Please don’t read the other one. It’s out of date. I was hoping that it would have slipped off the first page by now (I wrote it over a year ago) but, unfortunately, my blog post output is not nearly high enough. I could have deleted it I suppose, but then that seemed a bit disrespectful to the people who commented. So instead I’d like to update it with some things I’ve learned:
- Don’t write a blog post while whatever it is that fuelled the post is still incredibly raw
- Always start an argument by defining your terms
This second point I learned after listening to the Cynical Brit Mailbox episode where I got utterly berated. What he does in his argument, is start off by defining what he means by the term “professional” and then metaphorically punching me in the face with it. But to the best of my understanding, we almost entirely agree – it’s just we differ in terms of what we mean when we say “professional”.
So. This is what I should have said over a year ago:
For me, acting professionally, has nothing to do with business practises – ways of handling money, methods of work, all the stuff connected with actually developing the game. All those things are a given - you’d have to be utterly insane to suggest that it is not important to back up your data off-site, for example. When I say that it’s okay for indies to act unprofessionally, I am not in any way suggesting that it’s okay for them to take your money, then throw their half-finished game in the bin and run off to Spain.
What I mean is, that it’s okay for an indie to act like a human. To me, acting professionally is to stand there smiling while somebody tells you to your face that they hate you, your work, and they hope you die in a horrible accident. Professionals have to act like this because they have a boss, or shareholders – they are not personally in a position to determine the way that the company interacts with their customers – either the nice ones, or the ones who’d turn up at the door to spit in their face.
You’d have a point that so far as “official” responses go, things should be nice and polite regardless. If you sent an angry email to firstname.lastname@example.org and then got a reply back calling you a twat, you’d have a pretty rock-solid argument. But Twitter is different – it’s an ‘always on’ environment and one in which there is no ‘leaving work at 5pm’. To say that somebody must always act a certain way on their personal Twitter accounts is to suggest that unlike almost all other people on the planet, certain people are never permitted to leave work – or, at the very least, must maintain a private account and be extremely cautious about who they allow access. Which would not only suck, but pretty much defeats the whole point of Twitter.
Consider the way Bioware’s Aaryn Flynn responded on Twitter to the horrific abuse thrown at writer Jennifer Hepler:
Unprofessional behaviour? Sure. Understandable behaviour? Yeah, I’m kind of with Aaryn on this (apart from his use of the term ‘Flynnsanity’ – ghastly) – I have no idea what happened afterwards, whether he was reprimanded or secretly applauded but I rather suspect that it didn’t go down entirely well with those which held the coin purses.
But this sort of thing is all that I personally mean when I talk of professionalism. You’re entitled to think that while maybe understandable, Aaryn Flynn’s response was shocking and appalling and I can’t argue with that at all. You might be right. But to me, he acted in a very human way and my respect for him shot up considerably. I like it when people act like people instead of machines and this is why I like the indie games scene so much – because developers are all vocal about the things they believe without having to worry about what their boss or their publisher might think.
I’m in no way comparing the events of what happened with us with the vile abuse towards Hepler, by the way. I will say that some of the comments which sparked the whole thing off were a lot worse than you’d probably think, though. The trouble with these sorts of things is, much like that image of Flynn’s Twitter timeline above, people only tend to capture the reaction and not comments which triggered the reactions – which makes it awfully difficult to decide with certainty whether the response was justified or not.
We all disagree on stuff, we all draw our own lines in the sand – have our own boundaries. It’s up to you to decide which developers (if any) you like and/or respect and which you don’t. I regret most of what happened with us and the damage done to good will. But I stand by the principle that it should not be a requirement that small indie developers should just stand there and smile while somebody smears faeces over their face.
Yeesh. Believe it or not, I was intending for this blog post to be relatively up-beat. I’ll end with a joke.
A man with a long face walks into a bar. The barman asks, “why the horse?”. Shit. That’s not right. A spirit drifts into a bar and the barman says, “we don’t serve ghosts here”. Ah forget it.