It’s the hip new thing of the decade.
EarlyGame Talk: Get Woke, Go Broke
Over the last decade, the entertainment industry has been heading towards disaster: Video game developers and publishers decided to bend the knee to the social justice narrative, which resulted in massive losses for studios and disappointment for players.
Before going into some examples, let’s answer an important question first – What is woke? Urban dictionary gives a great definition: The act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue. Being woke means seeking attention by pretending you care about a certain social problem. In the last few years, you can find examples of wokeness not only in movies, but also in the video game industry.
'Get woke, go broke' became a synonym for companies that tried being a bit too inclusive and then lost a lot because of it. Especially lately, companies have been using diversity as a way to score some good boy points, but most of the time it backfired terribly. I’m all up for inclusion and representation – when it’s done right.
Instead, we get flooded with characters that are supposed to represent a certain group of people, but end up being just a one-dimensional placeholder. That’s an insult to everyone involved and, at the end of the day, it’s hypocrisy: Companies pretending to care, even when they really don't, all in order to boost sales.
The Last of Us Part 2
A shining example of being woke is The Last of Us 2. The first game was beloved by fans and won numerous awards, including the game of the year. Then came The Last of Us Part 2 and... it had quite the controversial release. The sequel focused more on identity politics than actual storytelling or gameplay. TLOU2 received very conflicting reviews on Metacritic and, truth be told, it seems more than clear that good critics were bought to cover the damage.
Despite splitting its fan base, TLOU2 managed to do the impossible and break records in sales. Kudos to you Naughty Dog, but if you were so concerned with social issues, maybe you shouldn't have crunched your own employees to the point that they actually left the company.
Get woke, go broke.
For the longest time, Battlefield was the FPS series for authentic combat, but all of that changed with the release of Battlefield V. Fans were concerned as soon as the trailer came out with some notable historical inaccuracies. Inaccuracies that proved that gaming is more gender-diverse than ever before: Developer DICE decided to include female soldiers and katanas in its depiction of World War 1. Very immersive.
Now, don't get me wrong here. There is no denying that women were and continue to be part of the military, but they certainly weren't at the front lines. In response to the criticism, the studio answered with “If You Don’t Like it, Don’t Buy it”. As a result, the game didn’t meet EA’s expectations and cost them about $3,7 billion. Wonder why that happened?
Get woke, go broke.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
A more recent example of being woke was provided by no other than Ubisoft and their famous Assassin’s Creed franchise. The latest entry here is AC Valhalla, where you take on the role of a viking and raid Britain.
Along the way... this happened:
For the record, this game takes place in the 9th century. Vikings are known to have killed babies that were sickly and also offered human sacrifices to the gods. But no, we draw the line at scarred faces. Funny, because I remember the same social justice warriors complaining about every movie actor and actress having flawless faces and setting unrealistic standards, but I digress...
You just gotta ask yourself what’s next. The entire population of the UK rising up and canceling Valhalla because it’s oppressive? In any case, Ubisoft removed said content and apologized profusely for it. Shortly after, some of Ubisoft's executives came under fire during the wave of #metoo allegations.
Get woke, go broke.
To sum it all up, games try to be more inclusive than ever and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just that they fail miserably most of the time and their efforts of representing certain groups ends up hurting them even more. Some companies use inclusive characters as a fail-safe: If the game ends up being poorly received, you can always call players a certain-type-of -phobic.
More EarlyGame Talks:
- Sex, Money, Twitch and Female Streamers. Let’s get controversial.
- STOP Idolizing and Harassing Streamers!
- EarlyGame Talk: Video games are turning kids into killers