November 17, 2019

Andreas Betsche

How the developers of Aeterno Blade II fuel toxic behavior

November 17, 2019 | Andreas Betsche

Update 18/11/2019: According to the developers, the banana is a sign of gratitude for their Thai retail partner Banana IT:

Apologized to make its wrong meaning. Banana is come from Banana IT ,our retail partner in Thailand. We want to Thank you them by some extra contents, Banana on EZ mode also one of it.

One could write a lot about Aeterno Blade II. That it is a hack’n slash played from a side perspective and sometimes changes back to a third person perspective. That the fights run smoothly, developing a good feeling of flow. That the time manipulation skills are a nice gimmick. That the graphics are pretty, but technically never exceed a functional quality. That the whole UI is way too small. That the story is confusing but the speakers do a solid job. That Aeterno Blade II is really difficult and is aimed at genre professionals. This is how Aeterno Blade II could be described and it would be a fun and solid game experience.

Aeterno Blade II continues the prequel’s storyline.

However, I would like to focus on another aspect of the game. Yes, Aeterno Blade II is a very complex, sometimes challenging and sometimes unfairly frustrating game. Difficult games are back in fashion, and that’s not least thanks to the sheer mass of rogue and soul likes out there. Developer Corecell from Thailand responded to criticism of an – at least for some – exaggerated level of difficulty with an adaptation to the game itself: They introduced a simple game mode, a so-called EZ-Mode. In itself a great idea, I’m myself a fan of easy or story modes, making it possible to experience the game without stress and frustration.

The problem is, however, the implementation of this new mode, since it makes use of common gamer stereotypes and, above all, fuels a culture that is notorious for its toxic mentality. That starts with the name: EZ Mode. EZ is a short version for easy, popular among gamers. It is regularly used in multiplayer chats to signal that victory was easy and the opponent was “not worthy”. Corecell uses a vocabulary that stands for toxic gamers behavior in order to insult players who find the game too difficult in normal mode.

This is how the developers announced the easy mode on Facebook.

However, the developers go one step further: When you activate the Easy mode in the game, an icon appears above the character’s head: a banana. This effect cannot be deactivated. This banana is not only a presumptive brand for the player, it also destroys the immersion into the game. The developers are not only fueling the toxic gaming scene: for some, the banana is even an ethnic slur that denounces people from Asian ethnic groups as traitors, because they are supposedly getting too close to Western cultures. It cannot be verified whether Corecell deliberately made use of this connotation or not, but it cannot be denied that Western games are generally considered easier or more accessible than their counterparts in Asia.

Reactions of Facebook reveal what a Banana symbol might imply.

Intent or not plays a minor role here in the end. What’s important is that players can feel attacked and humiliated by Corecell‘s banana decision. Moreover, with their decision, they target a group that is supposed to endorse derogatory behavior in games. Personally, I would not like to waste any more time on a game that makes fun of its players and radically denies their gaming skills. I’m tired of discussions about “real” gamers and casualization. Please do not get me wrong: I have nothing against difficult or complicated games. Some may even argue that the banana is meant “ironically” (which it definitely is not). Developers Corecell and Publisher PQube should consider, however, whether their idea of ​​addressing a hardcore audience did go far beyond and leaves an extremely negative connotation.

This article is based on a free copy of Aeterno Blade II for PlayStation 4, kindly provided by developer Corecell Technology.

Andreas Betsche

Andreas Betsche founded Virtual SEA in early 2016 after researching Cambodian mobile games for his Master’s thesis. He has a background in Southeast Asia studies and has worked and lived in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Since he has been actively playing games since the early 90s, combing both worlds in Virtual SEA brought together both of his passions.

View Profile »


Andreas Betsche | June 8, 2024

Day of the Devs 2024: Southeast Asian Indies Shine with Heart and Whimsy

Andreas Betsche | May 31, 2024

Indie Games from Southeast Asia Released in May 2024

Andreas Betsche | May 2, 2024

Dala and the Cursed Forest: A new roguelike deckbuilder inspired by Thai mythology