My Take on Sweet Baby Inc

This is an interesting one, and honestly something I hadn't really paid a lot of attention to. I am a huge fan of the Last of Us and it is still easily one of my favorite story-driven games. It felt tight and meaningful, and it resonated with just about anyone who played it.
My Take on Sweet Baby Inc
This is pretty much who they are...

Gaming is Changing...

But not for the better

This is an interesting one, and honestly something I hadn't really paid a lot of attention to.

I am a huge fan of the Last of Us and it is still easily one of my favorite story-driven games. It felt tight and meaningful, and it resonated with just about anyone who played it.

I never actually played the second game. I have been meaning to for a long time, but I'm not a Sony fanboy so I never got the chance. I did, however, consume a ton of reviews and feedback about the game, so I was a little bit leery about playing it.

After all, the first game was Joel's story, so the moment I knew he was going to be killed off in the second game, I knew it would be a less inviting game for me.

But, still, I was ready to sink my dollars into it simply because of the quality of writing in the first game.

I did wonder, however, why the focus of the game left the focus of the first game on the father-daughter relationship and dove into the trans female driven storyline, but I didn't really think a lot of it. After all, I assumed it had driven organically and came from a writer trying to push limits and tell a compelling story.

It seems I was wrong.

What is Sweet Baby Inc?

Basically, it's a group of activists masquerading as consultants and professionals. That dynamic, unfortunately, has become a cultural norm.

They are a narrative development and consultation studio that has found itself at the center of a heated controversy involving freedom of speech and apparent attempts to shut down its critics on Steam.

Sweet Baby Inc claims itself as a narrative development and consultation studio dedicated to promoting diversity in the gaming industry. They proudly state their intent to include more diversity in this aspect of culture. Basically, they are attemping to do for the games industry the same thing that has happened in Hollywood whereby the focus is on diversity rather than quality.

Some major titles include Alan Wake 2Spider-Man 2, and God of War: Ragnarök. Generally speaking, they have not worked with many titles that are below Triple A releases, and nothing they have worked with has been too much of a success. This is seen as a negative by much of the gaming community considering titles that were previously beloved are now being seen as untenable in modern gaming. The overall issue stems from their association with critical and commercial flops such as: Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

So, where does the controversy start?

Barbie in movie format was a great example of making content tailor made for women. A feminist focused and led story targeted at the demographic most likely to go see it, and since it was so true to its marketing and audience it exploded to make a ton of money.

The probem is with Hollywood, and now gaming, they don't seem to want to make things for women. They would rather take things that exist that women might tangentially like and then bash and mold them to meet what they think women want. They would rather step into a pre-existing industry with a mostly male audience and tell them what they want instead of listening and trying to be additive.

We have reached a point where anything that came before is unacceptable. A mostly male dominated video game industry is an unacceptable thing, so we need to fix it.

Don't get me wrong, diversity in the gaming industry is great. There is room for everyone under the umbrella, I just don't see the benefit of taking something that already exists and ripping it apart because it has too many white and male leads. Why not instead focus energy on making new types of games featuring a diverse cast that appeal to the diverse demographics they represent?

Why is there such a huge focus on destroying everything that came before and using its ashes to prop up the new generation?

Especially when the new generation doesn't seem to want it.

Almost everything Sweet Baby Inc has touched has been met with disdain, annoyance, or outright vitriol. And, it isn't just from the casting choices for leads in the games. The company, which is not a gaming company, dips their fingers into every aspect of the process, which results in broken, buggy, unfinished, and unfun products where the goals don't align with what has made the industry thrive since its inception.

Their outright hostility and hatred toward the core audience of these games has pushed away that same audience, and then they blame those people when the games aren't a success. Essentially, if you like games and don't buy the stuff Sweet Baby Inc meddles in because it isn't the type of game you want to play, then you are the problem.

I think the biggest overall issue with how all of this works is that entertainment is subjective. People like what they like, and they are allowed to like what they least for now. However, something has shifted in society where elevating the things you like can, on its own, be seen as problematic.

The controversy surrounding all of this exploded when the “Sweet Baby Inc Detected” page appearedon steam. It openly expressedits opposition to any games associated with the Canadian company and served as a warning for gamers of a like mind who would rather avoid games where the message of diversity and inclusion is the entire point of the game.

A group of unaffiliated people banded together to try and avoid games that worked with this company because in many cases the games were not to their liking. Spending hard earned money on a seventy plus dollar game only to find out that the game was both full of bugs and glitches and more interested in promoting a "message" than engaging with an audience isn't an ideal situation for most people who work hard for their money.

There was a steam curator page created to callout games that Sweet Baby Inc was involved with. People wanted to track those games to know what to avoid. Turns out, that kicked off a firestorm.

Allegations of the group violating Steam’s code of conduct and promoting casual sexism and alt-right rhetoric popped up almost immediately. The Steam group claimed to have over 200,000 followers, and it became a focal point for gamers who oppose the company’s approach to forced diversity in game development.

That isn't to say that the group is right in all of this. They are no more right in saying Sweet Baby Inc doesn't have a place in gaming than Sweet Baby Inc is to say they don't. The problem is, too often people focus on one side or the other.

Sweet Baby Inc wants to jump right to the top, find the biggest and most powerful upcoming games, and "fix" them. To the gamers, this feels like a violation because now all of the games they had to look forward to coming out over the next few years are going to be muddled, buggy, glitchy, and focused only on selling their message.

That is a loss for them because it is fewer games they can look forward to playing.

Sweet Baby Inc looks at it like forcing in that diversity was a good step, and the "real" audience will appreciate them for their wokeness. The problem is, that "real" audience is on TikTok or other places rendering their demands for diversity and inclusion, but they aren't going to (and never were going to) buy and support those games.

They want the diversity in the games for the sake of it being diverse, but the truth is the audience just isn't there. You can't force an audience to exist (much like Marvel forcing Girl Boss movies to win over a mythical audience that hasn't shown up to this day) and when your efforts work against the people who actually DO what the content to exist then you end up losing that audience, too.

However, instead of admitting that maybe the strategy wasn't ideal and the focus should have been building a core audience through excellent storytelling and new games, they simply reverted to blaming the existing gamers that moved on for wanting to make sure they didn't waste money on games they wouldn't enjoy.

The response from Sweet Baby Inc for createing this steam curator page was basically to try and shut the group down. They filed complaints and attacks and wanted to close off any access people had to labeling their association with unpopular games.

That ended up being a pretty terrible idea considering the end result was that the group gained a lot more followers and the attention to this story rose a lot in the public perception.

So, now you are all caught up on the controversy.

Back to my earliest points

I don't have a problem with more diversity in games and media in general. My problem is with subpar storytelling in general, and when the focus is on promoting "diversity" at the expense of the story it becomes painful to interact with.

The Last of Us was one of my favorite games of all time. I consider myself an evangelist for the game and now HBO show. However, know that the primary story element of killing off Joel for the sake of the story is going to be a difficult pill to swallow.

If the reason for killing him off was solely for the story as a way to move the narrative forward and trigger Elle's growth, then that is fine.

If, on the other hand, the purpose of killing him off fell in line with the desire to elevate female characters at the expense of the straight-white-male character, then I can't help but see parallels to pretty much everything that Hollywood has been doing recently.

It's impossible for me to see that plot element in The Last of Us Part II any other way now.

Kill off Han Solo after making him a sad, tired, pathetic old. man. Everything he learned in the original movies was gone by the time we saw him again in this modern era.

Kill off Indiana Jones after making him a sad, tired, pathetic old man. Everything he learned from his struggles and all of his character growth is gone now.

Make Nick Fury a sad, tired, pathetic old man in need of constant saving by his female counterparts. Everything that made him great in the original MCU movies will be stripped away to make it clear that he's a tired and broken man incapable of living in this modern world.

The trend is basically that rather than elevating diverse and powerful voices, we are taking the same route as our education system and bringing everyone else down to the same level. Destroy the legacy male characters so that their female counterparts are seen as "better" by comparison.

Why isn't there room for more people? It is striking that when you hear a lot of people promoting diversity, there is a near constant pandering explanation that "there is room for everyone" or "it isn't a zero-sum game."

Great. That makes perfect sense to me.

And yet, then in actual practice when the reigns are passed over from one group of people to another, we end up in a situation where male characters of the past in a franchise are sacrificed at the altar of girl bosses who are just like them, only better in every way. Or, at least we are told that in the stories, but rarely shown it.

We are perfectly fine as a society with taking male dominated media, movies, or games and digging claws into them to destroy what came before to make "room" for diverse voices, but just imagine if someone said: "We need to take the Housewives shows and focus only on the men, turning the women into tools only to be used to elevate their husbands and giving them almost no screen time. This needs to be for a more diverse audience and targeted to men."

Sweet Baby Inc's Meddling

At the heart of all of this is the fact that Sweet Baby Inc is meddling with the stories of games, many of which are later entries in a beloved franchise. They take a product, sometimes even in the end stages of development, and shovel diversity into it without actually thinking about whether it makes sense.

They help to rewrite entire story arcs, add side quests designed to check boxes, or sometimes rewrite an entire game to make it more acceptable to "modern" audiences.

The issue is, though, that the modern audience is just a myth.

The games they are meddling with are games that are mostly played by men. That is and has always been a fact, and when I was a kid, it was resoundingly mocked as a pastime. If you played games as a kid, you were actively going against what was expected of you, and you paid a price for it.

As I got older it gaming became more mainstream, and when it became mainstream a lot of people said: "this pastime, which was mostly dominated by straight-white-males is no longer acceptable since it is mainstream, so we need to fix it."

Then, they "fix" it by forcing in diversity, it doesn't sell very well, and they say: "see, this is proof that those fans of the genre are just sexist because when we took the thing they loved and made it for someone else they didn't buy it anymore."

The diversity should be secondary to the story. There are a ton of examples of places where diversity is built into a game or movie naturally without it feeling forced or the project suffering because of it.

  1. Fast and Furious Franchise
  2. Swat
  3. Bridgerton

But, I don't think that we need to destroy what is already there for it to work. We should be inviting more people into the industry, not kicking some members out.

There are already reports of the new GTA 6 coming out that there is a huge focus on diversity in it, and the fear is that it once again will come at the expense of the game itself.

In any case, this video might help to explain the Sweet Baby Inc issues a bit more.

Some more resources to check out:

Unraveling the Sweet Baby Inc Controversy and the Alleged Attempts at Shutting Down a Group of Critics on Steam
What is the Sweet Baby Inc controversy and were there attempts to shut down a curated group of its harshest critics on Steam?
Sweet Baby Inc. detected: What actually happened and why should you care?
An inclusion-focused narrative company called Sweet Baby Inc. has sparked a heated debate online between gamers and people in the industry

Where do you stand on this topic? Comment down below what you think about my opinion. Did I get it right, or am I way off?

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