Sunday, July 28, 2013

SPC Soapbox - 7/28/13 Phil Fish and How We're Poisoning Our Industry With Hate

This is a special SPC Soapbox. Perhaps you could liken it to an after-school special, but more in the form of an article than a poorly acted TV movie. I felt I needed to comment about being in the center of a controversy, being in the spotlight and turning people against you, all things that I have experienced myself. That's not the only point of this edition of the SPC Soapbox, however. I want to make a declaration and I would like to argue that the constant infighting, trolling, attacking and insulting is poisoning our industry.

Yesterday was an extremely disappointing and disgusting day for the gaming industry, and it occurred because many don't realize what their seemingly innocent words they type from behind a curtain of anonymity can do to a person. This isn't meant to defend Phil Fish, creator of the indie hit FEZ, or his behavior. He is as much to blame for Saturday's situation as anyone else.

What am I exactly talking about, for those that don't know? This all started with a Gametrailers video in which Marcus Beer spoke out, in less than respectful words, about several indie developers, including Phil Fish. This all regarded the turnaround of the Xbox One's self-publishing indie stance. He essentially stated that Fish and other indie developers like him had a duty to tell game journalists their thoughts on what was then a rumor. He then argued that despite not caring about talking to journalists now, Fish and company would do so when they wanted to hype their own creations.

That isn't to say that Phil Fish is completely innocent in all of this. No, not by a long shot. This all ended with something akin to a car crash-- something you can't stop looking at, no matter how grotesque it becomes-- with Phil Fish telling Marcus Beer to go kill himself via Twitter, a site that kills more careers than bombing on the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Regardless of his tweet and statement being from Futurama, telling Beer to "kill himself" was not taken lightly by the gaming community, and Mr. Fish blew any chance he had of being the sympathetic figure.

Phil Fish
From insulting Japanese developers in front of a crowded room to insulting fans for asking simple questions to him, it seems that Fish was not ready for the spotlight. Success practically came overnight. One moment he was just the guy from Indie Game: The Movie, the next he was an industry and internet celebrity. How fast this happened certainly took Fish by surprise.

In Indie Game: The Movie, you could see that Fish was a man on edge. He even stated that he might commit suicide over how horrible his experience with the development of FEZ was. This would make him seem like a sympathetic figure, yet his internet and public exploits made him look anything but.

The latest fiasco saw Fish tell someone to go kill themselves. Is it any surprise that he was not liked by many? You stir the hornet's nest, you're bound to get stung, and Fish repeated got stung. You don't call people out, troll them and insult them and get to wonder why people don't like you and attack you right back. Unfortunately for Phil Fish, he didn't learn that although he attacks with one voice, the internet will attack right back with thousands. This pushed Fish into a dark place. Thus, we see him saying he's cancelled FEZ 2 and is leaving the gaming industry.

Fish reminds me of me at a younger period in my life. I ran a message board community known as Wi-Fi World, and eventually I began acting out. However, when you keep acting out, apologizing for it (which is the part of all of this that Fish never really did), and then going back and doing the same thing a few weeks or months later, people will stop sympathizing with you, and rightfully so. My final act as administrator was deleting all topics and forums from the site, in a bout of pure mania and finally snapping towards all of the deserved trolling I was receiving. I didn't deserve any respect anymore.

I'm no doctor, but I found Fish's antics really reminiscent of my own back in the day. I suffer from bipolar disorder, and the actions I took were a result of not having the right combination of medications. If Fish suffers from the same debilitating disorder, which his actions and character remind me a lot of, then he should really step back, stay out of the industry, stop being a lightning rod for attacks by stirring things up, and seek professional help. I don't say that in a condescending way. If Fish continues his current path, he's either going to wind up going even more insane or do something extreme.

But that's neither here nor there. I think the moral of this story is to realize that even though most don't have a face on the internet, it's important to treat people the way you want to be treated. Even though a lot of us are anonymous, our words really can hurt even if the other person doesn't have a face to recognize. This is especially hurtful if you're the center of a storm of criticism like Phil Fish was, deservedly so or not. We need to remember that in all of the console wars, message board posts, comment sections, etc. that there are real life people behind the user names we see. Some people simply shrug off trolling or hurtful statements with a simple "lol", but there's many who, whether it's smart to or not, take such statements to heart, despite their attacker being an anonymous face. I know that I certainly did.

We need to be a more civil gaming community as a whole. We need to finally mature as gamers and quit the console wars, the trolling and the insults towards others. We're poisoning our hobby and how it is seen in the public. There's a difference between degrading a console and degrading a fellow human being. Folks like Phil Fish and Marcus Beer don't have that opinion, and in Mr. Fish's case, he found what happens when you aren't respectful to others the hard way.

Let us-- as corny as this admittedly sounds-- rise above the hate and see what we have in common rather than what we don't. Perhaps this is purely ideological, but I dislike what I see going on, and something has to stop.

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