2017's Most Inane Video Game Controversy

I booted up Persona 5 today. I jumped into it a few months ago, but didn’t get very far, so I decided to start a new game. I was immediately reminded of what, to me, had to be the most inane, pointless controversy in games this year.

For those that don’t remember, Persona 5 begins with a standard, Law & Order-esque “This is a work of fiction” disclaimer. You have to Agree to continue. If you Don’t Agree, you are kicked back to the menu screen.

Against all odds, logic, and common sense, some people took this as deception on the part of Atlus, rather than, you know, part of the game.

Why didn’t the box have this disclaimer and requirement on it when I purchased it? Why wasn’t there some sort of warning I had to agree to this unheard of requirement before I could play the game? Atlus was happy to take my money without first disclosing this mandatory agreement.

Even if, like me, you think some of the voices speaking out against outrage culture are concern trolling because they don’t want to face hard truths, you have to admit that sometimes this culture can create controversies that just leave you shaking your head.

So that’s my choice for most inane, pointless controversy of 2017. What about others? What outrages left you dumbfounded? What molehills became the most exasperating mountains? {Please try to keep this at least somewhat lighthearted!}

That NeoGAF thread consists of one silly post followed by seven pages of people asking “is this a joke” and laughing at the original post. I’d hesitate to call that any sort of controversy. It mostly reminds me of the Jon Bois video “The Dumbest Boy Alive” (which is about a similarly inane argument).


I loved the P5 thing specifically because the player’s entering into that contract is not only a genre callback to popular crime stories, but also has a metanarrative function related to how deals and contracts are a major framing device, and the full payoff of it is only made clear like 100 hours later, at the very end of the game. It’s just forever fascinating to me how nerd culture studiously cultivates a way of reading stories that’s based on complete, willful incomprehension.

Anyway my fav is how nobody’s ever including Blizzard’s scam gacha Hearthstone in the gacha/lootbox discussion.

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Jim Sterling spoiling a major part of Hellblade to a whole swathe of the internet because he thought it was a bug and acting like a child over it when he was called out. There’s buffoonery and then there’s the “Pro-Consumer Youtube Opportunist being a jackass to developers for something he didn’t understand” buffoonery.

That Hellblade stuff is a great example. I love that, as Patrick talked about in his write-up, they basically created a giant nocebo effect with one cryptic pop-up warning.

I didn’t hear about this, what did he think was a bug?

I haven’t played the game, but I assume what’s being talked about is…


The game claims there is a gradual permadeath mechanic (so if you die enough you’ll have to restart) when there actually isn’t.

Though I wasn’t aware he thought it was a bug; I thought it was just about the game lying or something from the start. Guess I just never saw the start of it.

I didn’t know much about Dean Takahashi before that situation but the piece he wrote about his history in journalism is fantastic and I want to read his books when I get the chance. That’s such a shitty situation he was put inn but he really took it in stride.

What are you talking about? I’m aware of him giving it a 1/10 for a legitimate game-breaking bug (that’s now been fixed), and then changing the score upon further reflection, but I wouldn’t call him a jackass for it.

If it’s the permadeath stuff, well that actually was poorly explained. I don’t remember Jim making a big deal out of it though, in fact all the stuff he’s said about hellblade was pretty good

Was that ever confirmed one way or the other? I know some people tested it by dying dozens of times in a row, but then I remember reading others saying that the formula for the Rot mechanic was more complicated than just “number of deaths.”

Even this interview, by friend of the thread Dean Takahashi, which I’ve seen cited as proof that it doesn’t exist, seems pretty ambiguous. If anything, the developer talks about permadeath as if it was actually part of the game.

Makes sense I suppose.

I guess it didn’t occur to me because when I played the game that was known, and it didn’t occur to me that people would consider that to be a spoiler. I don’t know if I would have felt differently during the game if I hand’t known that, but it was also pretty easy so…

Oh, right, I completely forgot about the review thing. But IIRC that was actually a bug, so now I’m really confused about what was meant here.

I don’t really pay attention to gaming controversies like I used to, but I’d bet there is some controversy this year that people got upset about “censorship” when a game removed some cleavage from a women’s model or something.

If that didn’t happen, maybe the pay-to-open loot boxes in PUBG? I didn’t like them, but you still had to earn them by playing to earn in-game currency so you could buy one and then pay for a key to open it.
And besides that, it’s just cosmetic and not the worst loot crate we’ve seen this year alone.
For the record I’m against loot crates in general, but sometimes the outcry about it overshadows the actual impact it has on the game.

I think I may have conflated the Jim Sterling review controversy that EdComment meant and the permadeath controversy.

To give Mssr. Sterling due credit, while I’m not particularly a fan, I watched his mea culpa for his Hellblade review today, and it was pretty sincere.

Speak of the devil - Polygon wrote up a video about the year in video game censorship.

I’m sharing the article, even if it did contain this paragraph:

“Censorship” is an overused, if not misused, word in popular culture. But for lack of a better term, yes, it describes changes made to games published in different regions, whether to comport with social mores in the area where the game is sold, or even to comply with a law.

For crying out loud, why would you decry the misuse of the word censorship, then in the next sentence misuse it in exactly the way that most people get it wrong. Voluntarily changing a game to “comport with social mores” IS NOT CENSORSHIP.

I will confess I had (maybe still do tbh) a less than stellar impression of Dean as a games journalist. To be clear, not because of the cuphead thing (which obviously it’s ridiculous that anyone should have a go at him over that), but a couple of gaffes back in the day involving Mass Effect (he gave it an excessively poor review because at some point he stopped using his points gained from levelling up to upgrade his characters even though he’d been using them earlier on) and another one involving Space Marine (in which he’d suggested the Warhammer 40k universe had somehow copied the notion of a space marine from Gears of War), but the article certainly paints him as a decent enough person.

peak “gamer culture” is getting mad of tiny insignificant things in games especially if they are tiny changes to the original product

people lost thier collective doo-doo on the blizzard forums when blizzard revealed tracer to be gay

I’ve seen people be aggressively against the tiny suggestion of qol changes that are entirely optional, like being able to turn off autoattacking heros of the storm, something both league of legends and dota have

speaking of dota, some dota players are viciously against tiny qol changes that “lower the skill floor”, including being able to disable the minimap

i saw a forum post that blew up for black desert online where some people were passionately against the addition of nametags above monsters

the classic “gamer” is often very very against change of any sort and they are often incredibly rude in the process, i wish i understood why…

The Cuphead event, Dean may have been real bad at the game but the outcry of “THIS IS WHY GAME JOURNALISTS ARE MEGASATAN!” was nuts.

For some reason, this morning I remembered a story that I was 100% positive would turn into a total shitshow but somehow didn’t: Nintendo Switch game icons. [I’m at work so can’t get to Kotaku right now, will add a link when I can.]

Basically, Nintendo has some suggested guidelines for their icons - e.g. it should include a representative image and a logo - but they’re just suggestions, not rules. But the Switch community collectively* decided they were going to start enforcing standards.

The one I remember best was the Snake Pass icon, which at some point was changed to match the PS4/XB1 icons. But Switch users decided the new icon looked like a cheap mobile game, because it was just an image of Noodle, with no title or logo (basically, imagine the infinite Clash of Clans-style logos, but with a cute, smiling snake instead of a bearded, screaming barbarian.) After registering their grievances, the icon was changed back.

Anyway, I assumed that this would get out of hand, some developer would push back on the community critiquing their design, or some Switch owners would find some poor artist that probably had nothing to do with the icon, and decide they deserve harassment and threats for daring to not adhere to their desired aesthetic.

Yet somehow, that… hasn’t happened? At least as far as I can tell? Weird.

{* Switch community basically means GAF and Reddit, obvs, with Twitter as enforcement mechanism}