The Year in Controversy
Studios may close, servers may crash, projects may be canceled and bankruptcies filed, but these are the given in the video games industry. No matter how regrettable, they still won’t be the No. 1 heated controversies in any given year for video games.
Here’s a look back at the scandals, outrages, foofaraws and kerfuffles that made the past year in games both unlike any other and yet still, somehow, completely typical of the culture we celebrate when it’s all said and done.
Dorito-gate involves a gaming show host doing interviews while seated between bags of Doritos and bottles of Mountain Dew; a column about journalists making promotional Tweets to win a free console; an apparent legal threat tied to that column; the columnist quitting over the removal of a quote, and from there, an avalanche of complaints and suspicion about the coziness of the gaming press with the public relations wing of the companies whose games they cover. More »
Anita Sarkeesian wanted to make a web series about how women are portrayed in video games. She asked the world for $6,000. Some of the people who thought that was interesting and worth doing have given her just shy of $159,000.
Some of the people who thought it was not worth doing, have defaced her Wikipedia page, written vile things to her on YouTube and … well, that’s what she already told us about in mid-June. But, wait, there’s more. More »
We should have known the conclusion would be trouble. Ending a game like Mass Effect 3 poses a special set of problems, because a central attraction of Western RPGs is that their systems respond to player choice. Mass Effect and its like are the classic case of games that generate stories through collaboration between designer and player. Drawing things to a close, however, requires the hand of the developer to show, often in ways that seem unattractive. More »
After its December release, fans came out criticizing this zombie survival game for misleading advertising, suspicious microtransactions, and forum censorship. Steam removed the game from its marketplace and opened an investigation into the bannings. In the end, it’s hardly a surprise The War Z‘s creator was the lead programmer on Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, commonly regarded as one of the worst video games of all time.More »
The director of upcoming stealth game Hitman: Absolution says the team didn’t mean to cause controversy with their most recent trailer, which features protagonist Agent 47 slaughtering his way through a squad of scantily-dressed nuns. In fact, he says the ensuing Internet firestorm caught them all off-guard. More »
Call of Duty, has spent four years solidifying its image as a crass chickenhawk brand thanks to some particularly dumb marketing initiatives. But hiring Lt. Col. Oliver North as a spokesman for Black Ops II represents a new low. More »
Jessica Nigri, hired by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to portray the protagonist in Lollipop Chainsaw at PAX East, was asked by expo staff to either dress more modestly or keep her movements out of sight of the young kids touring the show floor. It was the first visible test of PAX’s “No Booth Babe” policy, developed in consultation with the Penny Arcade community. More »
Phil Fish, the creator of indie hit Fez is known for being Phil Fish. During a Q&A session, a Japanese game developer noted that so many indie games seemed inspired by old Japanese games and asked Fish for an opinion on the country’s modern games. According to website Develop, Fish replied, “Your games just suck”. More »
At E3, the executive producer of Tomb Raider said Lara Croft’s assailants “try to rape her” in one scene, a remark the studio’s head later disowned in followup comments to Kotaku. “Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game,” he said. That seemed only to be a starting point for the blowback, not its end. More »
In November, GameSpot pulled a review of Natural Selection 2, citing “several inaccuracies” and apologizing to readers. The review, scored 60/100 and written by a freelancer named Eric Neigher, had been eviscerated by readers and commenters who pointed out a number of mistakes GameSpot ran a re-review by a new writer, who scored the game an 80. But the original review is still on Metacritic. More »
During a promotional TV series for the fighting games Street Fighter and Tekken, competitive fighting gamer Aris Bakhtanians made remarks that said sexism was integral to the culture of the fighting games community, and later asked “What is unacceptable?” about shouting things like “Rape that bitch!” at a match. More »
Back in August, Electronic Arts removed links to gun manufacturers’ websites from its Medal of Honor website, where they had been listed in a distasteful promotion for Project Honor, a charity supporting Special Operations veterans and their families. The company also ended a promotion for a special $75 “tomahawk” knife that featured “an extended cutting head.” More »