Millions of pointless arguments are had on Twitter daily. I never participate in them, trying to follow the rule of "nothing nice to say, say nothing," trying to avoid people who are angry for no apparent reason, and generally make my mama proud. However, I love to spectate.
Today I saw an exchange between a semi-celebrity in the gaming world and one of the all-time legends of the industry (both of which I follow). The brief version of the beef is that Patrick Boivin, a streamer/YouTuber took issue with Clifford Bleszinski (GEARS OF WAR, EPIC GAMES, you know...) generally acting like a rich asshole, which is kind of Cliff's usual behavior on social media. What began as a playful back and forth, turned into a flame match between a very wealthy and successful game developer and a very well-liked internet personality. Burns were issued, drags were drug, and a good time was had by all in attendance. One chunk of mud slung in the direction of Daddy Gears by my favorite angry Canadian rubbed me the wrong way though.
Pat saw fit to point out that Bleszinski was ultimately a villain for what happened with the shuttering of his game studio BossKey Productions last year, resulting in the entire studio being laid off. This is understandable as the recent news of Activision/Blizzard's layoffs of hundreds of employees after a banner year of profits have brought forth the rage of gaming fans and industry personnel alike. Other various studios are rumored to be planning layoffs as I write this, and with anti-corporate sentiment at a fever pitch to start off this year, I can see where people like Pat are coming from. However in this case, and cases like it, I have to question if people are pointing the finger in the right direction.
The closing of BossKey was personally sad for me as a fan of Cliffy B and his past works. I want to see the man succeed. Not that he hasn't already, but he obviously wants to continue making hit games. LawBreakers and Radical Heights flopped. Hard. LawBreakers was a very good game in my opinion, it was just more of the same thing that no one really wanted when it finally launched. Radical Heights is only one of the dozens of Battle Royale games that have died in the fires of the arms race since it began in 2017. In the end, the studio had to close because it made no money. It made no money. A vastly different situation than the one currently unfolding at Activision/Blizzard. The latter had one of the best years in their long history in 2018 and just executed an equally impressive layoff throughout the production level of their studios worldwide.
In Activision/Blizzard's case, they claim that a weak forecast of games, coupled with the departure of their star studio Bungie, contributed to the cause of the layoffs. This seems like a drastic measure after giving their newly-signed CFO a $12 million sweetener to join the company just last month, but I'm no businessman and I still surprise myself whenever I'm able to properly lace up a new pair of boots. I agree with the general sentiment that executives of companies make a disproportionate amount of money when compared with their frontline workers, with the caveat that those frontline workers are equally responsible for the company's success. So that we're clear, I believe Activision/Blizzard's various studios are filled with some of the most talented and hard-working game developers in the business. They pull their weight and they pull that shit hard.
Back at BossKey, the doors shut following two games that tanked harder than... well, they kind of set the modern standard for tanking. So who is to blame? Does Cliff deserve the ire of the masses for laying off 65 employees? When two games underperform the way they did, is the one man standing at the top at fault? Or did those employees make a bad game? Did they make a good game that they believed in and it just didn't catch on?
The answer may be all of the above. Building a game is the responsibility of the entire team, and if the game doesn't set the world on fire, then that falls on everyone involved. Chase Bobby Kotick with all of the pitchforks and torches you want. He's a genuine asshole for what happened at his company. They have the money to weather a bad year. Don't be angry at a guy who made multiple games that we all loved and came out of retirement to give it another go, yet failed doing what he loved.
Yes, Clifford Bleszinski is somewhat of a douche on social media. He loves showing off his life that he built by working hard on great games for years of his younger life. He is also a misunderstood dork. He gets overly romantic about everything. He acts like a broski even though he would probably lose every fist fight he would ever get involved in, and I think he would admit that. The man likes having fun and likes showing everyone the fun he's having. He shares every terrible take he has about anything on Twitter for all to see. He deletes those tweets after thousands of people make fun of him for saying these things. He's one of us.