A couple of weeks ago, well-known indie game developer Phil Fish, creator of Fez, announced his resignation from the video game industry, leaving his sequel Fez 2 cancelled. He claimed this was from a long history of online abuse, according to IGN.
It doesn’t look like this was an isolated case – many game developers, not just Fish, are being harassed over the internet, according to Polygon (via CVG). Greg Zeschuk, cofounder of the legendary Bioware, creator of the critically acclaimed Baldur’s Gate series, Neverwinter, and of course Mass Effect - is reportedly happy that he has left the video game industry. ‘The smallest thing will set people off. What amazes me is that all of the gloves are off on this stuff. It’s just astonishing what people will do online now.’ For those who don’t know, Mass Effect 3’s ending left many fans quite disappointed (read: extremely pissed off), which lead to quite a strong negative response. It was so strong, in fact, that the game’s ending was revised after its release.
It does extend into the absurd. David Vonderhaar, design director of Call of Duty has received death threats
death threatsfor making changes to game mechanics (as reported by Polygon) to better balance competitive gameplay. Essentially, he reduced the damage certain guns do to other players. I think that tips way over into ridiculous territory. Call them passionate gamers, but there’s a line you have to draw when people make threats on your life based on the fact that you are trying to do your job and make a video game more balanced for the community.
It’s silly, really. These over passionate gamers, who in reality are fans of the games developers are creating, are discouraging them from continuing to make good games because they love them too much, or they have expectations that cannot be realistically met. And it’s sad because there are some really good games out there that try to do something new. Phil Fish’s Fez was a unique game, whether or not people loved it or hated it (mostly loved it). It had original gameplay mechanics, wonderful art, and it did not resort to violence to entertain gamers (like a certain military shooter franchise I will choose not to name). It did all this without a huge budget or a huge development team – it was made basically by just one guy. It’s a sad day indeed to see that people can take the time out of their day to throw insults and threats and people who are just trying to make a game – and it’s even more despicable to realize that these online bullies are often fans of the game themselves.
My condolences go out to the indie developers especially, because, pardon me if you disagree, but there is a lot more drive behind these guys than AAA developers, who are just as in for it for the money as simply making a great game. The developers of the indie game Legend of Dungeon lived in a tree house (built themselves), living off 150$ a month to complete their game, according to Escapist Magazine. If that’s not dedication then I don’t know what is.
It’s not all hopeless, however. There are some people other than I who would like to see Phil Fish’s return to video games. Cliff Bleszinski, creator of the Gears of War franchise, posted a personal message to Fish on his Tumblr account, asking for him to give the industry another go. Truth is, there are always going to be internet trolls and gaming fanatics looking to ruin someone’s day. The only question is whether your skin is hard enough and your passion for the game strong enough to ignore them and do what you want to do: Make a damn good game.