Less than a month till the release of Yooka-Laylee and UK developer Playtonic Games made it back into the news, but for a negative reason. YouTube personality Jon “JonTron” Jafari was invited to provide a vocal performance for the game after his love was revealed for Banjo-Kazooie and that it impacted his gaming life. The role he was given was to make noises for small creatures in the background.
However Jafari himself made the news after appearing on a Twitch livestream debate, where he made some controversial harmful comments about the state of immigration and race. A one point saying “we don’t need immigrants from incompatible places”. Jafari’s views first appeared on his twitter page but hit mainstream after he was invited onto a Twitch livestream debate with Steven “Destiny” Bonnell. One viewpoint inferred that Mexican immigrants are setting up “ethnic enslaves” in the US “to break up parts of America off back into Mexico”.
As a result of these comments, which came as a surprise to many of his fans as Jafari usually keeps his political views hidden, Playtonic have decided to remove the voice acting from the game “via a forthcoming content update” (patch) after the games launches.
For those who wish to view the whole debate.
Over the two-hour debate, Jafari touches on topics such as immigration stating, white people were going through a “demographic displacement”. Continuing into the debate, Jafari also claims that wealthy black Americans commit more crime than poor whites, that Irish and Italian immigrants were always considered to be “white” and laughably that “we’ve gotten rid of discrimination in our Western countries,” later saying “nobody want to become a minority in their own country.”
As a result of his actions, Playtonic made the announcement via Gameindustry.biz. “We recently became aware of comments made by voice artist JonTron after development on Yooka-Laylee had been completed,” The developer then said. “JonTron is a talented video presenter who we were initially, two years ago, happy to include as a voice contributor in our game.” Despite this, due to his viewpoints Playtonic “have made the decision to remove JonTron’s inclusion in the game via a forthcoming content update.”
We would like to make absolutely clear that we do not endorse or support JonTron’s personal viewpoints” As such Playtonic made clear to say that as an external contributor his views do not represent any in Playtonic. A representative followed up with “Playtonic is a studio that celebrates diversity in all forms and strives to make games that everyone can enjoy. “The developer wish to let people know that they want players to be comfortable in the games world and not have the spirit ruined by outside factors. Finishing with “or distract from the incredible goodwill and love shown by our fans and Kickstarter backers.”
JonTron has since responded to the news of his departure via Twitter
JonTron took the time to make a “My Statement” video to clear up his comments and essentially TRIES to backtrack, by apologising for how his views came to light but not his views. The video has since been unlisted and uploaded by someone else, but here is the original.
In summary “I wasn’t prepared for a debate of this sort with these sort of sensitive topics at hand.” Continuing that he can’t be against immigration but was talking about “mass immigration” because he is “literally a child of two immigrants”.
This could not have come at a worse time. People are only just beginning to grasp the whole ordeal with PewDiePie supposedly “being anti-Semitic”. YouTube personalities have a lot of influence over a large audience and should be mindful of that. At this point, JonTron has lost at least ten thousand subscribers on his YouTube channel. There is a level of uncertainty about how this will affect Jafari but only time will tell.
Despite Jafari being in the wrong, Playtonic Games did not come out unscathed. The Kickstarter page for the game has been getting hit with a plethora of angry responses and refund requests. A backer wrote on the comment sections “ This whole JonTron situation has sullied my ability to enjoy this game. I can’t even look at it anymore without thinking about this whole debacle. I’d also like to request a refund.” The problem that people have seem to have is that Playtonic are infringing a form of censorship and should hold up their promise to feature him in the game.
The demands from backers are growing exponentially but to demand one of a fulfilled Kickstarter, which hasn’t broken any of its campaign promises is against terms of services and may result in those users getting removed from Kickstarter. This has not stopped people from filing for for credit card chargebacks. According to people in the comment section, the chargebacks are working. Although they are working, it is hard to say how long they will keep the money. Checks are done into each of the complaints and then approved.
Commentator on the Kickstarter Campaign Page
Kickstarter does not uphold any monetary ties and do not issue refunds themselves; they are just the hosts of the campaigns. Refunds falls back on Playtonic games and it seems unlikely that they will give the refunds considering that the game is finished and comes out in two weeks. Plus nowhere in their campaign did they mention that Jon Jafari voicing a character was a stretch goal or part of the campaign.
If and when the chargebacks fail, there are plans for the backers who feel “betrayed” to just refund their games when they get them. Which will be very difficult because most of the backers donated $15, which gets them a digital code, and most sites do not allow codes to be refunded.
If anyone wants to view the Kickstarter page and peruse the comments you can.
This was a sorry situation for Playtonic games as Yooka-Laylee was their first game and had a promising start – holding the record for most money raised for a UK game on Kickstarter. Hopefully this bad press doesn’t affect them long term
Yooka-Laylee was released on the 11th of April 2017
Nintendo Switch later this year