2015 could very well go down as one of the best years for gaming, period. We saw a staggering amount of great titles this year and the best part was that they were incredibly diverse, touching upon many different genres and platforms. Like any other year though, 2015 had its fair share of controversy and while there was thankfully nothing as insidious or awful as 2014’s GamerGate debacle, there was still plenty to get your feathers ruffled about. This is by no means an exhuastive list of every one of the year’s gaming controversies (we welcome any suggestions for ones we missed) but they do stand out as some of the biggest.
9. Peter Dinklage Gets Erased From Destiny
Destiny: The Taken King was notable for fixing a lot of the issues present in Bungie and Activision’s RPG shooter when it launched back in September; unfortunately, one of those “issues” happened to be an actor by the name of Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame, who did significant voice work for the game as the character Ghost. Dinklage’s performance had been criticized for being too emotionless and dour, which prompted Bungie to hire Nolan North as his replacement when it came time to record new lines for The Taken King expansion.
The problem was that since Destiny is an always-online game, all of Dinklage’s lines were replaced by North in the spirit of continuity. While North’s performance received a much warmer reception overall, it came at the expense of another man’s work, and that’s definitely controversial. Bungie’s decision may have improved their game, but it also sets a worrying precedent going forward. Will other developers be as quick to get rid of an actor if the community doesn’t approve of their performance? Only time will tell.
8. Star Wars Battlefront
What should have been one of the best games of the year turned out to be one of the year’s biggest disappointments . . . and controversies. Star Wars Battlefront, a game fans had been waiting a decade for, finally came out this November. While it received praise for its overall high production values and for capturing the spirit and tone of Star Wars, Battlefront was heavily criticized for being a shallow experience lacking in content. Considering this incarnation was released as a multiplayer shooter with next to no offline content, a lower selling price would have made it a much more attractive purchase. Instead Electronic Arts, which already has a reputation for ripping its customers off, released it as a full price game and then had the audacity to ask for an additional $50 for its season pass. Whatever way you slice it, that’s a pretty raw deal and Star Wars fans deserved better.
7. Street Fighter V “Censorship”
Censorship has always been a hot-button issue — especially in the gaming space — and 2015 was filled with quite a few notable stories surrounding games being publicly scrutinized for questionable or objectionable content. Street Fighter V is the most recent example and arguably the most prominent, as Capcom, the game’s Japanese developer, notably tweaked some of the game’s more hyper-sexualized female fighters to be…well, less so. This of course led to a vocal minority of gamers crying foul over censorship and a debate over whether this is further proof that outside forces are stifling game makers’ creativity. Although Capcom publicly defended their actions by citing the need to keep Street Fighter V as a Teen-rated game and that altering the game’s more gratuitous content was an internal decision not influenced by outside pressure, the debate over whether or not this is a real censorship issue continues to rage and will likely continue to do so up to the game’s release in early 2016.
6. The Kotaku Blacklisting
Relations between game makers and the media that covers their creations have always been potentially volatile, but they reached a boiling point in November when a popular gaming site spoke out about being blacklisted by prominent game publishers for breaking stories about the companies’ games before they were ready to officially announce them. Kotaku’s editorial piece ‘A Price of Games Journalism‘ was hugely divisive, with some siding in favor of the site and their right to break news based on reliable sources and others siding with the publishers (Bethesda and Ubisoft), arguing that they are well within their rights to cut Kotaku off if they feel they have been wronged by their practices.
Whatever side of the debate you happen to fall on, the discussion surrounding this issue has no doubt been fascinating, as both sides have some compelling arguments to make. Although airing their dirty laundry for all to see probably wasn’t the most professional way of going about things, Kotaku’s decision to break silence on this matter will surely have significant repercussions going forward and it will be interesting to see how things play out.
5. Voice Actors Threaten To Strike
As games have become more cinematic in recent years, the need for voice talent has only increased and has become a key component in most games. Unfortunately, while voice actors are largely accomplished, talented professionals, they still receive far less respect and pay then their Hollywood counterparts, and this issue came to a head this year when SAG-AFTRA Union members voted overwhelmingly in favor of being able to take strike action. Their demands included higher pay for games that sell more than 2 million copies and safer work conditions, such as limiting “vocally stressful” recording sessions, among others.
This led to a debate over the perceived value of voice actors in video games, with some siding with the actors’ right to strike and demand more compensation for their work, and others pointing out that it’s unclear where the extra money to pay higher salaries would come from. With the relationship between artistry and business always being a tenuous one, this issue will likely only intensify as games get even bigger and prominent actors like Nolan North, Troy Baker, and Jennifer Hale become more popular and sought after.
4. Halo 5 Removes Split-Screen
Everyone knows that split-screen is slowly dying out as online continues to be the dominant form of multiplayer gaming, but the Halo series has always been a bastion for those who love and cherish some old fashioned couch co-op. That all changed in 2015. A few months before Halo 5: Guardians was released, the game’s developers revealed that they had made the decision to cut out split-screen in favor of achieving 60 frames per second across the board. While 343 Industries treated this as an unfortunate, but necessary sacrifice, the Halo community was up in arms about it, to the point where 343’s Frank O’Connor claims that the studio is strongly considering putting it back in for Halo 6. While Halo 5 turned out to be a solid entry in the series with a fantastic multiplayer mode, it’s hard to deny that the split-screen controversy hurt the series’s reputation and was a huge miscalculation by the development team. When it comes to games, technical achievements should never impede fun and that’s exactly the mistake that Halo 5 made.
3. Batman: Arkham Knight’s Broken PC Launch
Batman: Arkham Knight was one of the biggest game releases of the year. Featuring a proven developer with a fantastic track record in the driver’s seat, it was assumed by many that Arkham Knight would be a return to form for the popular Batman series after the less than spectacular Arkham Origins from 2013. When the game was released on June 23, it had a smooth launch on both the PS4 and Xbox One, but the PC version was an absolute nightmare. The game was a buggy mess on the platform that should have run it the best and things were so bad that the game’s publisher, Warner Bros., decided to pull it from sale on Steam only a day after release.
When the game finally made its way back to Steam on October 28, there were still multiple reports of technical issues, prompting Warner Bros. to offer full refunds to anyone who bought the PC version until the end of 2015. Unfortunately, the damage was already well and truly done by this point, with Arkham Knight‘s shoddy PC port significantly diminishing the reputation of Warner Bros. and Rocksteady as a result.
2. Payday 2’s Microtransactions
The team-based robbery game Payday 2 has managed to maintain an active and passionate community over the last few years, but their patience and tolerance was put to the test this year when the game’s developer, Overkill, tried to pull a fast one on them. The developer introduced microtransactions (a loaded buzzword if there ever was one in the gaming space), which took the form of special in-game loot safes that could only be opened with special drills that had to be purchased with actual money. This wouldn’t have been a bad move on its own, but Overkill messed it up in pretty much every way possible.
They not only went back on their initial promise to never add microtransactions to Payday 2, they also didn’t offer a way to earn these drills in the game without paying for them. Even worse, the rewards from these safes weren’t just cosmetic; they actually gave players stat boosts! This all led to a huge public outcry which forced Overkill to try and appease fans by making it so drills would drop randomly while playing. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done, and Overkill’s reputation has fallen immensely because of one boneheaded, greedy decision.
If you read about any big controversies in gaming over the last year, it’s a pretty safe bet that Konami was involved in some way. Seemingly determined to be the worst game publisher they could be, Konami went on a rampage of image self-destruction in 2015. While this whole list could be filled with controversies related to Konami, two events stand out above all. The first was the much-publicized decision to cancel Silent Hills, a horror project being collaborated on by Norman Reedus, Guillermo Del Toro, and Hideo Kojima. Konami not only cancelled the project for seemingly no other reason than just to piss people off, they also inexplicably decided to remove the game’s “demo” P.T. from existence, which just made fans of the series even angrier.
The biggest controversy of the year though has to be Konami’s falling out with Hideo Kojima, the legendary game creator behind the Metal Gear series. Simply put, Konami did everything in their power to make their parting of ways with Kojima as messy as possible: they removed his name from the packaging of Metal Gear Solid V, they shuttered his studio Kojima Productions, and they barred him from accepting an award for his own game, just to name a few. Konami acted like a bunch of impudent children this year and the worst part is that they don’t even care because they’re getting out of making big budget games almost entirely now, in favor of pachinko machines and mobile games.