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Friday, December 8, 2023

Ubisoft Removes a Controversial Voice in 'Watch Dogs: Legion'

Hello, and welcome once again to Replay, WIRED's twice-monthly column about everything happening in the world of video games. Welp, it's been a heck of a November so far, hasn't it? Compared to ::gestures broadly in all directions:: everything else going on in the world, things have been fairly quiet on the gaming front over the past couple of weeks. But there's still plenty to catch up on. Here's everything you need to know.

Ubisoft to Remove Helen Lewis' Voice From Watch Dogs: Legion

Upon release, some players were concerned to hear journalist Helen Lewis' voice in Watch Dogs: Legion's in-game podcasts. The reason for that concern, as outlined by Kotaku here, is that Lewis has a reputation among trans people for being, well, transphobic. Specifically, she wrote an op-ed in The Times which said "a man can't just say he has turned into a woman," in an effort to criticize legislation that would have made gender transitioning in the United Kingdom an easier prospect. In that same editorial, Lewis also said, "What the government proposes is a radical rewriting of our understanding of identity: Now it’s a question of an internal essence—a soul, if you will. Being a woman or a man is now entirely in your head." Generally speaking, statements like these are a means of essentializing and denigrating the gender identities of transgender people, and specifically are rhetorical tactics used by many transphobes on the left—often called "trans-exclusionary radical feminists"—to cast doubt on the case for trans rights.

In response to complaints, Ubisoft issued a statement distancing itself from Lewis, who writes for The Atlantic and brings her gender-critical opinions with her. "The development team worked with an external producer to select speaker profiles for these podcasts and were not aware of the controversy at the time of booking or recording. While the in-game podcasters are following a preapproved script and are not speaking in their own name or with their own opinions, we understand this collaboration itself may be seen as offensive and we deeply regret any hurt this has caused," the company told Kotaku. "In response, we will be replacing these two podcast episodes in an upcoming update and will reinforce our background checks for partners in the future.”

This is the problem when you fail to vet contributors to your products for offensive views: They end up having offensive views, alienating potential audiences and anyone with good taste. If companies like Ubisoft want to show that they support trans people, they're going to have to work a little harder.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping Is Now a Furry Hangout Spot in VRChat

As you might have heard if you were anywhere near the internet over the weekend, the Trump campaign held a press conference outside of a business called Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia. What caught most people's attention was that the location was next to an adult bookstore as well as a crematorium and was not, as many who heard the term "Four Seasons" might've presumed, in a hotel. But that, dear friends, is only the beginning of this tale. Following the now infamous press conference, YouTuber Coopertom recreated the whole Four Seasons Total Landscaping scene in VRChat, complete with Trump 2020 posters, and it has now become a hangout for virtual-reality furries.

In a delightful video on Twitter, Coopertom tours the site with a group of his furry friends, clowning around and reveling in the delight of victory. According to Coopertom, the map took five and a half hours to make, a bit longer than the press conference that made the meatspace location famous, but still pretty quick. We live in strange, strange times.

Apparently, the PlayStation 5 Could Have Been Even Bigger

The PlayStation 5, which is due out for an official release on November 12, is big. It's very big. Like, it's bigger than my 12-pound cat. The PlayStation 5 is bigger than the largest laptop I have ever owned. The PlayStation 5 is bigger than some toddlers. And it could have been even bigger, according to designer Yujin Morasawa, who talked recently about the console to The Washington Post.

"It's kind of funny that engineering actually told me it's too big," the Sony designer said. "So, I actually had to shrink it down a little bit from the first drawing."

How much is a "little bit" here? What kind of battle station did we miss out on? And what sort of destruction would it have wrought?

Recommendation of the Week: Hyper Light Drifter by HeartMachine

Hyper Light Drifter is one of my favorite games. It's both tense and a beautiful, wondrous respite. The barren landscapes have a quiet beauty to them, and I never fully escape a feeling off wide-eyed excitement as I visit its world. Hyper Light Drifter feels, to me, like a game to explore at a time of change and growth, at a time when you need something refreshing and cool to flow into your mind.

Sure, it's a hard game. Sure, it takes precision, care, and attentiveness to survive the game's combat. But it has a soundtrack by Disasterpeace and stunning pixel art. This isn't a nasty, rough game. This game is a thing of pure beauty, and that's what I need this month. You might need it too.

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