The rise, and completely predictable fall of game developer Phil Fish

Phil FishIndependent game developer Phil Fish has announced that he is quitting the gaming industry for good. He waved goodbye to all the suckers, then picked up his ball and went home. In the process he also cancelled Fez 2, which was announced only last month. And all over a Twitter argument with a journalist.

“There’s always a threat of the whole thing just falling apart any day now,”

Anyone who’s been following Fish’s career should not be surprised. Fish was a comet, burning up the closer he got to the sun, his career flashing across the industry’s sky just long enough to leave a significant afterimage on our retinas.

Fez II is cancelled,” he wrote on his company Polytron’s website on Saturday. “i am done. i take the money and i run. this is as much as i can stomach. this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. you win [sic].” On Twitter Fish said that he “fucking hate[s] this industry.”

Fish earned a significant amount of attention after being spotlighted in the 2012 film Indie Game: The Movie shortly before his only game, Fez, released on Xbox Live (and soon after on PC). But by then he was already infamous. Fez first appeared at the Independent Game Festival in 2008 and was in development for almost five years. The game always looked great, but after the first few years concerns about its ridiculously long development overshadowed any buzz about the game itself. And Fish has never been afraid to share his brash and often unpopular opinions with the world.

In response to a handful of Twitter criticisms, Fish once (in)famously opined “people telling me they’re going to pirate my game because they dont like me. gamers are the worst fucking people [sic].”

Fez screenshot

When Fez finally came out, the charming and imaginative game proved to be lousy with bugs. Fish quickly released a patch, but it corrupted some users’ save files. A second patch was then stopped by the exorbitant fees that Fish claimed Microsoft charged developers to update games. Microsoft recently changed that particular policy, and Fish promised a patch to fix his original patch. But given his outburst over the weekend it’s unclear whether that will happen after all.

There’s no doubt that Fish is passionate about what he does did. “To me games are like the ultimate art form,” he says in Indie Game: The Movie. The documentary follows three indie game developers, including Fish, during the creation and release of their games. Fish’s clash with former business partner Jason DeGroot, who Fish perceived was trying to sabotage him, is well documented in the film. “I’m gonna lose my shit,” he says. “I’m gonna—I’m gonna kill him. I’m gonna fucking murder that guy and it’s going to get everybody in trouble.”

“…this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign … you win”

Fish’s threats ended amicably with a legal settlement, but the vehemence of this on-camera freakout would eventually prove symptomatic of his entire public persona. In his most recent spate—the one that led to the cancellation of Fez 2—he suggested that journalist Marcus Beer, who goes by the pseudonym “Annoyed Gamer,” take his own life, among many other insults. Beer had called Fish (and to a lesser degree Braid developer and Fish’s Indie Game co-star Jonathan Blow) a “tosspot,” a “hipster,” a “wanker,” and a “fucking asshole” on a GameTrailers video podcast.

Fish, in retaliation, tweeted that Beer is a “media leech,” a “middle-aged parasite,” an “inconsequential limey fuck,” and a “small commentator” who “ejaculate[s] vomit” and “sit[s] in judgement, masturbating.”

Fish was a vocal critic of Microsoft’s policies – his thoughts on Microsoft’s fees to developers, for example, were well known. When Microsoft announced that the Xbox One wouldn’t allow indie developers to self-publish, Fish was characteristically vocal in his dissent. “With Microsoft they’ve made it painfully clear they don’t want my ilk on their platform,” he told Polygon. But when Microsoft reversed the policy and the press reached out to Fish for comment, he refused to reply, sparking Beer’s fairly vicious and personal attack. Beer went on to say that he felt Fish’s silence was a snub to gaming journalists everywhere, and that the press should ignore his next project. Fish later claimed that due to the lack of details from Microsoft he “wasn’t snubbing journalist[sic]. I was waiting for the actual news to come out.” That didn’t stop him from engaging Beer, however.   

Fish has long nurtured a contentious relationship with the press. Just last week he criticized Polygon for quoting another controversial figure, indie developer Kevin Dent, in an article about those same Xbox One policies. He went as far as asking whether Dent owns shares in Polygon, suggesting that the publication is fundamentally corrupt. 

Fish on twitter

“There’s always a threat of the whole thing just falling apart any day now,” Fish says in Indie Game: The Movie. He was talking about Fez and his quarrelsome relationship with Microsoft, but the quote seems almost prescient at this point, and he may as well have been talking about his own career. Even if this whole thing is a poorly thought out bluff or Fish simply changes his mind once he cools down, his public character will always overshadow whatever he deigns to create in the future.

Yet it takes someone who feels as strongly as Fish does to make a game a like Fez, and to stick with it through five years of problematic development. Indeed, it seems that it’s through games that the man expresses himself most effectively. There’s no vitriol in Fez; only quiet humor and beauty with subtle depth. The real shame of what occurred here is that if Fish stays good on his promise to “take the money and…run” then Fez is the only glimpse into his complicated soul we’ll ever get.

So long, Phil Fish, we feel we hardly knew you. Here’s hoping we can get better acquainted some time down the road.

Gaming

From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.
Mobile

Flex your thumbs (and your brain) with these fun texting games

Gaming consoles keep getting more advanced, but you can still have fun with the good old Latin alphabet. Here are our picks for the best texting games, so you can make the most fun out of that limited data plan or basic cell phone.
Gaming

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia lets you stream big-time games from nearly any device

At GDC 2019, Google unveiled Stadia, a game streaming service that lets you play games on PC, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. Stadia looks to open up gaming to everyone, removing the need to buy additional hardware.
Gaming

Here's a look at how the Epic Games Store is sizing up to the competition

The Epic Games Store has picked up exclusives left and right since its launch last December. From AAA games like The Division 2 to wonderful indies like Hades, the Epic Games store has an impressive library of exclusives.
Gaming

Get Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for free when buying an Xbox One

You can get Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for free when buying an Xbox One from Newegg. Eight different bundles are available for this deal, so you can walk away with Sekiro and another game such as The Division 2 or Anthem.
Computing

Nvidia faces attacks from AMD, Intel, and even Google. Should it be worried?

Nvidia announced an expanded array of RTX server solutions designed to leverage the power of ray-tracing at GTC 2019. The effort will help Nvidia take on Google's Stadia in game streaming with GeForce Now, and the company's investments in…
Gaming

Master Shinobi combat with our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice beginner's guide

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is one of the hardest games of the generation, and it can be overwhelming, even for those who have played From Software's other games. Here is what you need to know to get started.
Gaming

World of Warcraft's allied races will make you want to start a new character

The Horde and Alliance are seeking new allies in their struggle for control of Azeroth. Whether you pledge your allegiance to the Horde or Alliance, we've got a guide to help you unlock every allied race that's coming in Battle for Azeroth.
Computing

How 5G networks will make low-latency game streaming a reality

Faster speeds and more bandwidth are some of the many promises that 5G can deliver, but for gamers, the most important thing is low latency. To achieve low latency, carriers like AT&T and Verizon are exploring hybrid models for game…
Product Review

Nintendo’s Labo VR Kit may look silly, but it really works

During our hands-on with the Nintendo Labo VR Kit, fears of a gimmicky product from Nintendo were quickly dispelled. While not a direct competitor to Oculus or HTCs own headsets, Labo VR brings a clever, new way to experience VR that makes…
Gaming

PlayStation does the smart thing, stops selling digital codes at physical stores

Sony will no longer offer PlayStation digital full-game downloads at retail stores. The game downloads will now only be available directly from the PlayStation Network's own digital store.
Gaming

Seven years later, ‘Dark Souls’ is still a gloriously punishing masterpiece

Despite my experience and love of From Software’s Dark Souls III and Bloodborne, I never played the original Dark Souls. The new remastered version gave me a chance to remedy that, and it was glorious.
Gaming

Atlus reveals Persona 5 The Royal, teases mysterious new female character

Atlus revealed Persona 5 The Royal in a trailer that features a mysterious new female character. It appears that the redhead will be an antagonist to the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, but many details about the upcoming game remain unclear.