Five things we can all learn from the Phil Fish / Marcus Beer / Fez II fiasco
A few weeks have passed, the dust has settled, and most people have moved on. If Phil Fish is to be believed, Fez II is well and truly cancelled. After a video by “Annoyed Gamer” Marcus Beer called Fish some nasty things, the developer took to Twitter citing a long line of “abuse” as his reasoning for quitting game development. He made sure to say some not-nice things about Beer in the process. To put it simply, the whole thing was a mess.
But it was an important mess, one that brought to light some issues with this industry that have gone unaddressed. Everyone, from developers and PR, to media and the fans, can learn a thing or two from this fiasco. It may be old news, but the lessons we can learn from it are timeless. Here’s what I took out of it:
Game creators shouldn’t be expected to live in the spotlight
Phil Fish signed up for the spotlight, no doubt about it. He wasn’t afraid to share his fiery statements against Microsoft, Japanese games, and media personalities on Twitter or in interviews. He chose to be a public figure, and he failed to stand up to the challenges that come with that.
Some game designers make fantastic public figures. Tim Schafer, Ken Levine, and Cliff Bleszinski immediately come to mind as outspoken, personable folk that can make a game and chat up an audience with equal skill. It’s really good that we have people like that, because this industry needs figureheads like any other art form does. They are the David Lynchs and Quentin Tarantinos of this medium and they are worth listening to.
That said, game developers shouldn’t be expected to be outspoken or even personable. If they want to stay out of the spotlight, like Bungie’s Jason Jones, they should be entitled to do that. Some guys are better at focusing on what they do, and some guys can be in the public eye without making sacrifices. We should embrace that and respect it.
Perhaps in an environment where social media, interviews, and the spotlight didn’t feel like a requirement, Phil Fish could have focused on what he did best: making games. He was an exciting figure in the indie game scene for sure, and he said a lot of valuable things, but at what cost to his own well-being?
No games media personality should spout hate, even as a shtick
Marcus Beer isn’t the first media personality to do the annoyed/angry/cynical/critical gamer shtick and he won’t be the last. “I’m an asshole, that’s what I am, that’s what I do,” he proclaimed in his video denouncing both Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow. He has built a personality and character around it, surely providing his fans with entertainment. They know he’s going to come at an issue with his honest opinion, cruelty, grumpiness, and all. I can see the appeal.
The problem is when a personality like this starts attacking people they’ve never met. There’s a double standard in demanding that game developers provide the media with their opinions while calling them names in the same breath. The media owes it to their audience to be honest critics and to ask the tough questions, but they don’t need to call developers “f**king hipsters” in the process. There are healthier options.
The games media is in a unique position in that we can question developers directly, try their games in advance, and review the final product. We should keep that exchange constructive. Don’t call people names, and if you’re going to hate on a game, say something of value.
This is an industry built by geeks, and we shouldn’t forget that
I remember a time when it was embarrassing to admit you played video games. The people who grew up in that era are now in game development or the media or they’re fans talking on Twitter. Either way, a lot of them are geeks. Maybe they grew up socially awkward, maybe they have a hard time being in public, maybe whenever they try to be outspoken they put their foot in their mouth.
My point is that while people in the public eye should strive to conduct themselves properly, we should cut everyone a little slack and give them a chance to grow. We all have our quirks, and some of us are more eccentric than others. Instead of eating each other alive, perhaps we should stick together, because most of us were once that nerd getting picked on for the way we acted or for the things we liked.
Social media can be a terrible platform for communication
Every time someone attempts to have a serious discussion through Twitter, YouTube, or comments sections, it ends in disaster. This isn’t some new amazing knowledge, but this Fez II debacle was another nail in the social media discourse coffin.
Would Phil Fish or Marcus Beer say half the stuff they say in social media to anyone’s face? Would a one-on-one debate between the two be nearly as vile and pointless? I’d love to see the death of nasty, ignorant comments from the random trolls of the Internet, but if professionals can’t even avoid it, what hope is there?
The industry has more personalities, but we should still focus on games
Game industry personalities are awesome, no doubt about it. The fact that there are cool people we can follow in game development and the media is powerful. Some fans have even risen to notoriety through sheer enthusiasm. More people than ever can gather and share their thoughts on their favorite pastime.
The industry has become more personal, but that doesn’t mean the industry’s problems warrant name-calling and hate. If a game sucks or a change is disagreeable, we should share our thoughts on that. But just because a game is bad doesn’t mean a game designer should get death threats. Keep the criticism to the games themselves.
I hope for a day where we can all talk about the merits of a released Fez II without insulting Phil Fish. I hope he welcomes that criticism and discusses it without telling anyone to kill themselves. I hope that exchange encourages Marcus Beer to speak up without calling Phil Fish an obscure British insult. Most of all I’d like to see professionals acting like respectful professionals, because if we ever want the Internet trolls to go away, someone has to set an example.
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