When attending the Penny Arcade Expo, the video game developer life can look pretty cushy! People get to sit around and do what they love – be it art, programming, or animation. Even the majority of PAX after-parties make the lifestyle look insanely glamorous. However, this success can become a double-edged sword for any of these creators, especially indie developers.
A while back I wrote about the perks of being an indie game developer. In an industry full of AAA game studios and repackaged intellectual properties (IPs), becoming an indie developer gives individuals a certain freedom. It gives a very small number of people the chance to explore their creativity and create their own world. Yes, this freedom does come with a high risk of failure, but if successful, a small group of folks can make a huge impact on the market.
Becoming an indie game developer has become somewhat of a Gold Rush scene. There are those who have quit their jobs within the video game industry or been laid off (Because, you know, it’s the video game industry!), that set out into this Wild West of gaming in an attempt to get rich mining indie-gold! Unfortunately, the majority of individuals will not make the next “Minecraft,” “Braid,” or “Bastion.”
But what if they do? What if they get the massive success that they want? What if they get the massive success that they didn’t want? How will the world view them after their crowning achievement?
Unfortunately, Markus “Notch” Persson is the latest indie game developer to walk away from his massively successful company, Mojang.
This week, Microsoft confirmed its acquisition of Mojang for $2.5 billion. Before the deal was even complete, fans reacted to the news with harsh criticism, saying that Persson had sold out and “cared little for [the game’s] users.”
Shortly after the deal was established, Persson addressed the sale of Mojang in a post on his blog.
“Minecraft certainly became a huge hit,” Persson wrote. “And people are telling me it’s changed games. I never meant for it to do either.”
Persson goes on to express his frustration and confusion with the “Minecraft” community. He clarifies that he did not have the type of relationship with his fans that he believed he had.
“I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand,” he wrote. “I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.”
Now, this is the part where I have to get real on the case.
I absolutely love the video game industry and community. It’s a rich sub-culture that has some of the most devoted and supportive fans. However, it’s also an industry that has become known for having the meanest, most vile, disgusting, entitled fans in the world. Hell, even football fans give their teams a break when they’ve had a bad week!
These days, larger, more reputable sources, such as Forbes and The New Yorker, are paying attention to what is going on in the video game industry. They’ve reported on indie game developers several times, most recently covering the intense bullying of indie developer Zoe Quinn.
Forums and chats have become powerful tools used by these so-called “fans” to bully game developers. Threats of physical harm have even extended to family members of those working in the industry. Cases of “SWATTING” are becoming even more common, despite a 19-year-old male being sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for computer intrusion and witness intimidation.
Why is any of this important?
It is important to understand the massive amount of pressure that millions of fans place on people who create games. However, Persson is not a large faceless corporation. He is personally addressed and blamed for all the problems in the world. Well, not ALL problems, but all of the problems involving “Minecraft.” You know, the game that he hasn’t had anything to do with for some time. That faceless barrier isn't there to protect him as an individual. When people shit on him, they can directly message him on Twitter. And he has to see them all.
I’m not saying that every video game nerd is a complete asshole. I like to think that I’m a pretty nice gal! What I’m trying to say is you can’t shit on one person just because he or she doesn’t want to be your messiah.
I will be the first person to admit that I have my own entitlement issues on games and franchises that I hold dear (I’m looking at you, Silent Hill). While I may criticize some games, I’ve never gone after an individual developer. I’ve especially never gone as far as wishing or threatening bodily harm to them or their family.
Yes, people have a right to their opinion, but that right does not extend to intimidation. Are we going to continue to have this wonderful Golden Age of indie games if these types of fans succeed in pushing developers from the industry? I firmly believe that fans need to loosen their entitlement grip from the industry’s throat.
So, please, just shut up and game.