What Game Developers Should Learn From Paranautical Activity’s Removal From Steam

One mistake got Paranautical Activity and its developer banned from Steam. Don't let it happen to your game.

October 20th, 2014 should have been one of the best days of Mike Maulbeck’s life. His game Paranautical Activity finally exited Early Access and became a full game, complete with front page coverage and a launch day sale. You can see from his own Twitter feed how excited he was for the big launch.

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However, one mistake from Valve and a bigger one from Maulbeck would end with Paranautical Activity off of Steam and leave a developer doubting his future in the game industry.

Where It All Goes Wrong

Everything began to go south at 8 AM when Maulbeck noticed that Valve had erroneously continued to mark Paranautical Activity as an Early Access title, leading to a rage filled tweet.

Who could blame him? The first hours after launch can make or break an indie game as it makes its way down the first page of the critically important “New Releases” list. Being marked as an Early Access title gives the impression that an in-development title and risks losing customers who assume it’s an incomplete game. A minute later Maulbeck tweets that he has sent an email to Valve trying to rectify the error. This is usually where the angry rants end and the developer quickly goes on damage control, assuring people that the game is out of Early Access and is now a full release.

Not this time, however, as minutes later Mr. Maulbeck continues his tirade against Valve.

While he definitely doesn’t hold back his anger, there’s nothing that can’t be excused later as an indie developer stressed about launch day. I’d even say at this point he’s a sympathetic figure being screwed over by a rather silly mistake on Valve’s part. That is, until he crosses the line no merchant should ever cross. He directly threatens the shop owner.

“He is going to die.”

As explained in this Polygon article, he threatened the life of Valve founder Gabe Newell:

It wasn’t long after that Valve deleted Paranautical Activity off of Steam and cut ties with Mike Maulbeck entirely. It took only a single tweet threatening the life of a Valve employee to turn what should have been Paranautical Activity‘s launch party into what might be the end of a developer’s career.

It took only a single tweet…to turn what should have been Paranautical Activity‘s launch party into what might be the end of a developer’s career.

It’s an incredibly sad story, especially since you can easily put yourself into Mike’s shoes. Everyone can think of a time where they went off about someone or something that has screwed them over left and right. Sometimes that can come with empty threats of violence made purely out of frustration. I know I’ve had a few conversations with my friends about how idiotic a coworker or boss was. The problem here, however, is taking that rage to a public forum.

The Big Lesson

Sometimes it’s easy to get too comfortable on social media and forget that whatever you say is public domain. You must assume everything you post on Twitter or Facebook will be read by a professional contact. According to recent studies, that assumption isn’t too far from the truth. When you post threats made from anger, no matter how hollow they might be, you’re basically saying it directly to the offending party. If someone came up to you and went on an angry tirade that concluded with a threat on your life, do you think you’d continue a relationship with that person, professionally or personally?

We all have to vent every once in a while, but keep it among your friends over a couple of drinks. The second that you air your grievances online, they become statements that can carry hefty consequences. Mike’s story shows that it only takes a single tweet to ruin your career. If you feel you must post something from an emotional place, make damn sure you mean it. You never know who’s watching.


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Author
WesleyG
I'm a freelance contributor that adores the art and culture of gaming. I'm an indie game enthusiast who loves supporting a game with a small budget and new ideas. I also love pro wrestling, tabletop RPGs, and Cadbury Creme Eggs.