Best Of The Generation: The Biggest Controversies
We absolutely love controversy, there was a time when we went out of our way to find it or even spark some. However, we quickly learnt that too much of the stuff is detrimental to your health so nowadays we generally just kick back, grab some popcorn and watch the gaming industry. It’s more volatile than teenage hydrogen molecules and as dramatic as a Spanish soap opera. Long live controversy, as long as it doesn’t involve any sticky lawsuits.
These days just about anything will set the internet on fire and much like a phoenix it gets stronger after each bout (oh God I hate myself for comparing the internet to a mythical creature). However, we looked for the incidents and events which drew the biggest outcry, had serious ramifications and made a lasting impression on the industry. Shady business practises, sexism and backlash are the holy trinity of controversy. These are the incidents that we simply cannot forget but also the ones that had a lasting effect.
Marko says: There have been so many juicy controversies this generation, but none come closer with regards to pure evil and greed than on-disc DLC. It all started with Capcom locking characters on Street Fighter X Tekken that you had to buy with real money, only to discover that those characters were already imprinted on the disc and you basically paid for an unlock button. You already paid for the game which had those characters on and now you had to pay again just to get the stuff that you already paid for. It was nauseating to think that a company would have the gall to rip off its customers so blatantly and unapologetically. The practice was, thankfully, short lived with not a lot of other games adopting it thanks to the overwhelming amount of hate it that it generated. But to think that publishers would go to such extreme lengths to con you out of your money is certainly worrying. No justification in the world (I’m looking at you Cliffy B) could make this practice seem like a good idea because it simply cannot be defended. There is absolutely no benefit to the consumer and it only served to benefit the publisher, which is appalling. A shadier business practice, I have not seen yet and I sincerely hope that I never see it.
Cavie says: Remember that time when the PlayStation Network was hacked and Sony had no answers for anyone, other than, “Oops, we’re sorry.” I do. At the time, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had Sony’s PlayStation 3 pretty much dead to rights. The Xbox 360 boasted an arguably better line-up of exclusive content (including Arcade titles), a better multiplayer offering (albeit paid subscription) and more than just gaming if you ever required your console for anything else. Cue 2011 and a few infamous hacker groups. With the theft of the personal details (including credit card details) of millions, not just from the PSN but from various other websites, and what we experienced was a turning point for the PlayStation 3. Suddenly Sony could not just rest on their laurels. Suddenly the damage was near-irrevocable unless they sat up and really did something to repair their battered reputation. And what did they do? They signed on with more teams for exclusives, they bettered their multiplayer offering and they really came at Microsoft. The result? We now have games the likes of The Last of Us and Journey, together with a kick-ass PlayStation Plus offering that really rewards gamers for paying a little extra for a subscription. The PSN hack was one of the biggest controversies of the current generation, owing to the mistreatment of the privacy of millions of trusting consumers, and knock-on effect from that was that Sony went from strength to strength.
Mass Effect 3 Ending
Azhar says: This was perhaps the most obvious pick. It had to be here. The Mass Effect 3 saga defined the word “controversial” in every respect. Never before has so much hatred, rage and chaos sparked from a single game, because of a single moment in it. The ending of Mass Effect 3 perhaps resulted in one of the biggest outrages we saw this generation. Many would ignorantly dismiss the whole issue as “gamers are whiners” and move on, but the Mass Effect 3 ending was a clear message to the industry for many reasons. For one, members of the BioWare development team were exposed for blatant false messaging, and some would even say outright lying, prior to the game’s release, specifically to do with the ending. Message one: be careful with your PR, game companies. It was seen by many as criminal that all that you did over the entire trilogy did not factor one bit into the ending itself, resulting in everybody getting the same ending with the same set of three choices, leaving many players angered.
On top of that, the ending simply did not make sense, which sparked mass confusion. Some die-hard fans soon emerged with a clever theory of the “Indoctrination Ending”, which fans assumed that if BioWare had been planning this, with subtle hints over the game, then it would indeed be brilliant, despite the fact that almost no gamer actually caught it. Turned out that it was false, confirmed as much by BioWare themselves, and they then released a free DLC to “fix” the ending, which further caused widespread debate in the industry on whether it’s alright to give in to fans like that and admit how badly you messed up or change art and sacrifice creative integrity. This gained BioWare such a large degree of hate that they’re probably still receiving it today, and some would argue that it was actually the backlash to the ending of Mass Effect 3 that caused BioWare co-founders Doctors Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka, to retire from the company.
Skyrim On PS3
Alessandro says: This generation, especially near the end of it, was filled with a lot questionable business practices. Capcom probably stands at the forefront of most of these, but not far behind is surely one of the weirdest stories I’ve ever encountered. The fact that a game that somewhat alienated an entire platform of gamers still managed to swoop up numerous Game of the Year awards and accolades. Of course, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but you’d have a tough time convincing me that Bethesda didn’t pull off one of the most outrageous moves with the PS3 version of the game. In short, Skyrim was a mess on Sony’s platform, so much so that Bethesda ceased pushing out updates for a long, long time. Expansions came and went on PC and Xbox 360, and for months PS3 fans were just told to wait, with thousands of them not being able to even play the game they had paid good money for, while it won all sorts of awards at the same time. Sometimes, this industry is just so excited for a single experience that they’ll overlook so much, and that’s exactly what happened here. That, of course, doesn’t make it acceptable by any stretch.
Cavie says: Do you remember this from last year? This was the Twitter hashtag (or trend) that shamed an industry, after various members of the gaming and technology industries took to Twitter to declare that they had been discriminated based on their gender, citing various personal experiences as reasons why there are not more females in the gaming and technology industries. #1ReasonWhy caused many females in the industry to express their unhappiness with the way they have been treated in their respective industry, but it also highlighted the rampant sexism prevalent in both industries, to the point that even male writers had stories of their own to share with the world. For us, it was a lesson in humility and really shamed us, to the point that we felt genuinely upset for females in the industry who had to deal with that level of sexism from males. We resolved to be better, a lot of others did too, but it remains to be seen just how much the mentality has changed over the course of the last year and a bit.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Azhar says: Where to start with Aliens: Colonial Marines? Perhaps one of the most controversial and shady games that most gamers could think of, this story is one of horror. It started out with the E3 trailer that showed an awesome -looking game of high production values and great features such as smart enemy AI. Well, the final product looked nothing like that, in fact it looked so rubbish it could have been a PS2 game. Furthermore, the gameplay was utter trash, and most of the things promised failed to materialise. That’s not all. Stories began emerging regarding what really happened during development, and Destructoid’s Jim Sterling (who now writes for Escapist) rigorously pursued this saga, which saw the uncovering of some disturbing information. Insiders claimed that the six-year development period was a “total train wreck”, and that the entire single-player of the game was outsourced to another studio (TimeGate) who had a less than stellar past, so Gearbox could focus on the multiplayer. Gearbox president Randy Pitchford became one of the most hated figures in the industry as he tried to actually defend the game and block people on Twitter for complaining about it, including blocking Jim Sterling. There were accusations that Gearbox embezzled money out of Aliens’ development to fund Borderlands 2. No one knows who actually made the game or how the heck it got released in such a pathetic, vile state that pig shit is still worth more money than it.
A lawsuit was thrown Sega and Gearbox’s way because gamers felt cheated, and rightfully so as all reviews were embargoed until after the game’s release, therefore blocking the press from getting any information to consumers about the real state of the game. Gamers were lied to. Gamers were extorted out of money, and sold a deliberately inferior product so that money could be made to recover the losses on Aliens’ development. It was underhanded and foul. And after Duke Nukem Forever, Gearbox’s reputation dropped another few levels, with Randy Pitchford becoming even more of a hated figure. This is one of the worst controversies we’ve experienced in the gaming industry.
We love controversy but when it’s everywhere all the time, it becomes a pain. That said, it’s not going anywhere so strap on a morphine drip and get used to the pain. There are some cases where we emerge on the other side and can benefit from the experience, other cases simply reveal the seedy and festered underbelly of this industry. Like most things, there a good and a bad. We learn from the good but under no circumstances can we tolerate or become complacent to the bad. This industry reveals more of its ugly side with each passing month and it’s up to us as gamers, people who are passionate about this medium, to take a stand against it. Or roll over and die, game over.