I'm deeply worried about Fez creator Phil Fish, and you should be too
Phil Fish. Seriously.
It’s no secret that I admire both the work and quirky personality of Phil Fish. In fact, I wrote an entire article about that just a month ago. I think he’s a brilliant game developer who is able to make thing(s) that remind me exactly why I love gaming.
But he’s also an incredibly prickly sort. And very few things make this clearer than his recent outburst on Twitter, which ended in him cancelling Fez II. No, really. We all thought he was joking until Polytron tweeted about the cancellation. And then this went up on Polytron’s website:
So what happened?
Short version: Fish got into a fight with Marcus “Annoyed Gamer” Beer on Twitter over some things Beer had said on GameTrailer’s video podcast “Invisible Walls.” The two exchanged blows on Twitter before Fish told Beer to kill himself and cancelled Fez II. If you want to know more about it, just Google it. It's all over the Internet.
What should be deeply troubling to everyone who loves games, though, is that Fish is ready to walk away from the game industry because of this. Yes, he clarified his statement:
I admit, Beer’s comments were a bit out of line (he basically called Fish a whole bunch of nasty things purely because Fish refused to respond to an email asking his opinion on what was at that point nothing but a rumor), and Fish’s reaction was completely immature and uncalled for. The two should just apologize to each other and move on. Like adults. The fact that they're both unable to is frustrating to just about anyone with an active Twitter account.
But here's the thing: The game industry needs Phil Fish, despite how uncomfortable he makes us. It needs people who are willing to say whatever’s on their minds despite how unpopular it makes them. It needs people who can say, “You know what? Microsoft is ripping us all off,” especially when it’s absolutely true.
Now, people tend to forget that industry figures like Fish are actual human beings. To many, Fish is just some loudmouthed character they saw on some movie once. He’s not real. He doesn’t have feelings, the way you or I do.
But you know what? Phil Fish is a human being. Remember how you cried the first time you saw Indie Game: The Movie? Well, Fish watched it too, and he also cried.
And speaking of Indie Game: The Movie, the bonus content from the documentary has finally been released. The fact that this happened just a few days before Fish’s breakdown makes this all the more surreal.
See, if you watch those additional scenes, you get a far more human version of Phil Fish than that overly neurotic dude we saw in the film proper. You also get to see his famous “Japanese games suck” moment in its full context, in which Jonathan Blow says basically the exact same thing as Fish, only with more subtlety and better articulation. In fact, Fish even goes back and explains what he means by his statement, and his opinion is actually pretty valid. Seriously, watch his full commentary and tell me you don't see his statement in a completely different light than you did when you first read about it on the Internet.
But the press blew his comment out of proportion, because it’s the Internet press and that's what they do. Then again, what's a better headline, "Phil Fish Says Japanese Games 'Suck,'" or "Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow Both Share Opinions on Why Modern Japanese Gaming Is Losing Its Luster with the Western Audience?" Now, the second headline is far more accurate, choosing to ignore the hyperbole and focus on the real meaning behind what both men were trying to say, but you probably wouldn't click on it. You'd sure as hell click on that first one though. The Internet proved that already.
It’s just another example of how terrible the Internet is. Seriously. It’s a horrible place filled with horrible people, and normal people can’t just accept that and be cool with it. Normal people get pissed off at how awful it is. I’ve done it myself. I’m pretty sure you’ve done it too. Phil Fish has done it, and that only proves he has a soul. (Check out the IGTM bonus footage to see how bad the Internet was to Team Meat's Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Phil Fish has been demonized to the point where he feels he has to leave the gaming industry for good. In a sense, Fez II was cyber-bullied out of existence. The sad part is, most gamers are going to be upset that an amazing game was cancelled while completely ignoring the fact that a human soul was destroyed in the process.
Does this excuse what was probably the most immature game cancellation in the history of the medium? Probably not. But, as someone who's read Reddit comments about some of the things I've written, I can definitely understand being frustrated with how far people are willing to go to hate anything and everything creative that any other person tries to do ever.
Now, part of me thinks this was all just an epic troll on Fish's part. Part of me thinks he'll be back online in a week or so, reveling in the chaos and the attention, working hard on Fez II once again. We'll see, I guess.
Either way, I do hope Phil is okay. I also want him to keep making games. But I’m cool with this whole thing if just that first part is true. I’ll definitely miss the constant entertainment the guy has provided, and I’ll miss his work like crazy. But if leaving the game industry is what he needs to do in order to be a healthy human being, then so be it.
It’s our collective loss as an industry. As gamers.
And tell me you're not going to miss this devilish smirk: