We already talked about politics in games as a general issue last week, but this week's news provided some specific examples of how the industry is acting on the subject instead of just talking about it. And as much as it's important to look at what people are saying—this column wouldn't be worth much if it weren't—you can learn just as much, if not more, by examining what they do.
For example, Marvel's Spider-Man is an unqualified success, with 13.2 million copies sold. Its critic reviews and user reviews are through the roof. It's about as universally acclaimed as a game is likely to get.
It could also be described as political for its inclusion of Pride flags in its depiction of New York City, in particular a gigantic mural in the game's recreation of Chelsea. If we're looking at actions, the developers at Insomniac made Pride a part of their game, massive media companies Marvel and Sony signed off on it, and more than 13 million people bought the thing and (for the most part) loved it. Whatever backlash there might have been over the Pride flags was minimal. (I honestly didn't happen to see any and I'm not eager to dunk my head in the internet's toilet to find some, either.) And it certainly didn't get any traction compared to the real outrages of Spider-Man, namely puddle reflections and whether or not the DLC would include a slightly different costume inspired by the Sam Raimi movies.
While corporate use of LGBTQ iconography doesn't mean we're living in an enlightened world, it does suggest companies have done the math and realized that embracing those communities is more profitable than pandering to those who hate them. And I like to think that speaks to just how small (if disproportionately vocal) that latter group has become over the years. Publishers are by and large still terrified of speaking up against them -- happy to condemn non-specific harassment but never willing to identify and condemn the motivations underpinning it—but at least their actions suggest they know there's no money in hate.
That's not much, but it's still progress.
QUOTE | "That was really moving for me. What seemed like an obvious thing to do may have an impact on kids' lives all over the world." - Spider-Man lead environment artist Jason Hickey responds to a social media post he saw where a player talked about the in-game New York City's Pride flag mural, and "all of the 12 year-old kids who'll be playing this game and seeing this, in towns where it's not safe to put that flag up."
QUOTE | "Our studio vision is to create experiences that have a positive and lasting impact on people's lives. As we look ahead to our future, we know that joining the WWS family gives us the best opportunities to fully achieve that vision on a much larger scale." - Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price talks about the PS4 Spider-Man studio's decision to be acquired by Sony.
QUOTE | "With the remasters of the Yakuza series, there was a lot of stuff that had to be renegotiated like likenesses of actors and appearances of corporate names and logos. Some couldn't be renegotiated and had to be changed. So since we had to change some content anyway, we felt we should update the content for the current age when we're releasing this game." - Yakuza series producer Daisuke Sato explains why some content from Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 has been changed for the PlayStation 4 re-releases, including one sidequest involving a trans woman.
QUOTE | "Members of Voidpoint's Ion Fury team have made sexist and transphobic comments, and included homophobic language in Ion Fury. We recognize these statements are insensitive, unacceptable, and counterproductive to causes of equality. We unequivocally apologize both for these comments and language as well as for any pain they have caused the gaming community, particularly women and members of the LGBTQ community." - A statement from 3D Realms and Voidpoint issued after multiple Voidpoint developers were called out for derogatory remarks on the game's official Discord channel and including homophobic language in the game.
QUOTE | "When we did support for non-binary gender, we had a lot of conversations with GLAAD about the right way to represent that. How do we do it in a way that feels inclusive and welcoming and not dictating our viewpoint? It's not about what we believe. It's about encompassing how our players want to tell their story." - EA Maxis senior producer Michael Duke talks about ongoing efforts to make The Sims franchise as inclusive and diverse as possible..
QUOTE | "We get told all the time that our jokes aren't funny. We get told all the time that our jokes are hysterical. We don't know which is true" - Gearbox head of world development Randy Varnell talks about the challenge of writing Borderlands 3 as part of the studio's newly formed narrative department.
QUOTE | "Not a week goes by without us thinking, 'Imagine if we hadn't launched with loot boxes the way we did.'" - Star Wars: Battlefront II design director Dennis Brännvall talks about doing "some housecleaning" after launch to ensure the game could be worthy of the Battlefront franchise.
QUOTE | "We really think we're ahead of the industry here in getting rid of loot boxes and making sure that we can both service people that are looking to accelerate their progression or earn cosmetics using money but also keeping the integrity of the game experience." - Gears 5 multiplayer design director Ryan Cleven talks about the studio's approach to monetization in the game.
QUOTE | "We have no plans to further expand our exclusive first party games to other consoles." - Microsoft tells excited fans to slow their roll if they think Banjo-Kazooie in Smash Bros. Ultimate and Cuphead and Ori on Switch are precursors to Gears or Halo expanding beyond Xbox and PC.
QUOTE | "Putting Smiles on the Faces of Our Supply Chain" - The deeply weird headline on Nintendo's latest Corporate Social Responsibility Report, which explains how it's monitoring its conflict minerals supply chain to make sure it isn't supporting human rights abuses and armed conflict.
STAT | 120 - Number of people laid off by GameStop this week, including seven of the 19 editorial staff on its Game Informer magazine and website. That's in addition to more than 50 people it laid off a little over three weeks ago.
STAT | 5 - The number of directors to be attached to the Uncharted feature film adaptation. The latest of them, Dan Trachtenberg, left the project this week.