We don’t need more “Phil Fish”s

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.

17 thoughts on “We don’t need more “Phil Fish”s

  1. Don’t forget the notorious “Japanese games suck” Q&A session kicked off with a japanese guy (who was a big fan of Fish and Blow’s) asked them about recent japanese games, and then FIsh just starts railing on the guy. It’s not a case of Fish insulting the glorious nippon, its him being a straight douche to a fan so he can make a point.


    He’s basically a shitstain.

  2. God that Ben Kuchera article was awful – it’s like he can’t even conceive that “opinionated” and “asshole” aren’t synonymous…

  3. Ben drives me up the wall all the time, but that one killed me. I even though it was funny because I didn’t even think the ‘goblins’ guy was all that offensive, but Ben turned it into some huge asshole worship thing.

  4. This is the same guy who criticized the 3ds / Nintendo (I forgot which) JUST because they wouldn’t put his game on their system, actually, he’s just an ass in general, he DOES deserve everything he’s gotten. -_-;

    As a small disclaimer, I’m not watching that youtube video, so I don’t know if what I said was brought up.

    I still check this site once in a rare while, is that weird or what?

  5. I completely agree. I know that you have a bit of a rocky relationship with Keith, designer for Auro, the game for which I’m developing. I know even you and I have hit the mat on fantasy strike once or twice, but there is a clear difference between being opinionated and even a bit aggressive in your arguing, and being a narcissistic, abusive, tantrum throwing worm.

    Phil Fish’s extreme narcissism and abuse towards others should not be tolerated for a second. John Blow, and even my own friend Keith have…abrasive arguing styles but they are not mean or nasty. They also don’t(to my knowledge) hold their fans in contempt and abuse them.

    I think the industry could stand a few more strong, courageous voices. But whether it be his behavior recently, or even his depiction in Indie Game:The Movie, Phil Fish’s temper tantrums and spoiled, wormish behavior should not be tolerated by anyone.

    We should all share the same goal: to make video games better. There’s no excuse for this kind of rampant narcissism.

  6. Sad my brother Jasper Byrne didn’t get a mention in your ‘why not be…’s :)

    You should play Lone Survivor, it’s really great.

  7. While I haven’t played it yet (I am so slow with this stuff) I have heard nothing but super kind things about his game. IT really is on my list! I can’t think of a game people have hassled me to play more in recent memory.

  8. Phil Fish is the Steve Jobs of indie gaming? (I’m not terribly familiar with Jobs’ assholeness or lack thereof, but hey.)

    I thought Ben’s more recent article on this subject (“Swimming in a sea of shit”) was pretty fair, actually.

    How many other Japanese auteur-type gamedevs named Hide-* are there? …Just checked, SWERY is Hidetaka Suehiro. Whoa.

  9. Jobs was a Blow-type pokemon. Which doesn’t mean he wasn’t extremely infuriating, but he really didn’t throw big public temper tantrums. It is honestly hard to find someone as bad as Fish who isn’t like, a pundit or something.

  10. I’d really like to say something constructive here.

    Nobody likes a Fishmalk.

    Otherwise, nice to see another update here, Kayin!

  11. Wondering if anyone can send me a link or something about Fish, cause having difficulty explaining to friends who never experienced his venom how he isn’t just a very opinionated person.

  12. “FIsh just starts railing on the guy.”

    No he didn’t. He railed on the games from the guy’s home country. let’s not conflate country of origin with the guy being personally responsible. I think this is in part some of where the sentiment “Phil’s a douche” comes from. People’s inability to separate the general from something personal. In psychology this stems from egocentricity and projection of that.

  13. So let me get this straight; you’re totally fine with a talented developer no longer working in the industry because he was a jerk to some people?

    Why stop there, though? Why not punish other people because of moral judgments? For instance, most people consider ero-guro (illustrations of mutilated, bleeding women meant to sexually arouse the viewer) way more objectionable than being a jerk.

    And since you’re a big fan of ero-guro, Kayin, wouldn’t it be awesome if you were no longer working in the games industry? “But that has nothing to do with my games themselves!” you will object. Yes, and neither does Fish telling off a shit-stirrer like Marcus on Twitter.

  14. WHOA! Shit’s getting a little real.

    Ohh leave the man to his fetishes. Not very nice to blow up his spot like that. The difference is that Fish is actually abusing people. Being into… *ahem* unconventional forms of erotica doesn’t hurt anyone.

  15. DAT GURO JAB. I don’t think that woks quite with what I said (digging dirt on someone is way different than someone being outwardly a shitlord to people), but at the same point, while I don’t think that fits, I still sorta feel that there is still a point to that so lets try and clear this up.

    I’m not ‘fine’ with it. I also don’t think he should have been harassed for being an asshole (any harassment from the internet almost always extremely disproportionate to the slight committed). But I also don’t think he should be used as the example of ‘the internet is going so far’ because he so directly encouraged it. He was part of his own drama and directly self destructive. He was probably the nastiest person in the indie scene that had a real voice. Then we have people like Ben Kuchera putting him forth as some sort of ideal and it’s like…. nah, he’s an asshole. Don’t be an asshole. We don’t need more assholes.

    The thing with the Ero-guro example is, well… I don’t think it could drive me off, because I don’t have the personality that would fan that flame. I’m sure I could suffer negatively from it, if the right pieces fell into place, but I wouldn’t fan my own flames like Phil would. Would that be fair to me? Nah. Is it far to Phil that he got a preposterous amount of crap? Is it fair that the internet so perfectly exploits his personality flaws? That the internet enables extremely self destructive behavior? Hell no.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that I think Phil is a shitty role model and a shitty person to emulate and I would much rather upcoming developers look at Fish and go “No, never” than think they should become a bunch of faux-rockstar divas. Phil is an example of what not to do.

    This doesn’t mean I’m glad he was driven off.

  16. To be fair to Johnny, I don’t think he was trying to fetish-shame me or anything, but was more making a point that it sucks when stuff outside of game making gets brought into game making related drama. But yeah it doesn’t really work because Fish was a special class. Like, Jonathan Blow is often a jerk, but he doesn’t abuse people or cultivate drama.

    I mean actually kinda ironically, when my fetishes come up (be it on a casual internet gaming stream, but sometimes on twitter), the point of it coming up is to try promote empathy and change how people view fetishes and how they are different entities from ones non sexual thoughts and opinions. “Oh hey that it’s that touchy feely feminist who has really weird fetishes”

  17. Yeah, me bringing up ero-guro has nothing to do with any objection I have to such a fetish (after all, I’m a Libertarian who believes in legalizing drugs, gay marriage, guns, etc. and am a member of Fetlife), but rather, to point out how easy it is dismiss a human being for a trivial, unrelated reason. Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet. Maybe it’s a taunting, prickly personality. Maybe it’s a sexual kink most consider fucked-up.

    Once the tsunami wave of directed Internet rage and indignation hits, the details and truth cease to matter, and only popular perception remains.

    Anyways, you seem to agree with me that Phil’s situation is unfortunate and unfair, but simultaneously note that you have little sympathy for him because he is an asshole. That’s a shame. I think we should have sympathy for any fellow human who is the victim of an injustice. Even ones who say mean words to others.

    And from a purely utilitarian view, I would rather live in a world with an extra good game. Even if it was developed by a guy who said mean words to others.

    By the way, I really don’t believe there was ever a major risk of most aspiring game developers emulating Phil Fish. Everyone who watched “Indie Gamer: The Movie” hated Fish and fell in love with Ed McMillen’s character. (Who, it should be noted, is good friends with Fish, and has stated that there was a lot of similarity in their emotions during game creation, and in response to criticism)

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