I want to start this post with a few things, 1. Sorry for the lack of updates, I was moving into a new house and didn’t have internet so I couldn’t upload anything for a while. It’s getting installed today though. 2. Sorry for not continuing my Creative Writing series right now. The follow-up posts to the generically titled “Creative Writing,” post will be up this week and next, but I have just listened to a “special episode” of the Podquisition, which is a podcast created and run by Jim Sterling. If you haven’t seen his videos I can strongly recommend him as, since he moved from The Escapist to YouTube he has gone from strength to strength, at least with him main show The Jimquisiton, which is like an editorial video for whatever crap has been going on in the video game industry that week, made brilliant by Jim’s sterling wit and well-informed manner. Something which Digital Homicide seem to have missed. By the way, this post will be very video-game-y, so it may not interest a lot of people.
Digital Homicide (DH) is an indie-games developer which has flown fairly under the radar because of their slew of rushed, mediocre titles which they push out every few months. (Disclaimer; I have never played a DH game and am basing my view from let’s plays and Steam reviews. I have a reasonable understanding of the games) The game that they are most remembered for is a game called The Slaughtering Grounds. It’s a first-person-shooter set in, what I can only assume, is a post-apocalyptic world. The game isn’t really big on backstory but that’s what I managed to piece together from the design of the game. However, design is a very speculative word in this regard as The Slaughtering Grounds. The wide variety of pre-bought Unity assets on display boggles the mind, and they have been thrown together in a barely playable mess, along with a load of unlicensed images to boot.
That all said, I thought that The Slaughtering Grounds looked fairly average. When it was released, it retailed for $10 but now it is only $1. While I would pay $1 for it, if I had money to spare, it would not be something I bought given that there are tonnes of games to choose from on Steam. Some people are more philanthropic than me in that regard, and get sheer pleasure from supporting amateur developers who are just finding their feet. Jim Sterling, I would argue, is one of those people as, if he does find a good indie-game, he will mention it to lots of people through his Let’s Play series called Squirty Play, a first impressions series, and it is here that we get into the reason why Jim Sterling took 90 minutes out of his day to talk to DH.
You see, Jim Sterling did a video on The Slaughtering Grounds ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfI7pAaOH9c ) As you can see from the title, Jim did not particularly like the game. While I thought that he was overly harsh, it was all opinion and, since he plays and reviews games for a living, I trust his opinion in this matter. If Jim had done his video and then nothing more had happened, The Slaughtering Grounds would have been glossed over by 99.99% of people who saw it on Steam, just like any other Steam-Greenlight game, but DH decided to take umbridge with Jim’s opinion on the game and actively attack him. What followed was something that can only be described as “meltdown,” and has been described that way several times. A back and forth between the two parties developed, with DH losing face in every interaction. It was plain to all who followed it that DH was a company that could not take criticism, could not control themselves but, above all, could not make games.
After going through all of this Digital Homicide had done nothing but bring attention to Jim Sterling’s YouTube channel as, unlike DH, he had remained fairly level headed throughout all of this. He continued, also, to cover Digital Homicide’s releases, which wallowed in the same lack of quality that The Slaughtering Grounds had achieved, to my eyes at least. Even if they were to create a good game, DH’s reputation is beyond unsalvageable because now, and forever onwards, their name will be tied to the first indie-dev meltdown, which set a precedent for indie-devs who couldn’t take criticism and then, having received it, would go on a rampage, flagging critican videos for copyright infringement and banning negative-criticism on their game’s Steam pages.
Now, finally, we come to this interview. Jim Sterling agreed to do an interview run by DH after their latest game was released, following what can only be described as months of on-and-off harassment from DH. It is worth mentioning that Jim Sterling’s audience allegedly has harassed DH personally, through their website, their social media and Steam, but it is also important to note that Jim Sterling is not his own audience, and he does not control who watches his videos.
I will spare you the details because to try and cover 90 minutes of innocuous detail where DH clearly loses face and starts harassing Jim Sterling would be pointless. I will summarise it by saying that, at the start, DH looked like they wanted to make some important points and wanted to at least try and have a discussion, though it still seemed very obvious to those who listened that they wanted a final “fuck you” to Jim. Unfortunately for them, that moment never came. Having admitted that they created a 17 page dossier on Jim, whatever points they were trying to make quickly got drowned out by the way they conducted themselves. Frequently they shouted over Jim as a way to get their point across and frequently they resorted to just insulting him. Then, from the moment it was brought up to the end of the podcast, they seemed severely confused as to what the term “fair use” means, they defended themselves with completely circular logic while trying to use the same logic to catch out Jim and, most astonishingly of all, they played quotes of jokes Jim had done in past videos and tried to use them to catch him out.
Now, I want to get past all that as, really, if you want to listen to that then it’s free on soundcloud and http://www.thejimquisition.com . I think there’s a genuine point to be made here. Jim Sterling kept his cool throughout all the insults and stupidities and obvious lies that were told by DH throughout the “interview,” and finally they reached a conclusion where they both apologised, though, with regards to that, I think DH made Jim apologise and their apology was half-hearted at best, but that felt like the whole interview had been done for nothing. For me this epitomises the invulnerability to criticism that indie-devs seem to think they have.
If you go anywhere near Steam Greenlight then you’ll notice that 90% of the games are rip offs, have terrible reviews, look atrocious, aren’t finished or, in some cases, legitimately won’t start when you try to start them. When indie devs, who clearly have potential, in my opinion, lash out and start saying that reviewers, who give their games coverage and exposure for almost, or literally, no price, it makes everyone look bad and makes the dev a laughing stock. DH at least has the drive to keep making games, if nothing else and perhaps they do it out of spite, but now they are a cautionary tale. Not everyone can make Five Night at Freddie’s or Super Meat Boy, but, if you just make a game and put it on Steam, you can at least say that you have done more for the gaming community that Digital Homicide ever did.