Up until about five years ago, I've only ever wanted to create and share video games. After a couple years doing it independently and getting my first professional game job, gamer gate happened. It's absolutely terrifying to see the lengths at which people will go to make someone's life a living hell. Every industry friend was affected, and reacted mostly by reducing their online presence, and I've done the same. Some were targeted personally. A few left the industry.
It's hard to want to make games now. The best feeling in the world was watching someone on YouTube play something I'd made. It's different now. Part of it is fear of being targeted, but it's also made me think of why I would put so much effort into something that attracts so much vitriol. I know it's a minority of people, but games take months of hard work to create and these thoughts take a toll over time, especially on bad days.
The more personality a person puts into their game, the more they risk being targeted. It's depressing to have to hide self expression, reduce social media presence, and use pseudonyms when all I really want is to make games for others to have fun with.
I had a long phone conversation recently with a game industry friend who had the misfortune of being involved in multiple games that became targets of abuse. I had asked him for advice about potentially making some youtube videos about game design, including f2p game design (which I have substantial expertise in).
He warned me that depending on the approach, even implying that I thought certain types of games or monetization weren't the worst thing since cancer could result in hate mail, doxxing, death threats to myself and my family, etc. He had been through that experience and wanted to warn me against it.
Despite being involved in some very popular f2p mobile games, the worst abuse I've had was someone sending me a DM on Reddit saying I should get cancer.
I don't really know what, if any, the solution here is. I've been able to ignore the worst of what I've taken because it's been pretty mild compared to what's possible. It makes me wonder - if I were the public face of a game that really, really pissed off the trolls, would I be able to emotionally handle the result? I have no idea and I don't want to find out.
This sounds like a lot of industries I've worked in, most of which involve IT. I'm sort of amazed how many people think it's okay to hurl abuse at other people in general. Don't like a completely voluntary video game? Don't buy the next one and stop playing the game. Maybe submit some feedback on what is causing you not to continue playing and move on. I'm both a child and a parent and while there were a few years where I was will of spit and vinegar and mouth off at other people, I've never felt it okay to send the types of comments that some people think are acceptable (I've looked in case my memory was rose-colored).
What amazes me more are the people who bring this attitude into the real world. I've had my job threatened, co-workers physically threatened (I'm apparently somewhat imposing so I don't get physical threats often), screamed at, had someone shoot a nail gun at me...It never ceases to amaze me how people can have so little respect for themselves or others. Kindness literally costs you nothing, and yet it can often be so hard to find.
The mistake is to take the users' comments at face value, IMHO. They are not that upset about a game; something else in their lives is painful for them and they are taking it out on you. They are unable to deal with their emotions otherwise. That perspective can help in a couple of ways:
First, you know it has nothing to do with you or your game; you are just an object, a mental construction, at which they unload their anger; they might as well be talking to the pin-up poster on their wall (or to the pixels which form an enemy on their screen). Second, if you realize these are troubled people who feel powerless; if you have some empathy for them; they lose their power over how you feel. Here's a recent story about the comedian Sarah Silverman taking that approach and going a step further, with amazing results:
Also, it may be important to ask why so many young males (if that's the demographic) have such emotional problems, why so many can't process their emotions effectively and feel so vulnerable. I think we sort of take it for granted that young males (and to a degree, all males) can't process emotions and act out, but I think that's a mistake.
I got a glimpse of this working on my open source Minecraft clone, and it's at least half of the reason that game is sitting on the backburner. Gamers can be a pretty entitled group.
I also see this in the rest of my open source work, to a lesser extent. On the whole I probably get slightly fewer "fuck you"s than I get "thank you"s.
Seriously, I run a bunch of FREE websites and I'm amazed by the stuff that shows up in my inbox. When did it become ok to harass someone running a FREE website?
If you don't like it, hit the frigging back button. And get a life.
"I want [something] and I want it now."
This is what I hear from reading most of those angry tweets/comments.
Sadly, sometimes they are simply shouting because the game is not what they were hyped about. Maybe we are over-hyping games to get pre-orders in? I remember a time when the first time I heard about a game was when it was actually on the store shelves (good ol' boxes). Now there are dev-blogs and the likes years before a game is actually going to release...
I guess it's not just game developers, I work with my team in finance sector on a customer portal and we also get almost similar level of feedback from some people... But we have millions of users. I like to think that at this scale we can't avoid to have some of those guys.
This is just an ugly side of humanity that has always been there, but is magnified by the combination of anonymity, disenfranchisement, and ever more addicting Skinner-box style entertainment.
We are a tribal species; in the past this type of behavior would be socialized out of you or else you would be a recluse. You didn't have the opportunity to sit in your own filth and project your self-loathing onto anyone across the Internet.
As a species we're just not emotionally equipped to deal with the current reality.
Well, try to publish an academic paper, and prepare for abuse in the form of reviews. At some point you need to learn to just shrug it off and focus on your work. Same is true for making games, I guess.
What we need is to take a page from Uber and have user-side ratings along with the producer-side ratings. A forum like steam could let producers or peers downvote gamers and then producers could choose to not sell games to people whose ratings are too low.
Slight aside, but:
> Would you sign up for a job where you get screamed at all day, every day? Why would you go through that, when there are a million other fields where that doesn’t happen?
The amount of customer service rep/call center jobs we have answers this with a "Yes", I think.
(Not taking into account the reasons people sign up for those jobs though. Probably not because it's their passion...)
I'm sure this is worse for game devs but I think it affects anybody that creates customer-facing apps. The culture of rudeness and entitlement among customers today is very deep rooted. It's one of several reasons why it's smarter to build B2B businesses.
> Abuse is the cost of doing business.
Reading the article, that's the guy behind Firewatch. I think the problem is not his games but his social media use. I'd wager most of this abuse he received was after he DMCAed pewdiepie after pdp used the word nigga while playing. People don't like devs who have a "stream our game all you want it's free publicity for us" message when launching it and use spurious DMCA claims on people they don't like.
Maybe the problem are people who decided to make the video game industry woke and all about US centric politics. Or maybe the huge difference between the author and his father is "social" media and giving a damn about what is written there.
I left the industry because of the entitled behaviour of the community.
Do all game devs experience similar types of abuse, or only the devs of games with environments in which the developer's company is attempting to monetize the player as they move through the game?
For example-- there is some beautiful sidescroller game I've seen where the animation looks like old-school Fleischer studio cartoons. Do devs of games like that get abuse from players, too?
Seems like most of the abuse could be avoided by leaving Twitter.
i suppose a couple questions might cause some people to infer otherwise, so to be clear: it's not implying the behavior is "fine" or shouldn't be critically analysed.
ok. so, things like online death threats and other such things get talked about a lot, and i have two main questions:
a) what kind of conversion rate is there - that is, threats being acted upon (how many threats vs how many events)?
b) has there been any analysis that shows these threats are credible and should be considered as demonstrating legitimate danger?
(again, this isn't to meant to excuse such behavior.)
my question stems from the fact that there is a rather long standing "internet gaming culture" which provides a context for hyperbolic aggressive commentary and interpersonal behavior, that some people may not be familiar with. for example, for as long as i can remember (i started with quake 3 over modem) to lose a match was to 'get raped'. to go on a win streak was to be 'fucking raping everyone'.
my thinking is that the vast, overwhelming majority of 'death threats' are hyperbolic and aggressive, but also utterly throwaway comments void of danger. as a consequence, talking about real world fear and even actions (like moving house) doesn't really garner a sympathetic reaction from many in the internet gaming culture, because it (from their perspective) demonstrates either significant naivete and ignorance, or some kind of intellectual dishonesty (given the idea that the threats do not represent an actual danger).
I have followed dreams that became unsatisfying. But I can tell you life can survive a dream. And enjoying life doesn't have to be difficult. I did do some indie game work but because of my own incompetence I could not make sense of the business. Fortunately I have gathered skills which had value elsewhere. And you can always have the satisfaction of knowing what the dream really was all about. Sadly most of us never even try.
Isn't this just overstimulated people having their gratification loop interrupted? I guess gamers are more likely to be this way. Even the ones that aren't so shrill seem to enjoy watching others act it out for them on twitch.
I can't help but wonder how much this is rooted in general distress out in the world. If you feel you can't control your life at all and a game is your escape, controlling that can take on an excess of importance.
Four years after Gamergate, how can this be news to anyone?
I don’t understand what forces devs to participate directly in this public discourse. Barring those so small they can’t hire someone to run interference, why precisely are you publicly interacting with your customers?
Anyone who works with the mass public, be they cashiers or physicians, knows damn well that the Public is terrible. Don’t give them a hotline into your head.
This is just something that happens when you put something out into the world. I had a project I worked on reviewed by a major newspaper as, "At best obscure, at worst ridiculous." That (temporarily) stung worse than "CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT" ever would.
I understand I will be in minority here and I'm ready for downvotes.
This article is outrageous not less than tweets inside of it.
I think players have a right to express their hatred when they were asking for months about some balance change or submitting negative (but polite) feedback about some change, and didn't receive a single response. And after all of that they receive even worse update for the game they truly love.
And more they love the game more they will hate developers who ignore their feedback.
Of course, imbeciles who write life threats or personal attacks - they are just trash of humanity, nobody should listen them. But don't ignore hateful feedback without threats - this feedback comes from the people who love your game, love so much that it drives them crazy when you are moving it in the wrong direction.
If this is such a problem, how about making a game that teaches people to show a little class instead of yet another 8-bit remake for supercomputers?
Reminds me of that Don Daglow talk at GDC Europe where he basically told them that Americans are idiots and how to cater to that. I would like to think that most people would do something less cynical if they had come to the same conclusion -- like Wozniak did.
Yawn. A lot of professions deal with this. I work in high frequency trading, and i get told I'm the Devil by people multiple times a week including major publications. But i love what i do and nobodys unintelligent abuse is going to change that.
> The big issue here is that when you speak to players (and I have, a lot), a large number of them would agree with this statement “There are times when it’s reasonable to send personal abuse to a developer,” although they differ on when those times are.
Seems disingenuous. Without qualifying what those times are, it's logical that almost anyone would agree with that sentiment on some level. Did the developer take a drug-fueled sex tourism jaunt with your Kickstarter donation? Yeah that person probably deserves a little abuse.
> And what will happen when the best established developers and most talented up-and-comers decide that it’s not?
I think that gaming is probably the last industry that will suffer from something like this. There's always going to be a glut of people that want to work on games/in gaming.
I don't think this editorial really says anything. Some people on the Internet are loud assholes. Game developers put themselves on the Internet. Ergo, some people on the Internet are going to be loud assholes to game developers.
You can find someone complaining about anything:
This has been a problem for decades, and probably ages before that:
Loud, angry, vocal minorities tend to drown out the majority. If you can't ignore that, you'll never succeed.
I've seen a few indie developers actively antagonize so called gamers.
I've seen abusive companies like EA get rightfully called out.
So Im skeptical of the depth of the claims, but I believe there are a few crazies.
I've ran a few foreign tax information websites, and I got extraordinary death threats very graphic and very detailed.
I think the internet really allows the mentally ill to scream for the attention they desperately want.