How Phil Fish's Meltdown Reflects the Gaming Industry
Has the industry's behavior reached ridiculous lows? Whose fault is it?
The MeltdownPhil Fish recently halted all progress on the much-anticipated Fez 2 that was set to be his next big followup on the indie scene. His studio, Polytron, confirmed over Twitter that his weekend rant was not without consequence.It comes after a brutal back and forth over Twitter between him and GameTrailers’ Marcus Beer. Beer's editorials, under the title “Annoyed Gamer,” are often laced with sarcastic, caustic, rude comments directed at many big names in the industry.He aimed his verbal barrage at Fish this weekend calling him a "hipster," "wanker," and all around diva, when he refused to answer questions regarding Xbox One's recent policy change catering to indie developers.When Fish did not receive an on camera apology for the slight, he began to spiral, swinging blindly and furiously at all who replied to him. Now, Fish is known within the industry to be... temperamental, to say the least. He has been involved in numerous spats, and is very vocal concerning certain issues. For many, they believed that this was just another one of his many tangents.Well, for Fish, these comments were the straw that broke the camel's back. He'd spoken before with disdain about the current state of the industry and the vitriolic nature of the consumers. He has not so subtly hinted at his desire to leave the industry despite his passion, and it looks like he finally got his wish.Now Fish is far from an innocent victim in this matter; after all, it takes two to tango. But one can't help but feel like despite all his sputtering and raging, that he has made a point.We show our true colorsWhy do we, as consumers, feel that not only is it ok, but that we have the right to harass the people who make our games? Would we go up to our favorite band and scream at them for taking so long on their next album? Hell, does social decorum allow us to go into the kitchen in a restaurant and mock the cooks as they make our burger?Would you poke this guy to find out where the honey is?A disgusting trend has begun to pop up with alarming frequency. Gamers, "fans," and even journalists are taking to social media and attacking, insulting, and even making death threats to developers and spokespersons in the Industry.Within the last few weeks, we have had people harass Dean Hall (rocket2guns) to finish his DayZ standalone without provocation.And then we have people threatening Treyarch design director David Vonderhaar, for (wait for it) patch notes that slightly tweak 3 guns within Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Despite all the apparent hate that was directed at one man, he simply replied: "Not sure these fractions of seconds are worth the threats of violence." Now many people will say "oh, of course you get responses like that. Those communities attract the scum of the gamer barrel. The immature 14 year old, internet tough guys."The problem is that this issue surpasses any singular community and becomes an issue that weighs upon the rest of the community to fix, rather than ignore. It is only in recent memory of the last week that I pull those examples.We see drama, slurs, and fights break out across the gaming spectrum whether its League of Legends fans bickering over Team Siren, or Anita Sarkeesian stirring up opposing sides. Our true nature shows, and we are not afraid to hide it.Whether this is the majority, or just a vocal minority, it is still a problem. The internet and its allure of anonymity has become this generation's Ring of Gyges. We have the ability to say whatever we want, and demand whatever we want, with no lasting repercussions.And the times we can't regulate ourselves, or show any semblance of decorum on online forums, we get cases like the Texas boy who was arrested for violent comments that were regarded as "terroristic threats" after playing LoL.Now we finally cry out, saying how things are overblown and demand justice for this innocent kid. But how are we supposed to be respected, if this kind of talk is the norm?Of course none of these supposed threats are going to happen. Despite what the media wants you to believe, no one is shooting up a school or willing to kill a developer just because they lost at a video game.Although, there are times...But the fact is, these kinds of comments are the norm, and instead of fixing it, we wave it off and say, "the intended audience is 14-26 year old males, of course they are going to talk violent and use slurs," or "at least we're not as bad as those guys!"These aren't just gamers voicing their opinions, nor is calling for some measure of decorum silencing their crocodile tears. Showing displeasure does not need to be shown with a flurry of curses, threats, and all caps. It's akin to a child throwing a tantrum in the store and getting offended when their mother yells back.It has become a shameful display and we push until devs are not willing to push back.With that being said...Fish is not a reasonable developer. Hell, he probably isn't even a good guy.Although we can't judge what he goes through every day, it is unbecoming not only as a professional, but as a pillar in the indie game community.What he had was a bad day; the beauty of the internet has saved everything he said in anger. Suddenly, HE is the bad guy despite all the (arguably deserved) flak he was taking. It's like looking on in wonder as that bear from earlier tries to rip your face off for asking about the stupid honey while he sleeps. "We have waited forever! When are you getting out of that hibernation?!"I know some have suggested having a PR team handle everything social media to prevent these kinds of meltdowns, but the fact is, that is just unreasonable for studios working on pennies. When they have to resort to Kickstarter to get their games off the ground, they simply do not have the resources to splurge on someone to monitor every part of their social media presence.Now we have people mourning the game's loss, in ways that mirror the public's reaction during celebrity deaths. We mock and poke them while they are alive, but once that final nail is in the coffin, we sing praises (and snicker in private).What the industry needs as a whole is a strong helping of maturity. Our community shows an appalling lack of just that; when a dev just walks out from a game because of what boils down to a hissy fit. You have an obligation to those you promise, and it shouldn't be abandoned just because people are saying mean things about you. When you allow your ego to govern your choices, the results aren't going to be pretty.On the flip side, we see article after article addressing the woes of our immaturity as gamers. Hyper-sexualized women, slurs and threats thrown around the community like dressing on a salad, even simple trolling. We have the audacity to point at games like The Last of Us and say "games are a form of art!" while calling opponents f****ts.So where do we go from here?That's the hard part. This article certainly isn't breaking any new ground, or making you come to an epiphany how to save the gaming community. Those who regulate themselves and act like actual humans do so, and are drowned out by the easily tweetable "f*k U m8." If you treat others like humans, you do not need to be reminded.We can't go around redefining an entire age group to cater to the needs of the silent. Gaming is accessible to all, which means that we don't have a blanket law to enforce "being nice." But seriously, rule of thumb, don't say anything you wouldn't say to a kindly old grandma.Little Bobby wants me to what?.... I haven't done that since FDR was in office.Has the gaming industry been corrupted from the outside, in? Are we irredeemable? I honestly say "no."We have so much going for us, and if the numerous Kickstarters that we have donated millions to tell us anything, we are able to come together to achieve great things. We should use Fish's meltdown as a reminder of where not to stoop, as developers and consumers of the product.I think if we took a step back to examine the consequences of our actions, and think before we speak, we could address many of the woes that "afflict" the gaming community. It is a shame to see so many people's passions skewered because we forget how to treat each other.
Published Oct. 16th 2013