Communication between the community and the developers is always a controversial topic for any game. We as a site have touched on it multiple times, and usually in a way that we lobbied for a more open sharing of information and decision making. Generally gamers do often feel like they are not sufficiently included in the process, as outlined in this recent thread for example. Now if you ask yourself why communication sometimes stalls, programmer Charles Randall has a clear answer. It’s because the gaming culture is so toxic nowadays.
He took the issue to a lengthy Twitter thread/rant, where Charles extensively talked about the difficulties of devs being candid. As he is unrelated to Neverwinter I didn’t know him before, but it caught my attention because his statement drew a lot of comments on Twitter and Reddit.
Before I dig into the comments made, let me brief you on what this is all about. You’ll find the full quote and the original link to the Twitter thread below.
The caveat is that we’re only candid with other industry people. Because gamer culture is so toxic that being candid in public is dangerous.
— Charles Randall (@charlesrandall) September 24, 2017
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.” There are still topics I can’t touch because I was candid once and it resulted in dumb headlines, misunderstandings, and harassment. So 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. I 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. I worry about what other topical hatred he’s picking up on at the same time. I guess this leads into a bigger point. When you attack developers for “being political”, that’s a facet of the bullshit that forces us to keep things hidden from public view. The elements that contribute to harassing developers over perceived technical slights are the same elements as all the other hate out there.
Next time you don’t like a game, maybe consider just… moving on? What is the value of helping spread hate and toxicity? If more people accepted that it’s okay to dislike a game and move on, rather than doubling down on harassment, things would be more open. If you are posting extremely negative things about a game you don’t like, even with good intentions, you are contributing to this ethos. Being critical and explaining why you don’t like something is fine. Dwelling on it, calling out the dev, or just talking shit is not. Let’s be honest: dwelling on something you don’t like also isn’t healthy. Spend your time on what matters instead.
Also: there’s this idea that developers are secretive of what they are doing with respect to sharing with other devs: this is false. There’s no real competition between developers. We love to talk and share, and so at best, a lot of stuff is “FrieNDA’d.” Most developers know what their other developer friends are working on, even between AAA studios. Open secret. You know why we have to keep what we’re doing secret from the public? Because of the toxic culture surrounding it. (Some people will say marketing and they are not wrong but that’s the difference between secrecy and WIDE knowledge.)
God help you if you let any amount of the public know what you are working on before it’s set in stone. Games change during development, this is a universal constant no developer would argue with, but toxic culture can’t handle that. If you think I’m wrong on any points in this thread, please compare the movie industry to the games industry. Sometimes we know about movies that are “in development” years and years before anyone even starts working on them. That wouldn’t fly here. Shout out to all my friends who do community management for games. They deal with a lot of bullshit they should never have had to.
Hey Troll! You Just Got Owned!
First and foremost: Boom trolls, you’ve just got owned. You can’t help but agree to most of the stuff Charles says. In today’s age it’s seems widely accepted to bash, harass and insult each other over nonsense. It’s not a particular issue of the gaming industry, but more the direction in which the internet has moved in. Most trolls try to reason their behavior by speaking the “truth” or generally throwing the term “SJW” to anyone taking offense at their behavior, but that’s just an excuse for being unnecessarily mean.
I definitely get how developers struggle with negativity. They are constantly under attack, and rarely get credit. I think most of us might have examples where they went overboard with feedback, I definitely do. That’s where everyone should remind themselves that pointing out stuff that they like is not marginal. It helps the devs to cope with the bullshit that is going on every day.
Is It Really Devs vs. Players?
That being said, Charles isn’t entirely right. He seems to put the blame solely on the players, and with that falls prey to the system he is trying to fight.
I don’t think it’s an issue between players and devs, but more market/publishers/studios vs. devs vs. players. Gaming has become such a major market that nowadays there are much more factors involved than “just” building a great game and playing it for entertainment only. It’s too easy to say players can move on. Publishers want players to spend more money than ever and get them attached to the product for a long time. Why are you surprised that they stay then, even if angry and frustrated? They think they deserve a say in the matter based on how much they’ve invested (time/money).
That’s where devs get caught in a bad spot in which they have to somehow moderate between management and players. In the end you could even reason that nobody forces devs to work for a company with questionable business and monetization model, like PWE for example. So you won’t likely find a solution using that “you can always leave” argument.
It’s a Business For Gamers As Well
Additionally gamers do not only play the game nowadays, but can actually make money off it. So as dev you are suddenly a person of public interest, whose actions might affect the revenue not only of your company but also the players. You can screw up on both sides, and neither is fun.
This somehow reminds me of other sports where traditionalists claim that money has ruined everything. Unsurprisingly the hatred towards “millionaire” athletes has gone up, especially when they don’t perform or act as they should. I think the gaming industry suffers from similar effects.
Turning Away is the Wrong Conclusion
That’s why I believe it’s not exclusively an attitude thing of the modern internet troll age. It’s how gaming has evolved as a market. Turning away from players because “toxic” is the wrong conclusion. It will only feed the frustration and contribute to a broken system. I’m not saying devs should suck up every bullshit thrown their way though. Even if they genuinely screw up, feedback is best served in a calm and reasonable manner.
But devs themselves also have to understand that developing games is not a one-way road. Player no longer buy a game, play it once, and move on. They are a much more active and continued part of the community and market, which is absolutely intended by the publishers. So yes, unfortunately everyone is part of that mess, and has to work on a solution. Not just the players.
What’s your take on the increasing hate towards developers? Should they just quit as as suggested by Charles or haven’t they sufficiently adjusted to a new situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board!
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