematic decisions on the part of the Israeli government to destroy a citizenry and culture whose existence is counter to their aims. As human beings, it is always relevant to us when abuses on this scale occur. A permanent and immediate ceasefire is the only humanitarian option, and the US’s refusal to demand it is both a shameful failure of empathy and a horrifying display of the power this country holds.

And, naturally, the US government’s silence has impacts on not just the global political stage, but also on smaller institutions… including gaming. In Roblox, players have been flagged for saying “FREE PALESTINE,” and players allege that pro-Palestinian games have been taken off the platform (or been made otherwise inaccessible). At the Golden Joysticks, Meghna Jayanth withdrew from presenting the Best Storytelling award because the organizers “would not permit political statements.” And, finally, there was deafening silence throughout the Game Awards despite an open letter signed by over half the members of the Game Awards Future Class and thousands of other games professionals.

The Activision-Microsoft Merger: Consequences

We’ve covered the agonizing merger between Activision Blizzard and Microsoft for literal years, so I’m thrilled to say that now that a decision’s been reached and it’s over, if not good, we can finally be done with this topic. Wait, what’s that? Nonsense is still afoot? Well then.

Microsoft has finally officially acquired Activision Blizzard King, which means they’re now empowered to enact all those spicy sales and marketing decisions they’ve been dreaming about. To start with, prices for Activision games have increased by as much as a totally normal 2,402% in some territories (no, I did not add that zero!). US, Canada, and UK pricing was mostly unaffected, but almost all other territories experienced price increases (though usually to admittedly less extreme degrees). The Gamer questions whether this increase is directly related to the acquisition, but the timing… isn’t cute.

In less shocking news, it’s been confirmed that Bobby is outie. Activision Blizzard’s oft (and fairly) maligned CEO will be cashing an up to $375 million check and moving on to greener pastures at the end of 2023. Good riddance, and please stay gone.

More seriously: as the acquisition shakes out, expect to see consequences throughout Activision Blizzard and the greater gaming landscape. With consolidation comes layoffs, cultural flattening, and other changes that may be harder to predict. I encourage everyone to support workers, not companies or IP, and to look to independent games for new and interesting work as the goliaths fight it out above us.

And Now: Insane Branding Partnerships

I don’t know what’s in the air (Christmas? Award season? Generational turnover?), but the partnerships between games institutions and Literally Everything Else have been particularly bizarre recently. Here are a few of our favorites:

In other news…

Jennell Jaquays, pioneering TTRPG designer behind early Dungeons & Dragons modules and wearer of too many industry hats to list, is still raising funds to support her recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome.

There’s a fanmade Bloodborne cart racing game coming out in early 2024.

The Glory Society is shuttering. Scott Benson revealed on his personal Twitter that the core reason for the shutdown is his health: he’s been struggling with severe heart failure for the better part of a year. This is a bummer in all sorts of ways—we were looking forward to Revenant Hill, and on an industry level the Glory Society was a really exciting cooperative enterprise—but among them is the very human reality that it sucks to see a cool dude go through scary stuff.

The Overwatch League has shut down, sunsetting my favorite sports acronym of all time (OWL).

ReedPop is looking to sell a shocking number of properties, including Eurogamer, GI, VG247, and Rock Paper Shotgun. Megacorporations, man.

Twitch is pulling out of South Korea due to what the company claims are significantly higher operating costs than in other markets. Twitch in Korea will shut down on February 27, 2024.

And finally: pour one out for E3.