Did you know nice people make games? Did you know nice people make fantastic games? Did you know that you don’t need to be nasty or horrible or a bigot or just plain dumb to be driven to make fantastic games?
Yeah, of course, I know you know that. It’s a bit of a shame that some people haven’t quite got there yet.
“Unreasonable people often create amazing things.”
So the story goes that being an asshole is desirable because, y’know, at the end of it you get a great thing so that’s OK. Now whilst I don’t really think the things listed in the article are really all that asshole-ish in the grand scheme of things, the piece kicking off with someone essentially saying that he’d rather not be making the same old nerd stuff over and over again and all that makes me wonder exactly what’s so asshole-ish about that in the first place but… yeah.
The problem is, we keep fucking excusing assholes.
Phil Spector is a man with a tortured soul, a mad genius, that guy in the funny wig. He’s also the guy responsible for the Wall Of Sound and in turn, Be My Baby. Listen, Be My Baby is the greatest piece of music we managed to create during the 20th Century, Ronnie Spector fucking kills it and those drums. Those fucking drums. Without them, maybe we’d have never got You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve and then we wouldn’t have those fucking fireworks either. Those magnificent fucking fireworks. I mean who puts a firework in a song anyway? What’s that all about?
Except by tortured soul, mad genius and guy in the funny wig we mean “from quite a few accounts a pretty horrible and abusive guy”. By tortured soul we mean convicted murderer. But hey, he made some music happen so we’ll downplay that bit. I’m not entirely comfortable with telling the family of Lana Clarkson that unreasonable people often create amazing things and that’s desirable. Would you be? I don’t think they’d take much comfort from me explaining how wonderful Be My Baby is somehow.
But we’re not talking about that sort of extreme case here. We’re talking “in a specific context” and that context is… umm, well, we don’t know what people are like at home, we don’t get to see into their family lives but they sometimes come across as, well you know…
Now in this instance that “well, you know” comes down to not really especially asshole-ish behaviour. Oh god, did you hear that, he just said something about a game I like or oh god, did you hear that, he just said something sucks or that, shock horror, that guy said he doesn’t want to pander to the same stuff that everyone else panders to, what horrible people! It’s all a bit fucks sake internet, y’know? Can we move past the “saying something bad about a videogame is a crime against nature” thing or do I have to remind you once again that Elite is shit?
But let’s move past the people mentioned in the article because really, this isn’t about them and it’s unfair of me to really go on about it when my issue is with the idea put forth by the article.
It’s that the jist is there. It’s OK to be an asshole providing you make great art at the end of it. Ickier still, there’s that awful stuff about y’know, being an asshole is the thing that makes those pieces of art special, those fantastic pieces of music, fantastic videogames exist because it’s the same thing being an asshole as being driven and creative.
Bullshit. It fucking well is not the same thing. Because you know what? Reasonable people create amazing things more often so what’s their excuse? And in my experience, with 10 years under my belt of making videogames, there’s an amazing amount of actually genuinely lovely, kind, gentle and nice people making amazing things. People who don’t go out there calling people names. People who don’t go out there shouting their mouths off at people, people who don’t repulse you just by being in the room. Good people. Making Good things.
I’ve met one single person in all this time I didn’t want to be in a room with and I’m so used to this sort of nice, cushy get-a-long thing with Team RR that I didn’t know what to do but get incredibly drunk so I could tune his blather out. He had the swagger of someone who’s assholeishness was tolerated because he’d made something good too, y’know? And he had made something good but I was sitting round a table with people who’d also made good things who weren’t horrid so…? Uncomfortable.
I told him Elite was shit too just to be on the safe side.
The truth of the matter is, being an asshole isn’t some sort of creative thing, it’s just being an asshole. It’s not part of being driven, it’s not the thing that helps make good art, that’s something people could do without being an asshole. They just fucking don’t. And people don’t do it precisely because there’s a climate around our cultural touchstones where we happily excuse asshole behaviour, underplay asshole behaviour, applaud asshole behaviour providing it comes attached with some creative work we appreciate. It’s pretty gross and a massive injustice to the hundreds of people who write and create amazing things without saying boo to a goose. As if their talents are somehow lesser because they’re not tools to other people.
And you know what helps assholes be assholes? Saying it’s OK and desirable to be an asshole. Even when you mean it in “a specific context” it all goes towards one big fat thumb up to being an asshole.
So no, you don’t really want assholes to be making things. You want amazingly creative people to be making things. You want people to be making things because who knows what one person can do with the right idea and the right tools. And as creating good art doesn’t require you to be an asshole, you don’t need assholes to make you things either.
But I’ll tell you what, we’ll be a whole lot better off, all of us, if we stop encouraging asshole behaviour all round so let’s start by not excusing it when it comes attached to a game we love or a tune we love or whatever. Let’s say it’s not OK instead. Because then less people get hurt.
Maybe if we hammer this home hard enough, people will be less inclined to be assholes because we do not put up with that shit.
That’d be pretty nice, yeah?