Exit Stage Left, Phil Fish

The Phil Fish Fiasco says more about Video Game Journalism than it does about the man himself...

Today the gaming world was rocked by Phil Fish’s stark announcement that he has not only cancelled Fez 2, but also withdrawn from the Games Industry altogether.

Amongst commentators on the subject there seems to be two schools of thought:

  1. The guys is outspoken and arrogant - we’re better without him
  2. Fez was an amazing game, Fish was a visionary, and we’ve lost a true great

What surprises me is how little focus there has been on the supporting act in this performance, Marcus “Annoyed Gamer” Beer, and what his comments say about modern professional game journalism. On a GameTrailers episode of Invisible Walls, Beer labelled Fish a “tosspot”, a “wanker”, and a “fucking asshole”. Judged purely on the tweets that Fish publishes, one could say that this is a fair personal assessment which an individual might make. Beer though, went further, by launching a tirade of personal insults into the public arena through his professional medium.

I am perfectly okay with analysis and opinion articles as part of my gaming news intake, in fact, I encourage any piece which ascends our beloved past-time upwards with detailed thought and calculated arguments. What I fail to understand is why we, the audience, are fine to stand by when supposed professional journalists turn up to a studio, fire off ugly insults at a particular individual, and happily cash their paycheck.

There’s an obvious counter-argument here… Fish himself is no saint. The man has a reputation for being rude, impatient, and somewhat untactful. However, it is here that Beer (and the wider game journalism circle) has the opportunity to take the high road. Deliver an intellectual and by all means critical editorial on Fish, investigate whether these attitudes are wide-spread within the Indie scene, and probe how this might affect the future of the Industry. Instead, Beer chose the lowest of low roads, a direct riposte of equally childish insults.

Finally, let us look outwards at other media. “Spielberg is a Douche”, “Dan Brown acts like a Penis”, and “Coldplay are pompous charlatans”. These are not comments made by journalists from other media. Why? Because these forms of entertainment have had time to grow and their respective commentators have grown with them. When the gaming media, who play an important role in pushing video games as the beautiful entertainment medium we know they are act with such a lack of professionalism, how can we expect the wider public to appreciate our passion? Gamers world-wide often face the contempt of the dreaded “non-gamer” – just this week local US news outlets ran stories on Minecraft (often using the portmanteau “Minecrack”) with bewilderment. Anchors were keen to distance themselves from the gaming persona with lines like “I don’t even know what this is… my kids would though!”. Those silly gamers with their little games!

Maybe as time goes on we’ll get a more detailed analysis of how this situation came about. But when the dust settles, the knee-jerk tweets are forgotten, and we’ve moved onto the new daily gaming drama, one thing will still be true. Fez 2 is no longer coming, and we are poorer for it.


This piece was cross-posted from my new blog

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