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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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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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