As we all wave good-bye to 2016 with our eyes on a brighter year in 2017, we have to realize that next year isn’t going to be great just because we want it to. We have to commit to a better future, shed the things that weighed us down in 2016, and most importantly, we must learn from our mistakes. And boy, were there some doozies this year, especially in the world of video games.
I know typically lists like this are the “best of,” or “highlights,” but I want to deviate from that tradition. Besides, there are a plethora of top gaming lists that would be hard to argue with and this one would just be another to add to the pile. What I want to focus on are the missteps, the errs. Things developers, creators, and even gamers like us may have done that we can learn from to help make 2017 a better year.
So, let’s look at some of gaming’s biggest controversies of 2016 and see what lessons we’ve learned and what we can do to make 2017 The Year of the Gamer.
Crytek Not Paying Staff… Again
This is a fairly new one, emerging at the tail end of the year in mid-December. Few may recall back in 2014 when Crytek, makers of games like Farcry, were being accused of not paying their employees. The saga went on for awhile and founder Cevat Yerli was grilled repeatedly in interviews about Crytek’s internal affairs and the staff.
It turns out that, in 2014, Crytek was making the moves to go into an entirely free-to-play market, a transition that changed everything. The company was rocked and almost faced bankruptcy. There were downsizes, branches of Crytek were sold, and pay was withheld to help ease the shift to F2P.
Yerli in an interview with Eurogamer: ” Either you delay payments – again delay… it’s not that they didn’t get paid, they got delayed – delay payments and salvage the company. Or, you push your cash flow directly to the studios and you file for insolvency. Both options are really bad. So you have to make the better of the two bad decisions.”
Eventually the issue got resolved, but it still left staff with a bitter taste in their mouths. Citing things like a lack of communication, many employees were understandably angry. Not getting paid for your job, not being able to provide for yourself or family, those things are a fast track to disaster for anyone.
In 2016, years after we thought Crytek had learned its lesson, allegations of non-payment have risen again. The majority of these complaints are coming from Cryteks main studio in Frankfurt. Employees have taken to social media to vent, and even gone onto job searching site Glassdoor. Posts on the site all make the same general complaints; no on-time payments for the past 6 or 7 months, poor communication, and an uncomfortable work environment.
As of yet no news of these issues being resolved has surfaced.
What can be learned from this?
I think the biggest lesson here is learn to communicate better. Some words may be hard to say, you may feel like a failure, but people will have much more respect for you if you keep them in the loop. Maybe employees would be okay with “payment delays” if they had clear reasons why. With so many people coming out and expressing their disdain for Crytek, the companies image is only getting worse. Perhaps they could have quelled some of the backlash and negative PR if they had only been more open about what was really going on. Nobody likes being left in the dark, especially when it comes to their money, their lives.
Bethesda, Mods, and the PlayStation 4
When it was announced that Bethesda would be bringing the PC mod scene to home consoles, gamers on PS4 and Xbox One rejoiced. Bethesda was making history with this move, and proving that home consoles were becoming more and more like PCs. Finally console gamers would be able to enjoy the perks and quirks of the modding community, albeit with some caveats.
The mods hit the Xbox One without a hitch, and in late May the Microsoft faithful were blessed with game-life extending mods. It was always known that Xbox would receive mod support first and that PlayStation gamers would have to wait a short while until they too could access them. In September of this year however, Bethesda said that Sony would not cooperate and that mods would not be made available on the PS4.
For awhile it seemed as if gamers on Sony’s system would just have to do without. Sony wasn’t playing ball, and Bethesda had bent over backwards to please its massive fan base. It came as a hard hitting blow to those who had repurchased Skyrim or hung onto their copies of Fallout 4 specifically for the mods.
Flash forward to today, and you’ll see Sony and Bethesda have compromised. While the file size, and content allowed for mods on the PlayStation is limited compared to that on Xbox, the PS4 now proudly boast mod support for two of the biggest games ever.
What can be learned from this?
Cooperation. Sony would do well to understand that, while the industry is a competition, there are somethings we need to just come together on. Even now, there is no good reason as to why the mods must be so limited on the PS4, but at least we finally got them.
This isn’t the only issue with not playing nice Sony has had this year either. Cross-platform on-line play is something else they’ve refused to allow. Microsoft has said time and again that it is more than willing to let gamers on their system play with gamers on all systems, they just need Sony to pull the trigger. While Sony says they’re “open-minded” on the matter, no real progress has been made. Gamers may remember Final Fantasy XI featured cross-platform play with players on PC, PS2, and Xbox able to all play together. So it’s a mystery as to why it is now some complex feature.
In 2017, I hope that these companies, as well as us gamers, learn that sharing is in fact caring. That cutting off people from key features that fans are excited for is a bad look. Hopefully, next year, these developers will go back to giving their loyal fans what they deserve. A united gaming community.
A Derailed Hype Train
Without a doubt the biggest controversy to hit the gaming community this year came from a small indie studio called Hello Games. Few need to be reminded of the epic tale of a man who over-promised on a game that under-delivered.
No Man’s Sky was poised to be a revolution in gaming. A seamless universe teeming with alien flora and fauna to discover on distant planets. With countless interviews highlighting mind-blowing innovations in gaming, gamers were easily lured into the impossible dream that was NMS. The game sold out basically the same day it was released. Copies flew off the shelves and gamers everywhere logged into No Man’s Sky infinite universe. Then, reality set in.
Features talked about weren’t what they were said to be, some were outright absent. Many felt shafted, some were less miffed by it all. Either way, the truth couldn’t be avoided. Soon Hello Games and it’s founder Sean Murray were embroiled in a battle with gamers and No Man’s Sky was branded “One Man’s Lie”. While updates have added many features, the damage has been done.
What can we learn?
I’m not going to re-hash every little thing that happened with this game, its marketing, and its disappointing release. We were all there, and everyone has their opinions on whether this game was truly a success or abysmal failure. But, what lesson is there in all this?
Creators dream big, and when those dreams are put out into the world, expectations arise, and expectations are a one-way trip to resentment. Therein lies the lesson; Curb your enthusiasm. Set bars to realistic heights and make sure you clear them before you raise it higher. Things like disappointment and the feeling of being lied to are powerful emotions that can bring out the worst in people.
It’s like counting your chickens before they’ve hatched. A lesson gamers and developers across the board should take to heart. I like to say; “Aim for the stars, but be happy when you land on the moon.” I don’t know if that’s apt, but it basically means you can have high aspirations, but stay grounded so you don’t miss out on the small successes. Be happy with what you can do, and accept what you can’t accomplish.
Making 2017 a Better Year
This year, when the clock strikes midnight and 2016 comes to its long overdue close, take these lessons to heart. Communication goes a long way in keeping people happy, coming together as a community will only strengthen our bonds and make the world a more peaceful place. Finally, don’t over extend yourself. We’re all people and we all have limits, don’t try to run when you haven’t even begun to crawl.
I hope that everyone can learn something from this, if we don’t we are doomed to repeat these same mistakes and 2017 will be no different than this year. With that geeks, I’m out until 2017. You all have a safe and happy New Year! While you’re here, sound off in the comments about what valuable lessons you’ve learned in 2016 and how you plan on making 2017 better for you and everyone else.