Over the weekend, Apex Legends developer Drew McCoy took to Reddit to apologize for the various ways in which a recent in-game event (the Iron Crown event) had “missed the mark.” According to McCoy, the structure of the event broke previous promises that Respawn, the game’s developer, had made regarding how loot would be distributed. Specifically, the company has promised that Apex Packs (loot crates) would not be the only way to get loot. Apparently, Iron Crown event skins were initially distributed solely through these loot crates. The original point of McCoy’s post was to inform the community that the Legendary skins available during the Iron Crown event will also be sold in the store for Apex Coins.
That’s what the point of the thread was supposed to be. The entire discussion has since been derailed by outrage over comments that McCoy made about the gamer community.
We’ve said it before, but we will not engage with temper tantrums, and personal attacks or virtriolic threads are completely unacceptable. We took a look in the mirror this week (lol – thanks for all the attacks guys) and decided we hadn’t met up obligations and are making changes because we believe in our approach.
I’ve been in the industry long enough to remember when players weren’t complete ass-hats to developers and it was pretty neat. I forged a bunch of long lasting relationships from back then. Would be awesome to get back there, and not engaging with toxic people or asking “how high” when a mob screams “jump” is hopefully a start.
Redditor Daviss2 penned one of the thoughtful missives Reddit is known for in response to this, writing:
Oh.. Well I guess you can also remember when developers weren’t money grabbing fucks that scammed their players too… anything from you in the future can die as quickly as its released IMO. And fuck anyone that’s saying this is better, like take there dick out your mouth and have some respect for yourself. Yes iv gone over the top and I can blame the whiskey all I like but iv gone from thinking oh shit these devs care to yep just as bad as ea’s reputation. You had no choice but to answer “risky” comments so get the fuck off your high horse.
McCoy responded to this by saying he’d “found the dick” he was talking about earlier, in reference to another thread about people being dicks to developers. This resulted in further outrage. Last night, the CEO of Respawn apologized to Apex Legend fans over the developer’s comments.
The Gaming Community Has Become Increasingly Toxic
McCoy’s comments regarding toxicity are not unusual or unwarranted. Game developers have openly acknowledged that one reason they are wary of engaging with the wider gaming public is due to rampant toxicity and poor behavior from gamers. If you pay any attention at all to the gaming community, it’s easy to see why they would.
One trend in gaming is “review bombing,” in which thousands of people downvote a game to punish its creators for changes they don’t like. While the tactic has been used for years, it’s become increasingly popular. Valve has made various changes to its review policies (back in 2017 and earlier this year) as a result. The famously hands-off company has begun removing the impact of “off-topic” review bombs because gamers have begun targeting titles for issues that have absolutely nothing to do with the game itself.
When the tiny indie game developer Glumberland announced it was moving its title, Ooblets, to the Epic Game Store — a move that would guarantee the studio’s studios continued survival and allow it to build more games — it was met with an absolute torrent of abuse. Glumberland is a two-person studio with a small fanbase. When they told their community, the news went viral online and in Discord, leading to an avalanche of attacks from people who had never seen or heard of their game. Ooblets Co-developer Ben Wasser provided a disturbing image to show what he and his wife received.
There’s a strange relationship a segment of the gaming community has with game developers. I think their extreme passion for games has made them perceive the people who provide those games as some sort of mystical “other”, an outgroup that’s held to a whole set of weird expectations. These folks believe they hold the magic power of the wallet over developers who should cower before them and capitulate to any of their demands. You can see this evidenced by the massive number of angry people threatening to pirate our game in retaliation to any perceived slight.
We’ve been told nonstop throughout this about how we must treat “consumers” or “potential customers” a certain way. I understand the relationship people think they might be owed when they exchange money for goods or services, but the people using the terms consumers and potential customers here are doing so specifically because we’ve never actually sold them anything and don’t owe them anything at all. And if they choose to not buy the game when it’s released, that’s totally fine with us.
Whenever I’ve mentioned that we, as random people happening to be making a game, don’t owe these other random people anything, they become absolutely enraged. Some of the most apparently incendiary screenshots of things I’ve said are all along these lines. (Emphasis added).
In Wasser’s case, people stormed the company’s Discord and attempted to frame the developer as having made a variety of anti-Semitic messages because they were angry that he’d made a decision about where to distribute a video game in a manner that prioritized the continued survival of his tiny, indie studio.
One of the standard ways that this kind of situation gets swept under the rug is with an “oh, well, it’s because of EA,” or “oh, well, it’s because of loot crates.” It isn’t because of either of these things. Nor is it because of social issues or political commentary, unless you think review-bombing Shadow of the Tomb Raider for going on sale too quickly was part of someone’s agenda. When gamers thought they’d seen a change to Spider-Man’s graphics engine, they went nuts with conspiracy theories and attacks until the senior graphics engineer for the company had to step in to discuss the change. Even then I saw people claiming that the game had been dumbed down.
Should McCoy have gotten angry? Objectively speaking, no. It would’ve been better to get up from the keyboard and take a walk rather than be lured into losing his temper. But reading through the thread, you can get a sense for how the conversation evolved. What appears to have frustrated McCoy — and this is strictly my interpretation — is the repeated insistence that the Apex Legends dev team built the Iron Crown event as a deliberate attempt to shake down the Apex Legends playerbase. McCoy provided some data to back up his arguments for why items were priced the way they were, leading to exchanges like this (all are relevant):
This is a perfect example of how people can wind up talking past each other. McCoy’s points about the degree to which Apex Legends is or is not monetized may well be 100 percent accurate. The average cost of making a game at a AAA studio is assumed to be $10,000 per person per month according to Jason Schreier, who literally wrote a book on the topic. Very few gamers understand much about the economics of making games — but McCoy is supposedly bullshitting based on a GameInformer article about another company’s estimate of Apex Legends’ gross earnings. Gamers claim to want data, but when data is provided, that data is “bullshit” unless it conforms to said gamers’ preconceived notions of what it should look like.
At the same time, however, McCoy doesn’t answer one of the persistent complaints that Apex Legends’ players raise — namely, the fact that they are forced to buy Apex Coins using currency conversion schemes that obviously leave them with unspent worthless “cash.” This is a deliberate trick that companies have long used to force you to give them more money. Gamers aren’t wrong to perceive this as being consumer-hostile. But it’s probably not the kind of decision that people like McCoy have any say over. People get frustrated on both sides of the conversation. I think Wasser’s assessment of the “strange relationship” he refers to is accurate. Players see themselves as being at the mercy of developers, while the dev team may feel abused and ignored by a toxic minority of players. I’m speaking broadly to the situation because these toxic community issues are far larger than any specific incident, including this one and both “sides” — developers and players — are unhappy with the end result.
I’ve written a great deal of coverage on loot boxes and EA, none of it complimentary. I both understand why many of these mechanics anger players and agree with avoiding titles that implement predatory loot systems. But there’s also no arguing that gaming has become a deeply toxic community in some respects. McCoy’s repeated attempts to provide context around how pricing decisions are made are dismissed as bullshitting. Small wonder developers dislike providing data.
It would be easier to dismiss the growth of toxicity in gaming if the problem was confined to the internet. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Swatting someone — which is to say, sending the police to someone’s house by declaring that there’s an armed gunman inside with hostages — has literally gotten a person murdered. That didn’t stop someone from swatting 16-year-old Fortnite champion Kyle Giersdorf last week. The anger is everywhere. It’s not just directed at EA, or at “political” titles, or at loot crates. Far too many people these days view their own anger as intrinsic justification for whatever terrible thing they want to say or do online, regardless of the harm they cause.
These people — the “ass-hats” and “dicks” as Drew McCoy calls them — have always been a minority of total gamers. They’re still a minority of gamers today. The problem is, they’re increasingly good at ruining the fun for everybody else.
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