Weekend Rant: Let’s give Phil Fish a break
Phil Fish began Fez years ago and went through countless cycles of development. Some of this was documented in Indie Game: The Movie and after a showing at GDC, a Japanese developer asked his opinion on Japanese games to which he replied “your games suck”. Since then, the whirlwind of hate he’s receiving is pretty crazy, people saying he has zero games out and doesn’t deserve to say things like that. Others even saying he doesn’t deserve the grand prize at the IGF awards, purely for either winning one already or for his comments. I offer one request about all of this hub-bub though.
Can’t we just give him a break?
First off, it’s a dude’s opinion about whether or not Japanese games suck or not. He should be free to say whatever he wants candidly. It might have been a little callous of him to say it to a Japanese developer, but was he saying it outright to him? No. He was talking about modern Japanese games which are few and far between now. Other than Suda 51, Nintendo and other companies, we live in a world where Western development is more prevalent. We care more about our Mass Effect‘s than our Final Fantasy’s nowadays.
Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man, even spoke two years ago at TGS and at GDC 2012 saying Japanese development is in a decline. Even indie developers like Jonathan Blow of Braid fame say they’re “joyless husks”. It doesn’t make sense to be angry at one developer saying that when countless others have already said it in the past and present. I don’t necessarily agree with it since I love Shadows of the Damned last year and always respect Japanese game development but even I can admit, it’s not the same as it was during the NES-SNES-PS1 era.
Another thing, claiming he’s only made one game to his name? Let’s be clear here, some (maybe not all) indie developers at some point worked on other games in their career. They’ve seen the industry and how it works but on their own time, try and make their own game.
Phil says Fez is the 7th game he’s worked on but this is his game as a creator, he’s worked on four games in his three years in the industry. Brian Provinciano is a testment to this since before becoming full time developer during his 10 years of development on Retro City Rampage, he was working for game developers all around the industry. They’ve shipped games in the past, sure maybe they didn’t do it all but working on proves they’re more in the industry than people complaining on the internet. They’re making a personal mark rather than being just a guy behind the curtain.
People are also upset about the 2012 IGF Awards when Fez won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. It was one of the happiest moments for him but angry gamers soured it a bit for him. Now yes, he won an IGF Award for Art in 2008 and around that time, we expected the game to release soon but if 3-4 dudes work on a game, it’ll take a while in the oven. Some iPhone game developers probably have that amount of people working the game but it’s not a process of polarity changes and using a controller for platforming. It takes a long time for some indie games to get developed.
You’ll see in Indie Game: The Movie, he legitimately breaks down during the filming and it’s very emotional. The filmmakers used that as a centerpiece for the film, showing off one side of indie development where you put your entire life into one game and when you see pitfalls, it can depress the hell out of you.
Winning the grand prize was attesting to how much Fez has gone through in over four years. While other games in the running might have deserved it more like Spelunky or Johann Sebastian Joust, It was ultimately the IGF’s decision to award Fez with that entitlement. Some say it’s rigged and another reason some indie devs detest the IGF Awards and started the Pirate Kart for their efforts to be ready available to the public without spending money to submit it to the IGF.
After all that, people are still angry with him and I ask one simple question, why? Is it because he said something you disagree with? Is it because his comments came off kind of like a dick? Talk to Jonathan Blow, talk to Edmund McMillen, they’re kind of dicks sometimes. Respected yes, but some of them aren’t afraid to say it like it is in their opinion and that’s just what Fish was doing. Maybe it’s because the game has been in development for some time now? There are intricacies to the development process and some games will take longer since the developer will want to make it the best game they can make. They don’t have a lot of money and can’t always be expected to pay $40, 000 dollars to patch it later. That’s IF they can make a profit. No matter what era Fez is released in, it’ll be respected in that time.
If you still disagree with Fish after all this, that’s okay, it’s your opinion and you can vote with your dollar to not support Fez. But don’t outright condemn somebody’s piece of work and art they’ve put countless years of effort into just because of one statement because we would have done that with so many artists of their era. Some people can just be real dicks sometimes even when they don’t think they are, they’re just delivering an honest answer. We might not like the most honest answers but we have to appreciate them for speaking their mind rather than shout about it.