On Twitter, game developer Charles Randall (Ubisoft, Capy, etc) posted the biting truth about why game developers do not talk about their work.
The other day a friend commented to me "I wish game developers were more candid about development." He was surprised when I said we are.
— Charles Randall (@charlesrandall) September 24, 2017
… gamer culture is so toxic that being candid in public is dangerous.
See that recent twitter thread about game design tricks to make games better — filled with gamers "angry" about "being lied to."
Forums and comment sections are full of dunning-kruger specialists who are just waiting for any reason to descend on actual developers.
See any thread where some dumbass comments how "easy" it would be to, say, add multiplayer or change engines.
Any dev who talks candidly about the difficulty of something like that just triggers a wave of people questioning their entire resumé.
"Questioning" here being an absurd euphemism for "becoming a target of an entire faction of gamers for harassment or worse." … while I'd talk candidly about certain big topics right now — I know doing so would lead to another wave of assholes throwing shit at me. (And of course I face almost nothing compared to women/PoC/lgtbq+ folk)
But here's the rub: all the stuff you ever wanted to know about game development would be out there if not for the toxic gaming community.
We *love* to talk about development, the challenges we face, the problems we solve, the shortcuts we take. But it's almost never worth it.
I did a public talk a couple weeks ago to a room full of all ages kids, and afterwards, a kid came up to me and was talking about stuff.
And I shit you not, this kid (somewhere between 13-16 I'd guess) starts talking about how bad devs are because of a youtuber he watches.
He nailed all the points, "bad engines", "being greedy", you name it. I was appalled.
did my best to tell him that all those things people freak out about are normal and have justifications. I hope I got through a bit.
But I expect he went back to consuming toxic culture via youtube personalities, and one day he'll probably harass a dev over nonsense.
Part of the problem is just the social media problem: we are all stuck in the same room and the dumbest, nastiest people are loudest. But one thing that makes gamer culture so toxic is that it's a consumer culture that thinks it's a maker culture.
There's an expectation among many gamers they'll end up working in the biz, a nebulous suggestion of natural progress from playing to making games. This should be a good thing, but the well's poisoned by what they consume and so want to create. The established business of commercial game marketing, the machines and franchises and products, are all part of the dream. To be seen making games that don't meet these traditional commercial standards and forms, games which are not for them, is often experienced as an attack on their identity.
One manifestation of gamer culture's toxic identity politics are reactionary movements against assumed interlopers—feminists, minorities, concept artists and so on—who are interested in games but distinterested in gamer culture or the idea that their work must pay dues to it. Game journalists, expected to provide guidance but only within a thin and nerdily technical field of view, often meet similar rage when critiquing the things that gamers identify with or simply taking an interest in these new forms.
Gamer culture tends to identify with development and developers themselves, though, at least so long as they hold and deserve their jobs and fight for the team or at least stay quiet about politics. But a funny thing happens on the way to the forum: for some young gamers, the path to self-actualization is blocked by the complexity and technically-demanding nature of desirable game development roles. Or by the business's taste for capital, or its small size, or its big memory of the shit you say on Twitter, or any other reason wee Joe isn't going to just slide into a job at Ubi or Kickstart his way into the dream.
Alienated and deeply in denial about it, these particular gamer culture defenders sense that that professionals fear and loathe them anyway, and this makes them fair game for the same abuse hurled at amateurs, punks and pretenders. But here, the doxa used to try and one-up the targets is a uniquely ridiculous mix of half-understood technical concepts and business management cliche. Kids railing against the loss of Assembly language to the developmental lexicon! This should be a clue, to technical or apolitical minds, about the quality of everything else the child curmudgeouns of YouTube say.
Which brings us back to the problem of the social media landscape, flat as the earth under everyone's virtual feet.