There’s a rhythm to the world of video games. New games are announced, old franchises are revived, popular games get sequels. Studios appear, studios are bought, studios disappear.
Every year though, there are a few weird stories that pop up that catch our attention—something so strange that we’ll look back years later and ask each other, hey, remember that thing?
Here are the 7 weirdest things that happened in gaming this year.
7. PUSHING LANES ON CAPITOL HILL
Gamers are all over the place these days—even in politics. House of Cards’ main character Frank Underwood might be the first politician you think of when you put the two together. Colorado’s U.S. Representative Jared Polis, however, is a serious gamer with a big love for League of Legends. That love almost got Polis in trouble earlier this year when he found himself the subject of an ethics investigation.
The video above has Polis talking about his love of League of Legends and how it and politics have come together for him, both in moment-to-moment political movement and in his opposition of the Stop Online Piracy Act last year. The video was produced in part by publisher Riot Games and was used to promote his campaign. The investigation alleged that the politician was promoting a private business and misusing taxpayer resources.
A four month investigation concluded that Polis and Riot Games’ partnership wasn’t different from any other sponsored event that paired a business with a representative, but it was a surreal moment in gaming nonetheless.
6. THE JOY OF PAINTING
After Twitch.tv viewers collectively played through the entirety of the first Pokemon game, it became less and less surprising as the community began to conquer even demanding games like Dark Souls.
Then, Twitch branched out in a way no one expected. Starting on Oct. 29, the late Bob Ross’s 73rd birthday, the gameplay streaming website began airing the entirety of the painter’s long-running television series, The Joy of Painting.
The broadcast was intended to promote a new arm of the Twitch empire—Twitch Creative, a step back to the site’s original roots. And there’s clearly a place for non-gaming content—it turned out to be a huge hit for the site, though, pulling 5.6 million unique viewers over the 9 day marathon. Twitch now airs Ross’s show in six hour blocks every Monday, with plans to repeat the full marathon each fall.
5. IT’S-A ME, BOWSER
After years of Mario dumping Bowser into lava, it’s finally Bowser’s turn. Doug Bowser, that is.
This spring, Nintendo was looking for a new Vice President of US sales, and the right person for the job just happened to have the perfect name for it, too.
Of course this wasn’t just a hire that Nintendo made and moved on. The top brass knew what a great PR opportunity they had on their hands. Usually only top-tier execs get a press release, but Mr. Bowser warranted his own, which read, “Doug Bowser brings decades of experience, not fire breath, to [the] new role.”
4. STOP FIGHTING MOM AND DAD
In Japanese business culture, choosing which company to work for is more like choosing a spouse than climbing a ladder like it is in the west. That may be starting to shift, but it’s still a lifetime commitment for many.
The business between Hideo Kojima and Konami, then, looks something like a messy, public divorce. Kojima, director of the Metal Gear series—most recently Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain—has been with Konami for just short of 30 years. But the console games business just isn’t doing well in Japan, and many companies are shifting attention toward the faster, more profitable world of mobile gaming. It’s a bigger market that requires less time and money to make games for.
Konami started dissociating Kojima’s name from Metal Gear, and then cancelled Silent Hills, his collaboration with Guillermo del Toro and Norman Reedus. That game’s acclaimed demo, called P.T., was permanently removed from the PlayStation Store. Rumors about the atmosphere at Konami flew, and the company legally barred Kojima from accepting an award at the Video Game Awards in December. Most recently Kojima left Konami permanently, forming a new partnership with Sony. All in all, it was a surprising—and surprisingly messy—divorce.
3. YOU LOOK BLOCKY, MOM
What Minecraft needs is a cellular network, said no one ever. All the same, Verizon delivered.
Early this December, Verizon announced that it had created a cellular network within the world of Minecraft, the ultra-popular sandbox game. Using in-game materials, you can build a cellphone tower and cellphone within the game and, using that in-game phone, make and receive calls, browse ultra-pixelated versions of web pages, or even make video calls.
Verizon even released the code it created in case you want to build something with it. It’s unnecessary and unwanted, but all the same, it’s kinda cool.
2. YOU’RE LOSING IT, SQUARE-ENIX
Game pre-orders have always been gross. They used to be a way to get people into stores on release day to jumpstart sales, and for consumers to ensure they got a copy of a game on day one (back before GameStops and digital downloads were ubiquitous). Still, the bonus for ordering a game ahead of time can be really cool, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s statue. Other times, they’re just some goofy digital junk like a golden gun or a new hat.
Square Enix decided to try something different with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, letting gamers customize their pre-order bonuses the way they customize their character’s abilities in the game. What gamers saw, though, is a scheme that will force them to miss out on certain in-game items—or pre-order multiple copies of the game just to get it all. The bonuses are pretty much all digital, too, and gamers know digital scarcity is bullshit.
It gets worse, though. If enough people pre-ordered the game, Square Enix would then release the game four days early to those who had pre-ordered, essentially holding the game hostage until we gave them enough money for a product we hadn’t yet seen. Fan outcry squashed this immediately, then a couple of months later, Square Enix delayed the game by almost half a year, making that four day promise even more laughable.
1. NINTENDO MAKES A SNAPCHAT
Snapchat gained a lot of credibility this year, but in many circles it’s still primarily used to pictures of body parts. I verified this at a party the other night when a friend posted a picture of her cleavage and received at least two pictures of penises and one of a drawing of a penis within just a few minutes of posting.
Everyone is on Snapchat, though, and companies want in on that huge audience. So of course Nintendo created a Snapchat account.
It could be a massively successful way for the company to market instantly to their fans. Even so, it just feels strange to have a company that makes games for kids (and the kid in all of us) posting content to an application network with a reputation for dick pics. Penis pictures. Phallus photos. Hopefully Wario doesn’t get any ideas.
Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, and it’s been downhill ever since. He takes a multifaceted approach to gaming news and reviews, mixing business analysis, cultural studies, tech and design. Eric has written for outlets like Playboy.com, TechnoBuffalo.com, TabTimes.com, and Kombo.com. In his free time, he perfects his napping technique and pursues the elusive perfect cheeseburger.
The Gamers Next Door and Jobless Garrett Play ‘Rocket League’ at the Playboy Mansion