Dear consumers and fans of video games, You don't know me. But you might know some of the games I've helped create. And as I come to a close on another one of the AAA titles I have worked on, I begin to get excited for all of the people that will love our game, and I begin to loathe those who will hate it.
This editorial was written by a developer who has been testing and making games for five years. The developer asked to be kept anonymous.
Out of the millions around the globe who will pick up our game and love it, only thousands will flock to the Internet and scream about how much it sucks — how it's broken, how it's buggy, how it stinks so much. Of course, there will always be critics. The world needs them. But I don't think there's ever justification for the personalised negative attacks, the hate speech, and the borderline cruelty to those who worked 12+ hours for days, weeks, months, and, in some cases, years, to get games in the best possible shape.
Granted, feedback is warranted. If we fucked up and our game is broken, you should tell us. I don't ever want to ship a broken product. But stuff like "I hope the idiot people who made this just kill themselves after they kill their family" makes me want to quit my job and move to another industry. Seeing statements like that spread across the Internet — seeing insults hurled at hard-working developers who love the games they work on — just makes me lose hope in people.
I'm not Cliff Bleszinski. I'm not Ken Levine. I'm just a guy who has seen a lot of hatred that is undeserved for a medium that really is just a piece of entertainment. I'm relatively new to the field — I've been working in games for five years — but I have never seen this level of hatred in any other industry. Do thousands of people say they want to kill Tom Cruise if he plays a scene in a way they don't like? They might criticise it, but they don't tell him to go kill himself because they disliked what he did. Honestly, at times this hatred makes me not want to work in games anymore.
I come to work and put in 80 hours some weeks not because I have to, but because I love what I do. There are many out there like me. For some, yes, it is about the money, but I'm a salaried employee. I want my games to do well. I want people to love them.
I'm not Cliff Bleszinski. I'm not Ken Levine. I'm just a guy who has seen a lot of hatred that is undeserved for a medium that really is just a piece of entertainment.
And if someone were to come out and say something horrible, like the type of insults I see on message boards, or on social networks, or in colleagues' email inboxes... It just baffles me that this has become the norm. How is it acceptable? Most gamers have no idea what really goes into software development — or how difficult it is to get hundreds of people coordinated and working together on a project — and it sometimes drives me crazy to see their vitriolic comments.
It's not that I want anyone to censor themselves. I just want more people to think about what it is that they're saying, and maybe think twice about degrading the people who put their time and energy into making games — even when those games don't turn out so great.
Let us not ever forget that games are made by people who love them. I eat, sleep, and breathe video games, and they will always be a part of my life.
It's important to remember that not every game is on the same playing field. Game developers that are not owned by first-party publishers like Sony and Microsoft tend to have fewer resources and smaller wallets, yet they are often asked to create games on par with the bigger guys, whose budgets tower over their competitors'. During the half-decade I've worked in gaming, I have had the opportunity to work for a publisher, a first-party developer, and an independent developer. In those five short years I have seen people turn their passion into products both good and bad, and what we've done together has been truly amazing.
Let us not ever forget that games are made by people who love them.
Game developers don't just sit in front of their computers drawing doodles and typing out code — we create fun out of thin air. We take hundreds of hours of discussions, refinements, and debates, and we make them appear on screen. Game developers make art.
So before you send death threats to people, or give out zeroes on Metacritic, or write unnecessarily mean things about games you've spent just a few hours on, remember that what you're playing is the culmination of years of someone's life. Usually it's not just one life, but tens, or hundreds, or even thousands of people who wake up every day at the crack of dawn thinking about the experiences they're going to create.
The video game industry is dominated by introverts — creative, passionate people who might struggle with depression due to the nature of their jobs, the long hours, the harsh criticism, and the harsher fans. One comment that seems insignificant to you might cut a developer's mind like a razor blade.
So if we the developers give you the fans a broken product, let us know. If our game has issues, talk about them. But please be respectful. Be kind to the people who help make and produce the games that you love — and especially to the people who make the games you don't love. Nobody deserves to be treated like less than a human being.
Remember that your words — yes, your words — have an impact on the people who make video games. No matter who you are. Yours might be the one internet comment that changes a developer's life.