When it comes to gaming journalism, ethics are generally lacking across the board. We’ve seen writers fired for giving negative reviews to heavily publicised games. Websites have exchanged great scores for early access (as seen in the Drivergate scandal). And well, if GamerGate proved anything, it’s that a lot of journalists seem to band together like an internet fraternity. That gaming journalists have almost become an internet priesthood dedicated to protecting its own.
In a world like that, a media controversy in the world of gaming journalism is almost irrelevant. I mean, how can you possibly top fired reviewers or dodgy scores?
Well, by taking down negative review scores on behalf of the game publisher, that’s how! Which is exactly what The Sixth Axis did with their NBA 2K18 score after 2K games got in touch.
That’s because (as you may know), NBA 2K18 is a bit of a trainwreck. It’s got save files that are far bigger than they have any need to be. It’s plagued with poor game design elements like artificial difficulty. And like so many triple A games nowadays, it’s filled to the brim with microtransactions and pay to win gameplay elements.
So, the The Sixth Axis’ reviewer slapped the game with a deserving 3/10 score. Exactly what you’d expect for a poorly designed game like this.
But obviously not a score that sat well with 2K Games. As a result, the company contacted The Sixth Axis to ‘discuss’ the review, leading to the score being removed from the article in exchange for a note saying the following:
Update: In discussion with 2K Games, we’ve temporarily removed the score pending a statement with regard to our criticisms, at which point it will be reinstated. Additionally, a draft conclusion was posted that incorrectly characterised our score as a protest vote, and has been reworded to reflect that our criticisms are rooted in the effect that VC and microtransactions have on the gameplay.
It’s extremely dodgy on every level. What’s more, it’s not a change the actual writer had any say in either. Oh no, 2K games just went straight to his editor, as he mentioned himself on NeoGAF:
Hello. Reviewer here. After review went live I’ve had no direct contact with 2K, instead their PR is chatting with my editor. All I know is that 2K are to issue a statement of some sort regarding issues raised in the review. Of course, the real issue is what updates the 2K18’s VC system gets. Just think of this as a review now in progress. If things remain unchanged so will my opinion.
So not only have we got a site removing scores because of negative from the publisher, but they’re not even working with the actual writers when they do so. Real respectful guys! How nice of you to annoy your reviewers by editing their work behind their back.
It’s really bad news all round really. And you know what else it is?
Over the last few years, PewDiePie has become an increasingly controversial presence in the world of gaming. As one of the most popular YouTubers in history, he’s always been a polarising figure, but his recent actions have sparked off quite a bit of offense across the board. Like when he hired people on Fiverr to say ‘death to Jews’ to ‘test’ what desperate lengths people would go to make money. Or for generally using slurs and offensive language in his videos.
So, when PewDiePie was caught using the n word on stream, Firewatch developers Campo Santo had decided they’d had enough. They said they were annoyed PewDiePie was making money off their game, deciding to then DMCA strike his videos on the game in retaliation. Here’s their tweets confirming it:
As well as PewDiePie’s response video to the situation:
It’s certainly an interesting solution to the ‘problem’ of PewDiePie making money from Firewatch videos.
But at the same time, it’s also an horrific one that should terrify YouTube creators and journalists.
Why? Because it basically says a game’s developers can wreck your YouTube channel based on nothing more than a personal grudge.
And that should absolutely horrify anyone working in the world of video game journalism. Sure, PewDiePie may have crossed a line here. He may have said some words he shouldn’t have, or made videos with anti-Semitic themes. It’s understandable to be angry there.
But copyright strikes against his videos are not the answer. The way the Firewatch devs have responded opens the door to far worse abuse. It opens the way to abuse by sleazy or immoral game developers worldwide.
Think about it. While Campo Santo may have objected to PewDiePie’s actions relating to racial slurs, other developers may instead object to creators merely attacking them on social media. Or perhaps having different political views. Being fans of different consoles.
In other words, they’ve just told everyone that “hey, now you can take down a Let’s Play/video based on purely on a personal dislike of its creator”.
And well, can you imagine what it’d be like if this became the norm?
Imagine if a developer decided they don’t like Democrats or Republicans and would copyright strike any Let’s Play of their game by someone with said political views. Would that be okay?
For many years, there has been speculation about a mysterious arcade game known as Polybius. Supposedly released in 1981, the game apparently featured flashing graphics and subliminal messaging that could negatively affect those that play it, with the title even being implicated in government conspiracies relating to mind control.
It’s an interesting story, and one a lot of websites have delved into over the years. There’s a Snopes analysis of it here, where you say it’s an obvious gag. There are numerous articles on wikis like Wikipedia, Creepypasta and TV Tropes about the game and its effects on gaming culture.
Basically, lots of people have spoken about it and lots of sources exist about the game online.
But forget all these sources. Because now there’s a much better one.
Created by a YouTuber only known as Ahoy, this source is a full documentary that takes a deep look into the legend and the history behind it. Clocking in at more than an hour in length, it’s a fascinating video that can be watch here:
And damn, you should definitely watch it. Because it is an amazing documentary.
Why? Because RetroAhoy has really dug in deep to investigate this story. He’s spoken to everyone involved in the legend, including known Polybius hoaxer Steven Roach. He’s looked back through the history of Coinop.org to see when the page was added and what changes were made.
Heck, he’s even gone as far as to download gigabytes of Usenet posts and retro magazine articles to see when the name started popping up in the public consciousness. Forget typical gaming journalism based on a random Twitter post or two. This is real investigative journalism, complete with tracking down sources and decompiling fan made tributes to figure who made them and for what purpose they were created.
It’s an amazing example of video game journalism, and perhaps the best example of its field that I’ve seen in more than 20 years.
Which in turn makes me wonder. Could something like this be possible for other video game urban legends?
Because Polybius isn’t the only major one out there. The Triforce has been sought in Ocarina of Time ever since the game’s launch in the 1990s, and has spurred thousands of urban legends you can find on the internet. Luigi being present in Super Mario 64 is another one, as is the whole ‘L is real’ theory. Same goes for Pokémon and its Mew myths. Or for nude codes in various games. Aeris surviving in Final Fantasy 7. Etc.
Someone willing to put in the same amount of time and effort as Ahoy could track these down. I mean, someone’s already tracked down the Purple Prizes hoax for Super Mario 64 DS by similar means. Blowing the lid off the Triforce, PokeGods or L is real could all be possible with enough time and effort.
So, if you’re a video creator looking for a project, why not give it a shot? This could be your road to glory. It could be what gets you thousands of upvotes on Reddit, articles in every major gaming site on the planet and a loyal fanbase willing to support you handsomely on Patreon.
And it could be the start of a new era for video game journalism. An era where shallow clicks and controversy baiting is replaced by lengthy documentaries and investigative articles about interesting subjects like this one.
Thank you Ahoy. You have done an amazing job here. Let’s hope your video will be the first of many more like it.
When it comes to difficulty settings in games, there are hundreds of ways mechanics can be handled to make things more interesting. You can merely up the enemy health or damage, like in Mario & Luigi Dream Team or most Zelda games.
You can change a couple of thousand variables to make things annoying, like in Super Smash Bros Brawl’s Subspace Emissary mode.
Heck, you can even redesign the entire game to suit the new difficulty. Like in Ocarina of Time 3D with its Master Quest mode, or the classic NES title with its second quest.
But one thing these games don’t do on difficulty settings is change how your character actually looks. They change everything else sure, and occasionally an extra mode adds a joke character for laughs (like Tofu in the Resident Evil games). But for the most part, character design remains unchanged throughout difficulty modes.
However, that’s not the case in South Park the Fractured But Whole! Oh no, in this game, the creators have decided to do something extremely controversial for the difficulty modes.
Namely, they’re changing the skin colour of your character the higher you ratchet up the difficulty slider. Put simply, the harder the difficulty, the darker their skin colour will be in the game. Here’s a video showing it in action:
As you can tell, it’s an… interesting system. After all, it’s clearly making a political point about racial inequality (since black characters have a harder time in game than white ones), and they’ve definitely tried to reflect that in the design. For instance, enemy health and damage doesn’t go up with difficulty increases, but the amount of money you get in game does decrease. This aims to mirror what it’d be like growing up in a struggling household without much in the way of immediate job prospects.
Add how the game changes the way you’re referred to based on your skin colour (to try and show racism from the characters in universe), and you’ve certainly got a creative set up for a difficulty slider.
As a concept, paid mods do not have a good reputation. Indeed, back when Valve tried to introduce them in 2015 the idea got so much hatred online that the company dropped the idea within a week. And with similar reactions coming up every time the subject is approached, it’s quite clear that gamers do not like the idea of paying for mods and will fight against it to the bitter end.
Which is why when Bethesda announced the Creation Club, people were not happy. Oh no, just look at the reactions to their reveal trailer for the feature. It’s a YouTube bloodbath:
That’s the number of dislikes you see on a Federation Force video! Or something related to another controversial game or addition like Call of Duty Infinite Warfare.
Either way, it immediately got a bad reputation.
But hey, there’s always a chance they could have salvaged it. I mean, tons of games made terrible first impressions before being improved later. Heck, even Paper Mario Color Splash turned out to be a… fairly decent game upon its actual release.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. When Bethesda actually launched the Creation Club, it turned out it was actually even worse than they’d promised it’d be!
No, we’re not kidding.
Not only is Bethesda’s ‘Creation Club’ a paid mods system of the worst possible kind, it’s a horrendously badly done one as well.
For starters, you don’t technically buy the mods straight up. Nope, you buy credits… which can only be spend on these mods.
So, before you can even use any of this thing, you need to set up a eShop type credit account first, and then buy virtual credits in order to actually get the mods.
That’s already pretty awkward in itself. Especially when you consider that these mods aren’t cheap and require a fairly significant amount of ‘credits’ to actually purchase.