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.
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.
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.