Enough of the games media “shock jocks”

We can't stop abusive hordes on social media - but we can stop encouraging and nurturing them for profit

Phil Fish's dramatic exit from the games industry has provoked a fair degree of navel-gazing among developers, writers and even certain groups of gamers. The basic story is pretty horrible; a talented developer who created a much-loved game finally reaches the end of his tether when a professional member of the games media makes a nasty personal attack on him, coming at the end of months of online abuse over social media from a whole host of attackers. He exits the industry, leaving it a poorer place without his creative talents. Everybody is very sad. The end.

The truth, of course, is much more complex - and even if much of the world seems to have slipped into a "let's not speak ill of the dead" mode over this entire story, it's worth bearing in mind that Phil Fish's online persona was itself abrasive, rude and combative. I've been told on numerous occasions that he's lovely in person, and have absolutely no doubt that this is true, but on the Internet, he'd never met a fight he didn't want to dive into feet first. Sometimes, he waged online campaigns that were very much justified - you'd see the occasional retweets of "#teamfish" going around at those points when he sallied forth against something or someone particularly unpleasant - but either way, he was always at the heart of mud-slinging of some form or another.

There are various phrases we've all heard while growing up which apply to a situation like that. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen; don't dish it out if you can't take it; and so on and so forth. There's something about sticks, stones and broken bones which also applies, of course. Yet even while I'm uncomfortable with the sainting of Phil Fish as an innocent dreamer who was cruelly tortured and hounded from the industry by the social media masses, I'm altogether more horrified by the sheer outpouring of hatred which is dished out by "gamers" on social media once they sense some blood in the water. Is Phil Fish guilty of being a thin-skinned man who foolishly starts fights which go on to wound him far more than his opponents? Yes, certainly. Does that excuse the awful pile-on which ensued all too regularly? Absolutely not.

"What a high profile incident like the Phil Fish affair reminds us of is that it's the responsibility of everyone involved in games to work to control and limit this kind of toxic, unpleasant behaviour"

Moreover, it's not like this is the first example we've had of this kind of thing happening. In the same week, we saw death and rape threats aimed at a man's family because his company made minor tweaks to weapon balance in an online game. Plenty of other game developers and representatives of game companies have come in for similar outpourings of hate and vile threats - and that's even before we get on to question of the absolutely horrific treatment of any woman who dares to stick her head over the parapet in gaming (it's often not great for ethnic or sexual minorities either). The treatment of Anita Sarkeesian in particular was an eye-opener for many people - although plenty of people kept their eyes firmly closed even in the face of that awful incident, complaining that coverage of her treatment was silencing legitimate criticism of her work (it wasn't, but way to try to deflect from the issues) or effectively saying that Sarkeesian deserved such abuse for stirring up the Internet Hate Machine in the first place (she didn't, and saying "women should shut up if they don't want to be abused" makes you as bad as the abusers).

Social media is a nasty place. We know that. It goes far beyond games, of course - politicians, writers, actors and indeed anyone in the public eye, no matter how minor, can be turned upon and hounded for the slightest perceived slip or fault. I recall being shocked and astounded a few years ago by the story of a talented young singer in South Korea who ended up a virtual recluse with a security detail outside his family's home because a group of obsessive Internet users had decided (based on maliciously placed fake information) that his university degree was a fake, and began an orchestrated campaign of hatred which spilled over into real-life stalking and threats. It turns out that I was wrong to think that South Korea was a bit crazy in this regard; it's just that, as with so many other things about Internet culture, they're a few years ahead of us. Now hate campaigns here are just as crazy and unhinged. Hurrah for progress.

The gaming world does attract more than its fair share of this kind of thing, though, largely because the gaming world continues to attract a core audience of young males - essentially the same people who are most likely to act as online trolls and abusers, it seems. It's Catch-22, of course - trolling and flaming makes the community less attractive to people from other groups (women, minorities, other demographics, etc.), which means we remain stuck with a core audience of young males, and so the cycle continues. A savvy business or development type at this point will have noticed, if they haven't already done so long ago, that this kind of toxic environment isn't just socially unpleasant, it's also extremely bad for business, since it restricts the growth of the core gaming audience significantly. "Traditional game controllers and genres are intimidating for new audiences" is an idea we discuss quite often in gaming; it's important to recognise that those things aren't half as intimidating as being called a "slut whore" or a "fag" for joining an online game or posting a question or opinion in a forum.

What a high profile incident like the Phil Fish affair reminds us of is that it's the responsibility of everyone involved in games to work to control and limit this kind of toxic, unpleasant behaviour. We can't stop it entirely, of course - that's beyond the control of any company or individual, since this is simply a dark, nasty side of human nature we're talking about - but we can consider, as we build networks, games, online services and communities, how those are to be policed and how they contribute positively to making people feel safe and welcome as they play. We can try harder to step outside ourselves and understand that even if we're thick-skinned and unlikely to be targeted for particularly hurtful abuse, there are other people - our customers, our audience, our colleagues, our friends and family - who are not in that position, and try to build products and services that work for everyone, not just for the slice of humanity we're lucky enough to inhabit.

"There's a new strain of games media "personality" which has emerged in recent years which openly thrives off the primordial slime of negativity and hatred that pollutes so many comment threads and forums around the Internet"

That goes doubly so for the media, because one other thing that has been thrown into stark relief by Fish's departure is that certain parts of the media, far from trying to clamp down on abusive or toxic behaviour and comments, have actually been thriving off it. There's a new strain of games media "personality" which has emerged in recent years which openly thrives off the primordial slime of negativity and hatred that pollutes so many comment threads and forums around the Internet - a kind of games media "shock jock", a hugely negative, cynical personality who seems to have nothing good to say about anything, who channels the cynicism and nastiness of the darker corners of the gaming world into a slicker and more carefully packaged format. Marcus Beer, who trades as "AnnoyedGamer" and dropped the offending straw on the camel's back when he called Fish an "asshole" on a GameTrailers show, is one such character - there are quite a few others who are cut from the same cloth. The online personas these people present are calculated to justify and validate the kind of gamer who participates in flinging hateful abuse at public figures within the industry.

I recall, when I first started writing about games professionally, being absolutely stunned at the existence of some really cynical and unpleasant people in the games media - people who had simply been at these jobs for too long, had fallen out of love with games but had found themselves, presumably, with no marketable skills that would allow them to work elsewhere. It was an unsettling experience to go to events or travel abroad on press tours with people whose eyes glazed over if I talked about games I'd enjoyed recently, or who openly and with curious pride announced that they hadn't played a game in years. They were always a small minority, but they were generally not very pleasant people overall and they were always around. The Games Media Shock Jocks give the same impression - disgruntled men (for they are always men) who don't like games much and seem unhappy with their lot in life, but have found an outlet in cynically stoking the fires of discontent among angry, hate-spewing teens. Awful, soul-destroying work if you can get it.

This is where I firmly believe that the games media has a role to play in fixing the culture that has come to surround games. Not just in controlling the comments threads and forums they operate, which few websites do to any degree of professionalism or satisfaction, but also - and far more easily - controlling the kind of message their employees are putting out, and the kind of culture they're encouraging. I'm not calling for censorship, but rather for stepping back from the brink of "hey, this deliberate controversy-stoking is worth a few hits!" and thinking a little about your impact and your responsibility to the wider culture of games. Stoking the fires of fanboy hatred might earn you some traffic and a little ad revenue in the short term - but in the long term, it'll help to guarantee that core gaming struggles to grow past the stunted little niche it now occupies. The "shock jocks" emerging in the games media are at the vanguard of that. Tone it down, or give up the act; there's nothing big or clever about a grown man making his living by riling up abusive teenage boys. If you're in this industry because you love games, why are you spending so much time talking about all the things you hate?

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Latest comments (32)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
When we first went indie, one of the draws was getting closer to our audience, listening to feedback, making improvements people actually asked for etc, face to face.

Now though, not so sure. It's still nice when those nuggets happen, but even the general tone of an average conversation is often combative with snarky comments the norm. You don't need to see this taken to extremes to get bloody tired of it. There's just no need for it, it's like casual vandalism.

Why is it for example, that if someone disagrees with me, I am somehow therefore an asshole. Are people losing the ability to just have a conversation about something? I blame games. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 2nd August 2013 8:22am

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James Marsden Managing Director, FuturLab8 years ago
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
When you join a social media network, it comes with baggage. Isnt it just easier simply not posting things for the public to see or simply deactivating or not having an account on facebook, twitter or reddit? I seem fine with just my facebook account, I barely post anything on it. I use it more in order to keep myself informed, certain pages and follow certain people. I have my wall so people can post but only can see what they post. And I refrain from making comments about my personal life. Is it that hard.

So now we have a guy like Phil Fish, who's career and life have been altered by a few immature retards from somewhere across the globe who had nothing else to do then post hateful comments on Twitter which he could just as easily ignored or simply deleted or deactivated the twitter account.

If having a page in a social network is such a hinderance why do people have one. I see so many people all the time connected to these sites. Its like they forget there is a real life out there with real people. Taking anything personal from a random person who you dont know and doesnt know you is just plain retarded.

If I ever lost my facebook it would not be the end of the world for me. But its sad to see people so into it that they forget there is more to life then people posting on your wall, tweeting you or clicking on likes.

Honestly I dont feel sorry for Phil Fish, i feel Pity... its a Pity that a guy with so much creativity has let a bunch of retards with nothing better to do bring him down over a few comments on twitter. He is all show and nothing more than a cry baby... what a waste. I would have loved to see FEZ2.
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Show all comments (32)
Alan Jack Game Designer, Chunk Games8 years ago
I've said similar things myself since this all began ... we're in a strange cycle in the industry, wherein we struggle to be taken seriously because there's no real intelligent discourse to be had that might drown out the braying crowds of fanboys and kids - but then we struggle to maintain said intelligent discourse because nobody takes us seriously.

I think there might be something in the rants a while back about industry journalists often being fanboys themselves, who are so easily swayed by free t-shirts and early access to games that they forget their professional duties. There might also, as you say, be something in the commercialisation of gaming news, being sensationalist for a few extra hits.

I'd love to see the respectable games industry journos band together and fight this somehow.
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Great read.

On my site, if you can't have an argument in a civil way, you get booted permanently. We get called nazis etc. but that gets you banned too. For the core audience that remains, it's a fun place to be. There are plenty of other uncensored sites to visit if you want to personally attack people over insignificant details.

The common theme appears to be that the people getting ejected don't understand why it's them and they think it's all the other people that are at fault. Weird eh? :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Charles Rodmell on 2nd August 2013 9:27am

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Ken Barnes Editor, Pure Xbox8 years ago
With respect, show me something Phil Fish has said that is "unacceptable" or that stretches to the level of outwardly calling people - as Marcus Beer did - "asshole", "wanker", or "tosspot" in a public forum?

A lot of people say that Phil FIsh is massively edgy (or tries to be) and always out attacking people, but they can rarely give an example. And the Japanese games industry thing isn't an example, given how poorly reported that whole thing was.

The guy is abrasive on social media, sure, but most of the time he's just stating an opinion. But even so, I dare say that if I had literally thousands of hate-filled tweets and comments coming my way from gamers who think that it's their god-given right to get what they want RIGHT NOW, then I'd feel a little bit jaded, too. The guy gave a $1 discount on a $8 game on Steam on launch day, and got flamed to hell and back for it. People threatening to cut him into pieces because the discount should have been $2. That's nothing to do with shock jocks. That's down to the fact that social media is turning people into whiny, self-obsessed pricks who don't ever have to think about what they say and are never called to defend what they've said.

Unless they're Phil Fish, of course.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Ken Barnes on 2nd August 2013 10:21am

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Sam Van Tilburgh Chief Discovery Officer, 22 Cans8 years ago
The ban (or block) button is there for a reason you know...people come in all shapes and sizes, some are trolls, some are not. The crap I have to read from time to time, man...just ignore it. High trees catch a lot of wind and all that.
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Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media8 years ago
(The article) seems to be blaming both sides, but in the end it's evil media
That's because that behaviour is much more unacceptable coming from serious media than from anywhere else.
Granted, Fish is a huge mouth who deserved a reasonable amount of his own medicine. But NOT from a jounalist "on duty", EVER, period. Sorry but that's the job they chose. It comes with a very defined code towards the audience. They're supposed to inform he said this and that, and maybe express their reasoned views in the exact polite and neutral way Rob does it in this article, but never with words like "asshole" unless, if they really want to go there, they do it from their personal twitter account, or blog or whatever channel they choose for caustic PERSONAL remarks, and directed to the guy in question, not to an audience they're taking advantage of. That way, go ahead and insult each other, I couldn't care less.
A developer has to make good games (as Fish did), and a journalist must stay neutral (as Beer did not). It's that simple. Beer should have been fired within seconds of airing that tabloid crap for the sake of decency.

All this siding with Beer on this "because Fish was such a jerk" (and, again, I agree with that) sets a very dangerous precedent. I'm curious to see how they manage to defend him again when he takes it on someone who isn't a Phil Fish for making "a shitty game" or whatever reason people like Beer find OK to use for insulting a developer. Which I guess is "whichever reason can get our site a few extra clicks".
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Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media8 years ago
A Journalist has not to be neutral, he is allowed to have his own opinion
Of course a journalist is entitled to an opinion that's why I said:
and maybe express their reasoned views in the exact polite and neutral way Rob does it in this article, but never with words like "asshole"
[Edit] OK, I just saw what you mean, maybe I shouldn't have used the word "neutral". But I guess you get my point.
he isn't allowed to insult other people in public, but the same applies to a developer. There are certain rules you have to apply, when you act in public and these rules apply to everybody, not only to a journalist.
Rules apply socially, but we're talking professional-wise. A journalist's words from a mass medium have much more of an impact than the words of Joe Developer from a personal Twitter account, that's why they have that extra responsibility. It's the Spiderman paradigm again.
A developer should watch his manners equally for his own good (now more than ever, it seems), but he doesn't get paid to keep that standard. A journlaist does.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rafa Ferrer on 2nd August 2013 12:34pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Christian, I can give a few reasons for the angle this article took.

1. Rob Fahey is a journalist hence the innate desire to focus on raising awareness and intentions to make a change that which affects him most.

2. One of the 2 antagonists used their professional station to insult the other. While Fish did indeed insult Beer (among many others), he never did so in his professional capacity. He never developed a game that directly insulted Beer yet Beer used not his personal Twitter or social media to lash out at Fish and others but he used his professional medium.

3. While the overall goal is to gain more mainstream acceptance of the video game industry as a whole, the narrative provided by our own media in a professional capacity can say a whole lot more about our industry than can a single indie developer on his personal social media account.

4. Both of these fires need to be dealt with. But one of them has the capability of spreading to the thatch of its neighbors and burning down the whole village. Does Fish inspire other indie developers to take to Twitter with venom? Not likely. Does Beer inspire other journalists to ignore professional decorum for more ad revenue? You better believe he does.

Disclosure: I too consider myself a journalist (in the most loosely usable form of the term as I've moved my duties to more administrative and technical these days) and feel a desire to place an unbalanced load of the blame on Beer for using his professional position for very unprofessional purposes.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
I don't disagree with your final statement as I've said similar myself.

However, while Fish may have 31k followers, GameTrailers is watched by millions.
There are also parallels that non-gamers can draw from regarding Beer but not many can do the same for Fish. In other words, people can see a video game journalist and immediately draw a parallel to the media of their own industry or the mainstream media in general. But what parallel can they draw from Fish? A movie director, a book author? We hear them go on rants all the time but that hardly ever raises a blemish on that industry. But if the media for that industry lost its professionalism (it can argued we never had it to begin with), that will have a greater impact on the mainstream view of that industry.

I'm just saying that we have a bigger fish to try than Fish. But as noted, both were acting well beyond professional decorum. However, one harms the industry far greater than the other. And while we need to deal with both, we, as journalists, have a sense of duty to help guide our own back into respectability.
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Great article, and I agree with almost everything being said in these comments. I would just like to add, it would be an interesting discussion to see just why so many people in society are so hostile these days. I would suggest perhaps it may have to do with 1) the ability to hide behind a fake name, and 2) possibly the economic factors at play in the world these days. More and more people, especially young people are being found to be expendable, tossed to the side by society. Good paying jobs and the self respect that comes with them are becoming harder and harder to find. Perhaps a lot of this uncivil behavior is just frustration. I'm sure however it goes much deeper than just these two factors bt I think it would be another great discussion to have, perhaps with some human behaviorist.

well anyway, I think this is a terrific article and conversation.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
I can't say why it wasn't more covered or talked about because this is actually the first time I've heard of that incident because the media largely didn't cover it. It's a great point though. Media gets to decide what warrants a headline and what doesn't. So my comments become a reflection of known coverage. I think had that incident been better covered, parallels certainly would have been drawn in the article and in the comments.
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Ken Barnes Editor, Pure Xbox8 years ago
Fair enough, Christian.

However, there's a problem. Apart from the IGF grand prize comment, every other one of those tweets was pretty much a response to an attack being levied against him.

You can't say that the AnnoyedGamer tweets are Phil being unfair or harsh, when he's just had someone (who for the life of me I've not seen do anything other than the AnnoyedGamer show) go and rage against him on a popular show for ten minutes, calling him several names in the process.

Here's the reason he took Kevin Dent to task:-

The "#1 on Steam right now" comment is regarding the thousands of people that attacked him, threatened his life and the lives of his families, and said they'd boycott his game for only giving a $1 discount on it at launch.

The PennyArcade tweets were in response to PA posting an article saying that we need assholes making games, and name-checking Phil Fish - thereby calling him an asshole in public.

His alternative is to sit there and take it. Say nothing. If he does that, he becomes part of the problem of covering up all the hatred and abuse that goes on in this industry of ours. By responding, he's getting people to cover what is being said. Unfortunately, the media is obsessed with branding him as a total dick. Phil Fish is not a victim for a lot of the time, but when he is, the media covers it thusly:- "A gang of youths attacked a man in a busy high street today, punching and kicking him to the floor. The man yelled 'Why? What have I done? Leave me alone!' as the blows reigned in on him. Here's a picture of the attacked man, making a face like a moron in a film that he once starred in. Asshole."

What does the guy have to do?
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
I say anyone who creates or criticizes needs to watch the 2007 documentary HECKLER:

while it's not perfect, it gets in a few interesting points about some in the media who make their livings more or less being complete asses when it comes to how they review media. It's worth watching for seeing Uwe Boll take on some of his harshest critics in a boxing ring whereupon he beats the crap out of a few of those dopes who failed to do their research and figure out the man was/is a well-trained boxer and not just some schlub who churns out films they spew bile about in their scribblings.

Anyway, the market for this sort of pissed off rant-filled "journalism" used to be a fringe-y thing, but it's definitely a schtick that's made some many followers (some of whom want to get into the field doing the same crap) and unfortunately, in some cases actual constructive criticism has gone the way of the dinosaur and where it used to be "Your game/film/book/song SUCKS", now it's turned to "YOU suck and you shouldn't be working at all" or worse...

And that's too bad.
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Ken Barnes Editor, Pure Xbox8 years ago
Two wrongs don't make a right.
Fair enough.
No, he could also answer in a civilised fashion and he could also ask his followers and fans to boycott the media people he was insulted by, furthermore he could deny any requests from these media people and stop providing them with promotional material.
Thereby reducing coverage of his game and - theoretically, of course - reducing his profits. And asking his followers and fans to boycott the media folks he was insulted by would be nothing but a drop in the ocean. Especially when you consider that - again, referencing Indie Game: The Movie - the "fans" of Fez who so rabidly wanted to play it, were the ones that were on his website, actively attacking him because he delayed the release of the game.

I just think that anything he posts on Twitter is like a clarion call to the poorer games journalists of this world, who know that posting yet another story about Phil Fish is going to get people reading. If he says he doesn't like one brand of coffee over another, the media will whip that into a story about how Phil Fish hates Colombians, because the brand of coffee he doesn't like is grown and picked in Colombia. The guy can't do anything right!

I just think we have different opinions of the man, Christian. I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death to protect your right to say it. But nobody seems to be fighting for the same thing for Phil Fish.
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Kirsten Kearney Editor, Ready Up8 years ago
In this article I see a couple of examples of bullying then a lot of talk about "controlling " "limiting" and "policing" then a bit about not advocating censorship. Which is it? Cut the double speak and pick a side.

What amazes me is the number of journalists (not specifically games journos) falling over themselves to write articles about ways to limit people's use of the internet and this desperation that formerly freethinking people now seem to have to be heavily governed on the one platform for speech that gives every person equal power.

It's just like this government tagging on the word pedophelia onto their latest attempt to quell the freedom of the internet. You can't just call "pedo" or 9/11" or "bullying" every time you try to seize control over the internet. That doesn't mean the examples you give aren't real things that matter, they are. It's just one example though of a bazillion things happening on the internet every day. It's becoming this insipid formula though - mention scary bad thing everyone wants rid of so you appear to be nice and caring then advocate reduced freedom. If the price of winning "the war on terror" isn't worth giving up the freedom of the Internet for, saving Phil Fish's feelings certainly isn't.
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Adam Fox Director, GSC8 years ago
For two thirds of this article I found that you draw a very compelling portrait of the young, aggressive male trolls still ruining the gaming party for the rest of us. While I do think we have taken massive strides (it would have been nice to see a paragraph paying tribute to the massive steps forward that have been taken among gaming communities regarding the evolution of female gamers and the countless old school gaming personalities that have evolved to be more accepting and open to female gamers), there is certainly still room for concern and growth.

But when you draw your portrait of the shock jock journalists, in particular the broad strokes with which you paint Marcus Beer, you lose me entirely. As Dave Chappelle once poignantly suggested, when you're dealing with big satire and hot topics, there's no room for subtlety and people will generally reduce your work to it's cold, singular ideas, free of context. Have you watched the many episodes of his show where he makes a sobering call for the armies of trolls to drop their sexist, ignorant agendas? Why think about that when it's easier to just pretend his approach to journalism is all anger and no moral compass. Well that's just not true and betrays a lack of understanding or a decision to ignore the truth in pursuit of an easy angle. If you don't like "mean comedy" that thinly masks a strongly moral and serious message, you probably don't like South Park much either. But don't tell us there's no depth or value there to begin with because it's just not your personal taste. That's just incredibly irresponsible and contributes to a more simplistic, narrow minded approach to journalism, comedy and talking down to adults who are perfectly capable of making those distinctions.
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Charles Herold Wii Games Guide, about.com8 years ago
You can't just call "pedo" or 9/11" or "bullying" every time you try to seize control over the internet.
How is that different from crying "censorship" every time someone points out there is a poisonous situation that needs to be dealt with? There's a difference between censoring ideas and trying to curtail egregious behavior in certain spaces. The truth is, for all the talk about censorship, it's very hard to censor people, because there are a million different venues to state an opinion. Censorship has come to mean, limiting the number of channels through which you an be aggressive and disruptive.

If the government prevents a newspaper from publishing a story of government malfeasance, that's censorship. If a game site decided to tell a journalist to stop calling people assholes, that's simply enforcing civility. Yet increasingly these are being described in equal terms.
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Leo Croft Studying History (BA Hons), Teesside University8 years ago
Excellent article, Rob. Until this, that is:
arcus Beer, who trades as "AnnoyedGamer" and dropped the offending straw on the camel's back when he called Fish an "asshole" on a GameTrailers show, is one such character - there are quite a few others who are cut from the same cloth.
I'm incredibly frustrated at how you can, more-or-less, generalise Beer as a 'cynical game-hating journo' and subsequently cast him aside. As a hardcore gamer, I find that guys like Beer do a heck-of-a-lot to speak up for things which big gaming magazines and websites tend to ignore. He may be cynical, but when you enjoy a hobby surrounded by day-one DLC, pre-owned bashing, and always-online DRM, it is refreshing to have someone relatively well-connected and well-known speak against such things. Without guys like Beer us gamers would be subjected to the same publisher-PR spin 'gaming' websites shovel down our throats constantly.

Besides, cynicism is a completely healthy and practical method of navigating through most things in life. Gaming is, perhaps, the best candidate to approach with heavy cynicism.
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Caleb Hale Journalist 8 years ago
Sometimes, people are dicks to one another. Social media is just the latest in a series of tools people have used to that end, stretching all the way back to the rock or stick Cain used to kill Abel.

Since we've unlocked the Pandora's Box of giving anyone and everyone a platform to speak out and be heard on, there's no stuffing it back in there. The best we can hope for is one day an overall societal realization that just because the medium is available to everyone, it doesn't necessarily mean everyone is educated or mature enough to engage others in beneficial, or at the very least cordial, conversations.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
Why are we calling Marcus Beer a journalist? That's like calling Howard Stern a journalist.

That's the real issue. Not that Marcus Beer said a thing, but that Marcus Beer has any kind of platform to be listened to in the first place.
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Matthew Sainsbury Journalist 8 years ago
Wow are there a lot of people who are missing the point here.

What Fish did was probably wrong, and his antagonism over Twitter got him effectively booed out of the games industry.

What Beer did was completely unacceptable according to any media ethical code that you could find. And yet there he is sitting on a soap box with hundreds of thousands of people as an audience. People who clearly have enough respect for him (though he clearly lacks knowledge in a lot of critical areas in the games industry) to ask him questions. The fact he answers these questions means he is effectively positioning himself as a subject matter expert.

Regardless of what Fish did the fact Beer has that soap box is precisely why the games media is considered a joke amongst most other journalism circles. He content is not fit for The Sun newspaper, and he has no right to work within the media.
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Tim Ogul Illustrator 8 years ago
Trolls gonna troll. Full stop. If you can't ignore them, then you've got nothing, because you sure as hell can't stop'em. If you keep doing stories about how effective they're being, you aren't going to discourage them. The people who troll are not people who will read articles about trolling and decide to change their wicked ways. All that this hand wringing about what the trolls are saying about someone or something, and about what that means about "the community" is ridiculous. The people who troll are not representative of any portion of the community, least of all themselves. They troll to troll, not to convince people of their positions, which likely aren't even things that the genuinely believe. There is literally nothing you you can do to support a troll more than to write an article about the impact he's had.
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Being an Annoyed Gamer fan I'd just like to clear up a couple of things about Marcus Beer. He is a PR guy, who formerly worked with a few large gaming studios and publishers, so he has a lot of interest in the industry. He works with Gametrailers not as a journalist, but as a self described 'opinionist'. He very clearly agrees he is not a journalist, though as part of the press I do agree he should have behaved a little better.

His rant against 'BlowFish' as he called them, was definitely a low point. The way he expressed his views left a lot to be desired, but his reasons for going on a rant were actually rather notable. I find a lot of articles choose to focus more on the words he used rather than what he was saying.

He was entirely correct that both Phil Fish and Jonathon Blow should not get huffy at the media for contacting them on indie-related news stories. He rightly said that when it comes time for them to release their next games they'll be more than happy for the press to fawn over them; they'll take every opportunity that comes along to blow wind into their games' sails. From a PR perspective, it is a two way street. They are in a very good position at the moment where their opinions are valued, their names are in every indie-related article, and they are viewed as experts on indie matters. That's a lot of free press that will pay dividends when their new games release.

Being rude and establishing themselves as difficult and snarky won't help them at all, and they may even see a decline in coverage as a result. The media can find other indie darlings to provide sound bites if they continue behaving that way. That's what Beer was commenting on, albeit with far too much name-calling, especially from a PR guy. We all have our bad days, but apart from this one incident I've never seen Beer be anything other than an Annoyed Gamer.

I'd just like to point out as well that Blow handled the criticism rather well, calling Beer out on Twitter in a very civilised manner, and earning an acknowledgement from Beer as a result.
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded8 years ago
Marcus Beer is a commentator.
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded8 years ago
I find it interesting how the comments here are stuck on the Beer/Fish debate, which was not the intention of Rob's piece - it is the sensationalist journalism practices that are increasingly finding themselves in more and more of the websites with a large readership.

It is so easy for a journalist to twist a story to make it into something that it isn't, while still not being factually incorrect. This type of journalism usually finds audiences exploding into an instant uproar in exactly the same tone that the article is written. This brings in a lot of 'clicks' and therefore, money. But it also creates one-sided audiences as well; audiences that are actually being misinformed by an unbalanced, intentionally focused, type of journalism.

I'm very glad to see this debate starting in this industry.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
Rob that's a great read and i have been saying mostly the same myself. It is one of the more balanced articles about this ridiculous debacle and one of the most balanced I've seen for quite a while! Bravo!

There is another thing I've been saying as a developer. Can't we as developers just ignore these people and let the community deal with them while at the same time put more focus on rewarding positive engagement in the community through social media either by mentioning those awesome fans who create fun stories or fan art or spreading the word or creating special content with hints about them in game lore, characters small details with their avatars and all sorts of cost free empowerment of what is positive nice and good about games and fandom?

And shouldn't the journalists find a way to shun those developers who are inappropriate and insult the public while at the same time getting the relevant information out without the populist twist? I understand controversy sells, but so does quality!

Can't we just ignore those acidic people who get a kick by attempting to outsmart the developers (because clearly, more often than not part of the hate, comes from an unfulfilled desire) and drawing the attention of the community? Can't we just NOT reproduce the acidic comments themselves and focus on the news about the product or new technology offered?

IMO that would be the best thing to do! There is absolutely no point of bullying the anonymous and engaging in negativity campaigns. Focus on what games are all about. FUN!
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Mike Bale Database Developer 8 years ago
@Christian Keichel

I may have missed some of the Kamitani/Schreier/Nutt issue, but it seems pretty different than this.

Schreier posted a kind of snarky blog about the overly sexulized women in Kamitani's art. It was a bit insulting but not vicious and making a legitimate point.

Kamitani came back and posted the burly dwarves saying if you don't like the women here's something for you. Some people took it as a suggestion that anyone who didn't like his women was gay, which seems legitimate. Kamitani did later explain himself(Not thinking it through, and using a free online translator) seeming actually sorry for any offense caused

Nutt wrote an article which explained why he was upset with the picture.

I may have missed something as this was a little while ago but I did have a google. To me it seemslike a legitimate debate about Video Games, and not just people throwing insults at each other.

I'd be interested to understand if you think I am missing something?
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Some people took it as a suggestion that anyone who didn't like his women was gay, which seems legitimate.
No, it isn't "legitimate". That was overreaching black/white thinking by the easily offended.

Kamitani was simply making the point that Dragon's Crown had more than half-naked ladies as a selling point. He wasn't trying to make any sort of gay reference or implying/inferring anything close to that at all.

And by the way, that insulting article was vicious in its tone in that it accused a well-respected illustrator and game designer of being something he wasn't ONLY because some of his art happened to make a grown man feel funny about looking at it (which only means that writer needed to grow up himself and learn to appreciate more styles of artwork). Nutt should have simply stated he wasn't a fan of the artwork and wished the game well. Going on a rant and saying he'd be embarrassed to play it in public or show it to some people and then say the artist had a 14-year old mentality or whatever wasn't necessary at all. Period.
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David Serrano Freelancer 8 years ago
I totally agree with the overall sentiment but I think the prevalence of cheerleader journalism and hardcore biased / advertiser influenced critical analysis has been far more problematic than media shock jocks. Because cheerleader journalism created a vacuum which allowed serious issues and problems to go unaddressed for years. As Warren Spector wrote last month:
We're missing much criticism or historical analysis that might speed up a process of achieving cultural acceptance of games as something more than a way to pluck dollars from the pockets of teenage and 20-something boys or the purses of 30-something women.
And this is inextricably linked to Rob's observation:
It's Catch-22, of course - trolling and flaming makes the community less attractive to people from other groups (women, minorities, other demographics, etc.), which means we remain stuck with a core audience of young males, and so the cycle continues. A savvy business or development type at this point will have noticed, if they haven't already done so long ago, that this kind of toxic environment isn't just socially unpleasant, it's also extremely bad for business, since it restricts the growth of the core gaming audience significantly.
I've been saying this for the past five years. You don't need to be a professional analyst to recognize what took place: growth in the core market ended overnight when developers and publishers choose to exclusively focus on serving 13 to 25 year old male multiplayer fans. When they abandoned the long time core audience to focus on a demographically narrow and toxic subsegment of players, core developers and publishers began to undercut the profitability and viability of the entire market. And they've been holding the medium back in the process. This is a serious, potentially fatal long term problem which cheerleader media outlets have universally ignored. So I think this is clearly having a greater negative impact than the tiny clan of wannabe journalists who earn a living by stoking flame wars.
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Lex8 years ago
We live in an era in which we are defined by what we hate, not by what we like. We learn to be like that in high school.
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