tl;dr version: I’ve started running into old “friends” in various Discord chats, who are part of a toxic community I cut ties with last year. They’ve long been a source of stress for me, and here I try to explain why.
It mainly concerns an incident where a few people chose to attack me anonymously, causing me to be paranoid of the whole community.
The Medium is the Message
The medium of game design provides an empty space for me to exercise my ideas and bring them to life. Instead of just writing my ideas down as stories, I can give them music to set a mood, visuals to build a world, and mechanics to let you move inside that space. I can give faces to the faceless.
I can also do things that aren’t so easily expressed in words, like distorting the perspective of reality, or exploiting the generative nature of code.
Game design is a lot like theater to me. It’s where I can express and explore my most elaborate, ambitious ideas.
And unfortunately, it can also become pretty dramatic behind the scenes.
64digits, Then and Now
Game design was very different in 2005. Practially no one sold their indie games for profit back then, or even considered it. Online marketplaces didn’t exist then as they do now. Most indie devs dreamed of getting their games ported to console.
Cave Story was only one year old then, and steadily becoming a cult classic. That wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been available for free.
I joined the website “64digits” in 2005 when it was just starting out as a community (my userid is 164). The Game Maker community forums lacked decent alternatives, with many sites like GMClans dying after only a few years. 64digits somehow managed to survive this and still exists as of 2017.
The future creator of Hotline Miami, cactus, was even a member. I have a lot of fond memories of 64digits in its early days, as many others do. I could say many great things about 64digits in 2005.
But unfortunately this isn’t about 64digits in 2005 – it’s about 64digits now.
It’s hard to say when 64digits shifted from being a game development community, to being a community of artists and musicians, to being a community of shitposters. I don’t really fault the community itself for that last one, as it seems the entire internet has gone insane these past few years.
Gamedev communities in particular have been suffering more trolling and hostility ever since GamerGate in 2013. The toxicity has been impossible to avoid. I imagine it’s only gotten worse on 64digits since Brexit and the US elections.
I wouldn’t know because I left the site in May 2016, after being cursed out by one of the moderators (a common occurrence).
This happened back in June 2015. I still haven’t found the words to express how I feel about this, so I’m just gonna let the images speak for themselves first.
Warning: a lot of boring drama.
Long story short, the mods on 64d opened a blog where people could anonymously post feedback regarding the site. And everything was fine until I came along.
My first reply got 50+ comments after one day – mostly anonymous attacks toward me. These were either from people I considered friends, or total strangers. There’s no way to know until someone takes responsibility for their remark(s).
“Funnily enough, your constant need to complain and attention whore is driving me away from this site more than anything else.
If I wanted to see whining attention whores I’d visit Facebook.” – Anonymous
“Your new friend got the treatment that has always come to newbies who post badly titled, low-content promotional blogs.“ – Anonymous
“One of the things that bothers me most about you hel, is your treatment of your personal situation. We all know what is going on and while it’s certainly understandable you’ve made a few requests to donate some money, right now you keep linking to your blog on every occasion you get and this really makes you look like “that poor guy”. It’s not like I don’t care about how you are doing, but it’s just getting really annoying since it looks like you’re abusing to make people feel sorry for you and either buy your games or to work for you for free. I hope this also gets rid of you considering yourself a successful game developer if your games have only been bought a couple of times. Mentioning your condition on your itch.io isn’t exactly helping your reputation either.“ – Anonymous
“Fuck you, seriously. So the thousands of dollars we donated to you amounts to not caring? I know for a fact that someone here donated so much money to you that they went into debt.
I don’t care about your stuff any more because I’m:
* Tired of you constantly complaining about the same things over and over again for years while doing nothing to fix them, and accusing almost everyone of attacking you or being insensitive when they try to offer you advice.
* Really reluctant to trust you after you casually mentioned that your donation money had gone to pay for pot (which isn’t exclusively for you) and heroin?
* Tired of seeing you complain about harmless fun which everybody else sees as the essence of the site and trying to apply some stupid arbitrary standards like we’re a court or academic conference or something.
* Tired of seeing you throwing hissy fits at people who give you feedback and having the nerve to say that we need more “self-criticism”.
* Tired of seeing you get away with harassing people and causing drama that other people would be instabanned for, and having the nerve to say that the admins are being unfair to you.
I wish you’d stayed gone. You make the atmosphere really uncomfortable here.“ – Anonymous
“Maybe all of the anonymous comments are actually just hel wanting to stir up more drama?“ – Anonymous
And my favorite: “It’s really disheartening to see people so intimidated by another member that they feel they have to express their frustration with them anonymously, and feel they have to express it publicly for something to be done about it.“ – Anonymous
Hell, even Julius Caesar wasn’t attacked by this many friends at once. It’s amazing the amount of vitriol people can spit out from behind the comfort of anonymity.
In the end, only one person confronted me in private regarding their anonymous comment. He left me with this gem: “I’m fairly sure that at least 50% of your games sold were bought out of sympathy for your situation is this does not make you a successful game developer by any means.” [sic]
No one else ever owned up to anything they said. No one else had the courage to stop hiding behind anonymity.
That event was pretty depressing, since I had been a part of the community for a decade. It didn’t stop me from continuing to create new games of course, but it did destroy the old dream of collaborating on a new game with anyone from 64digits. Now I distrust them all, regardless of whether or not they had been involved. How am I supposed to know who’s innocent?
Even the ones I am still “friends” with are mutual friends with some of the worst harassers on 64digits. They advocate the harassers by staying silent. And since I find that hard to reconcile, I’ve more or less pushed them all away.
I thought I could move on from this event and put it behind me (along with the community). I started using Discord chat in April 2016, and found new communities that support me.
That’s when I finally left 64d. I thought I could finally escape the old community for good.
But as I started joining gamedev chats, I began running into old “friends” from 64d. It’s been happening more lately. It makes my skin crawl every time. Is this person really being nice to me, or are they the one who publicly accused me of being a heroin addict? I’m tired of playing that game with these people.
That’s why am I bringing this up now. I’ve never wanted to bash 64digits publicly because I’m good friends with one of the creators. Seriously, he’s one of the best guys I know. And while I can never be friends with certain members, I’d rather not be enemies either. But their toxicity has been a huge factor in my personal decision to move away from game design.
At this point it’s quicksand to anyone involved, including myself. That’s why I’m still hesitant to write this.
My two oldest surviving games were collaborations with 64digits members (Extravisual and Cesque). My third and fourth games were made for contests there. I may be “free” now, but my early work is forever linked to that community. I will always have mixed feelings about this.
My two oldest games are 64d collaborations.
I still have Crohn’s disease. I don’t talk about it much anymore, but it affects me every day of my life.
We survived being homeless. We survived being raided by the police. I don’t talk about those things much either, but they still affect me every day too.
It’s affected my entire family.
I’m not sure if writing this gained me any closure. But part of me is writing this in case the 64d mods ever decide to delete that blog, erase the event from history, and continue fucking with me.
Maybe this will explain why I’m not enthusiastic about making any more video games. Maybe some people can relate to this.
If you hate me for whatever reason, now you know who to hang out with. Otherwise, avoid 64digits like the plague.
I’ll end on this, part of my response to the one who confronted me privately.
“I link to my WordPress blog because I’m more proud of the writing on there. It was created to deal with the more personal issues that I can’t really post here. I haven’t publicly asked for donations since 2013. I don’t know which months you were inactive, but I’ve been living in the same place since September 2013. Since then my troubles have been less about being homeless, and more about that incident in December 2013 when the police raided us. So I’m dealing with a completely different set of issues than I was 2 years ago.
I only get $700 a month from disability. Which isn’t enough for anyone to live off of. My mom doesn’t have disability, so she only brings in what she can make online from writing. We’ve been lucky to have a semi permanent residence. If I can finally supplement my income by selling games, that would be huge. So for me, I’m finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want my story to be one of overcoming trials, not succumbing to them.”