Greetings, and welcome to an undoubtedly not-lighthearted edition of Replay, WIRED’s videogame news roundup. This week we have loot box legislation, labor walkouts, and the return of Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. Let’s get started.
US Senator Introduces Bill to Ban Loot Boxes and ‘Pay-to-Win’ Mechanics in Games
US Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, announced plans this week to introduce a bill titled, “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act.” The legislation, according to press materials provided by Hawley’s camp, will make it illegal for games “played by minors” to include loot boxes or pay-to-win microtransactions.
Precisely how a bill would accomplish this is less clear, as the very concepts of “pay-to-win” and even microtransactions are both a bit nebulous, and the actual text of the proposed bill is not yet available. The outline as it now exists would task the FTC with enforcing the rules, which will be designed to rely on definitions from the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to determine what games are and are not intended for children.
As one can imagine, the Entertainment Software Association is not thrilled.
Riot Games Employees Walk Out to Protest Forced Arbitration Policy
In labor news this week, over 100 employees of Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, walked out on Monday in protest of the company’s forced arbitration policy, which requires employees to submit to corporate-mandated arbitration in the event of disputes with the company, a policy which includes employees signing away their right to sue Riot as a condition of employment. While the developer recently ended forced arbitration for new employees, it’s still reportedly required for employees hired before that point.
Riot, in a statement, expressed support for the demonstration, but has, as of yet, not expressed any willingness to change the policy.
The Randy Pitchford Stuff Gets Worse
Remember last week’s Twitter rant courtesy of Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford? Well, uh, there’s more. In light of Pitchford’s feud-picking, voices have come out to criticize the behavior of Pitchford over the years, most notably that of David Eddings, the voice of Claptrap, the robotic mascot of the Borderlands series.
In a series of tweets, as Variety reports, Eddings alleged that he had not received proper payment for his role in the first two games, and that he would not be returning for the third. He also alleged that, in 2017, Pitchford physically assaulted him at a hotel during the Game Developer’s Conference. Yikes.
In response, Gearbox issued a statement in which the company said it was taking the allegations very seriously, but declined to comment on the specifics of the allegation, as it is “a personnel matter,” and added that Gearbox would “welcome him back into the mix as the voice of Claptrap” and would be open to future opportunities with him.
Recommendation of the Week: A Mortician’s Tale on PC
Sometimes, you just need to think about endings. This lovely, short narrative game is an exploration of the process of funeral preparation, the difficulty of running a funeral home in the modern economy, and the ethics and expectations around preparing to mourn the ones we love. It’s a beautiful, sad, detailed creation, one that shines a fascinating light on a subject people often don’t want to think about. This game celebrates life and looks thoughtfully at death, and that’s all one can really ask art to do.