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May 21, 2014
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by Forbes (NoDoze is a hmm drug that will help to keep you awake to read this____)

2015 has been, in many ways, a less controversial year than years past. That’s a good thing, given what a total disaster the back half of 2014 was.

Still, there were a few big, controversial stories, industry mishaps and various other sundry outrages to keep the popcorn flowing.

And while I always hold out hope that we can all just get along, that games will be great and that people will find ways to bridge their differences, I can’t help but have a little fun looking back on what got everyone in a tizzy this past year.

From voice-actors to pro-wrestlers and spaceship games that aren’t even out yet, here are fifteen of the biggest controversial and/or absurd moments in the video game industry in 2015.

15. So long, Dinklebot, we hardly knew ya…

When Bungie first debuted Destiny way-back-when, one of the most common negative reactions to the game was the voice-acting work of Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage as the game’s AI companion.

But over time, many Destiny players found a sort of peace, and even a kind of affection, for the Dinklebot.

So when the developer released the game’s major expansion The Taken King and announced that Dinklage’s voice work would be replaced by Uncharted actor Nolan North, the community was divided. Many fans disliked Northbot, if only because they’d become accustomed to Dinklebot. Others found the removal of Dinklage insulting.

Riveting stuff, I know. For my part, I didn’t really mind Dinklage and I don’t really feel one way or another about North in this role. My problem is with the reliance on the Ghost to begin with…

14. Video game voice-actors vote to authorize a strike.

Speaking of voice actors, the voice actors’ union (SAG-AFTRA) has voted to authorize a strike, though an actual strike has yet to take place.

The voice actors are asking for things like better work conditions, stunt coordinators for motion work, and better pay. While some—like yours truly—supported this move, others found the voice actors’ demands beyond the pale, criticizing the actors for asking for things that developers—who are not unionized—don’t get.

I think you can support developers and voice actors at the same time, but many disagree.

Who could have guessed that unions would be so controversial?

13. Hulk Hogan cut from WWE 2K16 after racist comments surface in a *** tape.

Plenty of controversy surrounds Hulk Hogan and his legal battle with Gawker over a *** tape he stars in.

One part of that is a bunch of racist comments the pro-wrestler makes in the tape. Those comments earned Hogan a slap on the wrist from publisher 2K Games, who cut him from this year’s WWE 2k16.

While a business or organization should have every right to distance itself from celebrity racists, it still managed to ruffle feathers in the wrestling community.

And maybe some people just wanted to have a chance to virtually smack Hogan down in the game, and were disappointed they couldn’t.

12. SXSW cancels two panels on online harassment.

SXSW, Austin’s big tech, music, film and gaming extravaganza, manages to make the list thanks to its decision to make a last-minute cancellation of two gaming panels.

The first, “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment In Games,” was focused on combating harassment in the video game community. The second, titled “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community,” was supposed to be a broader discussion of gaming culture, journalism and so forth.

SXSW cancelled the panels after anonymous threats, and later publicly regretted the decision—a decision that was roundly criticized across the gaming community.

The cancellation “sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it” the conference admitted afterwards.

11. Payday 2 dev adds microtransactions, breaks promises.

Sure, Payday 2 is a couple years old by now, but the community is still passionate and when they learned that the game would be getting micro-transactions, many were furious.

That’s because developer Overkill had said on multiple occasions that they’d never, ever add microtransactions to the game. And then they did.

Gamers hate betrayal just as much as anyone else, but Overkill hasn’t backed down. Looks like the microtransactions are here to stay.

10. Hatred gets removed from Steam Greenlight

The already-controversial game Hatred got a much-need controversy boost when Valve decided to remove the game from Steam Greenlight.

This led to a bunch of people howling in outrage of “censorship” and then Valve chief Gabe Newell reinstating the game.

Hatred, a top-down shooter that pits a grim psychopath against hordes of unarmed civilians, has eked out a 43/100 Metacritic score and only a slightly higher 4.6 user score.

Turns out the game really did need all that controversy to make its mark, and even then fell flat on its face.

9. YouTubers face some ethics issues of their own.

It’s not just about ethics in game journalism.

In 2015, YouTubers are facing their own ethics issues. This past year, the FTC revealed that Machinima paid YouTubers to say nice things about the Xbox One as part of a secret deal that the YouTubers weren’t even allowed to discuss or reveal. In other words, they blurred the line between honest talk and paid gushing. That’s deceptive advertising according to the FTC.

“When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they’re looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s true whether the endorsement appears in a video or any other media.”

I’ll drink to that!

8. Star Wars: Battlefront turns out to be an EA game afterall.

Such high hopes we all had for Star Wars: Battlefront when we first saw that trailer. Such huge disappointment we all experienced when we actually played the game.

But not everyone agrees. Battlefront is a pretty divisive topic, with a lot of super-fans still singing its praises and a lot of super-detractors gnashing teeth and rending garments.

I actually think the game’s grown on me after my initial disappointment, but it’s still a far cry from what I’d hoped it would be. Those stupid Star Cards are stupid. And a $50 season pass is just greedy.

7. Apple pulls games with Confederate flags from the App Store.

During the Confederate flag controversy that racked the nation earlier this year—I was on the “take down the dumb flag” side; others wanted to hoist it even higher—a small tech company you may or may not have heard of decided to do a little in-house censorship.

Apple pulled all the games with a Confederate flag from the App Store, resulting in more than a little head-scratching. I pointed out at the time that simply whitewashing history doesn’t actually confront racism, and that there’s a big difference between a Confederate flag in a game or a movie and one hovering above a government building.

It’s just another example of a giant corporate entity bungling a socially delicate topic with too heavy a hand.

6. Law & Order tackles #GamerGate and learns the true meaning of “epic fail.”

Far and away the funniest controversy of the year was the universally panned episode of Law & Order SVU, “Intimidation Game,” which attempted to tackle the controversial #GamerGate movement.

They did this in the most absurd and ludicrous way possible.

After a girl is assaulted in a bathroom at a gaming conference, she tells police that her attackers “leveled up.” When a female game designer is kidnapped and nearly killed by a gaggle of Angry White Gamer Bros, she decides to leave the video game industry in defeat. Thank you SVU, for this stern rallying cry. Some of the action scenes are shot in first-person like a video game. Just writing about it makes me want to watch it again so I can laugh and laugh.

Almost everyone on both sides of the #GamerGate debate panned this. Almost everyone. A few lonely souls thought it was good.

5. Kotaku reveals it was blacklisted by Ubisoft and Bethesda over leaks.

Massive video game site Kotaku revealed that they’d been blocked by two of the biggest Western video game publishers.

Kotaku published leaks over Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Bethesda’s Fallout 4. This earned them two very cold shoulders.

I was surprised by how many gamers defended the publishers over this and blamed Kotaku for doing what is, essentially, their job.

Then again, there’s no love lost between many gamers and Kotaku (not to mention its parent company, Gawker) so perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

For my part, I think Kotaku did the right thing both in publishing the leaks and in revealing the blacklisting. While I think the publishers have every right to blacklist whomever they choose, I also think it’s a poor strategic move on their part. There are better ways to handle the press.

4. Batman: Arkham Knight’s embarrassing performance issues.

This is more of a tragedy than a controversy, I suppose. The third and final of Rocksteady’s Arkham games was a total disaster on PC—so much so that Warner Bros. pulled the game only to re-release it months later, still in shabby shape. Finally the company offered refunds to anyone who wanted to return their purchase prior to the end of 2015.

It’s just another slap in the face of the PC gaming community. And that’s not okay! Because the PC gaming community is also known as the PC master race, and it’s just confusing to have a community at once so proud and so aggrieved. Please game developers, for all our sakes, stop pulling this crap.

3. Bethesda and Valve team up to give gamers just what they’ve always wanted: Paid Skyrim mods!

I’m still amazed that nobody in the offices of Bethesda or Valve ever had this one, simple thought: Selling mods that were made by the community for free might anger the modding community and Skyrim fans, perhaps even to a disproportionate degree.

It’s not that paid mods are the worst idea ever. Just very nearly the worst idea ever, even if part of the reason it’s such a bad idea is purely the emotional response it evokes. In any case, gamers were upset, there were riots all across the country, and eventually the companies backtracked, flip-flopped, and removed the program entirely.

It might be back, but not with a game as entrenched as Skyrim.

2. Star Citizen vs. Derek Smart and The Escapist

This is one of the ugliest controversies of the year in my humblest of opinions. Star Citizen is the largest crowd-funded game in the history of crowd-funding games (an age-old tradition that began in earnest just a couple years ago.) With around $100 million in funding and still no final product, the game has drawn the ire and suspicion of many. But one man in particular has raised the rallying cry against what he calls “vaporware” in the making.

Game designer Derek Smart has been waging a months-long campaign against Star Citizen. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Whether or not Smart is correct in his assertions that Star Citizen is doomed, having the head of one studio so thoroughly attack the head of another—Chris Roberts and Cloud Imperium Games—is quite possibly unprecedented. When The Escapist entered the fray with its own hugely controversial article, Cloud Imperium Games threatened legal action.

I decided it was time to stand athwart history and yell “Stop!” because seriously, all this speculation and commentary is getting out of hand. Star Citizen hasn’t failed yet, and for all we know it may turn out to be a major success. Games take time. Let’s not jump the proverbial gun here.

1. Konami and Hideo Kojima break up, Silent Hills is cancelled, and the PT demo removed.

Konami is the number one big bad publisher of 2015 as far as most gamers are concerned. (EA is off the hook once again!)

And while I think a game publisher has every right to part ways with a developer, even one so beloved as Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, I think Konami handled the entire fiasco pretty badly.

The publisher pulled Kojima’s name from marketing materials and the game’s box-art. They cancelled the hugely hyped Kojima/Guillermo del Toro game Silent Hills and then added insult to injury by pulling its very popular demo PT as well. No effort was made to explain any of this to gamers. And finally Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was released as a pretty controversial game in its own right, replete with controversial microtransactions.

Meanwhile, Konami announced that they’d be moving more and more toward mobile gaming and away from consoles and PC, leaving popular franchises like Castlevania up in the air. All told, not a great way to handle public relations.

Actually, female MGSV character, Quiet, was also pretty controversial this year, but for sake of space and time we’ll just lump her in with the rest of the Metal Gear/Konami/Kojima controversy. And with the ongoing, year-after-year controversy that is sexism and representation of women in games.

So did I miss anything? I mean, I’m sure I missed stuff. There’s a new controversy every day it seems like, whether that’s because somebody’s freaking out over a joke or perceived censorship or any other number of things. It would be impossible to catalog all the injustices and afflictions. This or that game is sexist, this or that critic is censorious, and on and on and on ad infinitum.