The winter holiday season has just begun, no matter what marketing executives might think, so we here at Ace Anime Reviews would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that if you’re thinking of buying the shiny new AAA seasonal game release for someone you care about, you should definitely not.
This doesn’t just apply to games from companies so steeped in abuse they can’t stay out of the news for more than a couple weeks, like Ubisoft or Activision, but to all AAA game companies. Yes, even that one. We understand that it’s your favorite, and that you really want to support the developers, but unfortunately, you can not do that by buying their games. That money is, by and large, going to upper management, CEOs, and investors who do not deserve a dime of it, no matter what their already maliciously over-sized pile of unearned wealth might suggest.
“But Noah!” I hear you gasp. “If we don’t buy their games, the abusive pricks who own game studios won’t let them keep making games! We have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for half-finished products put out by people who routinely make their employees work soul-crushing hours for shit pay for weeks on end, where they can’t even leave the office to try and keep up with all the work they have to do, or they’ll be shut down!”
First of all: no, they probably won’t. Not immediately, anyway; the well-known studios will likely be sold, and if whoever buys them can’t make a disgusting amount of profit off exploiting and abusing their employees, then they’ll be shut down.
Second of all: Good! Let them be shut down. If enough of them go bankrupt, maybe someone will finally get the fucking point.
The games industry is in desperate need of more, and better, regulation. Every year we’re reminded of how even the ones not actively rewarding rapists are working their employees to the breaking point before firing a substantial chunk of them in order to increase their precious fucking profit margins. Every year we get to revisit the horror stories of crunch, the reports of sexual abuse, racism, sexism, and queerphobia that end up working behind the scenes to get these games completed just enough to publish, followed by the avalanche of bug fixes and overpriced DLC needed to actually finish them over the several months (if not years) following their release.
Look. I love the AAA games I own. I have over 1000 hours in The Sims 4 – that’s the copy I own legally, not the repack I finally gave up on trying to keep up-to-date because my VPN sucks ass. I have played my sister’s copy of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition three times in the last several weeks. I get it! They’re fun! Once in a blue moon they’re even consistently nice to look at! But at some point we, as a community, need to sit down and decide if they’re actually worth all the actual human misery that goes into making them, and then stop giving these companies our money.
Instead, consider checking out these games. Some of them are a couple years old, and you’ve probably heard of them, but they’re worth considering if you’re looking for games this season:
Developed by: Witch Beam
What is it?: A casual puzzle game about unpacking boxes as your character moves house. The story is mostly told through the items packed, how well they fit, and the different places they’re moving to.
Available on: Steam, GOG, Switch, Xbox One
Recommended by: The Landlord. Not technically a part of the staff, but she lets Noah and Charlie live with her for free so she’s an invaluable part of the Team.
2. Boyfriend Dungeon
Developed by: Kitfox Games
What is it?: A dating sim/dungeon crawler about overcoming your fears and self-doubt by beating monsters and hanging out with (or, more likely, smooching) a diverse cast of interesting characters. You can also read Noah’s reviews here and here, if you’d like their take before buying it.
Available on: Steam, Switch, Xbox One
Recommended by: Noah
Developed by: Toby Fox
What is it?: A teenager goes on an adventure with a scary chalk-eating lesbian and a soft soft boy in the ‘dark world’ and also they’re friends. Featuring more of Undertale’s signature bullet-hell pacifism and kickass soundtrack.
Available on: Steam, Itch.io, Switch, PS4
Recommended by: Charlie
4. Dungeon Munchies
Developed by: maJAja
What is it?: A side-scrolling RPG where you hunt down and cook monsters to survive as you try to find a way out of the complex you’ve woken up in. Currently on Early Access, although the store page assures us it’s mostly done, just in need of some polish.
Available on: Steam Early Access
Recommended by: druidquest
5. Stardew Valley
Developed by: ConcernedApe
What is it?: A farming sim inspired by BokuMono and its successors, your character inherits a farm from their dead grandpa and sets out to make it something he would approve of while dealing with the local Evil MegaCorp, complete with the enjoyable gameplay and rich storytelling Natsume’s Harvest Moon shuns in favor of making a quick buck.
Available on: Steam, GOG, Xbox One, Switch, PS4, iOS, Android
Recommended by: Ace
Honorable Mentions: Hades and Disco Elysium are also very good games by independent studios, and they’re worth checking out if you and everyone you know who plays videogames haven’t already played them.