Wednesday, July 24, 2013

EXP Podcast #234: Assessing the Creative Asshole

Wario, the king of assholes
Scott and I like to think we are experts on the subjects of jerks, meany-heads, curmudgeonly folk, and brutes. Yet while our opinions on assholes might be settled, the role of the creative asshole in the games industry is still hotly debated. This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I wonder if maybe our best game designers are naturally assholes, if their behavior is positive for the industry, and what it means to maintain a healthy public persona. We do hope you let us know your thoughts in the comments, we'll be nice, we promise.

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Show notes:

- Runtime: 31 min 23 sec
- "Why you want assholes to make your video games," by Ben Kuchera via The Penny-Arcade Report
- "Assholes are assholes," by Rob Fearon via WMTCLD
- Music by: Brad Sucks


  1. Great show as always guys. I feel like an underlying component of this discussion is a person's tact or conversational skills. Ultimately I don't get the sense that people like Johnathan Blow are assholes so much as they aren't either willing or able to articulate their positions in a twitter post or short rant. Even David Jaffe has intelligent things to say, he really just has smellier brain farts than his peers. Game development, and possibly criticism, is really like herding cats--you really need to know how to pick your battles. Jim Sterling has always had an asshole persona but gets away with it because he doesn't let his anger control the discussion. Game development is no different. You can tell someone you think their work sucks just by asking the right questions or you can criticize every last element of their work until they become so demoralized they just do what they are told, also known as Pixel-fucking.

  2. Hey guys, Brad from Gamecritics here. Good show as always. You know I’m a fan.

    One thing that occurred to me as I was listening, though… I didn’t hear a lot of consideration for what
    it might be like on the “asshole” side.
    Or even, what exactly constitutes someone being justifiably called an

    I think you guys used the word “uncompromising” a few times,
    but I don’t quite know if I agree that someone who is uncompromising can
    automatically be termed an asshole.

    For example, I’ve been painted as the bad guy many times
    myself over the years, and usually in those situations it’s because I’m being
    very blunt or direct in a situation or with people who aren’t really saying
    what they think, or who won’t commit to an action for one reason or another. In
    other times, it’s because I’m saying something that other people are too afraid
    to say.

    I certainly understand the value of manners and etiquette,
    that the same time, I do think that as a society we’ve gotten quite reserved
    and overly-PC in some ways, and I think that sometimes people who are stepping
    outside of that norm get painted with the ‘asshole’ brush pretty quickly.

    I’m definitely not saying that it’s OK to go around calling
    people names and throwing insults in people’s faces, but I’ve also seen some
    regular people taking a stand here and there and then getting swarmed by others
    for their boldness, or for being a little more honest than some people could

    Perhaps not every asshole is an asshole, and some folks just
    need to toughen up a bit?

  3. As ever, great 'cast! [Thumbs up]! Had a little debate with myself--very civil, I assure you--recently in regard to the Armikrog Kickstarter. Here's the pitch: Claymation, Earthworm Jim, point-'n'-click adventure games: all great stuff, and they ultimately outweighed my negative opinion of Doug TenNapel's anti-same-sex marriage position. There are other members on the team, for starters (*KICK*starters), and I'm supporting the type of creative game I prefer, not explicitly the artist's view. Besides, it's almost a guarantee that the end product will be too weird to support a social or political message other than, "Be friends with your eyeless, echo-locating alien sidekick."

    Some caveats: I think Jim Sterling's pretty great, I don't mind when Phil Fish "stirs the pot", and man, I really need to get to The Swapper!

  4. Asshole and controversial personas are not necessarily linked. I personally hold Jonathan Blow in high esteem, because he knows what he wants, he is able to bring his artistic vision to life, and is never rude about it (at least to my knowledge). He *is* quite direct, and what he says can be misinterpreted quite often (which I too think is not necessarily a fault in the person, but in the medium chosen to express an idea, usually Twitter), but I don't think he ever told someone that they are idiots- only that they're wrong; and that, by his own admission (I don't remember where I heard him say that, unfortunately), is only because he wants people to think by themselves and not stop thinking (which was also one of the core design concepts in Braid). I can definitely respect that.

    Contrast that to Phil Fish. This guy doesn't know when to shut up. I wanted very much to buy FEZ when it came out on windows, but spent months wondering if I should support him with my purchase. Which gave me pause, because before FEZ I never held off buying a game whose quality had been praised so much.
    To me it's obvious that he's very sensitive, and I appreciate his creative input in the gaming industry. That doesn't change the fact that he's a total tit about it. Gaming is already full of choice assholes that will jump at any occasion to let some bile flow, we certainly don't need more developers encouraging that behaviour, even if they're quite talented.

    Funnily, he reminds me of the "talented jerk" so many employers despise. It's okay to not be super talented if you foster and contribute to a positive environment around you. At the same time, it's okay to let a talent supernova go if the only thing it contributes to is mass cancer in the workplace due to radiation.