Thursday, 26 April 2012

Can Games be Separated from the People that Made Them?

And if they can be separated, should they be?

Alright, this is a topic that has been on my mind for a while. To be precise it's been on my mind ever since Fez came out. Fez has been receiving good reviews, but there's also a little be of controversy with it that stems not from the game itself, but rather from the person behind it: Phil Fish.

Basically the controversy mostly stems from what Fish said at the GDC last month. Following the promotion of the movie Indie Game the Movie Fish had a sit down and took some questions from the audience. Everything was going fine until, as this article outlines:

"an unknown Japanese developer took to the mic to ask a question, the mood visibly turned.

The Japanese developer praised the movie and said he was pleased to see how many independent developers had been inspired by games such as Super Mario Bros and Zelda since their childhood.

But when he asked what the panel thought of modern Japanese video games, Phil Fish immediately replied “your games just suck” – a comment that sparked an audible reaction from the crowd, though some were cheering.

Others looked on awkwardly as the Japanese developer was then subjected to a string criticisms about game design flaws in his native country. The developer nevertheless thanked the panel for their response and returned to his seat."

To say that people were somewhat offput by Fish's comments would be an understatement. Accusations of racism have been bandied about and while personally I do think that accusation is a little much I do feel fairly confident in stating that Fish has come off as somewhat of a dickhead with the way he conveyed his thoughts.

This isn't the only controversy either. It's an incredibly long story, but there's also some hubbub about whether Fez should have been eligible to enter the Independent Games Festival this year, given that it had entered and won in 2008. Fez nonetheless was entered and won awards from this years IGF as well, something that wasn't disallowed but still managed to raise a few eyebrows and rankle some who believe that it shouldn't have been allowed to enter again.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm not here to argue about whether Phil Fish is a racist, an asshole, or anything else. I'm here to ask whether a game he designed should suffer for that fact.

I can't put a pin to the number of people that might never play Fez because they've heard negative things about Fish. Honestly I don't believe the number is high, and I'm thankful for that fact. I can understand why people might not want to support a designer who comes off as ungrateful or worse, but given that there's already plenty of reasons to not play some games (shovelware shit, poor redesigns, just plain being bad, the list goes on). The thing is though, to pass up the opportunity to play a game that most people are saying is really rather good just because the guy that made it might be an asshole just seems hollow.

Like, I'd certainly be shocked if say, Hideo Kojima had an interview tomorrow where he professed to hating white people, but even though I don't think I could ever respect the man again, I'm not sure that it would stop me from playing any new Metal Gear or Zone of the Enders games he produced. One can be an abysmal but still create great things, and I don't think that people's enjoyment of a work should be marred by the views and opinions of those that created it. Certainly if someone made a work that actively inspired hatred, or went on to do some abhorrent things that would be different, but just saying inflammatory things isn't new.

I know that some people out there are going to disagree with that sentiment, and really they have a right to. If they don't want to give an asshole credit by playing what he creates, then that's their prerogative. I just think it's kind of a shame when it happens, because it means that a good game might suffer for it.

1 comment:

  1. I won't say that Japanese games are perfect or that Fish's opinion is wrong, but if he'd just had a little bit of tact (or, you know, common sense) he might not be facing so many problems today.

    But anyway, I tend to keep games and developers mostly separate. If I'm playing Metal Gear and I see something crazy, my brother and I will joke "Kojima's at it again." And even if Peter Molyneux's making claims of creating a transcendent project, I still have to say I enjoy the Fable games regardless of "broken promises." And even if Capcom is being...unsavory...that still won't stop me and my bro from buying and playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter X Tekken.

    What matters is the games. If they're fun and interesting, that's what's important. Good PR (and not ousting yourself as a prejudiced twat) is important, but I can't bring myself to hate the game just because of a single person or company. I'll hate the game because it's awful. That's all.


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