This week's highs and lows in PC gaming


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Philippa Warr: An unwinnable position

The low I’ve chosen is the trailer Escapist Magazine put up for a new video series. Host and executive producer Victor Lucas describes the series as a “show about people with extraordinary passion working hard in interesting places to make art”. The teaser Escapist led with, now fully erased from the internet, featured the senior editor of comics at Riot Games being asked questions about atmosphere and morale at the company following Kotaku’s in-depth report on Riot’s sexist culture and allegations of workplace harassment. 

She is clearly uncomfortable—worried about being the first person to give soundbites, concerned that she’s not the right person to be speaking on the subject, telling Lucas that she’s essentially in an unwinnable situation with that question. Lucas wants her to continue. It’s absolutely horrible to watch. In case you were wondering where it’s gone, the site has taken it down at this point. 

I think they thought the discomfort equated to being raw and honest (as well as pulling in audiences who wanted a follow-up to a genuinely great piece of investigative journalism by Cecilia D’Anastasio). But positioning the interviewee’s discomfort as evidence that you’re asking the right questions fundamentally misunderstands how uneven power dynamics work in these conversations. 

Lucas wants to pursue a difficult subject, but his question essentially puts his interviewee in the position of having to answer for other women, having to give the first soundbites related to someone else’s traumatic experience, as well as potentially asking her to present any of her own pain for inspection. As she says, she’s caught in a no-win scenario. If she passes up the chance to speak there’s the risk that people already hurt and betrayed at Riot lose a chance to have their pain heard without having to make themselves vulnerable all over again. But if she speaks maybe she becomes a focus of online hate, maybe there are repercussions at work despite the on-camera assurances from a PR person, maybe her own experience is raked over in public. 

Lucas has put up a message saying they “erred with our first release of out-of-context footage” and apologising for the trailer to Riot and their employee. He talks about what he thinks the show is and concludes by saying: “I’m hoping you’ll watch and enjoy the first season.” 

Whether you take him up on that invitation is up to you. But the people involved in the video series thought that a good statement of intent about their “show about people with extraordinary passion working hard in interesting places to make art” was footage of a visibly uncomfortable woman literally telling them they had put her in an unwinnable position and them wanting her to continue anyway. 

Tom Senior: Apex predator

Respawn’s excellent Apex Legends may grant EA a reprieve from its slumping stock fortunes, but I wonder what it will do to Anthem. Recently the publisher partly blamed a lack of battle royale mode for Battlefield 5’s underperformance, implying that perhaps Fortnite drank its milkshake. Then why put out your own battle royale game a couple of weeks before your big next big hero shooter?

For argument’s sake, let’s say the audiences for these games are entirely separate. The smoothness of Apex’ launch makes Anthem’s torrid ‘VIP Demo’ period seem even worse, especially when one game is free to play and the other costs 60 bucks. EA has history for this. Titanfall 2 launched seven days away from Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite that year, and that didn’t seem to do the game any favours. If there’s a master plan at work here, I’m not seeing it.

Phil Savage: Boston Tree Party

Assassin's Creed III is a game about riding over to an unremarkable bit of land near some trees to trigger a cutscene where someone asks you to ride over to a different unremarkable bit of land near some different trees. Sometimes your horse will glitch into one of the trees and get stuck. It's arguably one of the worst games of the main series—not disastrously bad, but bland and uninspiring. It was a pretty major disappointment.

All of which begs the question: why the hell is this the Assassin's Creed game that's getting a remaster?

Wes Fenlon: I wanna hunt the Leshen

I've been playing Monster Hunter: World on PC since last fall, and I haven't minded that it gets special events months after the console versions, which launched earlier in 2018. It's actually been great, because we've gotten more new stuff packed into a shortened timeframe. There's always something new to do. But for the first time, it stings: Monster Hunter's Witcher 3 crossover went live yesterday, and it'll probably be months until the PC version gets Geralt and the Leshen, a particularly tough Witcher monster. The Witcher is a PC series, dammit! If there's one special event that should debut on the PC first, it's this one. I can wait. It's just the principle, dangit.

Chris Livingston: Steam escaping

I can't think of the last time this happened, but I haven't opened my Steam client in over a week. Between Origin, Uplay, Epic, and the Windows Store app, my gaming needs were met without needing to fire up Steam. Weird how that happens! While I still think it's a net good that Steam is getting more competition, this week also served as another reminder how all of these clients need more features and less obnoxiousness. Even just little things, like not immediately showing me my game library but a storefront instead, are irritating. I know Steam had a big head-start in making a client that's easy to use and packed full of features, but no one is going to legitimately compete if they only focus on acquiring and selling games and neglect making the experience better for users.

Tyler Wilde: Are we having fun?

I've been meeting a lot of new people lately and hearing about how their kids play Fortnite obsessively and convince them to spend money on skins over and over. Are these kids having fun and growing or are they being molded into good entertainment consumers? What are they giving up for all this entertainment?

At one time I would've said nothing. It is meaningless. I spent my entire youth playing games and I turned out fine. Looking back, it was ridiculous to think that living a significant part of my life getting feedback from a screen had absolutely no effect on me. (And it's really funny that I thought I turned out fine!) I don't automatically think playing Fortnite or anything else breaks your mind just because I'm older, grumpier, and more suspicious now, but it isn't nothing. All the research done to get people, including kids, to continuously play and spend money on games is clearly working. Wondering what it means is worthwhile.

PC Gamer

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