Today is Sunday, July 28 and looking back on the past week seems to perfectly highlight the best and worst of the games industry. The week brought another win for gamers with another reversal of an Xbox One policy and a loss with the cancellation of Fez 2 and the exit of an indie developer from the industry that shows the ugly side of gaming when basic civility is discarded in favor of edginess.
Starting with the good, it’s hard to imagine Microsoft’s decision to allow indie developers to self-publish their games on the Xbox One and the Xbox 360 as anything but a positive. This follows the company’s previous decision to reverse the online requirements and DRM policies for the next-gen console that brought the gaming community to an uproar.
This displays the power of the game community, those that cover the industry and healthy competition to effect change even with a seemingly monolithic force like Microsoft. While digital sales for console games are becoming more and more prevalent, it was a mistake for Microsoft to think that now was the time to enforce strict Steam-like DRM standards for its next-gen console when the console game industry wasn’t ready. Meanwhile, the company’s policies and reputation among indie developers was clearly heading down the wrong path as well.
Speaking of indie developers, what happened with Fez creator Phil Fish on Saturday can only best be described as a sad end to a promising, yet volatile career. It all started when Annoyed Gamer host, Marcus Beer, personally attacked both Fish and Braid creator Jonathan Blow on an Game Trailers episode of Invisible Walls. Beer referred to both in a derogatory manner by collectively calling them "BlowFish" before later calling them "hipsters," "tosspots,” “wankers” and then "f***ing ***holes."
This set off Fish who responded to Beer by calling him a “middle-aged parasite” before quoting Futurama’s Bender with, “compare your life to mine and then kill yourself.”
Stress, depression and high level of brash outspokenness have marked Fish's years in the industry with a series ups and downs in the public eye of gaming. This latest incident appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back though as he announced the cancellation of Fez before turning his Twitter account private and saying, “I’m getting out of games because I choose not to up with this abuse anymore.”
Is Fish overreacting? Perhaps. But Beer’s commentary veered way out of line by devolving from criticism into personal attacks on both Fish and Blow. Watching the video, it is clear that even co-hosts Michael Damiani and Ray Stevens were uncomfortable by Beer’s rant by their body language.
Now, it is Beer’s shtick to be the crotchety and grumpy gamer who attacks everything. That’s what vaulted him from a little known commentator to running his own show on Game Trailers. He even tries to throw in the caveat the he himself is an ***hole” during his rant as if that gives him carte blanche to throw out ad hominem attacks. That’s really not an acceptable excuse though.
All of this followed an incident earlier in the week where Treyarch’s David Vonderhaar was personally threatened and called all sorts of unprintable things on Twitter over some minor weapon balance changes to Black Ops II. It was bad enough that Activision community manager David Amrich wrote an editorial basically telling those responsible to cut it out.
These types of attacks on developers are sadly somewhat to be expected from anonymous gamers on forums and social media but are no less despicable and unacceptable. However, it is even more so to see this utter lack of civility carried over to the gaming press where, despite its overall loose and somewhat fanboy-ish coverage, a certain level of professionalism should be expected.
There should be a healthy level of cynicism and mockery in the games industry no less than there is in the sports, entertainment or political industries. Microsoft’s reversal in its most despised Xbox One policies shows that which is ultimately good for both the industry and the gamers. However, personal attacks from all involved do nothing but highlight the stereotypical immaturity that surrounds gaming.
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