Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 29, 2013
Crab mentality. It’s a thing. Individually, crabs could escape an open-top bucket. But if you add other crabs, and they’ll keep pulling each other down as soon as one rises, so that none can escape. Now, it drives me crazy when people brush off criticism by saying, “Oh, they’re just jealous.” Nine times out of ten, that’s nothing but B.S. However, there really are folks who feel they can best build themselves up by dragging others down.
Then there are those with an overdeveloped schadenfreude, who take pleasure in suffering of others. Like the bored girls in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, who used accusations of witchcraft to get at those they had feuds with or, eventually, anybody they weren’t fond of. The bullies.
And then there are people whose world doesn’t seem to extend much further than five feet from their nose. The kind of people who not only voted for, but campaigned for EA to be voted the worst company in America. Twice. Seriously, guys? I mean, I will rant and rave about EAs practices all day, but does always-on DRM even compare to the way that some of these companies have ruined peoples’ lives and pillaged the economy?
These sorts of problems have always existed, but the immediacy and anonymity of the Internet has made it worse.
I’m not the kind of loudmouth Phil Fish is. This is probably one of many reasons why he’s sold something like 100x more copies of his game, Fez, than I have sold of mine. It’s also why I rarely see the kind of venom directed at me that he has had to put up with daily. Being outspoken and self-promoting garners attention, and not always of the good kind.
This weekend, Phil Fish decided he’d had enough of the abuse, canceled development of Fez II, and has ostensibly left game development for good. The haters claimed their prize. A crippling loss to indie games? No, probably not. Was Fish guiltless in this? Also no, probably not. The guy loved attention, and made a number of controversial statements and actions that multiplied his publicity. And it worked to his benefit much of the time. The worst thing you can be as an indie is uninteresting. Fish is anything but.
But the negative aspects – the death threats, the constant hate, the verbal attacks – got to be too much. So he quit. Maybe forever, maybe just long enough for the hate to die down so he can settle back into just making games.
Sadly, this isn’t just about Phil Fish. It’s a problem throughout the industry. In fact, it’s a problem across all kinds of entertainment media. And I really, truly do not understand it.
And yeah, it’s disturbing. It’s creepy. And it is wrong. Straight-up: it’s evil, and it’s wrong.
The only thing that’s gonna stop it is social stigma. When the trolls are shunned – when they no longer get the attention or the approval they seek by attacking whatever seems to be under the spotlight – then maybe things will change. Not entirely, but they may be better.
The weird thing is that the best tool to facilitate this may be the vector by which most of these attacks are delivered: transparency into the development process, and direct contact with the game creators. For normal people – this is a great thing. If you are interested, there’s a face and personality to the game, there’s some insight into the design process, and while you may not agree with everything that gets done, you may at least understand. And if you don’t care, you don’t care. You may like the game and not care one bit about what went into making it, and that’s fine. You may enjoy the stories behind the game, but not care for the game itself… and that’s fine. You may not care about any of it… and that’s fine too. And for 95%+ of the folks out there, it works, life is good, and we get better games out of it (IMO) due to the two-way communication that takes place.
And I don’t have a problem with open, constructive criticism. That’s fine, too. That’s how things can improve. That’s the reason Microsoft backed off on some of their extremely shortsighted policies for new and upcoming products recently. There’s definitely a time and place for honest, passionate criticism. But there’s a wide gulf between criticism and out-and-out attack. There should be some boundaries ruthlessly enforced beyond which even passionate protests should never go.
And it goes both ways! Seriously. Just ‘cuz you are the creator of a game, or just because you’ve got a lot more followers on Twitter, or are the admin on some forum, does not give you some sort of divine right to be a jackass. Treat everybody with respect. Sure, you can ban / block / ignore those within your field of influence if they are perpetual trolls. But the respect needs to go both ways. If nothing else, because you are dealing with human beings (at least we assume so, though there are a minority that refuse to act like one). For another – these people may be ignorant of some of the aspect of game development or game fandom or whatnot, but that does not automatically make their opinion inferior to your own. Treat everybody like they might be your personal hero going incognito until they’ve proven themselves unworthy of such. And at such point, the best way to fight a troll is not to engage them, but to deprive them of oxygen (attention).
I don’t take any joy in seeing Fish’s retreat from online pressure. I really don’t. If anything, I worry that this will embolden the trolls, the bullies. We really don’t need this. We don’t need game developers hiding behind PR walls and ignoring all feedback from their audience because each hateful comment hurts enough to nullify twenty notes of praise. We don’t need toxic communities where those attempting rational discussion get threatened and banned because they are resisting the mob mentality. We don’t need virtual lynchings of developers that result in them losing their jobs over something stupid they said on Twitter. I say stupid things on Twitter all the time, so I’m really sensitive to this!
As communities of gamers, we need to have some basic empathy and respect for each other, and for the game developers. Why shouldn’t we? We have mutual love of these games. Sure, we have conflicting opinions, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to argue those opinions with each other, because we’re so passionate about these things! That’s great! But we need to do better as a community, and be able to do this without devolving into nothing more than a bucket full of crabs. Because ultimately it is all of us who are being dragged down to the bottom.
Update – Cliffy B’s Open Letter to Phil Fish (Dynamite Fishing) (Some great advice on how to deal with the trolls).
Filed Under: Biz, Geek Life - Comments: 12 Comments to Read