Spry Fox CCO criticises Microsoft's "gamers as bros" culture

Daniel Cook claims Xbox pushed violence and machismo to the foreground

Spry Fox CCO Daniel Cook has called out Microsoft for its role in the creation of a "gamers as bros" sub-culture that emphasises violence and machismo.

In an editorial published by Kotaku, Cook describes his experience at Microsoft as a game designer between 2008 and 2010, where he "intentionally" positioned himself as an outsider to the dominant "hardcore" culture.

"People boasted about epic Gamer Scores and joked about staying up multiple days straight in order to beat the latest release," Cook said. "The men were hardcore. The management was hardcore. The women were doubly hardcore. To succeed politically in a viciously political organisation, you lived the brand.

"You got the sense the pre-Xbox, 'gamers as bros' was a smaller subculture within the nerdy, whimsical hobby of games. Over two console generations, a highly cynical marketing team spent billions with no hope of immediate payback to shift the market. In an act of brilliant jujitsu, Nintendo was slandered as a kids platform, their historical strength turned against them. Xbox put machismo, ultra-violence and boys with backwards caps in the paid spotlight."

Cook's design direction tended towards, "non-violence and cuter, gender neutral designs," that prioritised gameplay over plot and cut-scenes. This placed him at odds with the overall creative culture at Microsoft, and led to a string of "adorable hand-drawn prototypes" being "shot dead by Elder Management."

Ultimately, Cook left Microsoft to pursue his ideas at Triple Town developer Spry Fox.

"So far, none of our games have been released on the Xbox. There's been little economic or cultural fit with the artificially propped up tribe residing in that cloistered warren."

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Latest comments (15)

Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 4 years ago
"Stop liking what I don't like!"
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University4 years ago
"In an act of brilliant jujitsu, Nintendo was slandered as a kids platform, their historical strength turned against them."

Didn't both Sega and Sony utilise this and use it against Nintendo in marketing campaigns during the 1990s?
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Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions4 years ago
Im going to criticize people for liking something different to what i like!
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Show all comments (15)
Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters4 years ago
Yet when I worked at Rare, Microsoft were very enthusiastic and supportive about going after broader markets.
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Alex Bunch Proof Reader, ZiCorp Studios4 years ago
Headline: Bitter Ex-Employee Has Tantrum.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus4 years ago
... but Spry Fox's games suck.

OK, in all seriousness, I don't see the big deal. Obviously, Microsoft wasn't for him. Cute editorial, but I'm not about to criticize him for what he felt was an obvious difference of opinion.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises4 years ago
Maybe Triple Town wouldn't be such a terrible game if it too had some violence and machismo...
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd4 years ago
"adorable hand-drawn prototypes" being "shot dead by Elder Management."

It's likely that he had a very tough time, created projects with a lot of personal investment that didn't work out. I can relate to that. But the fact is that he was a paid employee of a company funding ideas that they fully own for their own platform. They are totally within their right to can and green light projects on behalf of their core audience no matter how bitter, right or wrong it seems.

It's a lesson all creatives have to learn at one time or another.
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Tim Swan Founder, Evryway4 years ago
Excellent article by Dan Cook, thanks for bringing it to my attention Matt. As always, the top comments here seem to be vitriol and ad hominems - such a shame. Boys and girls, if other people want to make non-violent, non-sexual content (and better yet, provide a context for that decision), for the love of FSM just let em, m'kay?
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd4 years ago
I don't agree with everything Dan says, but it's hard to dispute that Microsoft have created a monoculture on their platform. You just have to look at the best-selling games on the Xbox 360 (almost exclusively shooters from 3-4 established franchises) compared to platforms with even a broadly similar library of games like the PS3 and PC.

In the Xbox1 days you heard reports of how MS's internal culture was to dismiss anything on rival platforms, where the standard practice everywhere else was to play everything. Laughing motion control out of the room until the sales figures came in. Endlessly championing online multiplayer that only a minority ever bought into.

It's no wonder games like Braid and Minecraft have been so eagerly embraced by an audience starved of anything different for years.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
It is obvious there is an 'us and them' mentality from both core developers and casual/app developers. It is like two siblings arguing over who is the best son/daughter, when really your parents love you both equally. ;)

Learn to live together, target your own markets and leave it at that. Attacking people/companies in your industry because they are not doing what you are doing just makes you look like a dick. This is 2013 folks...

All this tit for tat is quite frankly boring and embarrassing to anyone in the industry who doesn't actually give a flying fuck what games people make. If core devs want to make 'Medal of Battlefield DLC War Dude' games then so what?? and if casual devs want to make 'Super Farmer, Extreme In-App Surprise' then what is the problem???

Bloody kids, never had it so good!! mumble, mumble, rant, rant....

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 9th April 2013 7:41pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 4 years ago
The men were hardcore. The management was hardcore. The women were doubly hardcore.
Yup. Microsoft is so hardcore that the avatars are no longer allowed to buy guns for props. So hardcore that atleast half of their last three E3 shows were devoted entirely to Kinect family friendly games. So hardcore that they took world-renowned Rare studios and turned them into the Kinect Sports guys. Yup, thats truly hardcore.
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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham4 years ago
Seems a little like someone is upset that gaming is now about more than an exclusive group of social outcasts.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 4 years ago
Ironically enough, the only Spry Fox game I've really enjoyed was Steambirds, and that involved shooting.
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Aaron Brown BA Computer Science Student, Carnegie Mellon University4 years ago
You wouldn't approach Warner Brothers with a 3-D cuddly childish pg movie concept clearly more inline with Pixars visions....

If anything this is reassuring because it shows that Microsoft hires employees devoted to making good games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Aaron Brown on 11th April 2013 3:10am

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