The past few weeks have seen a series of developers come out and talk about the harassment and insults they’ve receive from gamers (and, in one case, the press), and how it discourages them from working in the gaming industry. Here to share their own experiences of harassment, as well as their thoughts on the issue as a whole is Daily Reaction’s Seb and Dan.
Seb: As a writer, it’s often my job to put a bit of my life out on the internet on display as it’s the powerful experiences of one’s life that truly form who they are. Important, life altering parts of my life that are distilled down to a few sentences. Usually, the response is positive, but, like with anything online, there are always people looking to troll.
Back when PSLS covered and broke a lot of stories about Anonymous, I received continuous and sustained threats about myself, people who they thought were my family members (they weren’t) and a lot of anger over the fact that I was a gay Jewish person (bizarrely, I am neither, but that’s beside the point). 2013 was 12 minutes old by the time I received my first death threat of the year.
But, like most of the internet, I have become desensitized to it all. Every poorly spelled insult adds up to white noise that I tune out – with my skin having grown far thicker than when I first started down this career path. I’m not sure if it’s healthy, but it’s my coping mechanism, if you will.
Simply ignoring the trolls is the most popular response form, but it does have its drawbacks. I’m sure there are a lot of intelligent people out there who legitimately don’t like my writing style, or disagree with my opinions, but I’ll admit I often find it hard to distinguish between them and the people who will cause a ruckus simply because they are trolls, or because this is a PlayStation-focused site. It means that it’s hard for me to take on any legitimate criticism and use it to improve as a journalist.
Equally, ignoring can be used as a way to circumvent actual complaints. Over on the PS Blog, a multitude of people have complained about the fact that Call of Duty DLC is a whopping $15, but because a lot of people have sent out ludicrous death threats, Activision can talk about why that is wrong. If no one was stupid enough to send out pointless threats, genuine consumer concern would be far more apparent.
Of course the really big, infamous example of how sustained insults hurt the industry is with Phil Fish. I’ll recap it quickly for anyone not caught up on the story so far (skip this paragraph if you know it) – Phil Fish has always been a bit of a controversial figure, ever since he shot to fame in Indie Game: The Movie, a film where he was portrayed as a character who was – to put it politely – rather outspoken. With a reputation of being ‘a bit of a dick’ (whether that was warranted or not), he has always been the focus of a lot of anger, hatred and insults. The whole issue then culminated when Marcus ‘Annoyed Gamer’ Beer called Fish (and, to a lesser extent, Jonathan Blow) a ‘tosspot, whiny, a wanker and an arsehole’, mostly down to the fact that they complained about the press asking for comments on the Xbox One self publishing rumor (now confirmed). Beer essentially said that, because developers use the press for publicity, they should return the favor – a dangerous view, but not the focus of this DR. The argument then continued on Twitter, ultimately culminating with Fish saying: “I’m done. Fez II is canceled. goodbye.”
To be fair to Beer, Fish has said that “this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign”, as well as “I’m not cancelling Fez II because some boorish fuck said something stupid, I’m doing it to get out of games… and I’m getting out of games because i choose not to put up with this abuse any more.” But Beer’s comments were clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I can see where Fish is coming from – he has dedicated his life to an industry, poured all of his creativity and love into creating content for it, and all he has seen in return is hatred, insults and rejection. It’s easy to understand just how demoralizing it is, especially when some of the comments come from so-called ‘professional journalists’.
Cliffy B has said on the issue:
You don’t owe a damned thing to any gaming journalist. We’ve seen the rise of many “Rush Limbaughs” in the gaming industry, people who do videos or podcasts digging a finger into an open wound that gets the gaming community going because, hits.
He’s right, but the thing is, the internet is not going to change. There are always going to be idiot commenters who just want to cause pain, secure and safe in their anonymity, and there are always going to be journalists who make sweeping statements about people’s characters (sometimes rightfully, sometimes just to be controversial). We can’t do anything about it, saying ‘it is terrible’ won’t make it stop. As harsh as it sounds, you just have to learn to deal with it.
Dan: When we first starting discussing this topic, I told Seb that I didn’t think anyone had really threatened or insulted me to any memorable degree. His response to me was a reminder of the number of comments that I had brought up to him in jest over the year or so we have been working together. It was then that I really realized just how much I didn’t bother to pay attention to the trolls or comments that they left, as they had obviously offered no semblance of intellect or content to bother debating or remembering. I simply realized that if you are an idiot on the internet, I just don’t care about you.
Working in the press and somewhat within a PR scope, it is an odd thing for someone to admit that they really couldn’t care less about a portion of their audience. But, the reality is that if I was to weigh each commenter or reader the same, regardless of what they offer the community or to me as a person, I do each of the countless people that have invested thought and time into contributing to the collective thought process a disservice.
The big issue, much like Seb mentioned, is that it can be difficult to discern what comments are simply repercussions of misguided logic (theirs or mine) or simply methods trolls use to get a response. If you have emailed me, there is a good chance that I have emailed you back or responded to you on Bad Gamers – as that interaction and open discussion is one of my favorite parts of this job. I have had discussions at great length with very adamant Xbox loyalists, one of which actually broke into him/her trying to convince me about the presence of alien life. While not exactly a discussion for PSLS, I thought it was an entertaining insight into a completely different mindset.
Looking at the industry as a whole, it does sadden me that most of the trolls lurking around the internet are actually some of the biggest fans of gaming, and they don’t realize that they only really hurt themselves. Much like with the case of Phil Fish, we are seeing a drastic loss to the industry that’s not simply the cancellation of Fez II, as we are losing the creative mind behind it. Even if you aren’t a fan of the games or never played them, it should be easy to see that any loss of talent is a loss for us, the gamers.
Some would say that Fish was just being overly sensitive about the criticism from others, but in reality the biggest weight I’ve ever felt was the realization of just how moronic people really can be. Sadly, this isn’t something that is closed off to a single industry, as it has been my experience that even within Fortune 500 companies you find a lack of intellect that will leave an everlasting palm print on your forehead.
Looking at the whole issue regarding trolling and the feeble minded, it can be daunting to figure out that you are going to be at the center of all that mental garbage, but if you are able to internalize your own goals to simply be a personal matter that doesn’t rely on the justifications of others, you can get past it. Anyone who reads Daily Reaction probably wonders how we are able to socialize at events with the very people we call on their ‘BS’, but the truth is that we don’t do it for them – we do it for us.
If you are able to make a difference in an industry you love, whether it be by writing a trivial article on the internet or creating a game millions will pick-up, you don’t owe anybody but yourself anything.
What are your views on how the internet embraces developers, journalists and the community? Have you been the victim of hate? How do you deal with it? Share your thoughts in the comments below, try not to troll us at [email protected] and get us to make Fez II by Tweeting us at Seb and Dan.