Gaming Roundup – The Worst of Us

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, The Last of Us 2, Konami, and esports allegations, plus all the latest releases!

The Last of Us 2 Sells 4m, Troy Baker Gets Bitchy

The Last of Us Part II is a huge success, reaching 4 million copies in sales, and a Metacritic score of 94. It’s the biggest launch of any PS4 exclusive. Not particularly surprising as it’s the sequel to one of the PS3’s most beloved titles, but apparently this success isn’t enough for some of the team.

If you’ve spent any time in gaming circles online recently, you’ll notice there’s a lot of controversy and mixed opinion on the game. Polygon summed the discourse up succinctly as “a minefield”.

A lot of the issues started around the time the story leaked, and there are still people seemingly making it a full-time job to argue that the story is terrible and they ruined The Last of Us. I won’t discuss spoilers too much, as I also haven’t played enough of the game to pass judgement on the bigger reveals from the leaks, but needless to say the game makes some bold choices that have polarised players.

Some of the criticism is legitimate, with a few players expressing concern that it revels too much in ultra-violence while lecturing anyone who thinks the violence is okay. But then you have people who feel the fate of a major character was “a disgrace”, criticisms about a new character that mostly complain about a woman with a muscular physique and then, of course, the most toxic comments that seem to mainly take issue with the protagonist being a lesbian, among other similar nonsense.

It’s perhaps understandable that the creative team might feel a little hurt by the worst of this criticism, and are unfairly lumping the legitimate comments in with it all. Which potentially explains the behaviour of Neil Druckmann and Troy Baker, director and voice of Joel respectively, on Twitter more recently.

After columnist and actor Jeff Cannata was roundly mocked for his bizarre comparison between The Last of Us 2 and Schindler’s List, Druckmann took to Twitter to dismiss this, with God of War director Cory Barlog coming to his defence too and saying that there are too many critics intentionally trying to tear the game down. Most bizarrely, Troy Baker responded to a fairly innocuous tweet with a lengthy Theodore Roosevelt quote that essentially dismissed critics as useless.

Should be noted that a lot of this wagon-circling seemed directed at Jason Schreier, former Kotaku writer, who is best known for exposing the worst elements of the games industry, with a particular focus on crunch and mistreatment in the workplace. Schreier also reported on abuse within Naughty Dog, which I’m sure has no bearing on the response from Druckmann and co…right?

Despite its successes, The Last of Us 2 is making games media a toxic place right now. The polarising opinions and abuse flying around mean that genuine criticism and praise is getting buried in a sea of rage from one corner and an almost childishly unprofessional response from within Sony itself. Here’s hoping this won’t be a permanent fixture in the coming months.

Konami Bomb Threat

A student in Tokyo has been arrested for a bomb threat against Konami. The threats were made across three days last month in the reviews section of a PES mobile game, by the 16-year-old who claimed he was going to bomb the office and kill everyone who worked at Konami.

In the light of the fire at Kyoto Animation last year, these kinds of threats are to be taken seriously. The suspect has admitted to the comments.

He has reportedly stated his reasons for leaving the threats were due to a netcode issue which caused him to lose a match in PES. Not quite sure if that’s the reasonable explanation for a terrorist threat he hopes it is.

Further Accusations in Esports

So, here’s a new thing for the Gaming Roundup. I know basically nothing about the esports scene. As far as game coverage goes, it’s a real blindspot for me. Fortunately, Mat Lovell recently joined the team and he’s a bit of an esports expert. So I’ll be handing over to him for esports news now, and possibly more in future roundups! This week, more details about allegations emerging from the esports scene.

Following allegations covered in last week’s round-up, esports has become the latest section of the games industry to come under scrutiny for sexual harassment. Multiple allegations have been made against several major personalities in the Dota 2 professional scene, prompting multiple resignations and abrupt retirements. This article will cover three major cases with reference to others.

Starting on 21st June when allegations were made over Twitter against ex-professional player turned streamer for esports team Evil Geniuses, Grant “GranDGranT” Harris of sexual assault. This prompted numerous women, including a former aspiring caster LlamaDownUnder, to come forward with accounts of sexual harassment and assault against Harris and other top-level personalities within the scene; including casters and former pros DeMoN and Zyori. Harris was dropped by Evil Geniuses shortly after allegations began to emerge and has since announced his departure from the scene in a tweet on 23rd June.

Two of the biggest blows to the community and the Dota 2 scene however come in the form of Toby “TobiWan” Dawson and Paul “Redeye” Chaloner who have been instrumental to the scene and esports for more than a decade.

Dawson, a long-time British/Australian Dota 2 commentator regarded as the most emblematic caster in the scene, announced his withdrawal from esports indefinitely in a statement on Twitter on 2nd July following a torrent of sexual assault allegations against him.

On 29th June, Chaloner announced on Twitter that he is retiring from the esports industry following “attacks on his character” made by commentator and former employee James Banks. Banks tweeted on 27th June, a document which detailed claims of multiple accounts of bullying and abuse of power calling Chaloner a “disease” on the esports scene.

A lot has happened over the past week which has changed the landscape of Dota 2 and esports forever. Particularly, the revelations and swift departures of both TobiWan and Redeye – the former considered the “voice of Dota 2” and the latter one of the world’s first professional esports and video game broadcast commentators who has been credited with shaping the industry.

Incidents like this are not exclusive to esports. However, while it is too early to see the long-term impact of this on the Dota 2 scene and the industry; as every day more information is coming to light; these allegations have highlighted several issues. Issues which have been bubbling away under the surface of the industry for years. These include abuse of power, safeguarding and mistreatment of women and minorities. Bringing them to the forefront exposes the inescapable inequalities embedded in the culture and landscape of esports, and prompts open, honest discussion which should (hopefully) allow Dota 2 and the industry to grow and improve for the better.

Thanks for the esports news, Mat! You should be seeing more from him in future roundups!

Online Event Announcements

With ongoing concerns around Covid-19, more events continue to be cancelled, but some of those events live online for the time being.

Bethesda have confirmed that QuakeCon will not be going ahead as usual this year, however there will be a streamed event from 7th-9th August entitled QuakeCon At Home. Not many details as of yet, but are promised in coming weeks.

In lieu of their usual E3 shenanigans, like a booth in the car park and an Adult Swim infomercial level of weirdness for their keynote, indie publisher Devolver Digital will be hosting the Devolver Direct on 11th July. They are adamant that their branding for their show is not inspired by Nintendo Directs in any way, which sounds believable to me. Not sure what to expect but knowing Devolver it’s gonna be an experience.

Meanwhile, ReedPop stablemates PAX and EGX are both officially cancelled now, and will be holding a joint event instead. From the 12th to 20th September the combined event will feature 24-hour content across all nine days. No details on what the specifics are, but they promise everything you’d expect from the main shows.

Finally, Square Enix normally host an E3 presentation, but have not announced a replacement event, despite E3 week having now passed. However, they have confirmed that due to complications in development, it’s difficult for them to assemble everything together in time for a single presentation. Instead, they will be releasing announcements throughout July and August as they become available. And they’ve promised plenty of stuff. Presumably we’ll be seeing some news on what happens next with FF7 Remake, and for my own interest, maybe a new Tomb Raider?

Adaptation News

A bunch of adaptation news got released this past week or so, with various video games making the transition to other mediums.

Square Enix’s stylish DS RPG, The World Ends With You, is getting an official anime adaptation, as indicated by a mysterious website. Full details will be revealed at the weekend.

One of the best-received games of last year, Disco Elysium, is getting a TV show, courtesy of dj2 Entertainment, who were involved in the Sonic movie. No details yet because it seems like that’s all yet to be worked out, but this could be one to keep an eye on.

Netflix have released the first look at The Cuphead Show, the animated adaptation of beloved rock-hard platformer Cuphead. This is definitely on my radar as someone who has played a tiny bit of the game but also really enjoys that wacky old toons. Looks like it’s capturing a lot of that classic spirit, so this should be a fun time.

Free Stuff on PS and Xbox

This month’s free stuff on the consoles are as follows.

The free games for PlayStation Plus this month have increased by one, with Rise of the Tomb Raider, Erica and NBA 2K20 available for Plus subscribers. Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second of the rebooted trilogy with a weathered and traumatised young Lara Croft heading off to Russia to seek an artifact that grants immortality (I know this off the top of my head because I’ve been recording this exact game for the past few days). Erica is a tense FMV thriller featuring a cast of excellent British actors. And NBA 2K20 is basketball with microtransactions. A reasonable selection.

For Xbox Game Pass, four new games arrive this month. The “big” title is, sadly, Fallout 76, the infamous multiplayer spin-off from the Fallout universe, although now you can see if it’s improved for free (if you can really be bothered). Other games include Soul Calibur 6, the latest in Bandai Namco’s excellent sword-slashy fighting game, CrossCode, a beloved 16-bit throwback JRPG, and also Out of the Park Baseball 21.

But the free stuff on Xbox One doesn’t stop there, as Xbox is getting something similar to the recent Steam Games Festival. From 21st-27th July, Xbox will be full of free demos of recent and upcoming games, mostly indies. As I detailed last week, you can find some really good stuff digging through the demos, so I’d highly recommend dipping in later this month if you’re an Xbox player.

Small Story Roundup

Here are a few quick stories that also happened in the past week:

With Techland having problems getting their project Hellraid off the ground, they’ve decided to bring its world into a special Dying Light DLC

Amazon’s first foray into multiplayer gaming, Crucible, has gone back into closed beta a couple of weeks after two of its three modes got dropped, which is always a good sign

Top-down open-world action shooter Shakedown Hawaii is getting some new ports…on the Wii and Wii U? Wait, why?

Crash Bandicoot 4 will not have microtransactions despite a Microsoft Store listing mentioning “in-game purchases”, according to its developer. However they said the same about the CTR remake and look what happened there…

Mega Blox may have spoiled major plot developments in Halo Infinite with their reveal of a toy range. Oops?

A Plague Tale: Innocence, an excellent game from last year about two French kids trying to survive through the plague and the Hundred Years War, has now sold 1m copies. I approve of this development. Go play A Plague Tale if you haven’t already. Thank me later.

New Releases

Slim week for releases. Trails of Cold Steel III is getting a Switch release, after its previous PS4 and Steam releases within the past 12 months. It’s the third in a series of JRPGs with a focus on an anime military school, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Trackmania is a remake of Trackmania Nations, and is the latest in Ubisoft’s stunt driving franchise, complete with track builder and a new official season campaign.

Iron Man VR is a PS VR exclusive game that puts you in the shoes of Tony Stark as he flies around and blasts stuff, as far as I can tell. Getting some mixed reviews, so bear that in mind if you’ve been interested in some Avengers-based VR shenanigans.

Game of the Week

With such a muted release week, it was hard to pick a Game of the Week. But Townscaper caught my eye, and it’s definitely the most interesting thing I’ve spotted this week. It’s not really a game as such, and more a fancy interactive toy. You can place blocks onto an irregular grid, which the game converts into a town that shifts as you build up more and more.

While it’s not really going to compete against the big hitter games this year, it does look like a fun little thing to play around with if you’re looking for something chill to entertain yourself with. Even just watching the videos of it, there’s something satisfying about seeing your block placements turn into a cute little town. Really cheap too.

And that’s it for this week! We’ll see you again soon with more from the world of gaming!

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