the sound and the fury

Phil Fish finally snapped on Saturday, after an[other] epic argument with an asshole on Twitter.   He announced that he was cancelling Fez II and getting out of the games business entirely before rage-quitting his Twitter account.

“im getting out of games because i choose not to put up with this abuse anymore.”

*     *     *

It can be difficult to separate the art from the artist – sometimes.  As an example, I can’t even enjoy Chicken Run anymore, such is my loathing of any and all things related to Mel Gibson; similarly, I can’t read anything by Orson Scott Card without feeling a bit sick; but I’m still as big a fan of Woody Allen now as I was when I was 13 (even if his films aren’t quite as good now as they were then).  Indeed, Woody raised this very same question about separating the art from the artist in Bullets Over Broadway, and it was seen at the time as some sort of mea culpa:  “An artist creates his own moral universe.”

This is all to say that my intense love of Fez  – a love I’ve had ever since that first GDC trailer way back in, what, 2008? – makes me more sympathetic towards Fish, even if he is the sort of person, as Ben Kuchera writes, who “never met a hornet’s nest he couldn’t improve by giving it a good kick.” 

*     *     *

On Saturday night – a few hours after this all went down – I decided to finally get around to watching Indie Game: The Movie, which had been on my to-do list ever since it came out.  I knew that Fish had a reputation for being combative and controversial, and I was curious to see if that was borne out in the film.  Sure enough, within 5 minutes of his introduction, you see a whole bunch of hateful internet comments directed squarely at him; and you also see him acting like a bit of an asshole.

The movie didn’t necessarily clear things up for me.  On the one hand, Fez is very much a personal artistic statement; it might’ve released earlier and have been a bit more polished with a larger team, but having other input would make the experience feel diluted, somehow.  Everything you experience in that game is what Phil specifically wants you to feel; the charming beauty of the pixelated world, the obscure abstraction of encoded language, the freedom of exploration without consequence.  The game itself is nothing but charm and whimsy and pure intellectual joy.

On the other hand, Phil himself is restless, intensely passionate, and quick to fly into rages; in dealings with his ex-business partner, he says – multiple times – that he wants to “murder” him; and while I doubt that he would have literally murdered this person, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at that moment, if this ex-business partner happened to walk into the room, he wouldn’t have tried to punch that man repeatedly.

I’ve followed Phil on Twitter for a while, now, and when he was active he was constantly getting into crazy arguments with crazy people, and in doing so he made himself look like a crazy person – regardless of whatever moral high ground he felt that he was standing on.

*     *     *

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Twitter.  Hell, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media in general; in fact, just two weekends ago, I publicly declared that I was going on a Facebook hiatus, and that ended up lasting less than 48 hours.

For small independent gaming companies that can’t afford big PR budgets – much like any small artist, be they musician, writer, etc. – Twitter is a necessary device.  It’s free public interaction with your audience, and your reach becomes wider as you yourself grow louder.  How you get louder, though, is where it gets tricky.  Because the bigger you get, the more terrible people you attract, and at some point that shit will get under your skin.  Do you hide?  Do you answer back?  Do you ignore?

I have a good friend who writes for Gamespot.  She’s a great writer, and has an insightful critical mind, and when she writes a review it is clear that she carefully considers every word.  But the only thing that matters to the commenters on her articles is that she’s transgender, and they say the most vile, awful things that have absolutely nothing to do with the words she’s written, and they come out in full force without any provocation whatsoever.  (They might argue that her mere existence writing for the site is the provocation, to which I say to them:  go fuck yourselves.)  I don’t know how she puts up with it.  These people are foaming at the mouth with rage just because she exists.

I also follow a number of prominent games writers on Twitter, some of whom happen to be female.  And they are constantly bombarded with hateful, misogynistic bile and straight-up rape threats for no other reason than that they have opinions about games and that they also have breasts.   And if they dare to suggest that there is a serious sexism problem in the games industry – not just from gamers but from the games themselves – well, just follow @femfreq for a little while and see how that goes.

What the hell is wrong with us?  Why do we allow this sort of shit to continue?  Why do trolls get the last laugh, even if nobody’s laughing?

I sincerely hope Phil takes advantage of this internet hiatus and continues to work on Fez 2.  Maybe it’s for the best.  Maybe it’s better that he puts his focus squarely on the thing that actually makes the world a better place.  Fez made the world a better place for me; he did succeed in that.

I just hope he understands that this isn’t about “winning.”  Nobody wins on the internet.  That’s the whole point; it doesn’t matter how eloquent you are; you can Oscar Wilde someone to death and some anonymous asshole is always going to come back 30 seconds later and call you a fag, simply because they can.  That doesn’t mean you give up; it just means you change the conversation.  Make the thing you have to make.

One response

  1. Pingback: THE GAMES OF 2013 | Shouts From The Couch

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