Some people, noticeably kids, seem to think being a game developer sounds awesome. You sit there and play games all day (no) and you earn money like notch (no). It’s fun because you do whatever you like (no) and anyone can make a game these days (no).
I’ve blogged a lot about the work, and effort, and technical knowledge required, and the likely rewards (low on average) and chance of success (very low on average). What amazes me, is that in addition to all that, you also often get abuse hurled at you from people.
Granted it’s worse in the mainstream industry (no 45 person company that behaves like this is ‘indie’ I resent them using that word to describe themselves). in that your actual direct boss may be the one shouting at you, and threatening to fire you if you don’t work an 80 hour week, but the minute you have an online ‘persona’ and direct contact with gamers things can get kinda nasty. For example, a recent game developers tweet (I wont’ draw further attention to it, in case he doesn’t want any) revealed how someone following him on twitter had threatened to turn up at his house and stick a knife in his throat, because (as far as I could tell) this guy wanted him to roll back a recent code change).
People like that should be in a cell.
It’s an extreme example, but I do not know a *single* indie game developer who does not have a story of harassment online from someone who is a gamer. I don’t mean the usual forum trolling crap that idiots on sites like you-tube are always guilty of. I mean people threatening physical violence, wishing you would die from some disease, insulting you racially or threatening to spread rumors about you to destroy your business. I’ve had people threaten to kill my cats, to spread lies about me to try and break business relationships or put me out of business. I’ve had people saying they will dedicate their life to ruining my business.
Let’s just pause here and point out what I do for a living. – I make games.
I just thought I’d stick that in, in case you forgot, and assumed I was a gun-runner, drug-dealer, sex-trafficker or terrorist for a minute or two.
The general consensus amongst devs is that you never ‘engage’ with abusive people. You just delete the email / ignore them, act super polite and hope they will forget about it. But in a way, that’s how bullies go through life without changing their behavior. Eventually, they become senior management and treat their staff like crap, one can only assume? I don’t think as a group, indie game developers should treat ‘receiving abuse’ as ‘part of the job’. If we were actresses who were being abused, nobody would say ‘that’s just the job, deal with it’. People would be outraged. Why is it ‘ok’ to hurl insulting abuse at people who make video games?
I met a fellow indie dev at GDC who got on to the topic of dealing with anonymous internet abuse being hurled at him. We chatted a bit, and he had a big smile on his face as we talked about the different people and what they had said to us / threatened us with. He was smiling with relief, because he realized it wasn’t just him. He wasn’t being picked on, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was just a game developer, and that means the internet thinks he is a punch bag.
It’ s pretty crappy, and it’s no way to get what you want. People don’t listen to your arguments about games more because you are abusive to them. They probably just delete them. It’s about time that abusive 1% of the gamer community learned that lesson. I have some customers who can email me and ask for new features to be put in the game, and they go to the top of my list of things I need to do, because they asked for them, and they are great people, and I want them to enjoy the game. Nobody on that list is someone who was abusive, insulting or patronizing. That’s probably the 99% of gamers who are great. pity about that 1%.