With a single tweet Phil Fish, the dangerously talented and outspoken creator of 2012's hit indie title FEZ, removed himself from Twitter and seemingly cancelled FEZ II:

 photo FishTweets1JPG_zps81447163.jpgThis would appear to be the result of a long period of simmering tension between Fish, certain figures within videogame journalism and the gaming community as a whole.

Jonathan Blow, the creator of the critically acclaimed Braid, also recently caused a small furore by questioning journalists who rely on figures such as he to provide sound bites as opposed to carrying out anything resembling research or investigative journalism:

 photo BlowTweets1JPG_zpse3d968de.jpgThis is arguably a fair criticism of how journalistic culture is evolving in general; yet these comments were quickly turned into more evidence of Blow being a "diva" and a "tool bag". Fish, after chiming in, subsequently found himself subjected to similar abuse. It seems that while gaming communities have elevated notable commentators (who very much want to be perceived as notable) to positions where they are allowed to be scathing and opinionated in the name of "criticism". Those at the receiving end of such arguments like Blow and Fish (now both pejoratively referred to as "BlowFish") are not expected to answer back and, in the event that they do, they are slammed for acting unprofessionally. This seems particularly hypocritical in an age where we expect open and transparent discussion.

For a better insight into Fish and Blow's work it is well worth checking out 2012's Indie Game: The Movie. For those unfamiliar, the documentary follows FEZ and Braid (as well as Team Meat's success story with Super Meat Boy) through their difficult design and release processes. While each tale ends well we are shown that these games come from a place that is deeply personal to each individual and was more about articulating ideas that were important to the creators as opposed to turning a profit. All three games were received extremely well and shifted a huge amount of units. While Team Meat have a healthy and uncontroversial online presence, it is interesting that they are now the only exception in this regard.

The real question here might be why it is such a bad thing to be outspoken? We are, as a culture, highly suspicious of slick press releases yet we react in an equally vitriolic way when the raw (and often messy) reactions and opinions come spilling straight from the horse's mouth on Twitter. Discontent in the gaming world is usually directed at games companies who very often lack a personal and singular point of contact: The disastrous release of SimCity earlier this year was greeted by smiling and faceless PR types and the responsibility was deflected from any individual source despite certain notable resignations. It is also interesting that when gamers get annoyed about another bland Call of Duty sequel or an exploitative Farmville clone they don't seek to personally attack the head of the company that released it. Does this separation shield individuals at games companies? Most definitely. Does that mean that Fish and Blow should retreat from their public platforms? No. It may however be the only sensible choice they both have with headlines currently shouting that Fish encourages journalists to commit suicide whilst willfully ignoring any kind of a balanced argument and missing Fish's Futurama reference with the "kill yourself" thing.

 photo Fishtweets2JPG_zps428a8368.jpgFish, being in a position where he is largely unaccountable, is able to react in a way that is much faster and far more to the point than the average gaming company who are fortunate enough to have an army of employees buzzing around capable of drafting press releases and gauging things like "risk" and "damage limitation". He is most definitely no angel but why should he be? In an age where information is instant this is undoubtedly the way things are, or at least should be heading. In my opinion this presents the potential for healthy and swift engagement between gamers and those at the frontline of production but it seems that the community is using this power to turn Tweets into pitchforks and flaming torches.

While the relationship between music journalists, artists and the industry as a whole has been worked out over decades, games journalism is still an amorphous Wild West in many ways. Consider, for example, the irreverence of PC Gamer back in the 1990s which was justifiable due to gaming being shunned as something for children as opposed to a viable art form. While this preconception has shifted considerably since, games journalism arguably feels like it is still dominated by snarky white males and has failed to advance at the same rate as games themselves. How is it that Marcus Beer (the "AnnoyedGamer" referenced in the above tweet) can call Fish a "tosspot" and a "hipster" and then play the victim once Fish has taken the bait? It is easy for us to suggest that Fish simply should not resisted biting back but then who can honestly claim to have never responded to criticism in a charged way?

 photo FishTweets3JPG_zps8e755794.jpgThe opportunities that have become more available to indie developers is a huge and incredible advancement within the industry and is perhaps the quickest route towards video games being recognised as an exciting and progressive medium. The majors are being forced to respond and titles such as The Last of Us are staking out territory that defies the lust for merely taking another spin on the profitable sequel carousel. As encouraging as this is, the community and those with influence who discuss games need to keep up with this progression rather than hindering it. Rather than telling Fish to develop a thicker skin every time he has an emotional outburst, perhaps we should take a longer look at ourselves before adding logs to the flame war.

Tim runs marketing for Birmingham based games company @soshigames