I am Embarrassed To Be a Game Journalist

I am Embarrassed To Be a Game Journalist

Mozart liked poop. Mozart liked poop, a lot .

It’s a little known fact, but it’s absolutely true. The famous composer, and a staple in today’s high society, composed letters and songs alluding to his fecal fandom. In one example, in a letter to his mother, he can be found saying, “I now wish you a good night, s*** in your bed with all your might.” Sure, he wrote over 600 pieces, many of which were acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, chamber, operatic, and choral music. Sure, his work has inspired countless others and endured the centuries, but had he existed in an age more geared towards tabloid journalism and viral tweeting, would he have been so well received? Or would Mozart have been written off as some crazy poop guy?

In retrospect, we aren’t inclined to care much about what Mozart did in his leisure time. We care much more about his impact on history; it’s just so much more significant. Would his impact have been so substantial had he been chased out of the limelight? It’s hard to say. If Phil Fish’s recent departure from game design is any indication, I’d wager not.

The story is simple, but it warrants a lot of discussion because of where it’s led: the cancelation of Fez II and the departure of a creative mind from the industry.

On an episode of GameTrailers’ podcast, Invisible Walls , Marcus Beer chastised Phil Fish for refusing to comment on a recent policy, set by Microsoft, regarding self-publishing on the Xbox One. Phil maintains that he was simply waiting for more details before commenting and that it wasn’t a cold refusal—all well and good.

Marcus didn’t just take issue with Phil’s hesitation to comment. He continued his rant, tearing Phil’s personality apart, largely focusing on Fish’s portrayal in Indie Game: The Movie . By the end of the video, Phil Fish had been called a “tosspot,” a “hipster,” a “wanker,” and a “fucking asshole.” It’s possible that Marcus, who broadcasts under the moniker “Annoyed Gamer,” was ranting for our entertainment. Regardless of intent, Phil fired back via Twitter. His language was decidedly unbecoming.

The conflict was soon picked up by “journalists” everywhere, inviting a lot of unwanted attention to Fish and Beer’s Twitter accounts. Some people were supportive, but a malicious, toxic mob always seems to be the most vocal. If Phil had so much trouble releasing his first game, how would he respond to these new hurdles?

In short, he responded by giving up, tweeting that he “fucking hates this industry” and that Fez 2 is canceled. Maybe his response is understandable? When an artist makes art, they expose their vulnerable side. In the spotlight, he has become a target, and he doesn’t want to deal with it anymore. This is our fault, and now gamers who love Fez can no longer look forward to Fez 2 . That’s not Phil’s fault; he doesn’t owe us anything. It is the fault of the angry mob who chased him away. After the announcement, he switched his Twitter account to private. His haters were forced to go to his website to attack him, obviously following the logic that the only way to resolve an argument between two offensive and angry people is to intervene and be even more offensive. Most of the comments on that page can’t even be reposted here.


I tend to find that the only people who use the word “pretentious” are the people just barely smart enough to know what it means.

And that last bit may be the most ridiculous part. People actually expect him to be okay with all of the vitriol. In regards to simply ignoring malicious messages, Braid designer Jonathan Blow said, “We can’t choose to ignore it. As soon as the words are read, they have already hit emotionally.”

It isn’t a matter of having thick skin, most people feel hurt when someone attacks them on a personal level. I can only imagine it gets much worse when thousands of people do it. But maybe there is hope.

In a letter to Phil Fish, Cliff Bleszinski said:

“The key is to absorb all of that hate into one big fireball of motivation inside of your belly and then pour all of that energy into your work until you can unleash one big giant motherfucking HADOKEN upon the community that wins awards and sells millions and then the haters will truly be eating a giant bushel of dicks as you roll in a pile of money, acclaim, and community love.

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. You DO owe a great product to your community, something I hope you’ll resume doing some time in the near future. The industry needs people like you to speak with their hearts before their brains because I’m tired of hearing the PR approved appropriate response. I’m tired of games that feel like they’ve been developed by focus groups or clueless executives going, ‘Hey that Call of Duty is big, we need one of those!’”

Cliff Bleszinski has been dealing with Internet animosity for two decades now. He’s had his family insulted. He’s had people make fun of his deceased father. He’s had people be entirely too forward with his wife. I’d like to see Phil Fish go down that route because I believe he has much more to give to gaming. But if he doesn’t, I still respect his decision.

I am Embarrassed To Be a Game Journalist

I understand that Phil Fish isn’t perfect; nobody is. People have bad days, and people flip out. Some of what he said while backed into a corner was uncalled for and a bit cruel; it happens. We’ve all heard the story about the League of Legends player who was jailed for his frustrated joking about the shooting up of a school when he was being bullied online. What made that story so scary is that a lot of us could see ourselves in jail alongside him, and we were able to exercise some level of empathy. He eventually received an anonymous donation of $500k to pay his bail. So why is it different for Phil Fish? Do we feel like he owes us?

Whatever the case, we couldn’t separate art from the artist, and now we may be paying the price. Fez II is canceled all because, as gamers, our focus wasn’t on the games but the personalities that make them. Many of us were undeniably cruel, and I don’t see any of that changing any time soon. Wielding anonymity and possessing a hive mind, gamers have changed, and I am no longer proud to call myself a gamer or a games writer.

If we can’t learn empathy, then maybe we can learn humility. I leave you with this quote from the impeccably wise Pixar film Ratatouille :

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

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