Who would be a game developer?

June 08, 2013 | Filed under: business

Some people, noticeably kids, seem to think being a  game developer sounds awesome. You sit there and play games all day (no) and you earn money like notch (no). It’s fun because you do whatever you like (no) and anyone can make a game these days (no).

I’ve blogged a lot about the work, and effort, and technical knowledge required, and the likely rewards (low on average) and chance of success (very low on average). What amazes me, is that in addition to all that, you also often get abuse hurled at you from people.

Granted it’s worse in the mainstream industry (no 45 person company that behaves like this is ‘indie’ I resent them using that word to describe themselves). in that your actual direct boss may be the one shouting at you, and threatening to fire you if you don’t work an 80 hour week, but the minute you have an online ‘persona’ and direct contact with gamers things can get kinda nasty. For example, a recent game developers tweet (I wont’ draw further attention to it, in case he doesn’t want any)  revealed how someone following him on twitter had threatened to turn up at his house and stick a knife in his throat, because (as far as I could tell) this guy wanted him to roll back a recent code change).

People like that should be in a cell.

It’s an extreme example, but I do not know a *single* indie game developer who does not have a story of harassment online from someone who is a gamer. I don’t mean the usual forum trolling crap that idiots on sites like you-tube are always guilty of.  I mean people threatening physical violence, wishing you would die from some disease, insulting you racially or threatening to spread rumors about you to destroy your business. I’ve had people threaten to kill my cats, to spread lies about me to try and break business relationships or put me out of business. I’ve had people saying they will dedicate their life to ruining my business.

Let’s just pause here and point out what I do for a living. – I make games.

I just thought I’d stick that in, in case you forgot, and assumed I was a gun-runner, drug-dealer, sex-trafficker or terrorist for a minute or two.

The general consensus amongst devs is that you never ‘engage’ with abusive people. You just delete the email / ignore them, act super polite and hope they will forget about it. But in a way, that’s how bullies go through life without changing their behavior. Eventually, they become senior management and treat their staff like crap, one can only assume? I don’t think as a group, indie game developers should treat ‘receiving abuse’ as ‘part of the job’. If we were actresses who were being abused, nobody would say ‘that’s just the job, deal with it’. People would be outraged. Why is it ‘ok’ to hurl insulting abuse at people who make video games?

I met a fellow indie dev at GDC who got on to the topic of dealing with anonymous internet abuse being hurled at him. We chatted a bit, and he had a big smile on his face as we talked about the different people and what they had said to us / threatened us with. He was smiling with relief, because he realized it wasn’t just him. He wasn’t being picked on, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was just a game developer, and that means the internet thinks he is a punch bag.

It’ s pretty crappy, and it’s no way to get what you want. People don’t listen to your arguments about games more because you are abusive to them. They probably just delete them. It’s about time that abusive 1% of the gamer community learned that lesson. I have some customers who can email me and ask for new features to be put in the game, and they go to the top of my list of things I need to do, because they asked for them, and they are great people, and I want them to enjoy the game. Nobody on that list is someone who was abusive, insulting or patronizing.  That’s probably the 99% of gamers who are great. pity about that 1%.


13 Responses to “Who would be a game developer?”

  1. Arowx says:

    Good for you!

    Maybe, like your post to pirates you should ask the trolls/bullies why they do what they do?

    And why indies are such easy targets, maybe we could setup an indie defence fund with a hotline to legal representatives who work as a Troll Hunters?

    • The Bear says:

      So your idea of “defense” is to go after people who say shit to you on twitter.

      Sounds like a plan.

      That will work exactly 5 minutes, then every single judge in the country will tell you to grow a pair.

      • Kyle_Itzy says:

        Verbal or email threats of physical abuse are not trivial matters. They are crimes.

        In the US, U.S. Statute 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) states: “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

        These are serious offenses from obviously disturbed individuals and should be reported to authorities. A judge isn’t simply going to tell the victim of this crime to “grow a pair.” The person making the threat could be under the influence of drugs, mentally unstable and fully willing to act on their threats which is why the law doesn’t mess around.

        Never respond. Don’t block the communication. Report it to your local authorities. They can investigate and have the tools to track down the offenders. No one should let themselves be a victim. First these people start with verbal or email threats. Then they get away with it. Then they escalate a little. Then they get away with it. Next they’re following through on those threats. It’s nothing to joke about.

  2. Klaim - Joel Lamotte (@MJKlaim) says:

    I was wondering if saving thread emails somewher and replying with a template email saying that the thread have been recorded and will be used to sue the person if anything is attempt would limit that bullying?

  3. Hmm says:

    A lot of them are under 16 and think they’re being cool or funny. On the net you can’t always know if they’re just a kid being stupid, or an adult with real motivations.
    This is the one of the downsides of anonymity.

    Give a man a mask, and he will show you his true face.

  4. graspee leemoor says:

    I think you make 2 mistakes and 1 oversight in the article:

    mistake 1:
    “I don’t mean the usual forum trolling crap that idiots on sites like you-tube are always guilty of. I mean people threatening physical violence, wishing you would die from some disease, insulting you racially or threatening to spread rumors about you to destroy your business.”

    These are not two sets of people, and treating the more threatening ones as different, as more “serious” will lead to more fear. The ones threatening physical violence are just better at trolling, they know what gets a reaction and makes people feel awful, and they perhaps have to be a bit bolder to do it given the law. (see later).

    mistake 2:
    Well, you don’t explicitly state it in the article but it seems to be the case that you think game devs get this abuse worse than anyone. In actual fact anyone with any fame or distinction who makes themselves public and available online gets this kind of nasty abuse.

    Sending tweets or other electronic messages that constitute a credible threat of violence to the person are against the law, at least in the UK. If you send the messages and details to the police these people will be charged and possibly even imprisoned.

  5. I’m doing casual games at present so I can’t say I’ve had much experience of dealing directly with customers. What I will say, though, is that this phenomenenmonomenenmom (?!) is not unique to gaming.

    When I worked at British Gas, I received verbal abuse from customers on a daily basis -their grievance was MY fault. Even though in 100% of cases, it was either somebody else who had cocked it up, or the scale of the issue was no justification for acting the way they were. Anyway, my point is, I detested the job because of that. And the interesting thing is, those people were in a tiny minority of customers. Most were OK. But I don’t remember the ones that were OK, I only remember the bad ones, and being scared of answering the phone because you never knew what was on the other end.

  6. Gatlink says:

    Could public shame be an answer? Like retweeting those guys, or opening a web page with a selection of the worst, so everyone can see how awful those people are, and stop interacting with them, or even start to troll them back… It could be like fighting fire with fire…

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  11. I am not a kid I dont want to be a game developer I am 49years old suffer from social anxiety a horable speller on a limmited income who sits at home all day playing games on my little 4.0 android tablet what most parents would give there kids because its in expesive and I love rpg games so when I get upset enough to write a post about a game to developer you know it was a game I realy like but because of some glitch in the game made it so I could no longer play it and it made me mad so if you would pass this on to game insight developer it would be greatly apriciated there game rule the kingdome had a glitch that did not alow m to get past 6% on one of there questsd and had no way to reset the game and even if you uninstalled the game and reinstalled it it didnt fix the glitch all there games did not alow me to add friends to my game from face book forcing me to play the game alone witch does not bother me to much except with out friends you cant progress much like on airport city free to play and 2020 country or city whatever it is with out useing real worl money to buy game gems and dollars witch people like me cant afford and most kids dont have a bank account to do or if they do they havea bank account they have no money in it most the time becase they decided the new mp player was way cooler then some game gems and people that play games on android tablet can not always play online such as me I am right now useing a wifi open internet service to write this and it is not always available this is what I liked about rule the kingdome it was a interactive game you could play offline if you did not have access to the internet very nice feture and when you did have access you could play with your friendsc help them and have them help you that is if you could add you friends insted of some randome player you dont even know and alot of times these game are something my son and I can play together online and brings us a little closer to each other because neather of us owns a car and lives many miles apart he cant get a lisence because he has sesures and has had several brain surgeries and if things keep progressing as they have even though he is funktioning well he gets avm anurisums in the brain and may not have much longer on this earth it could be as little as 2 years left then again God could give him a gift and give him a few more hopefully long after I have left this earth but I am prepared if not so every little thing we can do together to bring us a little closness means alot to me that is why when I write a developer to tell them they have a problem with there game it means I am upset and it means alot to me so if someone would kindly pass this on to game developers and to game insight to give them a insight on whatd these games men to some people and how they can improve on there game design I would like that very much