The back end of last week saw quite a remarkable episode unfold, as we covered over the weekend, the reporting in the run up to Microsoft’s self-publishing U-Turn saw Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish aggravated by the barrage of requests for comments.
Whilst they could have been more courteous in the way they declined to comment, the many people I’ve spoken to on the matter seem to agree that Marcus Beer’s tirade on the Game Trailers video podcast overstepped the mark by quite a margin. In doing so, he tipped Fish over the edge, as Fish then decided that the level of abuse he regularly gets was more than it was worth, cancelling Fez 2 alongside a very public explosion directed right back at Beer.
Whether you have sympathy with the controversial figure that Fish is, or not, it was particularly disappointing for fans of the first game that he felt he could not continue. Yet it’s certainly true that Fish was, and no doubt still is, the target of far more abuse than usual, through his outspoken nature. Regardless, I feel that Jonathan Blow’s comment in the aftermath of Fez 2’s cancellation is right on the money:
People saying “indie dev X just needs to mellow” have no idea how caustic and horrible the internet is when aimed at a specific person.
— Jonathan Blow (@Jonathan_Blow) July 27, 2013
Being a public figure on the internet opens you up to a huge amount of abuse, and this is something which Cliffy B has tried to address, as he wrote in an open letter to Phil Fish. Within he calls for Fish to return to the games industry, and sharing some of his own experiences:
My first time being flamed online happened when I was 15 on a BBS the summer my father died suddenly from heart issues. I was learning how to code and I wrote a simple screen saver; one of those dancing multi colored lines programs. I released it to a BBS and someone anonymously posted “Your dead father could have coded something better.” I was furious, hurt, and I replied with an implied death threat. The website called my house and I got in trouble for the comment, but the damage was done.
Before closing his letter with:
The industry needs people like you to speak with their hearts before their brains because I’m tired of hearing the PR approved appropriate response. I’m tired of games that feel like they’ve been developed by focus groups or clueless executives going “Hey that Call of Duty is big, we need one of those!”
Besides, at the end of the day, that cycle of community feedback and crafting that big fireball is entirely too addictive.
Come back, Phil. We miss you already. Maybe I’ll be right behind you, returning with Adamantium skin.
I personally agree, and think it’s a great shame that someone is pushed away from something they enjoy, creating games which so many people enjoy and love.