Well, it’s Thanksgiving season, ladies and gentleman, a time to gather with the family, cook a bird, and try really, really hard not to talk about politics while you gobble down on turkey, gravy, and whatever the hell that one creepy uncle brought. But it’s also a time for giving thanks for the things you’re most grateful for, and in continuing with our yearly tradition, I’m going to use this time to list out all the things I’m grateful for in the games industry and community. It’s been a rough year, with closings, controversies, and a number of problematic games and decisions, so it’s more important than ever before to take the time to be grateful for the few good things that did happen.
With all that said: let’s get started with…
One of the biggest surprises this year was the abrupt closing of Tellgale Games, a studio that just a few months ago seemed like it was on an unstoppable rise. To outsiders, at least, it was clear they were working on a lot of projects, had a number of partnerships going on, and had released some pretty big games from bigger IPs over the past few years. Hindsight being what it was, we can now see the signs of failure, but before those mass layoffs, no one (not even many of the employees, apparently) knew that it was so close to death, and that the final season of The Walking Dead, the series that put the company on the map, would be compromised.
Considering how badly they treated their employees during their final days of operation, and even when they were running, I’m not sad to see Telltale go. I was sad , however, that so many fans (And Telltale employees) were unable to see the Walking Dead story to an end… at least, until Skybound games swooped in, grabbed as many Telltale employees as they could, and took over the project. It’s probably not going to turn into anyone’s “forever home”, but it’s wonderful that the fans and creators who were invested in this story get to see it to the end.
So I’m thankful to Skybound games and the hard-working employees at Telltale. I may not be playing The Walking Dead games anymore, but I can still appreciate what you’re doing, and I thank you for it.
2) Toby Fox
Yes, yes, yes: there was definitely bigger news and games to come out this year, but as an unapologetic Undertale ultra-nerd it was amazing and extremely hopeful to see Deltarune released, completely out of the blue, for free: a one-chapter “Demo” that told a complete story (with cliffhanger) over a four-hour span. It was sad to find out that the rest of the game was still ages and ages away, since Toby had only made that one chapter and pretty much released it as soon as it was done, but the fact that he was alive- and working on something, to boot- was good enough for me.
And yes, I’m Thankful for ol’ Toby himself, not Deltarune specifically. Don’t get me wrong: I loved Deltarune to tiny lil’ pieces, but it was what came afterwards, the heartfelt and kind of sad twitlonger rant from Toby, that made my stomach all warm inside. At the end of the day, Toby Fox has more in common with Hideo Kojima than I think most people realize: both creators leave a certain “mark” on their games, kind of like a signature, that people can immediately recognize even if they don’t see their actual names anywhere (which, in Hideo’s case, is pretty unlikely). Toby’s signature on Undertale and Deltarune is easy to see, and it’s been made all the more clear to me that no matter what it is he chooses to make, it’s pretty much guaranteed to make me smile like an idiot. So I could give or take Deltarune: what I care about is that Toby himself is still making stuff.
So thanks, Toby, for making me smile, reminding me that chalk is a healthy and fun morning snack, and that even if it’s not possible to make friends with everyone in this world, it’s still worth the effort to try.
...oh, and your music is still amazing.
3) Nintendo (ish)
Nintendo is a hard company to like most years. Yes, they do some pretty cool stuff and release some pretty cool games, but usually that’s mired in some annoying controversy or bull that reminds us that despite their friendly and chipper, Disney-esk exterior, they’re still very much an unfeeling and money-driven mega-company. We’re talking about shutting down cool fan games, being largely unresponsive to the community at large, and of course, their stupid Youtube affiliate bullcrap.
That said: this year was pretty good for the Big N: not so much in the games they released (Nothing this year could really measure up to Odyssey or Breath of the Wild, except maybe Smash, but that hasn’t been released yet), but mostly because it was a year where nothing went noticeably or irritatingly wrong. Nintendo was more-or-less able to keep up the facade of a cool, friendly and charming alternative to the increasingly-dull Triple-A game industry, and I have been able to lose myself a bit in that comforting illusion. And sure, this was the year where they revealed their crappy plans for their crappy online service, at least they also released a number of free updates for games like Kirby Star Allies and Odyssey, turned the Smash Ultimate launch into a year-long celebration (complete with dope music), and acknowledged, canonically, that Toad looks like Donald Trump’s penis.
So thank you, Nintendo, for that beautiful tweet. And all the other stuff. I hope next year you can continue to produce as little bad news as humanly possible so I can continue to pretend there’s still good in this world.
...okay, that got a little dark. Moving on.
4) Outspoken Employees
One of the things that made this year rough was the reveal that Riot Games is a misogynistic company so far up it’s own “culture” it didn’t see any problems with having a company-wide “hottest employee” email debate, and the still-ongoing discussion of “crunch culture” and how hard some companies push their employees during stressful periods (or, in Rockstar and Telltale’s case, basically all the time).
But sunlight is the best disinfectant, and ever since those suffering employees decided to speak out against their employers, it feels like things have taken a more positive turn. I was surprised to see so many fans - rather than chide employees for grousing - take their side, and start demanding that companies treat them better. And I while I was personally horrified to discover was was going on in Riot, I was thrilled that so many employees were willing to take a stand - and even to take the company to court when it refused to cooperate with it’s own high-minded rhetoric.
It’s never fun to learn that an industry you’re so invested in - both because of hobbies and because of friends and family who work within it - is a terrible place or does something wrong. But I’m thankful, very thankful, to the employees who take the risk to tell the world: because if no one knows about these problems, there’s basically no hope it’d ever get fixed. And thankfully, it seems like we’re already making good ground on both these issues. At least, in certain companies.
So thank you, brave employees. You’re helping make our industry, our culture, and our world a better place by calling out your bosses and employers. I hope there isn’t anything else to call out, but in the likely case there is, I hope you continue to do the right thing.
Ah crap we’re running out of space here.Okay, real fast:
5) Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World is an excellent example of games as a service done right and Capcom should be proud that it showed how effective and fun it can be when you don’t mire it down in greed and unreasonable loot boxes. And I’m thankful the game has had the success it needs to validate their model
6) Destiny fans
I don’t like Destiny, but I do like how quickly fans notice Bungie’s bull and call them out on it. Every time they try to pull some sneaky crap on you guys, like reducing your EX buildup or secretly reducing your loot odds, you sniff it out within a day or something and put their toes to the fire. Never really amounts to real “penalties” for Bungie, since ya’ll stick with them anyway, but it’s always fun to watch em’ squirm. So I’m thankful for that.
7) Rimworld Modders
Ya’ll make the game worth playing.
8) Age of Wonders 3 Modders
The game’s almost dead and barely anyone is modding it anymore but I still appreciate all the hard work, thank you.
9) The guy who animated the animal turds in Red Dead Redemption 2
I just feel like he deserves a shout-out.
Anyway. That’s the list. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and gave some thought to what you’re thankful for this year!