Via Zubon on KTR, we have this Penny Arcade report about a dev quitting his job over negative feedback/threats over Twitter. Zubon’s post is an attempt to help raise awareness for the situation so negativity/threats slow or stop. I couldn’t stop shaking my head reading both posts.
There are many aspects to all of this, and I’ll cover some of the basics before getting to the main point.
First, fame is what it is. When more people know of you, more people have an opinion of you, and those will range from very positive to very negative, no matter who you are. There are people who hated Ghandi/MLK (insert whoever you deem ‘good’), and right now there is a Facebook support group for Boston terrorist bomber #2. Trying to convince everyone who knows about you that you are ‘good’ is a fool’s pursuit.
In all but the rarest cases, you have to do something to earn fame. And then you have to keep doing something to maintain fame, especially in today’s ADHD world where fame cycles are closer to 15 seconds than 15 minutes. It’s very easy to NOT be famous, and lots of people try VERY hard to be famous. Fame has its perks, ranging from getting into an MMO beta to becoming a multi-millionaire getting paid 100k for Tweeting about your toothpaste (Kardashians). With those perks however comes the attention; it’s a tradeoff, and always has been.
Twitter itself is not air; you can live without it. Very few jobs REQUIRE you to be on Twitter, and even fewer require you to read what’s there. Much like fame, when you get on Twitter you (knowingly or not) accept the tradeoff of getting your message out with getting attention for that message, and as already covered; any attention is going to be good and bad. That Twitter is a part of the anonymous internet amplifies this, sure, but that same internet amplification also makes getting the attention you were looking for easier. Accept both or neither.
On top of that, let’s not pretend that being a game dev or reviewer is some extra burden beyond a ‘normal’ job. Normal life comes with social ‘issues’, be it office politics related to promotions, after-project credit/blame distribution, who gets into a college and why, invitations to parties, etc. Dealing with negativity is a basic aspect of life, and the only way to fully avoid it is to place yourself in a bubble forever.
Similarly, the attention/response ratio is the same here as well. Become a very popular game dev and you will get ideal death threats when you change game balance, yup. Go to enough parties and eventually someone is going to punch you in the face over a misunderstanding. Do really well at work and certain people are going to try and bring you down. Again, that’s just life. Game devs and reviewers are not special snowflakes dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Want to test it out for yourself? Start a blog, get popular, and then write how WoW sucks and watch the hate pour in. Someone might even call you evil. At that point you can curl up into a ball, start crying, and ask the sky why this is happening to you, or you act like most people would and chuckle, brush it off, and continue on.
Finally, let’s cover the severity of the threats. Are most of them serious? Nope. Is there a chance one of them is? Yup. Does that chance mean you should report everything or never get famous? Up to you. There is also a chance you will get into a car accident today, so it’s up to you whether you want to drive into work today. I’d also suggest considering never going outside, lighting strikes and all. Point being, there is always a risk to things and your life can be cut short at any time; you can either obsess over it or play the odds wisely (don’t smoke, don’t be fat, etc) and make the most of things.
If the game dev felt his fame was causing more harm than good, that’s his choice, and I’m not bashing him for it. At the same time, let’s not martyr him or pretend that fame-based issues are something new or unfair. They just come in 140 characters now.