Hi friends, it’s Zainabb, here this month to bring you race- and racism-related news in gaming. My aim is to highlight structural racism within the games industry, but also to spotlight Black and brown folks’ incredible work and the ways we’re resisting that milky white gaze.

Before we start, your regular reminder from me to please support Palestinian people however you can, now and always. The Palestine Academy offers education and a list of resources here. The Palestinian Feminist Collective have an incredible action toolkit too. If you’re able, please donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians or Restless Beings.

The Game Awards Comes Under Fire for Being Basically Pointless

The Game Awards has been criticised for suppressing acknowledgement of the ongoing genocide in Gaza, as well as failing to highlight game developers and shutting speakers down when they attempted to recognise the many, many layoffs within the industry this year.

Before the Awards took place in early December, an open letter circulated demanding that The Game Awards acknowledge and support Palestinian people by calling for a ceasefire and the protection of Palestinian human rights. The letter followed an announcement from narrative designer Meghna Jayanth, who stepped down from presenting the Best Storytelling award at the Golden Joysticks after being told that she could not make a “political statement” during her presentation. (Clearly, the organisers had no idea who they had booked to present the award, as Jayanth and her work are anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-imperial.)

Members of The Game Awards’ Future Class wrote an open letter calling on The Game Awards to do better, gaining over 3,000 signatures from other workers within the industry. Unfortunately, The Game Awards went ahead without mention of Palestine—or any of the other issues currently facing the workers who actually make games.

Developers were given 30 seconds to speak during their acceptance speeches, while celebrities and, apparently, Gonzo? From The Muppets? were given the most screen time. Devs were told to “wrap it up” after half a minute, including when Baldur’s Gate 3 director Swen Vincke accepted the award for Game of the Year. Vincke was in the middle of an emotional dedication to his late colleague, Jim Southworth.

Given that it’s been a horrifying year for games workers, it feels particularly callous to shush developers in favour of random movie stars, to fail to acknowledge the mass layoffs and precarious working environments faced by games workers, and to downplay the impact the games industry has on racialised people and Muslims around the world. All of which to say, if it doesn’t celebrate and support actual games workers and fans, what’s even the point of The Game Awards?

Twitch Shuts Down in Korea

Twitch has announced that it’ll be shutting down its services in South Korea at the end of February 2024, citing “prohibitively expensive” running costs. In a statement from CEO Dan Clancy, Twitch said that it has attempted to reduce running costs with measures including capping source quality at 720p, but that it still costs “10 times more” to run streaming services in Korea than in other countries.

Korea is considered a global hub for gaming and streaming, and a worldwide leader in esports. While Twitch has promised to help Korean streamers find alternative platforms for their communities, like YouTube, many streamers are concerned about the news. Yummy_2, who mostly streams in the “Just Chatting” category on Twitch, reacted to Twitch’s announcement with frustration and anger, saying, “I lost my job. My career, everything that I made as a partner streamer -(sic) just everything will be gone.”

Korean streamers (especially its esports community) helped build Twitch’s success as a global platform, so this move feels particularly hard to swallow for many. Some streamers and fans have also pointed out the short notice period of just under three months, which places additional pressure on content creators to completely rejig their businesses. And of course, Twitch is owned by Amazon, a company that has laid off over 27,000 employees this year despite reporting frankly insane profits of $9.9 billion—$7 billion more than last year. Amazon might not be willing to cover the costs of running Twitch in Korea but, hey, at least Jeff Bezos can afford another spaceship or whatever.

In other news…

The Towards a Free Palestine Game Jam has finished, which means you can now check out all the submissions over on itch.io. Game Assist co-hosted the jam with Arabic Games and Gaming Academy, and they’ll be streaming some of the entries on their Twitch channel.

A Malaysian Roblox player has created a virtual pro-Palestine protest, which has attracted over 60,000 visitors since its creation last month. The experience allows children to show solidarity with Palestine, as well as offering a space for those who may not be able or safe to attend in-person protests, like some disabled folks and vulnerable folks living in countries where pro-Palestine protests have been banned like Germany and France.

Rockstar Games released the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto 6, which reveals the game’s dual protagonists, Lucia and Jason. Lucia, who features prominently in the trailer, is Latina and the series’ first female protagonist (excluding some generic female avatars in earlier games). Honestly, as someone who immediately bounced off GTA 5, I wasn’t expecting to have any interest in the next title in the series, but a modern-day Vice City is surprisingly appealing, especially with Lucia at the helm of the story. I’ll be watching this space during the long wait—GTA 6 is expected to release in 2025.

The debut trailer for Tales of Kenzera: Zau has dropped, providing a first look at Abubakar Salim’s next project. The game is a side-scrolling platformer inspired by Bantu storytelling and lore and looks, frankly, stunning. Salim, who voiced Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins, says that the project has helped him process grief and heartache after the death of his father. Watch the trailer below.

You may be aware that my other GYGO beat is cosy games, so it feels apt to end this week’s roundup on a new game that brings together both colonialism and cosiness! Echoes of the Plum Grove is a survival farming sim set during the colonisation of North America/Turtle Island, that tasks players with homesteading across multiple generations—all of which is, for me personally, distinctively not cosy. The game’s Kickstarter description does not acknowledge the existence of Indigenous people or the labour of enslaved folks in its romanticisation of “colonial era farming communities,” even while showcasing diverse non-playable characters in its promotional art. Remember, friends, representation is not sticking a bunch of Black and brown faces on a colonisation simulator and calling it “cosy.” Yikes.