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Game Developers Play Metagames on Social Media, Don’t Like the Outcome

Posted on Friday, May 9 @ 15:30:00 Eastern by

If you’re a game developer, you’ve probably gotten on social media to toot your own horn and who can blame you, what with all the fantastic projects you’ve worked on and all the awesome game design you’ve been a part of. If I made a game, I’d want people to know about it and the food I’m eating too, but maybe next time you hit Twitter or Facebook or any of the portals you use to share life with your adoring fans, think twice about how little you want to represent your company on the Internet even though you totally do.

Josh Olin’s departure from Evolve developers Turtle Rock Studios is only the latest in a disturbing trend of secure game developers losing their salaried jobs and returning to intermittent contract work or personal pet projects for needlessly expressing themselves on issues that don’t really belong on their so-called "personal" Twitter account. Nothing about Josh Olin’s Twitter profile suggested he tweeted without representing his place of work and in fact, his profile’s description screamed about ties to the firm that eventually fired him for supporting an individual’s right to racism. What a banner to carry, Josh.

Certainly, game developers and basketball team owners and even basketball players have every right to be racists, but “all my tweets are belong to me” may only be a witty gaming reference and not a viable defense when your company doesn’t want racists representing them, much less facing the community directly.

Some might argue that Turtle Rock Studios wrongfully terminated Josh Olin’s employment because they were scared of the potential for backlash against the studio and the product they’re currently working on. No one can blame them for that. As a growing company about to release only its second major video game product, Turtle Rock made the right defensive decision, unlike Nintendo’s “please understand” response to the LGBTQ community’s understandable frustration and anger over Tomodachi Collection’s lack of same-sex virtual Mii relationships.

I don’t like to use homophobic language, but c’mon Nintendo. Tomodachi Collection looks pretty gay to begin with.

No, Turtle Rock Studios made the right decision just like the NBA made the right decision to strip Donald Sterling of his highly lucrative basketball franchise with which he made millions of dollars on the backs of the black men he apparently couldn’t stand, black men like Magic Johnson whose only crime was wanting to help Los Angeles County, neighbor to Turtle Rock Studios in Orange County. But this is only the second highly visible firing of a developer for comments made on Twitter.

What connections do Josh Olin’s situation share with Adam Orth, Microsoft something-or-other who got fired for blowing the company’s much-hated always-online plans in advance of any official Xbox One announcement? Orth practically readied both sides of the DRM debacle by letting consumers know that the pitch forks should be polished and primed while Microsoft executives probably should have had their shit together since some of the always-online benefits may have outweighed the apparent costs if they could have only been explained more clearly to inquisitive journalists.

Both Adam and Josh would have liked to maintain that their Twitter accounts weren’t about representing their companies, but neither hid their business affiliations. In fact, both used these connections to major gaming firms to promote themselves, gain followers on Twitter, and inflate their decidedly vapid egos and gamers will remember that forever whether Orth’s new game and self-searching make him a more endearing character or not.

Game developers want the attention that their products achieve, but reaching out to fans on Twitter and then summarily shooting all of them in the foot with pro-racism or insensitive remarks (even jokingly) will result in termination every single time. You may not want to represent your business or your boss on Twitter, but they represent you to the greater market and in that way own you and whatever it is you hope to do with the rest of your life. If you’d like to go on making personal comments on a Twitter account that remains personal in label only, you should probably just start a new anonymous profile and share it with your game developer friends.

If you’re as witty and cool as you think you are, you’ll likely get the retweets and followers you think you deserve and you’ll do it without clearly labeling yourself as an employee of Sony or Valve or whatever awesome company thousands, maybe millions of gamers would gladly quit all social media to work for. It’s my belief that the reason the gaming industry continues to flail at the alter of the medium is because they know exactly how awesome it is to develop new worlds, new experiences, and the kinds of products that continue to outpace outmoded mediums like movies and music, but that’s not an excuse to be a jackass and it’s not an excuse to believe your company won’t drop you when you do something that doesn’t mesh with their plans or direction in society.

The business world will always be dog-eat-dog. Throwing your arms up and hoping people forgive your comments because those thoughts and feelings were yours and not everyone else’s won’t save you when the bottom line creeps beyond the number of followers you have.

To hear me awkwardly stumble through this message while trying not to trip over a racist remark myself, listen to this week's podcast, GameRevolution Radio 0106: E.T. Is Racist.

Related Games:   Evolve
Tags:   industry, culture
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