Update 12/08/2022 3:55 p.m. ET: Developer Sony Bend Studio has responded to the statements made by former Days Gone writer and director John Garvin, clarifying that it “does not share his sentiment” and that what he said doesn’t “reflect the views of our team.”
“Our studio is immensely proud of the work we accomplished on Days Gone and are thankful to every developer who poured their heart and soul into it,” Bend Studio tweeted. “We are incredibly humbled by the support of our Days Gone community and we will continue to share your enthusiasm for our world and characters as we look toward the future.”
Original story follows.
We’re talking about Days Gone again, three years after the open-world zombie survival game came out. You may recall the one-time PlayStation-exclusive received a middling reception and saw apparently disappointing sales. The reason? Well, according to writer and game director John Garvin’s response to a fan on Twitter, “woke reviewers [couldn’t] handle a gruff white biker looking at his date’s ass.”
Days Gone is Sony Bend Studio’s first real foray into the open-world genre, and came out in April 2019. Following the former outlaw-turned-grifter Deacon St. John as he traversed a post-apocalyptic and zombie-littered Oregon, the game landed to a mid critical reception. It received a score of 71 on Metacritic and 72 on OpenCritic, with most reviewers panning the game for its dull world, frustrating exploration, and bland storytelling. In Kotaku’s review, former staff writer Joshua Rivera said Days Gone “fail[ed] to offer anything new in favor of blending formlessly into arguments made by 10 years of The Walking Dead and countless post-apocalyptic games of its ilk.” In other words, Days Gone was a wholly unoriginal, if occasionally enjoyable, experience.
The game sold approximately eight million copies between its initial PlayStation 4 launch three years ago and its PC port that dropped in May 2021. Eight million is a massive figure to celebrate, but considering Sucker Punch Productions’ open-world Kurosawa-like Ghost of Tsushima sold the same amount in less than two years’ time, upper management within Bend Studio, including former director Jeff Ross, declared Days Gone a “disappointment.”.
Now Garvin has shared some theories of his own as to why critics found Days Gone was something of a disappointment (h/t VGC). In a since-deleted tweet (archived here), Garvin gave a fan three reasons why he thinks the game performed so poorly:
1. it had tech issues like bugs, streaming and frame rate;
2. it had reviewers who couldn’t be bothered to actually play the game
3. And three, it had woke reviewers who couldn’t handle a gruff white biker looking at his date’s ass
If you’ve played Days Gone, you probably know the scene Garvin is referring to. But for the uninitiated, there’s an early flashback sequence in which Deacon and his date Sarah Whitaker (who later becomes his wife) explore Oregon, walking a trail, taking in the sights. Sarah stops to “show [Deacon] what [he’s] looking for” and bends over. Deacon steps back and says, “Yep, found it,” and the camera pulls back to show him ogling her. While this sexually-charged moment between the two characters was a point of contention for some critics, it’s hardly one of the main reasons why the game didn’t score better than it did.
Kotaku reached out to Sony and Garvin for comment.
Other folks on Twitter were quick to dispute Garvin’s assertions.
“Claiming the protag of ‘Days Gone’ was just too much of a badass for all those woke reviewers is very silly,” tweeted one. “We’re told Deacon is a gruff badass biker, but in actuality he is dull, docile & does whatever he’s told by those in authority. His agency is limited to whining to himself.”
“I think the main reason Days Gone got mediocre reviews was because the game was not very good,” said another.
Perhaps video maker Chris Franklin summed it up best. “What’s wild to me is that I don’t think anyone actually hated Days Gone,” he tweeted. “The consensus was it was perfectly fine. Cromulent. Does what it says on the tin. At a time full to the brim with open-world games and zombie games, it certainly was one of them. So it’s weird to be aggrieved by critics who neither eviscerated your title (it’s at 71 on Metacritic!) but didn’t sing its praises with sufficient jubilance.”
As I wrote in January, I didn’t find Days Gone fun to play. “The controls were clunky and cumbersome. Hunting resources was a chore. I enjoyed riding the motorcycle in the beautifully apocalyptic Oregon, but the novelty wore off after incessantly running out of gas.” And all of this was exacerbated by the fact that both the open-world and zombie-survival genres are incredibly oversaturated, and Days Gone didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from other games out at the time.
I won’t begrudge anyone who had fun with Days Gone. To each their own. But to proclaim “woke reviewers” were part of the reason for the game’s so-so reception feels out of step with reality. The reality was that Days Gone was just a kind of OK, bland, mid-range game. The world noticed, and acted accordingly: no “woke reviewers” conspiracy theories required.
Garvin has since moved on from Sony Bend Studio, and is now working on a game that has NFTs.