As part of our ongoing Theme Week for January of 2016, we are looking back at some of the good and bad things about 2015. We asked our writers what they thought were some of the biggest moments for gaming last year, good or bad. What did the gaming industry benefit from, what took away from it? Here are some of our writers' responses.
The Death of Satoru Iwata by Robert Grosso
I can’t think of a bigger event than the sudden death of Satoru Iwata. Passing away from cancer at the age of 55, the legacy of Iwata cannot be underestimated in any form. This is a man that shaped the childhoods of generation X—childhoods bedazzled by the world of Nintendo and the devices we played on.
Leave the politics out, the cynical resentment we have for things beyond our control, and think about the legacy Iwata left behind. Very few, save giants such as Shigeru Miyamoto, can have such a beloved legacy to leave behind. It would be redundant to list the accomplishments of Iwata here though, we all know what he was able to accomplish, and if we don’t we just have to look up his name.
What Iwata represents for us I would say is passion and imagination. This was a man who was so humble regarding his position as CEO of Nintendo, it resonated with everyone who watched him—from his chats on Nintendo through Iwata asks, to the absurd shenanigans we became accustomed to through Nintendo Direct. He was a man who loved what he did, and who was not afraid to keep innovating despite predictable doubt by many around him.
Iwata is probably the first major death we have in the video game industry as well. True, other famous programmers, developers, producers and even voice actors have passed before, some in tragic circumstances. Iwata’s death, however, was widely felt by all. Such an outpouring of love and adoration for a CEO is unusual in its own right as well, but that is just a footnote in his life.
Satoru Iwata will be missed, and his legacy will not be forgotten.
Geoff Keighly Speaking Out at The Game Awards by Don Parsons
Whoever would have thought 4 years ago that the best moments of gaming would come from the man derisively labeled as the Dorito Pope after some of the most blatant product placement ever seen in gaming. But in 2015 that did come to pass with Geoff Keighly's second video game awards when he decided to speak out against publisher misconduct.
Shortly after giving one of the awards for Metal Gear Solid V to Keifer Sutherland, Geoff Keighly stood on the stairs and nervously spoke to the camera. He explained that Hideo Kojima had planned to be there but that Konami's lawyers had contacted him to ban him from attending the awards. These award shows are often full of pomp, ceremony and advertising, but in that one moment Keighly's honesty and frustration crossed boundaries with everyone at the location or watching from home.
However, as powerful a moment as it was, alone it wouldn't be quite enough to win this. What really took it was the response to Keighly's announcement. The gaming industry is full of rifts and scars of late from fighting but on this point everyone could agree. Developers who rarely spoke for fearing to burn bridges, fans in all their stripes, creators of all types stood together along with Keighly and condemned Konami. It was a moment of fleetingly rare harmony that brought everyone together to talk about improving things and how sad this particular event was.
On a related note, the worse moment of 2015 in gaming was related to Konami. Take your pick. I can't quite choose between needlessly attacking their creative staff, cutting content haphazardly from a game, imposing insane work conditions, blocking Kojima from the Video Game Awards and the Playstation Awards, or their cancellation of Silent Hills and desperate attempt to kill off any lingering traces of the Playable Teaser. They're all good picks.
Steam Refunds and the Christmas Day Debacle by Andrew Otton
The deliberately unorganized and purposefully asymmetric management and development approaches have made Valve into this weird multi-headed, multi-personality beast. On the one hand, they seem to have a deep understanding—even though it may take them forever to get there—of their community's wants and desires, in some areas anyway. This is most assuredly seen in the games they develop.
They finally came around to allowing refunds on Steam, which is something that should have been a part of the near-monopoly distributor many years ago. However, it's a good step forward. It feels weird to be applauding a business for providing something so basic, but, man, does Valve really seem to need it. We all know just how terribly nonexistent their customer service and support are, so every little bit that inches towards more choices for the consumer is definitely laudable.
Steam Refunds are a great example of that, and considering the juggernaut that is Steam, this certainly puts it in to contention for one of the best moments of 2015. Maybe not THE best moment, but it certainly represents a realization that Valve seems to be having that will hopefully continue into 2016.
Then Christmas came. This is the other side of Valve that seems to have absolutely no clue what they are doing when it comes to providing necessary information to its customer base. Regardless of whether or not significant personal information was compromised, Valves handling of the situation was abhorrent.
When a service that regularly peaks over 12 million users at any one time takes five whole days to officially acknowledge a problem where personal information was even potentially at risk is not acceptable. The moment an issue was noticed, and the potential threat it caused was determined, was the moment Valve should have issued a statement. Let the world know what the hell is going on, what is at risk, and that you are working on it.
Instead, Valve waits five days until they can answer all questions at once, leaving everyone largely in the dark except for a choice quote given to Gamespot, which of course led to a lot of speculation and doomsday scenarios being spoken about because nobody had any real word from Valve to put the event into context. For a company worth billions of dollars, with many millions of regular users, the very least—the very, very least—they can do is to let people be aware of something that could potentially affect them directly.
The enigma that is Valve is truly unfathomable.