Whenever a developer finds themselves in the wake of a launch not going swimmingly, discovers their sales numbers aren’t so hot, finds themselves struggling in some capacity and mentions this in public, shows disappointment in public or often, any emotion at all in public that isn’t jubilation or celebration of videogames being brilliant, the reactions of other fellow developers still surprises me.
Considering we all know just how up in the air things can be, how hard getting by in videogames often is, how at the mercy and whims of a thousand external factors we are from success and knowing that comparatively few people keep their head above water comfortably.
Considering we know how being in videogames and releasing videogames runs us through highs and through lows, how the workloads involved can exhaust us when we’re taking the best care we can as often as we can, how we are still humans with good days, bad days and all things in-between.
Considering we know the disappointments when things don’t do so well because we’ve been there at times, if we’re lucky it’s slight, if we’re not…
Considering all that, I’m still surprised our first reactions are often to try and explain away what someone did wrong that led them to feel this way, to try and fit the reaction into a place where we have the answers and well, clearly the developer should just do a thing or know a thing.
Yet if we were sitting over a table with a cuppa or a pint, the exact same story relayed to us in person, we’d nod and empathise. We’d chat about possibilities, reasons, feelings. Yet the internet strips this away. Instead we explain not empathise. We often focus on tone, how saying that in public, on the internet like that is just not on without considering that maybe someone is just having a bad day. We don’t really allow for bad days.
Not entirely a revelatory observation on my behalf here, we’ve all been on the internet long enough to know the internet warps our reactions, social media and the ability to go from gut reaction to posting a thing in seconds without a buffer doubly so.
But perhaps, before we explain why things are the way things are and if only a thing was done different or they must have known, perhaps before then we could imagine that table, that pint or cuppa is there before we go on.
One of the things that holds us back so often, that makes being in videogames more perilous than it needs to be is that it’s hard to talk about failure, disappointment and pitfalls without a pile on of people to tell you how to fix a thing or how you did it wrong so what did you expect and so on.
It keeps us in a place where compassion is hard to come by and if there’s one thing we all need to help us wade through this mess of videogames easier and safer, if there’s one thing we’d all appreciate if it’s directed at us, it’s just that. Compassion. Especially from people who can empathise all too well with our predicaments, facing similar worries as we often do.
And don’t worry, I’ve got a lot of learning to do myself here too but maybe we can all give it a go. Maybe we can all remember there’s a human being there, making games alongside us and we all feel things, for better and for worse. We don’t need to explain everything, y’know?
I know I need to be better at this. Let’s try together.