For over a year now, Phil Fish has been called (and is known to be) a brilliant game designer.  Fez is universally recognized as a clever, well designed, beautiful game that has kept many gamers up late at night taking notes, swearing at their screens, and simply trying to understand the world that Fish created.  It is common knowledge that Fez’s development was filled to the brim with hardships, yet Fish pushed through and delivered one of the best, most original gaming experiences from last year.

Of course, Fish has also been thrown into the spotlight for something else entirely: his comments on the gaming industry.  He has shown that he has no issue with speaking his mind in both abrasive (and yes, sometimes rude) terms.  He has repeatedly told reporters to “f*ck off,” and his thoughts on the Japanese gaming scene are nigh on legendary.  He has been the subject of much Internet ridicule and hate from both common folk and industry professionals.  It is fair to say that Phil Fish has been at war with the public ever since he sat down in front of a camera.

This, of course, led to the cancellation of Fez II just a few days ago.  Fish went to Twitter to announce that he was abandoning not only the game, but the industry as a whole, citing the vitriol of the Internet as his catalyst.  Immediately, the Internet was up-in-arms over the decision and began piling more hate on Fish, insisting that he was either mentally unstable, overreacting, or just a giant pansy.

If I had to use one word to describe Phil Fish, though, that word would be “human.”

Let’s back up.  Phil Fish spent years of his life envisioning and creating Fez.  Hundre- no, thousands of late nights dedicated to staring at a computer screen to get further along on a single project.  No breaks, no variety, nothing new, just Fez.  I can only imagine what that would have been like, to love a project that much and have it require so much.  Phil Fish is undeniably dedicated.

“How can I piss people off next?”

Cut to Fez’s release, which is accompanied by loads of praise and hype.  Gamers everywhere are only just beginning to realize the world that Fish has created, and they are loving every moment of it.  Notebooks are filled, sleepless nights are abundant, and Rosetta stones are decoded.  Fish is basking in it all, feeling like his hard work has finally paid off.  He is probably even feeling a bit untouchable, so to speak, with all the buzz that he is accruing.  And honestly, anyone would.  After spending years on one thing, and then have everyone love it in a matter of days, we’d all become a little more, er, confident.

And then the controversy starts.  I don’t need to chronicle the downward spiral of hate as everyone already knows every detail.  Fish made very open remarks to journalists and other professionals about Japanese games, the Internet, and several other topics.  He showed a willingness to speak his mind that sometimes came off as rude, which is understandable, and that granted him a loyal following of haters.  However, I feel as if some of the opinions that he had could not be expressed in many other (nicer) ways.  Or that, if they had, they wouldn’t have the impact that they ended up having.  And honestly, many of the disgust-filled comments that were aimed at Fish were filled with more abuse and hate than any remark that he ever made.

The controversy ends with a GameTrailers employee publicly calling Fish a “wanker” and a “f*cking assh*le” for not responding to a few questions in an interview.  This backlash was unwarranted and rude, and quite honestly is more unnecessary than almost anything Fish has ever said in public.  Spewing vitriol at your guest for not commenting on a situation is ruthless and immature.  While not caused by only this specific instance, Fish abruptly canceled Fez II and left the gaming industry.  

I don’t want to turn this into a “how would you feel?” blog, but let’s analyze: in the past year and a half, Fish has released (to critical acclaim) what is essentially his life project, which he toiled away at for years out of pure love.  He gets a bit high on the hype and praise, and decides that it won’t matter if he starts shooting out controversial opinions left and right.  Of course, backlash ensues.  The Internet becomes full of distaste towards Fish’s very being.  After deciding to speak his mind in a frank manner, he is met with the rage of people who haven’t worked half as hard in their entire lives as he does in a week.  A large portion of his time is spent listening to hate from people that are sitting in front of their monitor, in their mother’s basement, while waiting for a bag of pizza rolls to heat up (this isn’t a description of everyone that has ever given him hate, just a surprisingly large amount).  Understandably, it pisses him off, and he decides to get away from it.

Can you blame him?  If the answer is still yes, imagine this: You have just won a marathon.  You cross the finish line, grab a bottle of water, and sit down to relax.  You feel nothing but insane pride, and deservedly so.  You alone had the victory, and no one can take that away from you.  A local news reporter approaches you and asks a simple question.

“How do you feel about cyclists?”

Without really thinking, you reply “They’re assh*les.”

Now imagine that you spend the next year receiving hate from every corner of the Internet for that one comment.  Of course, you’d be interviewed again and again about it, and would most likely eventually crash.  You’d want nothing but to get away, and decide never to run again.


I guess that I’ll finish this blog up here.  Every time you post a comment, think about who could read it.  Remember that even well known video game developers are still only people, especially the ones that are in the industry only for their love of games.  Remember that people like Phil Fish can give and take as they please, and that they have no obligation to please you.  He has worked for years to deliver a great product, and has put more time in on one thing than any of us ever will.  In a world of companies that are slowly bending to the will of the Internet, let’s remember the Phil Fish situation.  You can hate the man, love the man, or simply not care, but remember that he is only human, and can only take so much.