Everyone loves game developers


AS a game developer you are creating and setting the rules for interaction and existing in a world that gamers, to varying degrees, become completely immersed in. If there is an increased amount of vitriol aimed at game developers compared to other members of the entertainment industry that can’t be explained away simply by controlling for the demographics of the audience, I would think it has something to do with that.

The amount of frustration that we experience on a daily basis when we miss a train, or some other slight of fate leads us to consciously or subconsciously rail against whatever deity, power or non-sentient force we feel is picking us out for special treatment. Imagine if there were an actual entity that you could target that rage at. You could actually look up the name of the god that forsook you by making your jump juuuust miss that platform, and tell him exactly what you though of the creation he had wrought.

The anger targeted at government and bureaucracies is also akin to this rage. Government officials take, to some degree (and by that I mean with an ounce of hyperbole) a position of demigod, writing the rules of interaction and action in our world. In so doing they make themselves corporeal targets for our frustration at “the way things work.”

Of course, the stakes and consequences in games are not as high as either of these, but I think a lot of brain scanning research will tell us that in the heat of the moment, our brains aren’t very good at telling the difference.

The only sure things in life are Death, Taxes, and Game overs.


I tend to be very judicious in my rage. If I don’t like a game’s rules, well, them’s the rules, and it’s my choice not to play. I see that as a circumstance beyond my control, and, frustrated though I may be, I’m not gonna take it out on the developer. When the game doesn’t operate according to its own rules, however–say, when there’s a glitch–that’s when I get angry. But again I’m judicious. Everybody makes mistakes, and I can’t expect game developers writing and going through countless lines of code to be perfect all the time. And in most cases politely pointing out the error results in a fix. I hope I’m not alone in cutting game developers some slack–I sincerely hope the angry hordes are the minority, although even if they are that doesn’t make their abuse any more tolerable.

Actually my rage is more often reserved for developers who see a problem and refuse to do anything about it–something I rarely encounter in game developers but encounter pretty frequently among people who make programs I’ve used in different jobs. I ask, “Why can’t the program do this?” and the reply I get is, “Why do you need it to do that?” The reply would be significantly less frustrating if the developer would consider “Because it’s necessary to my work” or even “Because that’s what it’s supposed to do” a valid answer. Instead they say, “Submit a request for modification and if enough people have the same problem we’ll review the possibility of having someone look into the feasibility of considering forming a taskforce to determine the appropriateness of writing a report on whether this problem is worthy of further analysis.”

And when I click on the “Recover my password” link on a website and get, “Please enter your password to recover your password”…then my rage reaches the point that my commitment to peace is seriously tested.

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Not to be rude, but Anita isn’t a developer and Phil is … atypical to put it politely. It’s like saying that musicians are killing themselves with drugs and citing Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse as proof…

I’d really recommend everyone watch Indie Game: The Movie. It mainly focuses on the developers of Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Fez at different stages of development. Braid had already been out and successful, Super Meat Boy was in the final stretch leading up to release, and Fez was stuck in perfectionist development hell. Phil Fish (the developer behind Fez) talks about how he’s scrapped and redone the game 5 times. In one interview, he says if he can’t finish the game, he’ll kill himself. In a later interview–while he’s waiting for a former business partner to sign a legal agreement–he says he’ll murder that former business partner if he doesn’t sign. Phil needs to enhance his calm.

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Yeah, Phil Fish is a very poor example of developers being the recipients of vitriol they don’t deserve. Fish is one of those people who lashes out at his critics via social media, he basically puts a big target on his back.

All I know is Valve must be trying to steal the torch away from Duke Nukem for longest running vapor ware game.

Fish has found a way to reduce his stress; he took his ball and went home:

I played Tiny Speck’s Glitch MMO from beta all the way up to the bitter, tearjerky end. All the while, their team was fantastic, responsive and helpful, and genuinely appreciated the feedback we testers sent in to them, pulling long hours (sometimes over holidays), responding to the forums with humor and understanding, and making the community feel like a community and not a bunch of faceless usernames. The game itself was lovely and here for far too short a time, but Stoot and the whole Tiny Speck team made the game feel like a second home, and I’ll never forget that.

I don’t hate game developers. I hate game PUBLISHERS. There’s a distinct difference there, most of the time.

I work in the gaming industry. I started out as a GameMaster (kind of a hybrid customer support agent/cop who actually manifests in game as a character) for Ultima Online. You absolutely have to have a thick skin:

I have been told I should contract AIDS after watching my children die in a fire.

I have been sworn at by people who want their dragon pet to be named “Jew Oven”.

I have seen the customer support team referred to as the “Mail Bomb Buffer”.

I have listened to players tell me they fear for their lives because an argument spilled out of the game, and another player is threatening them via email, and then heard these same players get irate when I suggest they should call the police.

I have seen a crew of GameMasters cringe when they see the manual come out, crediting them with their real names. The studio thought it was a honor. The staff thought customers would stalk them out of the game.

It’s a crazy world out there.


A difference great enough to justify death threats? That’s the scale we’re talking about here.

You can hold onto whatever belief best fits your narrative, but both Publishers and Developers employ human beings with lives and families, and who are passionate about games.

Umm, what? Who said anything about justifying death threats? I don’t think I did. I send LOTS of positive vibes out to game developers - having friends who’ve worked in the industry, I know the hell that is their lives at times. But big faceless publishing companies, that force games out before they’re ready, squash creativity in the name of the almighty buck, and generally do whatever they can to gouge the player for as much money as they possibly can? Those guys, I’m quite happy to say that I hate them.

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The article you commented on is about is about the levels of entitled hate against people who work in the industry, and it absolutely gets up to the death threat level. I’m glad you carve out developers as people you support. I’m sad that you paint thousands of others who get the same levels of abuse (all of the horrid examples I cited were while working for a publisher) with the same brush.

Er, not exactly. It’s not vaporware if you just want it to exist. Vaporware is software which has been announced, but doesn’t get published even though it hasn’t been canceled. Valve haven’t even acknowledged that they’re working on Half-Life (episode) 3, much less have they announced it. There’s no reasonable expectation that it will ever exist. Whereas 3D Realms were giving interviews and showing off Duke Nukem Forever from the start of development, promising it would be out “soon,” even though “soon” turned out to be a decade later and a good six or seven years after it was expected.

That’s an interesting point that I hadn’t really considered much as a game developer. It explains some of the anger - the game developer is seen as having a very personal, individually disempowering effect on the gamer. There are other dynamics at play as well, though - female developers are singled out for special levels of vitriol, and you see these sorts of levels of anger about games that aren’t even released yet. And gamers frequently feel they have the right to dictate every detail of game development, marketing and sales, and how game developers should live their lives. There’s a definite sense of ownership.


Just because some crazy loons express their hatred by sending death threats, doesn’t mean that everybody does. I express my hatred of the big publishing houses by not giving them my money. Saying that I hate a big company doesn’t mean that I think everyone in said company should die in a fire. Quite the opposite, in fact, I’m sure most of them (particularly the poor SOBs working in customer relations/support) are quite lovely people who have the unfortunate luck to be working for a company whose policies I largely disagree with, and I wish them nothing but happiness and love (in a better job, at a better company). But just because there are people working in shitty jobs at said shitty company, doesn’t mean that I have to love the company itself.

And let’s be honest here, people working in customer support at a a publishing company aren’t “Game publishers” any more than people working in the mailroom at a book publishing company are “book publishers,” so it’s pretty disingenuous to equate me saying “I hate game publishers” to saying “I think people working in customer support at game publishing companies are justified in receiving death threats.”


Reading your reply, I hope that my comment didn’t come across as an unapologetic defense of game dev abusers. I’m actually on the other end, being a full time productivity and web dev and weekend warrior game dev myself, and think the behavior and expression of these raging commentators to be totally ridiculous and hurtful. I meant more to say that, in the sociological sense, I think I understand structurally why the game developer - user relationship ends up rattling the unstable fans more and in this particular way more intensely than other members of the entertainment field.

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I didn’t mean to excuse the actions or behaviors of these raging fans, or to say that the form or content of their reactions was appropriate. I was just writing to say that I can see how this particular dev - gamer relationship could result in a specific form and level of outrage compared to some others (see my response to spunkyTWS as well…) I think the same kind of sociopathic and narcassistic tendencies that mistakenly lead people to believe that every turn of bad luck is happening directly and personally to THEM is replicated in the dev - gamer relationship.

EDITED to add more stuff…

Every time an update to Warcraft comes out the messages look like this:

“Those damn developers have nerfed my toon again! They are determined to make the weakest in the game!”

“WTF is with the developers? They keep buffing . There is no love for .”