2017 has been a difficult year for a myriad of reasons. Video games offered all of us plenty of chances to escape the real world. And just as there were plenty of bad games to meme to death, the video game industry as a whole had plenty of bad and embarrassing moments on its own. Developers have lost their rep, journalists/vloggers made asses of themselves, and game releases were botched, among other things.
Before the year is out, let's take a look back at some of the worst stuff.
Loot boxes have been a popular yet divisive addition to free-to-play games. The conversation around them came to a head this year when EA released Star Wars: Battlefront II and fans discovered that the game's loot box system gave unfair advantages to people who pay for upgrades over those spending time with the game. EA responding to claims that it would take 40 hours of gameplay to unlock certain characters resulted in the most down-voted comment in Reddit history and a huge backlash.
The game is finally receiving patches after almost a month of release, but other developers and publishers could stand to learn from EA's mistakes here: balance your gameplay accordingly and don't underestimate the power of PR.
Mass Effect is a big enough franchise that the announcement of new game Andromeda put fans on high alert. Andromeda was promised to be a blend of the exploration of the first game and the shooting gameplay from the second and third with new characters and new universes to explore. But a slew of glitches and botched character animations leaking just ahead of release caused the game to be meme'd to death before it even arrived. EA, new developers at Bioware Montreal, and a rushed production schedule were all blamed, and by the time patches started to roll out, the damage had already been done.
Mass Effect has faced the wrath of fans before; remember what happened with the ending of the third game? But Andromeda's fallout strikes me as sadder. The game sold well enough (2 million units and counting), but it didn't have the same chance to grow and expand the way it could've. EA has shelved Mass Effect for the future, so we really might've lost the franchise for good this time.
Konami has some of the most well-known games in the world under its belt, but the developer has a reputation as a harsh employer. They were accused of treating their employees like prisoners back in 2015, but they managed to top themselves this year. They made the jump from demoting animators who didn't meet their standards to blacklisting ex-employees, especially those involved with ex-designer Hideo Kojima. Konami is even willing to drag ex-employees to court is they cite them during job interviews or on their resumes.
Konami and Kojima had some bad blood that led to him splintering from the company, but the fact that Konami may be holding this over its employees heads is the definition of petty.
Fixing a broken console shouldn't have to set you back a bunch of money. But game companies are conspiring against home fixings since the Red Ring of Death. So much so that bills are being introduced in states across the country requiring manufacturers to sell tools to consumers at the same price as companies like Microsoft or Nintendo. And every company convened in Nebraska this year to fight it back.
They're scared of the extra money they could lose on this, but they won't admit that upfront. Companies claim that repair is unsafe and "could lead to intellectual property theft," somehow. Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and others using their power to push legislation that could prevent gamers from solving their own problems is beyond suspicious.
Losing your job the day before Thanksgiving is not a good feeling. That's exactly what happened to staffers at Gazillion Entertainment were laid off due to their flagship game Marvel Heroes underperforming on console. Gazillion started with "unpaid furlough," which turned into questions and revealed lies about the company's health that led to thousands of dollars in paid time off left unpaid. Their partnetship with Marvel crumbled, the servers went black and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Players began asking for refunds for their in-app purchases.
Gazillion's hands were tied, but keeping their employees and customers in the dark led to the company's death and a lot of lost jobs. It's hard to blame anyone frustrated by that.
Douchebags and predators across the entertainment industry have been exposed over the course of 2017, and the world of gaming was no exception. Normalboots founder and popular YouTuber JonTron's ignorant comments on immigration and racism led to massive backlash from fans and him being cut from a handful of channels and his voice over role excised from Yooka-Laylee.
Meanwhile, Pewdie Pie - the most popular YouTuber in the world - was dropped from a partnetship with Disney after one of his videos featured a couple holding a sign that said "death to all Jews." Not long after, he came under fire for shouting the n-word multiple times during a livestream of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG). It's refreshing to see people being held responsible for their actions, especially in a community where this kind of stuff can run rampant. This is just the start.
Cuphead was one of the most delightful games to drop in 2017. It's well-known for both its beautiful art direction, score, and run-and-gun gameplay. But its punishing difficulty and a video of a Polygon employee struggling with the tutorial led to a huge discussion within the gaming community about challenge in games. How challening is too challenging? Should a journalist be able to speedrun the game with an A+ ranking in order to be considered good?
Being good at games and being able to write about/cover game well aren't mutually exclusive, in this case. The original video was also deliberately designed as a joke, so people taking it seriously just goes to show how far the jokes went over people's heads. Turning a great game that just so happens to be very difficult into a high-horse discussion about who the "real" gamers are in 2017 is about as shortsighted and boneheaded as you could expect.