November 30, 2021
Welcome to the last November 2021 newsletter of Axios Gaming. Megan here to soothe your time-fueled dread with some news.
⚡️ Situational awareness: Do you work in game dev? I'll be in L.A. all next week and I'd love to meet for coffee, drinks or just a good chat.
Today's edition is 1,018 words, 4 minutes.
1 big thing: Activision Blizzard walkout organizer resigns
Jessica Gonzalez, a senior test analyst at Activision Blizzard who has been instrumental in employees' collective action efforts, is resigning from the company.
Driving the news: Gonzalez, who's been with the company for over two years, announced her resignation Tuesday, noting that her last day will be Dec. 10: "I have made the decision to leave Blizzard by putting my wellbeing first," she wrote.
- "I believe with enough education and awareness ABK can be a great place to be. There's lots of work to do still and I am mentally wounded from this fight. It's been a long and exhausting road for change, but it isn't over."
In a message specifically addressed to CEO Bobby Kotick, Gonzalez says he had "years to fix the culture."
- "Your inaction and refusal to take accountability is driving out great talent and the products will suffer until you are removed from your position as CEO."
- Activision Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment.
Catch up quick: A Better ABK, a group of employees working to unionize, staged a walkout — their second in roughly five months — on Nov. 16, following a Wall Street Journal report that Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct at the company, despite claims to the contrary.
- Industry figures like Xbox's Phil Spencer and PlayStation's Jim Ryan have been critical of Activision Blizzard leadership's handling of its widespread problems, while others have called for Kotick's resignation.
- An open letter from employees currently has more than 1,850 signatures calling for Kotick to step down. Gonzalez's name is the second on that petition.
- Notably, the November walkout came together in a matter of hours, as opposed to the longer planning period the first required in July; in conversations with Axios, employees have credited that speed to Gonzalez.
The big picture: Gonzalez has been a vocal critic of Activision Blizzard's handling of its ongoing harassment and misconduct scandal. She spearheaded efforts for the most recent walkout and was heavily involved in the first.
- Senior engineer Valentine Powell has worked with Gonzalez over her time there to improve work conditions; they told Axios that Activision Blizzard is "losing a pillar of culture" at the company.
- "She has been a constant voice for her whole time at ABK, pushing to see life get better for marginalized groups in all of our companies," Powell said.
- "The group is more than her, but she was the spark that started the explosion," one employee told Axios.
What's next: Gonzalez told Axios organization efforts within the company "are still going strong and I will still be supporting ABK workers in organizing."
2. Another top Twitch streamer leaves
- He broke Twitch's all-time record for paid subscriptions in March, with his near-constant livestream to entice subscribers (aka a "subathon"). He peaked at more than 283,000 active subs.
- Ahgren announced the news via Twitter on Monday and his first YouTube stream is today.
- As reported this year by the Washington Post's Nathan Grayson, Twitch "has started to offer big streamers less money for similar amounts of work or, in some cases, to not offer the sorts of contracts it used to at all."
3. "Grand Theft Auto" fixes its rain issues (and more)
Rockstar continues to smooth out the bumpy launch of "Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy — The Definitive Edition" with more updates, including a major one released today.
The details: The update includes more than 100 bug fixes, spanning everything from stability and performance issues to problems with missions.
- It’s currently available for the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC versions, with a Switch update expected in “the coming days.”
- Oddly, one of the most common problems seems to be with the game’s rain, which appeared inside during several cut scenes.
Why it matters: The highly anticipated trilogy's launch this month became a source of player complaints and instant meme fodder.
What’s next: The game’s physical release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and Series X has also been pushed back 10 days to Dec. 17.
- The Switch version is expected in early 2022.
4. Need to know
💻 Valve's upcoming handheld gaming PC, Steam Deck, will not have exclusive games. "No, that doesn't make much sense to us," its FAQ reads. "It's a PC and it should just play games like a PC."
🕴 Ubisoft has hired DICE, King and Atlus veteran Fawzi Mesmar as its vice president of editorial.
🗿 "Pokémon Go"'s new season, Season of Heritage, launches tomorrow and will focus on the game's past in what appears to be a tie-in to the upcoming "Pokémon Legends: Arceus."
🐝 Sting will perform at The Game Awards next week. Yes, that one.
5. Worthy of your attention
- "Procedural storytelling is exploding the possibilities of video game narratives" (Lewis Gordon, The Verge)
If you ask game makers about the origins of procedural narratives, you’ll get nothing resembling a consensus. For some, it started with randomly generated dungeons of 1980’s Rogue; for others, choose-your-own-adventure books. Nate Austin, designer and programmer of tactical role-playing game Wildermyth, sees procedural storytelling as stemming from tabletop board games like Dungeon and Dragons — experiences that provide rules and a structure from which a vast number of narratives can spawn. In his view, and those of more than a few others, 2006’s Dwarf Fortress, a management game about dwarves seeking to colonize an austere, text-based world, is the inheritor to this particular genus of narrative design.
6. A quick look at "Starfield"
For a little update on "Fallout" developer Bethesda’s upcoming game "Starfield," there’s a new video featuring a lot of concept art and of course, game director Todd Howard.
- The seven-minute video features interviews with the game’s studio director and art director, as well as a lot of concept art — probably the most we’ve seen.
- "Starfield" is expected to arrive next month. It is about space. I personally find space very scary, but to each their own.
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Two things I don't mess with: the ocean, and space.