Since Phil’s departer from game design, I’ve heard many people in the industry defend him saying we need more people like him. Most notably CliffyB, but we also have articles like Ben Kuchera’s article on why you want assholes designing your games.
No. We don’t need more assholes. No, we don’t need more people like Phil Fish. Indie devs like Blow and Rorher say stuff that create drama all the time… yet neither of them are nearly as reviled as Fish is. Phil Fish doesn’t ‘deserve’ the treatment he’s gotten. No one deserves to be harassed by thousands of people for stuff said about videogames. But he definitely earned it. He cultivated it. I’ve seen it pointed out during the famous “Japanese games suck” incident that people were surprised that it wasn’t Jonathan Blow that ended up under fire. Phil was being glib to move the conversation. The reason it spiraled for Fish and not Blow is because Fish embraced his drama. He acted above it while deeply wading in it. Stuff like his comments about the PC version of Fez was basically either intentionally inflammatory or massively out of touch. When you’re the single most reviled person in the indie scene, we don’t need more of you.
Fez worked for people. You can’t fairly say Phil was bad at what he did (though you can still criticize it). It probably would have been better to have more of what he did. But his abrasive personality was by far his most defining feature. Jonathan Blow is know for being abrasive too — but not in the same way. Blow speaks his mind frankly and often from a weird perspective. Blow is brutal. Blow gets his reputation for his convictions. Phil Fish has it… because he’s a dick?
So why want more Fishs when we can want so many other indie creators?
Why be Phil Fish when you can be Jonathan Blow instead? Why be Phil Fish when you can be Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes? Why be Phil when you can be Bennett Foddy or Doug Wilson? Cactus, Rorher, Auntie fucking Pixelante? Why not be Konjak, or Derek Yu… Pixel or Niffles? Why not be DanC, or Chris Hecker? Why not be Terry Cavanagh? He has a great accent! Why not be Jenova Chen? Hell, why aim small. Why not be Hideo Kojima, a Hidetaka Miyazaki, or a Hideki Kamiya? Why not more of whatever you are? Just try not to be a dick!
This list could go on forever. Almost no one on this list is beyond criticism. I surely disagree with everyone here about something. Some of them make some people (including me) very mad sometimes. But their games speak louder than their twitter accounts (well maybe not Kamiya’s…). Brilliant artists might often be abrasive, but we don’t need to forgive them for it. Teaching someone to shut their mouth or so sympathy or empathy will not make them a worse artist. We don’t need more asshole worship.
With all the amazing role-models in game design, no one should be looking at someone like Phil Fish and going “I need to be that”. Fish’s value as a role-model is to teach you want not to do. He made the mistakes for you and he paid the price for you. As much as I don’t like Phil, I might even say it isn’t fair that he paid the price for all of us. But he did and it says something very clearly.
Don’t be like Phil Fish.