News of the Week – 2 September 2019

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Sexual abuse allegations made towards industry vets:

Sexual abuse allegations have been far more widespread ever since the advent of the #MeToo movement, and the video game industry was overdue for its own repercussions. Those repercussions have finally begun, and they all started with one woman coming forward.

Nathalie Lawhead, an indie developer, came forward with a story about Jeremy Soule, the composer for some big-name games like Elder Scrolls, Knights of the Old Republic and Guild Wars, and accused him of rape in a lengthy blog post (linked below). The story spread like wildfire, and the industry started to finally have its own slice of #MeToo, because other people have since come forward. One among which was Aeralie Brighton, who claimed that she too had “fallen prey” to Soule (although she did not provide allegations of rape like Lawhead did), and apparently he claimed that he needed women for “inspiration”. Which sounds like the usual sexual predator nonsense. However, Soule was not the only person to receive allegations.

The most prominent person to come forward in this whole debacle has been Zoe Quinn. Quinn, apparently inspired by the bravery of Lawhead, alleged that Alec Holowka, yet another industry legend, was a sexually abusive partner nearly a decade ago. She posted a set of lengthy notes on Twitter to explain the entire situation (the tweet had been linked but has since been deleted for reasons that will become apparent soon). She had been invited to his home in Winnipeg, Canada along with a few other indies, but they were eventually forced out and she was somewhat pressed into a relationship. The relationship was mean, violent and sexually abusive.

Alec Holowka, best known as one of the co-creators of Night in the Woods, faced immediate backlash, such as his former team on Night in the Woods cutting ties with him. However, in an act that could not have been foreseen, the indie developer took his own life. His family has put out a statement saying that he suffered from mood and personality disorders and that his death must not be used to harass anyone; a statement that may come from a good place but will not be adopted by many online. His sister also stated, in a tweet (which has been turned private but can be read in the sources below), that Holowka had been rehabilitating himself over the last few years and was doing a lot better, but the allegations proved to be too much for him in the end.

Prior to the tragedy, Quinn received support from many people one and several others even came forward to say that they too suffered at the hands of Holowka. So while this is indeed a tragedy it should not be used as a means of ending an upstart #MeToo movement in the industry. Holowka did not deserve to die, but he should have faced these allegations. Some may not believe it, but rehabilitating oneself and committing to changing one’s behaviour can occur. A person can be forgiven if they have genuinely changed, and suicide should never be seen as an option. He will be mourned, but his death should not come at the cost of others coming forward.

Prior to the tragedy, more allegations emerged against other people entirely. Such as allegations against Weather Factory and Failbetter Games founder Alexis Kennedy, Oculus co-founder Michael Antonov and Mountains (the company behind Florence) creative director Ken Wong. A #MeToo movement has perhaps come for the gaming industry at last, and hopefully a few purgings can begin because of it. Predators should not be allowed to continue to operate within this industry, and believing that predators should be punished should not be a political discussion. When someone commits a crime they should be punished. Simple as that. But punishment should not come in the form of death, because it’s doubtful that even those making the allegations want to hold themselves responsible for someone’s death.


Ion Fury devs take back their apology:

The recently released Ion Fury made a bad joke in one tiny section of the game, and the joke happened to be something of a homophobic slur. This was reported on last week, but there have been some developments. You see, after the news initially broke, the company came forward and announced that they would have sensitivity training for employees, they’d be removing the single visual gag from the game and they’d be donating a bunch of cash to The Trevor Project.

Well, they still plan on honouring most of what they said, but they have backpedalled on removing the slur from the game. The slur in question is just a shampoo bottle that has the word “OGAY” instead of “OLAY” (I know, comedy genius), but after receiving a lot of negative press for this they have decided to lash out instead. They released a statement, which came across as rather defensive, in which they shouted about not censoring their game.

Ultimately, Voidpoint can do whatever they like with their game, but getting overly defensive and pulling the “we’re artists and you critics wouldn’t understand!” thing is tired and overused. It comes across as whiny and is not a good stance to adopt when releasing a game that people have otherwise adored. Maybe don’t intentionally try to anger your audience because they kinda are the ones who end up giving you money, but words of warning don’t work much on artists who insist on being overly sensitive about genuine criticism.


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Telltale Games is reborn:

Telltale Games met its end last year. The company that brought the world some fantastic narrative-oriented games, such as The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands, made some poor decisions, especially in the general area of “management”, and was forced to shut its doors and lay off its staff. The news hit the industry hard; everyone thought Telltale was making big money and it turned out that nothing was at it seemed.

After some time, the company was bought up by LCG Entertainment, and they have announced that Telltale Games is coming back. The revived studio is being run by two men who were not part of the original company, but they will be hiring back some prior Telltale employees (some as full-timers and some as contractors). The new parent company has access to all the original work that Telltale created and they still have the licences for The Wolf Among Us and Batman, so sequels may be on the way.

LCG Entertainment is planning on continuing the legacy of Telltale Games by focusing on narrative products, but they also plan on changing the way the company operates by streamlining and by “sensibly expand(ing) operations”, because Telltale failed before because of unchecked growth (and this feels somewhat like a jab at previous management). We won’t know until they release games whether Telltale is actually back, but at least there’s some hope.


World of Warcraft Classic is now available:

World of Warcraft Classic has come at last and Blizzard may not have been expecting how popular it was going to be because the launch was full of problems. It finally launched on 26 August 2019 and hit a million views on Twitch, a feat fuelled by enthusiastic streamers for the most part, but the ride has been outrageously bumpy. People are waiting in queues to get onto servers and then waiting in other queues to finish quests. The entire thing has been something of a screw up, but Blizzard is probably overjoyed by the news because their experiment in nostalgia has been an incredible success. So it may just be a matter of time before some of the old expansions start getting “classic” editions.


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Breaking Bad movie is coming:

Breaking Bad has a reputation for being one of the best series ever made, and the creators have been milking that for a while. First with the release of Better Call Saul, a spin-off focusing on the fast-talking lawyer Saul Goodman from the original show, and now they have announced that they will be releasing a movie on 11 October on Netflix.

The movie (SPOILERS AHEAD) takes place after the events of the original series, in which Jesse Pinkman survives the ordeal at the drug lab he’s been held at for months, and is now seemingly on the run. The film will focus on Jesse and will purportedly feature several of the original cast. The film is titled El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and let’s hope it’s good.


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