Ordinarily it's easy enough to pick out the themes in these columns because I'll hit you over the head with a half-dozen quotes about the exact same thing. But this week, the premise of the column is a little less clear, so I'll include some notes in italics to help you follow my train of thought. That train starts at a very familiar station for anyone following the industry in recent years.
QUOTE | "I once got a photo of my front door [direct messaged] to me anonymously. That was not great." - During an on-stage Gamelab interview with PUBG designer Brendan Greene, Rami Ismail talks about receiving hate from people as a visible developer. (We would have used one of Greene's quotes about his own experiences, but they need a content warning.)
The gaming community has some very toxic people in it, and stories like Ismail's and Greene's shape the way developers perceive the audience.
QUOTE | "The audience is absolutely ruthless, and we should never suspect for a second that they're not. They're absolutely ruthless. They don't care how many people died making the product. [laughing] I mean literally. They don't care." - Lorne Lanning explains why Oddworld Inhabitants has always resorted to "terrible" crunch in order to make games transparently against the exploitation of workers.
Like many veteran developers, Lanning believes crunch is a necessary evil in order to survive in this industry.
QUOTE | "The biggest reason we wanted to start a studio is that we want to do things differently in the games industry. When we formed the company and went out looking for investment, we made it very clear that the most important thing for the company is employee health, employee happiness, and then the game—in that order. Non-negotiable, in that order. We feel that if people are healthy and happy, the project will get done." - Bad Yolk CEO Michael Paixao explains why he and co-founder Joel Jonsson left their jobs as technical artists at MachineGames in order to start their own studio.
In an encouraging sign for the future, not everyone thinks like Lanning, particularly among younger generations of creators.
QUOTE | "The games market has changed in ways both big and small in the nine years we've been in business. We have not been able to change quickly enough to continue with them." - Defiant founder Morgan Jafitt announces the Hand of Fate studio is closing after a nine-year run.
Sadly, a no-crunch policy like the one Defiant had and an insistence on treating staff humanely doesn't guarantee success.
QUOTE | "In terms of the tags that are popular [on Steam] at the moment, I think Autonauts ticks an awful lot of those. It just feels right. We fell in love with it the moment we saw it." - Curve Digital publishing director Simon Byron offers some (depressing) insight into how publishers assess a game's prospects.
Crunching isn't the only response companies have to the economic pressures in the industry. Some hope to make their businesses work by optimizing decisions for popularity.
QUOTE | "Thanks to everyone who bought this joke game before 07/22/2019. Each of you will receive a copy of Cyberpunk 2077 as a Christmas Present. The funniest review will win a collector's edition." - The Steam product description of Cyberprank 2069, a game that Valve eventually pulled for violating the store's policy on bribery.
Some run scams.
QUOTE | "In our quests, which involve religious themes, we make sure there's no disrespect." - Cyberpunk 2077 quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz explains that the game will feature real-world religions, and players will be able to go into places of worship and "cause havoc" at their own discretion, though the game will not require or encourage them to.
Some push the envelope of good taste to get noticed, with no concern for the greater impact it might have on the industry's standing. (I would have used the story about Rockstar adding a casino to Grand Theft Auto Online where players can buy chips with real-world money, but Rockstar (as usual) wasn't commenting so there was no quote.)
QUOTE | "In our opinion, the video game industry has in effect left themselves open to these sorts of challenges because of the manner in which they presented these games, created these for commercial purposes and then perhaps have not heeded entirely the guidance that we have issued in some circumstances." - During a government inquiry into immersive and addictive technology, British Gambling Commission (BGC) programme director Brad Enright warns that even though the BGC doesn't consider loot boxes to be gambling under current U.K. law, that doesn't mean the games industry is in the clear.
But maybe I shouldn't be particularly critical of Rockstar or CD Projekt, because the industry as whole seems to have embraced profits with no concern for public perception. And I'm starting to wonder if the toxic gamers we keep seeing popping up to embarrass the industry are really just attracted to a hobby that seems to mirror their lack of regard for others, that sees nothing wrong with treating others like dirt to suit their own interests, that shows no shame when called out for manipulating and exploiting its customers.
QUOTE | "Customers will no longer be requested to provide proof of purchase for Joy-Con repairs. Additionally it is not necessary to confirm warranty status." - An internal Nintendo customer service memo gives employees new direction when it comes to complaints about Joy-Con drift problems that have been drawing complaints from Switch users.
Also, Nintendo is finally dealing with that pesky Joy-Con drift problem some people have had.