Recently, Epic announced that it would be offering a games store like Steam, but with a few key changes. Most notably a lack of a discussion forum. This was seen by most as a breath of fresh air, for the combination of anonymity and humanity has resulted in Steam becoming one of the most toxic retail markets available to developers.
Going as far back as when I dumped Cloney on Steam, this toxicity has made me question the intent of individuals who embody it. With Cloney, no expense was spared to indicate that it was a clone of Flappy Bird. It was merely built to demonstrate how easy it is to make that sort of game. The reception and hatred for this free title on Steam were astounding. The call-outs about it being a clone were probably the most disheartening because it left me wondering how ignorant or stupid someone could be.
I had a few releases after Cloney with different studios, all received (85+). However, despite the unanimous praise for the titles, there still were individual’s hell-bent on how much they thought the titles sucked and that no one should buy them. Prior to PTBO Game Jam 04, I kicked a nice little demo to Steam with the intent of revealing the theme of the game jam to participants. Even this free little demo, which really was a walking simulator with a little puzzle received some horrific reviews. Again, proving the toxicity which Steam or the internet can harbor.
I have a theory (shared by many), anonymity. When you don’t have to be held accountable for your actions it opens the door to limitless possibilities. The idea of an online alias really plays out as a vessel of some of our worst traits. I’m not even going to touch the larger problem of how easy it is to lie about yourself and your experience online either.
This post came from watching what’s happening with Underworld Ascendant; no argument here, the launch was rough. However, Otherside Entertainment has made a commitment to updates and has accepted some responsibility for the situation that the game found itself in. With the release of the Save Game Update (Disclosure: I was directly involved in this.), they made good on listening to the feedback and addressing a significant portion of it in a timely manner. Is there more to do? Absolutely.
I decided to have some fun and remove the veil of anonymity from some of the trolls (actually, I decided to not talk about one of the trolls because I wanted to protect his family), to give me an idea of where they are coming from. A little bit of me was hoping it would let me reconcile what might have led them to be so hostile, and in some cases make false accusations.
I have zero access to sales data and customer information. None of this was ascertained by any sort of violation of privacy or company information.
I just have a certain set of skills.
David has been studying computer engineering with a minor in game design. This leads me to believe he has that “I can do better” attitude. Given the school he is attending and the lack of professors who have never made a commercially released game I have to question that stance. On one front, he at least has some experience behind him to articulate accurate assessments of some of the engineering problems faced, but his given comments suggest otherwise. Most likely, he hasn’t absorbed the lessons being taught. I think the most disappointing thing for David is that he might wish to enter the video game industry, and his demonstrated attitude is a non-starter for most companies. So, David hides behind an alias, to that point a plethora of aliases.
So, what triggered David? This is where we start to fall into the space that I’m not a psychologist, but we all know the story. There are some clear indicators that David utilizes online communities to bolster a limited social circle in the real world. The story always plays out the same from here on out. the same at this point.
If David had to use his real identity, would he have acted the way he has and continues to online? No, and this is fundamentally what is wrong with where the pendulum has swung on matters of privacy currently. I believe that Epic has moved the needle in the right direction by removing an outlet for this level of toxicity to occur.