Phil Fish, the main guy behind indie platformer Fez, isn't exactly the most popular figure among online gaming communities. Whether it be the way he was portrayed in documentary Indie Game: The Movie or stuff like his comments on Japanese gaming, whenever his name comes up - or even mention of Fez - out come the haters, criticising him personally and saying stuff like how they never bought Fez because they thought he was an asshole.
The latest example is this thread over on the Steam forums. Fez, out soon on PC, is doing very well, leading Fish to comment:
...it's #1 on steam right now and it's not even out yet. you should boycott harder, nerds...
Cue the outrage. The calls from people to - irony - boycott a successful indie platform game as though he was EA, or a convicted criminal, or some terrorist state.
There is a chance that those calling Fish an asshole are right. Maybe he is! I've never met him. But that's not the point.
The point here is...does it matter? Do comments left on a forum change in any way the design or experience of Fez? Come on. He's revelling in the fact a vocal segment of people who don't like him seem to have had little effect on sales. Circling his wagons. Could have done it with a little more tact, perhaps, but that's the gist of it.
Video games need more people like Phil Fish, not less. People who come off as insanely passionate, who wear their heart on their sleeve. This is a medium/industry that is dreadfully boring. Indies aside, every word coming out of gaming's most creative minds is massaged (or strangled) by PR, nearly every executive or representative a clean-cut drone that, like a well-dressed Wreck-Gar, speaks only in pre-recorded marketing messages.
Basically, we're shown very little personality from the personalities responsible for the things we love the most. And that's a damn shame.
Hearing somebody speak like a human, one who gets angry, who gets frustrated, who isn't afraid to take a swing at people who don't like him or his work, I think we need - with extreme exceptions - more of it. People like Fish, or people like his Indie Game: The Movie co-star Jon Blow, who upset a lot of folks last year when he said most big games were simply trying to be "shitty action movies". Agree or not, that's not something you'd ever hear from a developer at EA, Activision or Ubisoft, so at the bare minimum it's useful as a means of prompting discussion.
To step away from games, and get some perspective, let's look at a guy like Harvey Weinstein. Who at times I am convinced hates the entire human race. Does that stop people admiring and respecting his body of work? Find me someone who has yet to watch Shakespeare in Love - for which he won an Academy Award - because they don't like how Weinstein behaves in interviews.
Music is the same. If you swore off listening to an album recorded by someone who has been a jerk in interviews, or hostile to fans at a show, you probably haven't read enough interviews with musicians, and don't go to enough shows.
Sure, this kind of behaviour is confronting. It can even be seen as rude. And let me say this again, I'm making a very clear distinction here between people who act (or are seen by some) like jerks and those who have said or done some truly reprehensible shit (see: Roman Polanski). But at least being seen by some (I found Fish's latest comments funny) to be a mere jerk is interesting, and unlike most PR-massaged comments, at least we know he really means it.
Plus, Fez is great. If you won't play it because you think Phil Fish isn't a nice person, well, you're missing out. You're also being a little unfair on Fez considering you probably don't know many/any other developers personally. For all you know, Miyamoto could be a total dick! Would that stop you playing Mario?