By now it’s no secret, the word has gotten out about what has been going on in some of gaming’s biggest AAA juggernauts. It has lent credence to something that I know for a fact I am not alone in saying for quite some time. It makes for quite a story, and doesn’t make them look good, but I expect that the only thing that will come from this is a TON of people getting fired. After all, it’s easier to just fire people than to affect real change to a company at large. That’s just the world we live in.
It seems we now have proof that all the big companies who talk up a lot of big bluster about how progressive and whatnot they are really are just pulling a fast one. The two big examples I have, and how they relate to gaming are Ubisoft and 343 Industries. First, we will talk about the former. In a series of allegations made by employees of the company, it seems that sexual misconduct was nothing new to the AAA gaming giant. For a company who has touted how inclusive they are, the hypocrisy of it all wasn’t lost on people. However, it all went deeper than that.
Part of what has been released about the company’s impropriety and how they treat their employees is that apparently, sexually harassing female employees isn’t the only thing that’s especially sexist about Ubisoft. There are also their ideas about female characters in video games. It seems, according to Ubisoft executives, that women in video games don’t sell. It’s the reason why Evie Frye’s character in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate was really toned down. It’s also why there were two character options in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, because they didn’t think a chick alone would sell it.
This perspective just baffles me. When you see the numbers of games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and…you know what, I’m going to make a list of fantastic games with female protagonists that were well-reviewed and sold well. This list is in no particular order, other than when they came to mind.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Life is Strange (spawned a sequel and prequel)
The Last of Us (fuck the sequel)
A Plague Tale: Innocence
Final Fantasy X-2
Tomb Raider (pretty much any of them, even the really mediocre sequels to the fantastic reboot)
Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 (kind of cheating, as Femshep is a female option, but given how she is the vastly more memorable character because of Jennifer Hale’s voice acting, I would argue that it is more her series anyway)
It is impossible to argue that the people running this company couldn’t see that video games with female protagonists can sell well, so long as the games are good. This wasn’t them being blind. Or rather, this wasn’t them being unintentionally blind. They were deliberately not seeing the trees on this, because as we have seen from the sexual misconduct allegations, it seems sexism goes hand in hand with this company.
Next up, we have 343 Industries. It seems the company decided to do one of those things where they reach out and ask employees what they think of the company and what could be improved. Well that was a smart idea. It seems a whole bunch of employees took to Reddit and decided to post what feedback they had given the company to the Internet. And oh boy was it revealing of what kind of atmosphere is at that company.
Seems that this company, another who has talked up how inclusive and whatnot they are, has a habit of treating their employees like disposable trash. The crunch culture there is absolutely out of control, but that’s happening with a vast majority of AAA companies. It is heartening to see the public pushing back on behalf of developers and seeing some AAA companies taking the feedback seriously. CD Projekt Red swore that they would not be engaging in that kind of activity again and that for the development of Cyberpunk 2077, they would give the devs as much time as they need to avoid crunch culture. It shows a lot of integrity on their part. Wish Naughty Dog and 343 Industries would get the message.
In addition, the company continually hires contractors, who they can pay less, work to the bone, and then get rid of. All while they treat the people who actually are full-time employees of the company like horse manure. Amazing to watch big corporations who talk a big talk about how much they care about people, and then you realize that it’s all just PR. Stuff written by lawyers in support of social movements. But then you realize it’s all lies. Big, fancy, corporate lies.
These companies are part of a special group that Red Letter Media loving coined: passive-progressive. Companies that wear the mantle of how progressive they are, but will never, ever commit to it. It’s why Disney can get their media shills to talk about how amazing it is that two chicks kissed at the end of Rise of Skywalker, but make sure not to mention how it was edited out for China and the Middle East theaters. Never will the day come that a character in a Disney film will be central to the plot and gay. Gay characters must be gay in such a way that it can be edited out easily, so as not to upset the all-powerful Chinese film market. Because if you can’t show the film in China, why bother?
Thankfully, the Internet saw right through the Rise of Skywalker kiss for what it was and called Disney out, accordingly. I’m glad that the LGBT community is finally realizing that being pandered to, in such a way that they can be edited out of serious work is more than a little disgusting. I will say that with gaming, at least part of it is people putting their money where their mouths are. As much as I hated the story of The Last of Us: Part II, at least Neil Druckmann is a believer in his cause of promoting women and LGBT in his games. The story still sucked, but at least it took that risk and made the jump. For that I give respect.
For the rest of these companies who talk a nice talk, but then we find out secretly are a bunch of sexist pigs, I hope that the public will realize that this pandering is more than a little disgusting and will push past it. But that’s just a little hope of mine. None of these companies care about X group. The only care about money. Everything else is lies, written by lawyers and PR reps.
Until next time, a quote,
“Son, there is no truth. Just good or bad fiction.” – Denny Crane, Boston Legal