Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

Gamers react to any change in a beloved franchise with a fury the average person reserves only for tailgaters and spiders in the bathroom. Go into the comments section on an article about, say, a rumored easy mode for the notoriously difficult Dark Souls -- a change which would be entirely optional and negatively impact precisely nobody -- and while there are some reasonable voices, you'll still witness more righteous indignation than a room full of popped monocles. Which is why it's so odd that when it comes to these issues, which are actually legitimate complaints that truly screw over every gamer, there are few if any retaliatory arsons on record.

The Big Game Publishers Keep Critics Under Their Thumb

Bethesda Softworks

God help you if you're a critic who gives a popular game a bad score (bad, in the gaming world, meaning anything less than a 9 out of 10). Every hit game has hardcore fans that refuse to accept even the slightest criticism without turning into rabid murder-monkeys. But why? Why do we bother, when the PR departments of the big game publishers are more than happy to game that system themselves, all while employing shadier tactics than the jumpkick-sweep?


For example, in order to receive advance copies of new games to be reviewed -- so they can put in enough hours to develop an informed opinion come release day -- reviewers are forced to sign embargoes: non-disclosure agreements forbidding them from saying anything until a specific date and time decided on by the developers, and also from giving their reviews to the Cuban government. When Assassin's Creed Unity was released, Ubisoft didn't lift their embargo until 12 hours after the game had hit store shelves. Spoiler alert: Unity was the gaming equivalent of setting a cat on fire, if the cat had only ever worked half the time to start with.

And if you used the burnt carcass for the skin texture layers.

Word eventually got out that their game was tepid garbage water, but Ubisoft had already sold a ton of games. Embargoes to the rescue! And so publishers doubled down: Bethesda put an embargo on their embargo of Fallout 4 -- reviewers weren't allowed to say there was an embargo until Bethesda told them they could, because people who review video games are slowly watching their lives turn into a Terry Gilliam movie.

Universal Pictures
"I just want to tell people about how they can sprint now."

OK, so why not just break the embargo? What's Bethesda going to do, send their goons out to break your keyboard? Good luck glitching through the wall, Bethesda goons! Well, no, but they can blacklist the reviewer, and a blacklisted reviewer can't get their reviews done until after the game's been out for a while, which means a bunch of other outlets beat them to the punch, which means they probably don't get paid. In other words, reviewers have a financial incentive to stay on the good side of the publishers, and players are too busy yelling at them for giving their favorite game an 8.8 instead of a 9 to notice that it's the developers who created this situation in the first place. But hey, at least it's a step up from when developers just got reviewers fired for pointing out that their games sucked.

Eidos Entertainment
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men From Boredom

Game Developers Deliberately Drum Up Controversy

Visceral/Electronic Arts

We've come a long way from the days when folks genuinely worried that Grand Theft Auto would turn you into an amoral killer and Super Mario Bros. would transform you into a maniacal turtle stomper. But gamers are still sensitive to accusations that they're a bunch of basement dwellers that like shooting up virtual people because they can't interact with real ones. Games like Hatred are ... they're not exactly helping fight that stereotype.

Destructive Creations
"My hatred is directed at any clothing design made after 1999."

Hatred is a dark and edgy game ... if a 13-year-old who's just now discovering Slipknot only understood both of those concepts. You play as a dude in a trench coat who brutally slaughters police and civilians while they beg for their lives. Every moment of the grim trailer is obviously and blatantly begging to drum up some free controversial publicity, and, sadly, it did. Hatred launched a thousand think pieces about violence in gaming. Thanks to the controversy, views of the trailer skyrocketed, journalists rushed to perform vapid interviews with the developers, major reviewers felt compelled to play and cover it when it came out (most of whom said, rampant misanthropy aside, it was about as fun and innovative as doing your taxes), and the game hit the top of Steam's sales charts within hours. And now you too can join the 400,000 people that watched a video of the game's most brutal executions!

But that's just the most extreme example of an old tactic. Dead Space 2 was a sequel to an already great and successful game, yet they still felt the need to market it as a game that would gross out your mom. This was a game that was rated M for 17 and up (we guess the M didn't stand for "Mature Enough To Not Pride Themselves On Offending Their Mother").

But it worked!

So did EA's ploy to market Dante's Inferno with a fake protest from devout Christians. The truth came out, everyone talked about how dumb it was, and an otherwise completely forgettable action game got more publicity than they ever would have otherwise. So every now and then a new "controversy" pops up that exists only because the developers planned it, and we all fall for it and make gaming look dumb in the process. It's not going to stop until humanity manages to avoid being outraged at something that's explicitly intended to generate outrage. So, never, probably.

Continue Reading Below

Console Exclusives Are Outdated And Harmful

Microsoft Studios

Every few years, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft announce new gaming consoles, and the gaming community splits off into camps that blindly support their preferred console like they're about to retake Jerusalem from the heathens. But aside from some minor differences in hardware specs and controllers, they're more or less functionally identical. So why does it matter which console we buy? "Because there are some games that are exclusive to each console," gamers answer instinctively. But that raises another question: Fucking why?

Besides the fact that gamers love drawing inexplicable lines in the sand?

If you want to go see the new Marvel movie, you don't have to make sure you go to AMC, the only theater chain that plays Marvel. If you want to switch from a live baseball game to a live basketball game, you don't have to turn off your MLB exclusive LG TV and flip on your NBA exclusive Sony TV. At worst, you see a brief format war like HD DVD versus Blu-ray that's soon resolved before most consumers even start to care, or music services with exclusive content like Tidal that get ripped to shreds by critics and fans. Movies, music, books -- their creators couldn't care less how you experience their content as long as you enjoy it (and hopefully pay for it). But the gaming industry makes you choose between different expensive devices to gain access to a handful of exclusive titles, and we just accept it as being as inevitable as the tide. Want to play the next Halo, Uncharted, and Zelda games, three of the most critically acclaimed franchises around? Get ready to drop over a grand on the hardware!

studiodr/iStock/Getty Images
And try to make sense of this inevitable nightmare.

The majority of games are multi-platform, but there are just enough high-profile exclusives on every console that the idea of a console war is perpetuated every generation. And instead of calling it out as an obvious scam, we smear blood on our faces and prepare to fight for our tribe again.

Terrible Working Conditions Are A Game Industry Standard


If you follow gaming news, you may have noticed the recent ker that fuffled when Alex St. John, creator of DirectX and noted enthusiast of looking like a giant dickweed in photos, called game development an industry full of "fragile, lazy millennials" because some had the audacity to complain about 80-hour work weeks and unpaid overtime. He also encouraged developers to exploit women, autistic men, and younger employees, because St. John is bad at living up to his last name.

Episodic Content
"Surprise"; he has an oral fixation too.

But shouldn't we all be upset by those actual industry practices, which see just under half of game employees work 60-hour weeks, 17 percent work 70 hours, and 38 percent not receive overtime compensation? And that's to say nothing of the infamous "crunch time," where in the final weeks leading up to a game's deadline, employees work late into the nights and through the weekends, sometimes sleeping at their desks, so they can finish the game. Eighty-one percent of employees have gone through crunch time at least once in their career, while 50 percent consider it a normal part of the industry. There's no shortage of horror stories about those long work hours causing health problems, dooming relationships, and creating entirely new kinds of chair-funk.

"Still, I'd rather die than not include my Flintstones Easter egg that no more than six people will enjoy!"

But because working in the multi-billion-dollar game industry is often seen as a special honor, instead of a normal career that one uses to pay bills and not die, no one wants to make waves. The layoff rate is absurd enough as it is -- often your reward for keeping your head down and working 70-hour weeks for months without complaint is a pink slip. So why should gamers care? Well, for starters, one study found that mandatory crunch time led to worse games, not better ones, based on Metacritic scores. That's because extended crunch time suggests a game was badly planned from the get-go, and also because people who work all hours of the day to the detriment of their health and personal lives shockingly don't always produce their best work. And we'll never know how many people with good, fresh ideas were ground to dust by the industry before they had the chance to express them. Also, it's just generally kind of shitty of us to force the people who make the games that we love to choose between their careers and their home lives just so we can play a game a month earlier.

Cody occasionally posts funny things on his Twitter and Tumblr pages. Follow him if you want to hear his thoughts on anything from nerd culture to popular nerd culture.

Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!

Let's keep this pixelated train full of bullshit going with 5 Ways The Gaming Industry Is Way More Sexist Than You Think and 5 Innovative Ways The Gaming Industry Is Screwing You.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out If Video Game Commercials Were Honest, and other videos you won't see on the site!

Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's be best friends forever.

To turn on reply notifications, click here


Load Comments