Hello all, I hope your week was equal parts chill and exciting because this week is gonna be a mixed bag of not-so-fun news with a dash of neato news for good measure. Yes, I know we’re only two weeks deep into 2024 to have bad news. Unfortunately, like a bell at the end of a school period, the changing of the calendar doesn’t dismiss last year’s misgivings rearing its ugly head in the new year. Let’s get cracking with everything big gaming-related and adjacent news you need to know from this week. First, some fun news.
SNK Artist Confirms Cool Neo Geo Game Was Inspired By Akira
In a recent interview with Time Extension, former SNK artist Mitsuo Kodama finally confirmed that the 1992 Shoot ‘Em Up Neo Geo game, Last Resort, was inspired by the 1988 Akira film.
“I am a huge Katsuhiro Otomo fan,” said Mitsuo Kodama. “I handled the art for the sunken city in Air Duel, and I referenced the film Akira. I intended for Air Duel to have an image of decadence and decay, and Last Resort’s [image] be more modern.”
Going off the distinct dystopian cyberpunk vibes of this Last Resort gameplay clip, I’d say Kodama nailed Akira’s aesthetic. It’s no secret that anime serves as a source of inspiration for video game creators. Hell, gesturing vaguely at any SoulsBourne FromSoftware game will likely land you on an overt homage to Berserk. Knowing Last Resort was inspired by one of the most important films in anime history has me chomping at the bit to rewatch the film and give the game a whirl on my Switch this weekend!
Ubisoft and Genshin Impact developer miHoYo are going to a new AI development tool called Nvidia Ace. According to Digital Trends, Nvidia Ace uses AI to make non-playable characters’ (NPCs) mouth flaps match their voice acting. As Digital Trend notes, it’s unknown whether one of the several technical tools that make up Nvidia Ace is trained on voice actors without their consent.
Like the tech bro fads of yesteryear (cryptocurrency and NFTs), artificial intelligence has proven to be untenable at best. This statement rings especially true for professional creatives, be they actors or artists, whom the machine-learning technology threatens to replace as a cheap alternative to lazy executives. All that said, it’s not like AI isn’t already being implemented in gaming. Though it’s easy to understand folks’ trepidation toward its potential to cut corners and exploit creatives.
This past week alone saw revamped AI discourse over a 4,700-person list of artists AI technology is allegedly copying and SAG-AFTRA’s deal with Replica Studios to license actors’ voices through AI. All in all, 2024 spells yet another frustrating year regarding ethics and implementations of AI.
Twitch And Unity Are Already Treating Layoffs Like Speedruns In 2024
Unfortunately, like the tail-end of last year, massive layoffs are everpresent in the gaming industry. Chief among layoffs this year (so far) are Twitch and Unity. According to Bloomberg, Twitch will lay off 500 of its employees by the end of the month. The upcoming layoffs are made all the more tragic when you take into account that the company’s string of layoffs occurred last year. Unity will lay off 1,800 employees, according to Reuters.
The standard refrain for these layoffs generally includes cushiony buzzwords like “restructuring” to achieve “profitability” and “long-term success” in the coming months/years. What these canned corporate responses habitually fail to touch on is why profitability must come at the expense of the human beings they hired in the first place to achieve this lofty goal. Speaking anecdotal, layoffs to bolster profits is a bummy business strategy that speaks more to a company’s lack of foresight than its savviness. While I can’t offer any comforting words to this news bit, I will point you in the direction of Kotaku’s ongoing compilation of 2024 layoffs to keep tabs on the unfortunate hellscape that is the gaming industry.
Prayer Circles For HBO‘s The Last Of Us Abby Actor
Since Max announced that it had greenlit a second season of The Last Of Us last year, fans have been anxiously awaiting the official casting of Abby. The source of this anxiety is two-fold. While some fans theorized which Hollywood actor would be chiseled enough to step into the role of Naughty Dog’s deuteragonist, others like myself prayed they avoid social media entirety to avoid the sexism voice actor Laura Bailey faced when she stepped into the role. On Tuesday, Max announced Kaitlyn Dever will play Abby. I can only hope the Booksmart actor’s golf game is as good as her ability to duck social media for the foreseeable future to avoid all the gamer hate for her character.
In case you’re not as terminally online, allow me to break down this sentiment many gamers harbor for Dever’s mental well-being. An annoyingly sizeable subsect of players can’t compartmentalize that actors are not who they portray in a game. Unfortunately, one of the most disliked characters in gaming is Abby Anderson. Initially, most of the vitriol toward Abby stemmed from bigoted internet rumors about her being trans because of her muscular physique. When the game was released, these same “fans” pivoted their hate toward Abby because they controlled her for half the game’s runtime as she came into conflict with Joel and Ellie.
It all makes my head hurt, and I can only presume how much baggage it would be to drop all that online hate on an unsuspecting actor. Thankfully, Bailey got ahead of the hate by voicing her support for Dever on X (formerly Twitter).
“Huge congrats, Kaitlyn! So excited to see Abby’s evolution in your performance! Let me know if you want a workout buddy,” Bailey wrote.
Fun fact: this isn’t the first time Dever has worked on a Naughty Dog project. Back in 2016, Dever played Nathan Drake’s daughter, Cassie, in Uncharted 4: Thief’s End. Dever wasn’t the only cast announcement for The Last of Us season 2. Young Mazino, of Netflix Beef fame, will play Ellie’s friend Jessie. While season one of The Last of Us followed the events of the first game, season 2 will adapt the story for “multiple seasons.” In an interview with GQ, co-writer Craig Mazin revealed the show will flesh out the sequel game in ways the game hadn’t explored.
“There are going to be things that are different, and there are things that are going to be identical. There are things that are going to be added and enriched. There are some things that are going to be flipped,” Mazin said.
Time will tell what those changes will entail, but if they’re anything like season one’s Bill and Frank-centric episode, they might have another slew of Emmy nominations on their hands.
That’ll do it for the news and my writing the Week in Games column. Thanks to everyone who rocked with me these past couple of weeks that I’ve filled in for this column! You won’t be seeing the last of me, but for the time being, I bid you a hui hou!