This Week in Games
Under the Gun
by Heidi Kemps,
Hey all! Let's check the gaming news and… oh. It seems that Blizzard really stepped in it this time. And it's not pretty.
It all started when few days ago, Hong Kong-based pro Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung – better known online as “blitzchung” – was playing onstream. Hong Kong, as we are all aware, has been seeing some large, sometimes violent protests and clashes between authorities and citizens protesting the overreach of the Chinese government. (There's a lot to unpack about the Hong Kong protests, and I'm not even going to try to explain it all here – there are plenty of resources online with a far better grasp of the situation.)
Anyhow, during a post-game interview, blitzchung showed up onstream wearing a gas mask –“fashion” that has become a key symbol of the protestors – saying “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”. Blitzchung himself has apparently been very active in these demonstrations, telling eSports site Inven Global that ”I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn't focus on preparing my Grandmaster match.”
Blizzard promptly responded by removing blitzchung from the Hearthstone Grandmasters, banning him for one year and forcing him to forfeit all of his prize money. All footage of the stream interview has vanished from official channels (though folks have saved snippets of it). Why would they do this? Well, Blizzard has a substantial interest in making money from the Chinese market, and that means playing nice with everything the Chinese government demands. Which means not calling attention to the fact that there is a massive organized protest against said government happening. So, utilizing a little-known rule about “Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard's sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard's image”, Blizzard got rid of the problem (blitzchung) and can now continue to make lots of dough in China.
Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.— Kevin Hovdestad (@lackofrealism) October 8, 2019
Both the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" values have been covered up by incensed employees this morning. pic.twitter.com/I7nAYUes6Q
As soon as the news hit, there was tremendous outrage across the gaming internet. To deplatform a player and remove his livelihood for standing up to an oppressive regime, especially after another similar, well-publicized incident involving the Houston Rockets NBA team, is not sitting well with people at all. We're seeing the resignation of commentators, streamers sneaking in signs in support of Hong Kong during broadcasts, Switch Overwatch pre-order and WoW subscription cancellations, and even a grassroots movement to make Overwatch’s Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong Protests. (I personally approve of this, please create lots of cool Overwatch protest art because I just like seeing people make good art.)
The bigger picture here is distressing. The intense desire to appeal to the Chinese market extends far beyond just companies like Blizzard. We've all heard how China's moviegoers can make or break Hollywood films, for example. But China is also a huge up-and-coming market for anime and manga. Some series, like Attack on Titan and Death Note, have been famously banned in the region, but anime that has made it past the Chinese censors can do very, very well. For example, the Fate franchise is very popular there: the recent film adaptations of Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel have made a good chunk of cash in Chinese cinemas, and the Chinese version of Fate/Grand Order is among the top apps in one of the most lucrative mobile markets. All of the parties involved have no qualms editing things as the Chinese government dictates, either: A lot of the more suggestive FGO art is toned down to show less skin.
Lately, Chinese companies are more and more interested in anime and game co-productions with Japanese firms, which gives said Japanese corporations an in into an immensely huge but difficult-to-breach market. It's worrying, however, what terms these partners might dictate for business, especially in terms of content and how the works arising from the collaboration are presented on streaming services, eSports platforms, and so on. Could you get banned from watching a Chinese-coproduced show for posting FREE TIBET in the comments? After seeing everything going down, it doesn't sound that ridiculous anymore!
Well, as much as this story is currently dominating gaming discourse, we do have to move on to other things. Such as…
WE NOW HAVE A VERY VAGUE PS5 RELEASE DATE AND MORE FEATURE DETAILS
It's coming for the holiday season next year. Woo, PS5 in 2020!
There are few more details in a new article on Wired about the upcoming console. According to engineer Mark Cerny, you're going to have considerably more control over what gets installed on the PS5's solid state drive: rather than tossing the whole game on there, you can opt to install specific chunks and leave the rest on the optical disc. Probably a good idea, considering that low-cost SSDs are still rather limited in storage capacity compared to traditional hard drives. There's also a new, USB-C powered controller that makes use of interesting gimmicks, like haptic feedback and so-called “adaptive triggers” with varying tension. If you want all of the nitty-gritty, I do suggest checking out the article above, but we still likely won't know the bulk of the console's features until sometime next year.
YOU CAN TAKE SAITAMA FOR A BETA TEST NEXT MONTH
I still can't believe One Punch Man season 2 happened, because I saw approximately zero people actively taking about it beyond “uh yeah, that kinda sucked, huh?” Impressions of the spinoff game, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, from places like TGS seem slightly less chilly, with the general consensus seeming to be “well, this sure is a thing!” (You may want to check our own hands-on with the game from TGS for some more detailed opinions!)
If you want to test drive the game before its 2020 launch, however, you've got a golden opportunity come next month, as a closed beta for One Punch Man is running from the first to the third of November. You'll need to register to get in, so head on over here if you're interested! Sorry, PC players – PS4 and XBone are the official beta test platforms, even though a PC version of the game is also scheduled for release at the same time. Maybe you'll have your own beta test later down the line!
IT'S A GALARIAN PONYTAAAAAAAAAA!!!! OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOD
Now for something a bit more light and fluffy. Over the weekend, The Pokemon Company held a livestream showing a Galarian forest. You ever seen one of those “nature livecams” where the camera just sits there in one place for hours on end, and occasionally a fox or deer might stumble into frame for a bit? That's basically what this was parodying, only with virtual animals. A lot of folks didn't get the reference, though, as fans took to Twitter to complain about how much nothing was happening. That's just the way wild animals are!
Those who were devoted enough to keep checking on the stream, however, found themselves rewarded with some brief glimpses of a lovely new friend: the Galarian form of legacy Pokemon Ponyta!
Holy crap, Ponyta's a frickin’ unicorn! And all fluffy! According to official info, this variant is actually Psychic-type rather than Fire-type, which makes sense… but no Fairy subtyping seems really odd. (Maybe that happens in the Rapidash evolution?) Unfortunately, you're only going to be able to chase this unicorn in Pokemon Shield, as it's one of these version-exclusive Pokemon they want people to trade for. Still, whatever you must exchange for some rainbow unicorn power is probably worth it. (You may opt for the recently-revealed Sirfetch'd, who is now said to be a Sword version exclusive.)
ZOMBIE HOUSES NEVER TRULY DIE, THEY JUST GET REMADE
Forever Entertainment are a Polish developer/ who appear to be quite enamored with classic Sega properties. Hey, I'm totally enamored with Sega, too! I just got my Japanese MegaDrive Mini last week and let me tell you, that thing kicks ass. I have spent an embarrassing amount of time playing around with obscure Japanese exclusives Tant-R and Game no Kanzume.
The folks at Forever seem to have a particular fondness for Saturn-era stuff in particular, however. They're currently working on the Panzer Dragoon remakes on Switch, and they just announced that they have another set of classic Sega remakes in the works: House of the Dead 1 and 2!
… which, of course, spurs on the question, “okay, how the heck is House of the Dead, a reflex-driven lightgun game, going to work on platforms like the XBone and Switch?” With the Wii/Wii U and PS3/PS4, you have the option of using the motion-sensitive Wii Remote and Move controllers to simulate aiming a lightgun at a CRT monitor in the arcade – and it worked pretty well! But the Switch's JoyCons are… well, pretty different from both of those, and not particularly comfortable to hold for a long session of pointing and shooting. There is always cursor-based aiming, I guess, but god is that control scheme an exercise in misery for a reaction-driven arcade lightgun game. I guess there's Kinect on the XBone, but considering that Microsoft abandoned that peripheral to die years ago, it doesn't seem like a real possibility. Forever is promising a first look at the game “in a few months”, so hopefully we'll know more about how we'll be playing (or attempting to play) House of the Dead 1 and 2 soon.
Well, this has certainly been a strange and rather depressing Week in Games, hasn't it? I'm sure you all have your own thoughts about everything that's happening in gaming right now, so if you're looking for a discussion, come join us in the forums below. See you all again next week!
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