There’s something about online conversation and discourse in general right now that’s a bit… overcharged, let’s say.
Mention you’re a fan of one thing and see armies of the opposition descend to condemn your entire being. Tweet something one day and it’ll be dredged up and reanimated in front of millions a decade later. Yes, social media initially brought us together, but I can’t help but think we’re fracturing ever more violently with each passing day.
All of which is to say that gaming has been put through the wringer too. Yes, you can go back to the parent-terrifying likes of Mortal Kombat, DOOM and GTA (that were riddled with misinformation and sensationalist claims, if only to sell magazines and online ad rates), but this decade, things are on another level entirely. If anything, recent games are subject to even more scrutiny, going up against millions of pairs of eyes and millions of people looking for errors.
That said, there have been some stupid controversies that whipped millions of people into a stupor, only for everything to be okay again in about a week.
9. Tracer’s “Buttpose” In Overwatch
Initially starting as a parental complaint on Blizzard’s forums, Tracer’s “buttpose” (actually called Over The Shoulder) exploded into all manner of assumptions that Blizzard were using sex to sell Overwatch, versus the notion that Tracer looking over her shoulder is more a reflection of her speed and effectiveness in combat.
Obviously, yes, her behind is a focal point being she’s wearing tight pants that are bright orange, but, well, you can argue which side you fall on down in the comments below.
Blizzard’s response – after even their own Art Director got stuck into the debate – was to swap the pose out for another, influenced by 1950s showgirls. They followed up by stating this newer pose better reflected the character, and doubled down on the previous one’s questionable elements by saying they were “never happy with it” in the first place.
Suuure you weren’t, Blizzard.
8. Removing Breast Sliders & Revealing Costumes In Xenoblade Chronicles X
Okay, now this is dumb, not because we need even more oversized female appendages in games, but because there was even a remote backlash to removing “breast sliders” in the first place.
Coming when Xenoblade Chronicles X was localised for western regions (because somehow NTSC regions are just left to be rampaging horndogs), the breasts of female protagonists were no longer customisable. Fans quickly took to forums across the land to express their annoyance, with some even going out their way to delve into side-by-side comparisons of other builds, just to see where Nintendo locked those boobs down.
Alongside this, a number of revealing swimsuits for character Lin were removed, further adding to the “outrage” as “all people wanted to do” was alter the breast sizes of various girls, before slipping them into costumes designed purely to be ogled at.
You can argue all day and night about sex appeal’s place in entertainment, but getting genuinely infuriated over customisable breast size? Come on.
7. GTA’s Hot Coffee Sex Mod Being Intentionally Left On The Disc
An oldie but a goodie, the GTA: San Andreas Hot Coffee scandal went from stupid to face-meets-palm ridiculous.
Starting when a handful of PC modders discovered remnants of what appeared to be a sex minigame on the retail version of the game disc, it was immediately snapped up by media outlets claiming Rockstar had done it intentionally. The real reason came from an in-progress minigame being left on the retail build of San Andreas, and Rockstar/Take Two were quick to remedy that in all future pressings of the disc.
Hot Coffee’s reputation quickly snowballed, and the scene’s presence in the game at all meant San Andreas would have to be re-rated, to which the ESRB responded by making it AO (Adults Only). This is the highest rating for any title in America, putting San Andreas alongside pornography and removing it from sale in the majority of stores.
The worst part? Rockstar knew the code was on-disc. Initially included so that PC players could “unlock the darkness” (according to Rockstar’s Sam Houser), Hot Coffee was named and hidden on the PS2 disc to evade censorship.
If only Rockstar had taken such a gargantuan risk on something that didn’t look completely ridiculous.
6. Destiny’s Overpriced Dance Emotes
It comes to something when a fanbase are so loyal, so dedicated and so in love with a given game’s universe… they’ll lose their damn minds over dance emotes.
Arising from Bungie repackaging released pieces of DLC into a more complete Collector’s Edition (to drop in time with The Taken King), those who’d already spent the cash keeping up should’ve been sitting this one out, right?
Turned out, if you lined up the released DLC with the new Collector’s Edition, the difference came down to three all-new exclusive emotes, and three armour shaders; ones you couldn’t get unless you splashed out the full additional $60, to complete your collection.
Understandably the hardcore fandom was infuriated – something that wasn’t helped when Community Manager Luke Smith claimed they would “throw money at the screen” if they could see what was on offer.
Once everything was settled, the Destiny fandom plodded on, but not before forums and comments sections were ablaze… over dance emotes.
5. GTA 4’s Lack Of Fingerless Gloves
Speaking of being torn up about something completely inconsequential in the long run, GTA 4’s award-winning launch didn’t go as smoothly as Rockstar wanted… because of some previously advertised fingerless gloves.
Yes, the gloves pictured above – that were also in various pictures of protagonist Niko Bellic and a few gameplay screenshots – weren’t in the game.
It really shouldn’t have mattered. We still had a nicely-rendered take on New York (Liberty City), replete with a revolutionary physics engine and the best story in any GTA game… but it did.
To this day, for thousands of gamers, GTA 4’s lack of fingerless gloves still leaves a sour taste.
4. The Witcher 3 Gets A “Downgrade”
As a term, “downgrade” tends to refer to any graphical changes between first look and release, but with The Witcher 3, CD Projekt RED actively refuted the claim, saying that the game’s scope and technical abilities should also be factored in.
Stating that the game looked better because they were yet to actually finish the vast majority of it (therefore meaning processing power could be focused on visuals over gameplay and the game’s size, and it was natural for visuals to change as the project went on), the conversation could at least be had around what qualifies as a “downgrade”.
Naturally, the nuance of this debate was lost, and for months CDPR had to weather a storm of supposed “fans” tossing the downgrade term their way, despite the fact that Wild Hunt’s size vs. graphics ratio was clearly expertly refined.
Of course yes, we can point to two states of visuals for the same game and see the differences, but does The Witcher 3 maintain a gorgeously high bar for graphics AND deliver a few hundred hours of gameplay?
If you answered “yes”, then all things considered, the game wasn’t downgraded. Simple.
3. Fox News: “Mass Effect Is A ‘Sex Simulator'”
Sometimes dumb is dumb, and no one does “straight-up misinformed” quite like Fox News. Have a listen:
Just a couple of uninformed individuals, discussing a game they haven’t played, with Geoff Keighley trying his best not to scream, “THAT ISN’T WHAT THE GAME IS.”
Still, because there were sex scenes you could trigger in Mass Effect by getting intimate with a number of crew mates, it got the attention of Fox News, and thus an entire web of lies span out about how these scenes took place. Such nonsense included stating the player could control “exactly what’s going to happen” during the sex scenes, and that they featured “full graphic nudity”.
Both things were demonstrably false, and EA got involved, saying the report was “a new level of recklessness”, as well as labelling it “insulting” to everyone who worked on the game. They called for Fox News to amend their archives, and though Fox offered no further comment, the “expert” they had on, Cooper Lawrence, revealed she was fed information about the game being “like pornography”, before confirming she misspoke.
2. Roger Ebert Saying Video Games Could Never Be Art
Coming out of nowhere, late veteran film critic Roger Ebert’s 2010 claim centred on the fact that because games are “played” and constantly interacted with, authorship is therefore created by the player, and not the creator.
It’s an interesting stance… for about a second, because in reality, video game developers set the parameters with which we play. The player can’t will Nathan Drake to fly, no more than they can make Doomguy run on walls, or Spider-Man drive a car. Any mods or level hacks are comparable to fan edits of popular films, but none of this actively robs the created work of its authorship.
You will always play the game engine, character, movesets, animations etc., that a developer codes. Fundamentally, the developer is the author of the work, just like a film’s production team.
Thankfully, after this debate had blown over into a million different thinkpieces, Ebert apologised. He maintained he still doesn’t believe games are art, but should’ve kept it to himself.
Swing and a miss.
1. Spider-Man’s #Puddlegate “Graphical Downgrade”
— Spidey (@spiydaman) August 20, 2018
Only in today’s mediascape – one where vitriol and uninformed opinions are given weight by Twitter mobs retweeting to their heart’s content – could we look at the glorious new Spider-Man on PS4, and come away thinking it was even remotely “downgraded”.
Yes, there are visual comparisons to be made, but like with The Witcher 3, there’s far more to a game than just aesthetics, and that’s before you get to the brazen fact that Marvel’s Spider-Man looks top-to-bottom gorgeous.
The size of one specific puddle literally means nothing when there’s a whole 1:1 recreation of New York City looking photo-real. And yes, it comes with plenty of puddles.
Digital Foundry even did their thing and discovered the game was upgraded in spots, highlighting new lighting techniques, increased texture fidelity and more detail across Spidey’s various suits.
Almost like… Insomniac know exactly what they’re doing?