You know, I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to write this article until the very end of December as part of a collective “Worst Things To Happen In Gaming This Year” feature. I was really hoping that I could just let it alone until then, that the examples that I could write about would be more evenly spaced throughout the year. But no, this week had to happen. So, I’m writing about it now. This means that I’m going to have to do more work come the end of the year in order to write an article that doesn’t sound almost exactly like this one. Thanks a frakkin’ lot, gaming community!
So, this past week, three separate examples of terrible online interaction in the gaming community popped up. The first, and probably the most well-known, being the Marcus “Annoyed Gamer” Beer/Phil Fish online throwdown that started with Beer calling Fish, and other noted indie game developer Jonathan Blow, a “tosspot” and a “f*ckin’ hipster” on the GameTrailers show Invisible Walls, over their refusal to offer comments on the Xbox One self-publishing rumours that were flying around, and ended with Fish cancelling Fez 2 and quitting the games industry. The second came when Call Of Duty: Black Ops II made an update that altered and balanced some guns and, in response, David Vonderhaar, design director at Treyarch, received death threats against himself and his family. The third came with the release of the third Tropes vs. Women In Video Games episode which continued the ongoing saga that is the Internet’s strange, obsessive hatred with Anita Sarkeesian’s attempt to take an analytical look at a legitimate issue and which can be pretty perfectly encapsulated by these two images.
All of these examples are disgusting behaviour yet they could easily be avoided by following this very simple guide. If everyone negatively involved in these stories were simply to follow the instructions set out below, then maybe all of this could have been avoided. Phil Fish would still be making Fez 2, David Vonderhaar wouldn’t have to explain to his family that a bunch of people none of them have ever met wish them dead because of a slight change his company made to a video game, and maybe Anita Sarkeesian would be able to go 48 hours without somebody threatening to sexually violate her – you people are so, so lucky that this is a gaming column or else the next 14 paragraphs would consist of me violently raging against the prominent and shockingly casual usage of the word “rape” in everyday society.
Are you ready? Here we go.
1] CALM THE FUCK DOWN AND DON’T BE A DICK
That’s it. It’s really not hard, people. Do you want to know why I respect Vonderhaar and Sarkeesian so, even if I fell off the CoD train after Modern Warfare 3 and I strongly disagree with Sarkeesian’s update schedule? Because they respond to such awful, dick-ish comments in a mature, grown-up way. Vonderhaar’s Twitter feed over the past week since those changes went live has been calm and considered. Instead of engaging the trolls, he’s responded to those with legitimate criticisms and done so in a way that explains his reasoning and not ‘I’m right and you’re wrong, god, you should kill yourself already.’ Sarkeesian, meanwhile, simply ignores it. She doesn’t touch those kinds of inflammatory comments with a barge pole because, she must know, if she were to do so it would only make things worse. The closest she’s come to doing so is simply pointing out some of the abuse she gets in a ‘hey, isn’t this kind of a little f*cked up?’ way, like most people do in this kind of situation. I’ve done it before when somebody responded to my Twitter rant about a hashtag entitled “Things Worse Than Rape.”
With the Phil Fish/Marcus Beer smackdown, though, things get a bit trickier. Beer’s overall point, that gaming PR is a two-way street that requires co-operation from both sides – if a member of the press asks you for a quote, perhaps give one to them and they, in turn, may be more inclined to give your game a PR boost – is kind of understandable. But the manner in which he said it makes him come across as a whiney adolescent who, because he didn’t get the quote he wanted, has resorted to just insulting the other person for the hell of it. ‘Oh, you don’t want to play my game? Well, fine! I don’t need you! You’re just a big poo-poo-head and I don’t like you anymore!’ in layman’s terms. I’m not familiar with Beer’s work as Annoyed Gamer, so I’m not sure if this kind of purposefully provocative-insult thing is his schtick or not – though if it is, then I think he should find a new one, because that’s a very repelling schtick. But as a grown-ass man, he should know better to invoke such a ‘I’m taking my ball and going home, f*ck you’ mentality.
Fish could have left well alone and not engaged such clearly troll-like behaviour – in my opinion, any intelligent point you’re trying to make about anything is immediately discredited the very second that you call someone a “f*ckin’ hipster” – but that is not Phil Fish’s way, so he took Beer to task for his comments. You can find the full story with linked screen caps of Fish’s various tweets over at Destructoid but, needless to say, Fish’s perfectly valid and legitimate point (that he was waiting for the story to actually break before commenting) ended up being completely shot to hell when he decided to fire a little of Beer’s own needlessly provocative and mean-spirited comments back at him by tweeting “compare your life to mine and then kill yourself.”
That’s a quote from Futurama’s Bender. Fish likely meant it in a ‘kidding, I’m being purposefully over-dramatic in order to make my point’ manner, and if he had spoken it aloud, in a way where the tone of his voice would have let us know if he was being serious or not, it might have come off… not as appallingly. But he didn’t. He used Twitter. He used text. Text cannot tell the subtle intricacies of what you’re saying. Tweet something like that without context and instead of being some ironic joke, it will be taken at the horrifying, line-crossing face value that it appears to be. That’d be like if I tweeted that I’d like to see Anita Sarkeesian beaten to within an inch of her life by a giant 10-inch black rubber cock. You’d have no clue if I was being serious or not. You wouldn’t know that I was satirising the extreme overreaction that the Internet has had to her series. You wouldn’t know that I was badly paraphrasing a line from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in an entirely inappropriate context for supposedly hilarious results. You wouldn’t know because supposedly sarcastic and ironic quotes don’t work in text format without context. You’d just assume that I wished to see a woman who has done absolutely nothing wrong violently assaulted and you would be well within your rights to be infuriated with me for that comment.
And yet, even having said all that, does Fish deserve the almost literal dog-piling and accompanying sh*t-storm that he received from the gaming community for his comments on, well, anything? No, of course not. Is he sometimes controversial? Does he sometimes come off badly on Twitter because his opinions don’t come across as intended on said service? Should he learn to step back, occasionally, pick his battles every now and again and think about how something he writes may be perceived by the public before he does tweet them? Yes, on all three accounts, but does he deserve to be relentlessly hounded and abused day in and day out by a community that can’t seem to learn to let things die and move on with their lives? No. It’s not like he’s admitted to frequently dabbling in black magic, or that his favourite meal is a nice plate of human flesh, or that one time he didn’t give money to a homeless guy because he didn’t have any change on him at the time. He made a video game, he decided to put himself out there and speak his mind and, sometimes, he chose to respond to people’s criticism of him in a manner that’s a tad dickish. That’s it, yet we treated him as if he denied The Holocaust and drove a talented game designer out of the industry as a result. Great job, everyone. Superb work, all around. We’re just the best.
The loss of Fish is what happens when someone who is constantly exposed to douchebaggery decides that enough is enough and that they are going to stop doing what they love. It’s the end point to relentlessly assholish behaviour and we need to stop it. A change in the reload speed of a gun in Black Ops II is not worth threatening a familial massacre. An intelligent woman trying to intelligently analyse a very serious issue that needs mainstream public attention is not worth constant rape threats and other almost-equally horrible acts of violence. An indie developer refusing to comment on a story until it becomes official is not grounds for launching the kind of mass childish tirade against them that I thought most people grew out of at age 7. Maker, if any of these unbelievably trivial things were worth the responses that they’ve gotten, I’d be campaigning for people who talk in the cinema during a movie to be nuked from orbit!
It’s very simple: treat others how you yourself would like to be treated and don’t let unbelievably trivial things, like a f*cking balance patch for a video game, affect you so. Get over it. Grow up. Stop being a dick. Because none of this is about being ‘a fanboy’ or ‘a feminist’ or calling for developers to ‘grow a thicker skin’ or trying to ‘stifle discussion’ by asking everyone to ‘agree with everything even when people are wrong.’ This is about being a decent gorram human being. End of. So, stop it. Stop being a dick. Right now.
In Actually Important News, This Week: Microsoft have announced a new system for the Xbox One online service whereby players will actually be ranked based on their online conduct. Essentially, racist, homophobic, sexist, whiney players (the Xbox Live stereotype) can be reported against by other players and those awful human beings will, instead, be matched with other similarly awful human beings, consequently leaving the rest of us good gamers to play online in peace. I genuinely have no complaints against this idea. I thoroughly support Microsoft’s attempt to remove the stigma attached to Xbox Live, to bettering the online gaming population as a result, and anything that further segregates my younger brother and his friends from the rest of decent society.
Callum Petch, last night, had a dream about you.