Over the weekend, OMGpop CEO Dan Porter had some fairly crass things to say about Shay Pierce (pictured), the guy who didn’t move to Zynga after the social-media giant purchased the Draw Something developer. While those tweets have been deleted, his negative comments were well-documented.
Video game fans and pundits alike jumped on the situation with some very succinct and direct commentary of their own. If one believes the various tweets and message board comments, many gaming enthusiasts quickly uninstalled Draw Something and figuratively burned Mr. Porter in effigy.
I, somewhat new to the Draw Something phenomenon, looked on with some amount of agreement and a healthy dose of bemusement. I even went so far as to tweet that Mr. Porter was “vile, petty, and childish” and a “douchebag.” All true, if we judge his public persona as filtered through Twitter. What I didn't tweet, but would like to add now, is that I don’t particularly care. The idea of deleting Draw Something from your iOS device because one of its creators is an asshole is absolutely, positively rich with irony.
Say what you will about the late Steve Jobs, but three things are undeniably true:1.) He was a business genius. 2.) He was a design innovator. 3.) He was an irredeemable and unapologetic prick. That last point doesn't erase the fact that he pioneered the iPhone, iPad, and iPod upon which so many people played, then removed Draw Something in protest.
I won’t say that protest smacks of hypocrisy…that would be too hypocritical of me. I firmly believe that a certain amount of irony — and an occasional lack of self-awareness — is necessary for culture to chug along. I have to wonder, who did you think these people were, anyway? Saints? With so much of the development process communicated to us via sterile public relations channels, I find it so refreshing to see unfiltered and unchecked commentary. It lets us know that real, flawed humans live behind the squeaky clean PR firewall.
Besides, I kind of like the idea of assholes making video games.
And I’m talking about real assholes. Not these polished, practiced badasses that who frequently take center stage. I am sure that Cliff Bleszinski’s and Tomonobu Itagaki’s badassery comes from a place of honesty. Their public personas, however, feel either too media-trained (in the case of the former) or exaggerated (in the case of the latter). Assholes can be uncompromising, but that kind of singular, adamant vision can create great games.
So I want Fez developer Phil Fish to tell people to suck his dick. I want Nintendo sage Shigeru Miyamoto to flip tables in a tantrum at a posh restaurant. I want Nintendo executive Reggie Fils-Aime to kick ass physically, not just talk tough during a media briefing. I want Twisted Metal creator David Jaffe to insult interviewers if he feels the need.
As for Dan Porter, the co-founder of Zynga’s latest acquisition? I don’t mind if he spits fire at Shay Pierce, who did, after all, decide to take his personal politics into a very public forum. One does not call out a former employer without some self-confidence and conviction. Both Pierce and Porter will either weather the storm they created or get some comeuppance for punching above their weight-class. In either case, I’m comfortable with the result. If egos were bruised, they probably needed the abuse in the first place.
Ultimately, this incident shed light on one of video games' hottest properties and maybe the industry as a whole. Between Pierce's original post and Porter's response, we saw more than juicy soundbites and quick headlines. We witnessed people acting like jerks and saying what's really on their minds without obsessive PR watchdogs controlling the message. That's a rare and wonderful thing.
So give me more assholes making video games. Just don't make me draw one.