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Opinion | Internet discourse is negatively affecting the video game industry

By Steven Beynon
On February 21, 2014

We live in an age where virtually everyone has an immediate line of communication to everyone in the country.

Want to give immediate feedback about your experiences at WalMart? I promise you their PR team keeps a close eye on whenever WalMart is mentioned on Twitter.

This power comes with a heavy element of personal restraint. It's really easy to have nasty knee-jerk reactions to things.

I'm not saying folks should be reserved when an opinion is warranted. If you truly think Fox News is the worst organization in the world, say it! I guarantee you someone important will see that.

Did you enjoy the second season of House of Cards? Let them know in a tweet! Praise the creative minds and that will motivate that team to move forward.

It's even arguable this instant access to public critique is making professional critics outdated, or at least giving them a run for their money.

College students across campus got way into Flappy Bird. The game isn't necessarily good by any means. It certainly isn't intellectually challenging nor does it offer any enticing narrative. For students wanting something simple to mess around with for 30 seconds while waiting for the bus, Flappy Bird seemed like an OK way to do that.

It was a simplistic mobile game created by an indie Vietnamese game developer, Dong Nguyen.

Despite making $50,000 per day from advertisements, Flappy Bird was taken off virtual stores by the developer.

"I can call Flappy Bird a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it," Nguyen said in a tweet.

The game community accused Nguyen of stealing art assets from Nintendo games.

According to Nguyen, there are no legal reasons he took a very profitable game off virtual marketplaces.

Nguyen later tweeted, "I cannot take this anymore."

It isn't clear what this means. Much of the videogame press have the hypothesis Nguyen couldn't take the spotlight. Overnight he became rich and was swarmed for interview requests and thousands of people began tweeting at him.

Its likely Nguyen emotionally fell apart after people attacked him for allegedly plagiarizing other games.

Some gamers also saw it unfair that Nguyen got rich off a simple concept while indie developers around the world go into millions of dollars of debt to craft creative games with strong narrative hooks and thoughtful art design.

There were even rumors of Nguyen committing suicide after a fake news story reported he was found dead in his apartment. The entire story turned out to be a distasteful hoax.

One Flappy Bird article written by Jason Schreier for the popular gaming blog, Kotaku, was titled "Flappy Bird Is Making $50,000 A Day Off Ripped Art." The article's title was changed. Kotaku's Editor in Chief, Stephen Totilo, posted an apology to Nguyen.

Schreier wrote this update on the article:

"This article was originally titled 'Flappy Bird Is Making $50,000 A Day Off Ripped Art.' Given that the word 'ripped' can be interpreted as 'lifted,' I've decided to change the headline for the sake of clarity. Before scrutinizing the two pipes side by side, I believed that Flappy Bird's art was directly taken from Mario-however, when examined, it's clear that Flappy Bird's pipe is a new albeit unoriginal drawing. The similarities are apparent, as I originally noted, but 'ripped' may have been too harsh a word."

Is it fair to give Nguyen some flak for alleged plagiarism? Possibly. Regardless, Flappy Bird was a free game made by a single guy. This wasn't a multi-million dollar budget game. No one is immune to negative criticism regarding intellectual honesty. People need to know everything they say on the Internet does make its way to whomever they were referencing in a message.

In 2013 we saw a similar instance involving popular indie game developer Phil Fish canceling his high profile game, FEZ II, shortly after announcing it.

Fish was one of the stars in the theatrically released documentary, Indie Game: The Movie. The film chronicled the struggles of independent game developers. It is one of the highest rated documentaries of all time.

FEZ II was canceled shortly after Fish fired at the game press with heated rhetoric. Essentially he has been in the spotlight for so many years and has taken a lot of negative criticism over the years.

"He's an asshole," one editorialist stated.

Fish has been heavily criticized for being pretentious and unfairly dismissing his critics over the years. He doesn't necessarily have the most pleasant personality.

"I'm not cancelling FEZ II because some boorish fuck said something stupid, I'm doing it to get out of games...and I'm getting out of games because I choose not to put up with this abuse anymore", Fish later tweeted.

You are not anonymous on the Internet and whatever you write does carry weight. Open up a dialog whenever you can, but have constructive conversations. Challenge others, but don't bully your way into discourse.

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