EGMR Awards 2015: Controversy Of The Year
Everyone loves a good controversy. Especially your mom. We live in a time when controversy is rife, and outrage can be found at any time for any potential reason. In 2015 we saw things like air-conditioners being called tools of the patriarchy, their cooling breezes oppressing the women who have to endure them, I’m not even kidding. The gaming world has had its fair share of crazy stories as well; some tragic, some confusing, some outright bizarre. It’s time we relive all of that, here, now. So get your hashtags ready, and let’s do this thing, you misogynist sock puppet.
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What does one have to do in order to be listed among the year’s biggest controversies in gaming? Nothing quite so pedestrian as murdering a woman in the name of misogyny or confessing to owning a David Cage body pillow. It’s rather simple actually. These are the controversies that defined the year by leaving a lasting impression and at the very least causing a significant stir around the web. If people were up in arms about it then it probably has a shout at being on this list.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s “Augment your pre-order”
In a title that writes itself, the Augment your pre-order special introduced by Square Enix for their upcoming Deus Ex: Mankind Divided had some fans up in arms. Mankind was quite literally divided on whether or not it was a good thing, with some arguing that it was a neat way to do pre-orders, and rewarded those who invested in the game, whilst others accused it of being a pyramid scheme way of goading players into pre-ordering and getting their friends to do so as well. After incredible pressure from fans, Square Enix was forced to backtrack on their silly idea, and removed the deal from play. One thing’s for sure: We never asked for this.
Batman: Arkham Knight’s PC version
Ask anyone who’s played Batman: Arkham Knight on consoles, and they’ll tell you it was a technical masterpiece. Sporting an insane draw distance, outstanding visuals, and a breathtaking backdrop, Arkham Knight was spectacular. The same could not be said for the PC which was utterly broken to the point that Warner Bros pulled the game entirely from PC sale. Citing a bad port and shoddy QA practices, what followed were months of waiting for the game to be fixed, leading to an interim patch promising fixes but failing to deliver, and really at this point the saga had gone on longer than Batman’s New 52 run. It was neither the game we needed, nor the game we deserved on PC.
Konami v Kojima: Dawn of Lawyers
Once practically the heart and soul of Konami, Hideo Kojima is now more disowned than a promiscuous teenager in an Indian household, following a series of disputes this year between the two parties. What began with a subtle renaming of various Kojima Productions entities led to the cancellation of Kojima’s upcoming mega-game, PT, and further on to disputes over the finality of the Metal Gear series following The Phantom Pain, and finally to The Game Awards, where Kojima was barred from accepting an award for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It’s a heartbreaking story for a legend of the gaming industry, and has ruined Konami’s reputation in the eyes of millions. FucKonami.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s racial representation
Oh you know we just had to have The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in every award this year. Even in Controversy. Earlier this year The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt released to rave reviews, with outstanding critical response that tended towards near-perfect scores. Naturally though, there was a killjoy in all of this. And that came in the form of a Polygon op-ed which talked about how jarring it was to play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and not see any brown people in it. What followed was outrage like you cannot image, with last year’s Controversy winner #GamerGate jumping into the mix, and a slew of responses in both directions — some supporting the opinion, others condemning it — including some that even contradicted their previous arguments. It was all quite messy and led to a few highly-popularised rage-quits from social media (temporary, of course) and more than a few fights between friends. Also: Confirmation bias. It was an ugly time for an otherwise flawless masterpiece of a game.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3’s removal from Western markets
If Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 had received no attention, it likely would have released and sold as poorly as previous titles. Nonetheless, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 received quite a bit of attention, first in the form of criticism of its existence in 2015, a sure-fire sign in the minds of Western audiences that Japanese developers are culture-blind (ironic?), then to inexplicable outrage when Koei Tecmo confirmed it would not be releasing the game to Western audiences, despite the game historically selling better in the West. Cries of “SJW censorship” rang out, and naturally those who claimed not to care went to extreme lengths to show just how much they didn’t care about the game, leading to massive popularity generated. The knock-on effect of this came in the form of the #1MillionGamersStrong movement for countering the censorship of Japanese games. All of this because some people who wanted games to be inclusive, tried to exclude a game. Good going, guys!
We don’t want to take away a single thing from any of the nominees, they tried their best but in the end simply were not controversial enough.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s non-white characters, or lack thereof
If you ever needed a good example of the snowball effect, look no further than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s ridiculously stupid controversy regarding non-white characters in the game. Not only did it grant infamy to a South Africa writer, but it also spanned vast and diverse topics such as racism, sexism, cultural appropriation, representation, censorship, artistic freedom, and more. Not even a single mention of Geralt’s beard. That’s just criminal! Worse still was the sheer number of conflicting responses from those who claimed residence and historical knowledge of the Polish region, dating back hundreds of years. Perhaps most interestingly, a popular argument was that a fantasy game with elves and dragons could surely sustain black people, but follow-up questions of why it then mattered how fantasy was portrayed in the first place went unanswered, or led to rather ugly fights on the internet. It eventually boiled down to last year’s story of #GamerGate versus anti-#GamerGate. Ultimately, it marred the otherwise spotless image of a perfect game, and it’s for that reason that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s non-white characters, or lack thereof, wins (loses?) Controversy of the Year for 2015. Truly a story only Dandelion could have come up with. And just as maddeningly inconsequential.