Indie Game: The Movie finally released in various digital formats a couple of days ago. I got my copy for free because I Kickstarted the project and love it as much as I did when I saw it in the theatre. Most people think highly of it and the stories and characters it portrays but there are a handful that don’t. I don’t expect everyone to share my opinion and certainly not everyone will like it and that’s fine. However, two people’s public distaste in particular piss me off not because they’re negative but one in particular is just outright hypocritical.
The two opinions I speak of are those of Kevin Dent and Derek Smart. I’ll be honest, I don’t know a ton about Kevin Dent. He’s a guy who claims to have been in the industry for well over a decade and has some very strong opinions of it and the people in it. When I tried to look up what he’s been credited on, all I could find was a list he personally created that’s largely filled with mediocre mobile spin-off games and some modern series that I couldn’t find his name in any official credits for. He now apparently runs a company investing in mobile titles, none of which I’ve ever heard of. I don’t know every game that comes out but I know what’s popular. He’s very active in social media though and regularly gets quoted from the few respectable gaming press outlets so I guess that’s something. Many of these same outlets also quote Michael Pachter with regularity though so…yeah.
Derek Smart is far more famous (or infamous) among gamers as much for his take no prisoners attitude as his games. His Internet wars and push backs against criticism are legendary. Most blow him off but I actually respect him in many ways. I don’t care for his games and many of them have shipped a Bethesda level of broken but I really admire how he’s found a tight niche and flourished for years in it. Despite the immense complexity and ambition of his games, he does almost everything himself and that’s really impressive. He did the indie thing before it was a thing. We’ve had several pleasant conversations on Twitter and while I do think he tends to see the game industry very different from reality, he doesn’t come across as a bad guy and he loves what he does.
What really grinds my gears is some smarmy comments I saw these two posting on Twitter the other day. I’m not going to go back in their very active feeds to find them but basically, they were saying that the movie portrays all indie game designers as arrogant, whiny prima donnas who think they’re better than everyone else and thus gives the indie community as a whole a bad name. Yeah, let that sink in. Derek Smart, the guy who has cultivated and relishes in being all of those things and Kevin Dent, a guy who by his job description couldn’t be more what indies are not, are saying that a couple of indie creators who clearly go through several levels of Hell during the movie where they’re asked to talk about those experiences, come across as whiny and arrogant.
The thing is, they’re not wrong. Tommy Refenes and Phil Fish both do come across in the movie and in other places as high on themselves and don’t respond well to criticism. But Dent and Smart love to slam other game makers publicly and Smart is famous for responding to criticism with personal attacks, deleting any negative feedback from his forums and I’ve seen him more than once whine on Twitter about how people don’t understand what he’s making and how he should just give it up and retire. Both of these guys have credentials (as least Smart does, I’m not sure about Dent) but the thing is, everyone in Indie Game: The Movie does now too. They all put out games which are critical and commercial blockbusters as indie games go. What gives guys who have been at this longer more right to bitch and whine? Is it simply an implied seniority or do they really think that when they bitch, it’s somehow different?
I don’t mind people who are arrogant blowhards, I really don’t. If you are strong in a belief and can back it up with data and aren’t just living in a fantasy land, I think fighting for it is good and important. But when you start calling out people for doing the exact same thing you’ve done for years as if you’re somehow more entitled to do it than they are, you just look like a jackass. If the people in the movie never ended up releasing any games, I could maybe understand it but they all put out massive creative hits. Dent and Smart should be supporting fellow indie creators and treating them with that level of hypocritical disrespect is infuriating and why so much of the indie community has a reputation for being pretentious and arrogant. You guys are going to be gone one day and these are the new blood who are going to make the new amazing stuff going forward. You’re not better than them, you’re one of them, show a little humility and maybe a bit of praise.