Picture of a gaming controller.
Aug 30, 2021

Axios Gaming

Welcome to today's Monday edition of Axios Gaming with Megan Farokhmanesh.

Today's edition is 1,024 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: The "passionate" developer myth

Naughty Dog co-presidents Neil Druckmann (left) and Evan Wells. Photo: Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Game developers aired diverging views this weekend about whether encouraging developers to work "passionately" on a game is cover for inducing them to work too much.

Why it matters: Crunch has been accepted as a real, impactful issue within the game industry, but there still isn't a simple fix applicable to the entire sector.

  • Asked about his experience with crunch, Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells told Game Informer that he's "definitely personally worked very hard over the years. I think some of that has helped me get to where I am in my career. "
  • "We find that there is no one solution that fits everybody," co-president Neil Druckmann said, pointing to a combination of hours worked, stress levels and what's going on in people's personal lives. "Everybody has a unique situation we might need to address."

What they're saying:

  • A thread from Obsidian Entertainment game director and senior designer Carrie Patel examines how "'passionate' [developers] 'choosing' to crunch" can make work for other departments by establishing "a martyr mentality that can be toxic to team collaboration and communication."
  • "The OTHER thing about devs who 'choose' to crunch? Many of them aren’t 'passionate,' they’re scared," Patel added. "They need the game to ship on time and to quality, and they worry that if it doesn’t, their job may be on the line."

An environmental artist at Naughty Dog responded to the studio criticism, calling effort put in by leadership and employees to find solutions "dramatic."

  • "Finding the balance of letting devs push for things they are passionate about while not causing themselves or others to crunch is difficult and takes time," Anthony Vaccaro tweeted. "The one sized approach has always failed and Leads recognize that, so the whole team is working hard for multiple solutions."

The big picture: Naughty Dog, like many other studios, has grappled with crunch issues.

  • Asked about unionization, which advocates see as a way for workers to reclaim agency, Wells said, "I don’t know if that would be a solution for crunch. "
  • "If we had some sort of restriction where when the clock strikes 40 hours the servers shut down and you can’t work anymore, that would frustrate people to no end. There are people who really want to put in that extra polish on their own volition, and they would feel handcuffed."
  • Developers are adopting more techniques often used by unions — for example, employees at Activision Blizzard recently held a walkout to protest toxic work conditions at the studio.
2. China cracks down on online gaming time

Young players practice an online game for a battle match in a Chinese shopping mall. Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

China will no longer allow anyone under the age of 18 to play online games for more than three hours a week.

Why it matters: The crackdown on games, which is an effort to reduce gaming addiction among young people, is the country's strictest measure yet.

  • Under these rules, kids cannot play online games Mondays-Thursdays and only from 8-9pm on Fridays-Sundays and public holidays.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that online games will need a connection to an "anti-addiction" system, which will require players to register with their real names and identification documents issued by the government.
  • "The previous policy was 1.5 hours a day, so this is an extreme change and comes at a time when South Korea has just overturned its own shutdown law," tweeted Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad.

The big picture: It's the latest in China's broader battle with tech companies, especially as it relates to video games, with a state-owned newspaper decrying online gaming as "opium for the mind" this month.

  • Gaming giant Tencent reacted to that by saying it would work to reduce gaming time for minors.
  • An analysis from Niko notes the new policy could have larger impacts, including a decline in the number of gamers under age 18 and the discouragement of young people to take up gaming as a hobby or career.
3. Another Twitch streamer gone

Streamer DrLupo. Photo: Robert Reiners/Getty Images

Twitch streamer DrLupo is leaving the platform to work exclusively with YouTube, the star announced today.

Why it matters: The jump from a livestreaming platform to YouTube —where streaming and prerecorded content can be combined —offers creators greater personal freedom.

  • To be successful on Twitch, streamers need to produce live content on a regular basis — a time-consuming venture that goes beyond the energy spent on camera to include planning and preparation efforts.
  • In an interview with the Washington Post, the streamer said "the financial situation that YouTube presented me without a doubt is like ... I’m secure for life."
  • DrLupo currently has more than 4.5 million followers on Twitch.

The big picture: DrLupo isn't the first Twitch streamer to jump to another platform.

  • Valkyrae signed a multiyear deal in 2020 to stream exclusively on YouTube; mega star Ninja temporarily left Twitch for an exclusive deal with Mixer before the platform shut down.

What's next: DrLupo's first YouTube stream takes place tomorrow to his 1.7 million followers.

4. Need to know

🔜 343 Industries continues to support 2007 title "Halo 3," this time by adding a remake of "Halo 2"'s Turf map.

💰 NetEase is reportedly in final hiring negotiations with "Yakuza" franchise creator Toshihiro Nagoshi, who "is expected to set up his own team and create new games," according to Bloomberg.

🎮 Several Konami games on GOG, including "Metal Gear Solid," "Silent Hill 4: The Room" and "Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania & Contra," now include support for modern controllers.

5. Worthy of your attention
  • "Respecting retro game constraints in the age of remakes" (Don Everhart, Polygon)
"Accompanying the question of how a remake will be made are questions of when and why. Remakes of retro games demonstrate how constraints of technology, capital, and time impact art styles, designs, and game feel. As remakes bring ever higher polygon counts and ray tracing, let’s embrace the distinctiveness of retro games."
6. A head of the game

Here's a fresh nightmare for you, as spotted by Kotaku: modder Winder Sun has taken up threatening "No Man's Sky" players by slapping Hello Games founder Sean Murray's face onto different parts of the game, from blobs to bushes.

Image via @WSLTP

The mod is a cheeky countdown to the game's next free expansion, as Winder Sun adds a new Murray face for every day the update isn't released. Creative, impressive and also — please release the update already.

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🐦 Find us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo.

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