Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Activision do diversity by numbers and more PlayStation Plus details.
Activision’s Bizarre Diversity Chart
Activision are desperate for any kind of good publicity right now. But rather than focus their attention on removing Bobby Kotick, ideally without pay, and addressing the hostile culture surrounding the company, they instead announced a diversity effort.
It didn’t go how they planned.
What Activision revealed was a tool to enable developers to examine any biases they might have during character creation and encourage a greater range of characters. Which is a noble goal, and any examination of how many games exclusively star angry buzzcut men as their protagonists makes for a better range of games.
What’s less noble is making graphs to show how diverse your cast are. (link)
The tool maps different traits on a matrix with seven categories – ethnicity, age, ability, body type, gender identity, sexual orientation and culture. The closer to the centre a character lands on this chart, the less diverse they are.
But how do you quantify such traits in order to place them in the first place? That’s where this gets weird. Each trait is marked on a scale of 1-10, with higher numbers being more diverse. But, for example, gender identity places cis women at 5 (presumably cis men are at 1) but this raises questions about what every other number represents. What’s a 4 on this scale? Where do trans folks sit? Is non-binary a 10?
Not to mention other factors here are more complex. What’s a 10 on the ethnicity scale? Is it measuring how brown the character’s skin is? How do you rank ability, which in this case refers to disabilities? Their example featured an Overwatch character missing an eye, but where does that rank against a prosthetic leg?
It’s such a bizarre way of measuring diversity, and one that no designer in their right mind would use to create characters. And funnily enough, no one at the company seems to know anything about this tool. Both Dylan Snyder (link) and Melissa Kelly (link), senior game designer and character artist currently working on Overwatch 2 respectively, took to Twitter to express confusion over the announcement. This led to Activision removing references to Overwatch that originally existed in the blog post. (link)
More diversity in games is good. Representation for a wider group of people is how we get more interesting ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. And to achieve this, there’s an easier way than using an algorithm like a robot: simply hire more diverse writers and artists to your game projects.
And if you’re Activision, not harassing those diverse staff might also be a good start too.
More PS Plus Revamp Details
Sony have announced more details about their new PlayStation Plus tiers, as they gear up towards the service’s launch over the next few weeks.
And it’s…weird. (link)
They have confirmed a bunch of games across PlayStation history that are coming to the service, but the list they’ve provided is less than what’s currently on PlayStation Now, even though this is essentially that service’s replacement.
Now, they have admitted that the announced games aren’t the full list, just a taster, but that still raises questions. A simple “all the games on PlayStation Now” would have sufficed for PS3 games if they are indeed keeping the library the same, or perhaps announced this with some new titles that are coming to the service. But instead, it’s a reveal of only a handful of games already on there, with a question mark over the games not mentioned.
The PS1 and PS2 games are also odd choices too. Only nine PS1 games were confirmed, and there aren’t any major heavy hitters among them. Sure, there’s Ape Escape, but I doubt many are rushing to beef up their subscription to play Kurushi or Everybody’s Golf. The PS2 selection isn’t much better than what’s already available separately as remasters on PS4, and again is missing a lot of notable titles.
It’s a strange, underwhelming announcement that makes me continue to wonder what’s going on in PlayStation’s PR department lately. The limited Classics selection is especially jarring considering how much they were trumpeting their new game preservation division within the past couple of weeks. Which is a noble effort, but doesn’t mean much when you can’t play most of the games people think of when the PS1 is brought up in casual conversation.
Now, this isn’t technically supposed to be a direct competitor to Game Pass, and that’s certainly how defenders are positioning themselves, but it’s hard to avoid that comparison and realise Sony’s efforts are, quite frankly, a bit rubbish.
Here’s hoping it looks more interesting when it launches here on 23rd June.
In new releases this week, we start with Dolmen (PC, PlayStation, Xbox), a sci-fi Soulslike. You play as a character dropped on a harsh world to collect resources while surviving against fearsome odds.
Little Witch in the Woods (PC) sees you playing as an apprentice witch trying to graduate up to full witch status. Lots of exploring in a magic forest, plenty of potion crafting and a cosy little village to live in and try to help people. Basically, it’s this week’s wholesome game.
The first of this week’s vampire games (yes, multiple) is V Rising (PC). It’s a survival game where you wake up in the woods as a vampire and have to build up your castle, hunt for blood and avoid the sun. Think Valheim with fewer longboats and more capes, basically.
Vampire: The Masquerade: Swansong (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is the second vampire game this week, and no, it’s not Bloodlines 2 yet. It’s a single player narrative-focused RPG, as vampires from three clans seek out answers to mysteries in Boston.
Game of the Week
The latest Game of the Week is Eternal Threads (PC), a time travel narrative puzzle game.
You are part of an operation to clean up the timestream, and your task is to save six people who died in a house fire by manipulating events up to and including the day of the event, although preventing the fire itself is not an option. After observing and adjusting events in the seven days leading up to the fire, you can alter decisions made by the victims in an effort to save them from their fate.
It’s looking like a fascinating concept for a game, and reviews so far are generally positive. If the story proves to be as interesting as it sounds, this should be a great time.
And that’s all for this week! I’ll be back soon with more from the world of gaming!