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Gaming Roundup – Sigh

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, can we just…not? For one week? Please?

PlayStation Facing Gender Discrimination Suit

Here is yet another story about gender discrimination within the games industry. This time, PlayStation are facing a lawsuit regarding gender discrimination within the company.

Emma Majo, a former IT security analyst at PlayStation, filed the lawsuit early last week in California. She alleges that she raised concerns about pay and promotion discrepancies between male and female employees, and soon after was fired. She is claiming wrongful termination and is seeking to expand the suit into a class action regarding the wider mistreatment of female staff.

According to Majo’s suit, Sony claimed her termination was due to the closure of her department. However, she refutes this by claiming she never worked within that department. But the timing of her dismissal coincides with a complaint she raised claiming that female employees were often passed over for promotion, and in one case, she had to deal with a manager who only responded to male employees.

Sony have not publicly commented on the lawsuit.

This news comes at a time as news of gender discrimination and abuse emerges from major players within the games industry. This of course includes Activision Blizzard, whose discrimination allegations are much worse. Speaking of which…

Activision Pressured by Six US States

Already facing numerous lawsuits from various corners over years of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, Activision continues to face scrutiny. After reports emerged that CEO Bobby Kotick was allegedly complicit in covering up and protecting abusers within the company, and following the board choosing to stand beside him regardless, six US state treasurers have spoken out.

State treasurers are government officials who oversee investments into private companies that might be affected by stock prices, for instance pension funds. And six of them (in California, Massachusetts, Illinous, Oregon, Delaware and Nevada) are all calling on Activision to take these allegations more seriously than they currently are.

Illinois state treasurer Michael Frerichs has called for sweeping changes at the company, accusing the current board directors (including Kotick) as lacking both the skillset and conviction to make these changes. Massachusetts treasurer Deborah Goldberg expressed confusion over the board’s decision to protect Kotick and demanded a serious outside investigation into the company’s conduct.

Executives from all three major console platforms have decried the publisher, with PlayStation’s Jim Ryan, Xbox’s Phil Spencer and Nintendo’s Doug Bowser all stating they are looking into their working relationship with the publisher (although it seems Ryan has his own problems right now). Meanwhile, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey is under pressure to remove Kotick from his own board of directors, showing that the Activision situation is having wide-reaching ramifications.

Here’s hoping this additional pressure leads to real consequences soon.

GOG Set to Refocus

GOG.com is costing its owners CD Projekt Red a lot of money. A recent revenue presentation revealed that while GOG had brought in $1.37 million by the end of Q3 this year, the storefront also cost them $2.21 million in the same time frame.

CFO Piotr Nielubowicz stated that they will be restructuring GOG to try and take it back to its roots. GOG, which launched in 2008, made a name for itself as a site to get older PC games with no DRM, although in the years since it has gradually become just another PC storefront alongside Steam and the Epic Store.

And this is what Nielubowicz wants to reverse, with a desire to take the storefront back to a time when it focused on the older titles and didn’t try and compete directly with the juggernaut that is Steam.

GOG’s commitment to game preservation on PC is an admirable one, so here’s hoping that CDPR can turn its fortunes around soon.

Epic Acquires Harmonix

Rock Band developers Harmonix have been acquired by Epic Games. Best known for their expertise at making music-focused games, it seems this expertise is why they were poached by the Fortnite crew.

This won’t affect any existing games, meaning Rock Band 4 and Fuser will continue to receive updates, but since their future plans appear to centre on “musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite” it’s not clear if we’ll see anything quite as inventive as those games in future. Which is unfortunate.

Earthworm Jim Returns

Classic 90s character Earthworm Jim will be making a return via a new animated series. Interplay retain the rights to the property and will be working with APA and Passion Pictures to bring the project to life.

It also has been confirmed to feature no involvement from original creator Doug TenNapel. Normally this would be a concern, but in this case it’s a benefit, and Interplay’s refusal to state TenNapel’s name in any of their confirmations speaks volumes. This is down to TenNapel’s continued stances that black people are universally ignorant, the Covid pandemic is a hoax, sexist and homophobic slurs are fine and maybe Hitler wasn’t actually all that bad really.

As someone who grew up with both the original Earthworm Jim game and the excellent cartoon adaptation, it’s very hard to feel positive about the property now due to TenNapel, and Interplay confirming he’s been shut out of the new show is good news indeed. I am very excited.

It’s not the first project claiming to revive the property, however. There was news of an Earthworm Jim 4 for release on the Intellivision Amico console, but nothing has been heard since, the Amico appears to be going nowhere fast. Time will tell if it actually materialises.

New Releases

Lots of smaller releases this week. Let’s start with Tunnel of Doom (PC), which was actually the only game released last week. It’s a tower defence roguelike, which instantly turns me off in two completely separate ways, but I’m sure there are plenty who might be interested.

Anvil (PC, Xbox) is a twin stick shooter with roguelike elements where you and some friends can team up to fight monsters and break open ancient alien vaults.

Icarus (PC) is a co-op survival game for up to eight players. Set on a terraformed planet that represents a failed second Earth, you and your friend must survive to gather resources from the planet and return to your spaceship before you all die.

Wartales (PC) is a vast open world RPG set in a medieval world, full of complex systems and recruitable companions. From the sounds of things it seems the story is entirely what you decide it to be, set in world of chaos and banditry, which could be an interesting time!

Mechajammer (PC) is a cyberpunk RPG with a pixel art style, set in a dark jungle surrounding an off-world city. Looks kinda neat.

Century: Age of Ashes (PC) is a free-to-play dragon battle game. It’s basically a big old space battle game only it’s also Panzer Dragoon. 3 unique classes of dragonrider and multiple modes of play are all present for those looking for some free-to-play multiplayer action involving giant fire lizards.

Chorus (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is another flight-based combat game, only this one is a more straightforward space battler. You play as Nara, an ace pilot heading out across the galaxy to taken down The Great Prophet. Should be a good one for those looking for some epic sci-fi.

Game of the Week

Game of the Week this week is Solar Ash (PC, PlayStation), a game that looks like Journey, Shadow of the Colossus and Jet Set Radio all got thrown into a blender and this was the smoothie that emerged.

The latest game from Hyper Light Drifter developers Heart Machine, Solar Ash places you in the shows of Rei, a “Voidrunner” out to stop a force attempting to destroy her homeworld. You skate around a vast, beautiful world, fighting off vast creatures in a game that you know is almost certainly going to make you feel about everything you’re doing somewhere along the way.

This game looks gorgeous and if it’s not a late addition to some Game of the Year lists I will be very surprised.

And that’s it! See you again next week for more from the world of gaming!

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