Hollywood tabloid magazines love to humanize popular stars. They show photos of famous people doing things just like regular people. They buy groceries! They cheer their kids on at soccer games! They even walk their dogs in public! For most of us, these types of features are silly, because of course stars are just like us. We're all human, and we all have daily chores and tasks to complete, no matter how average they may seem. If we know this of popular actors and singers and political figures, why then do we forget about it with game developers?
Video game developers are not generally considered on the same level of stardom as actors or film directors or band members. We don't see tabloids reporting on Reggie Fils-Aimé visiting a pet shop or Casey Hudson picking up his mail from the Post Office. We just hear about the good and bad related to their particular companies (Nintendo of American and BioWare, respectively). Developers fall somewhere between Hollywood level stardom and virtual unknown. To those that know their names, some of them are legends and gold standards to be held on a pedestal. Yet still other developers are reduced down to just a name and are the subject of all the heat when something goes wrong.
Why is this? When did it become such a common thing? Video game developers are human just like us. They have family lives, hobbies, and chores to do just like anyone else. There are a few things I've spotted over the past few months that have more than ever reminded me of this fact.
First was the news that an error message popped up on some player's Xbox systems. It read, “This would be some long description about the error. Read it and weep! And if you haven't looked up this phrase on the internet, please do! You will find a My Little Pony episode called 'Read it and Weep.' Cloudchasers and Wonderbolts, you'll never be forgotten!” Xbox Vice President Mike Ybarra explained that the error code should not have appeared on users' systems, as it was meant only for internal use. Someone working for Xbox is clearly a big My Little Pony fan! They let their personal hobby (or perhaps just an inside joke with coworkers) bleed into their work life. Is there really anything wrong with that? No. While Xbox users took to Twitter to figure out the source of the error, they simultaneously laughed and tilted their heads. It was a small reminder that things like this just happen sometimes, and everyone should learn to take things a little less seriously some times.
Another bit of news that I saw recently that reminded me that developers are human is related to Tales from the Borderlands. The creators of the Telltale series made Rhys and Fiona from scratch and made them fit seamlessly into the universe of Borderlands. When they created these two, they did so with the hope that Gearbox would include them in Borderlands 3. There's no signs from Gearbox as to whether or not this will happen, but it's clear that the Telltale creators are fans of the series and proud of their work. And why shouldn't they be? Video game developers are all video game fans at their core, so it makes sense that they would enjoy their work in a widely known series.
I myself have even come into contact with some developers that people absolutely idolize. I've witnessed moments that reminded me how little we remember that our idols are just regular people. When something goes wrong with a game or a title doesn't live up to our expectations, let's just remember that there are people behind those pixels. There are real people who put countless hours of their live into the game that you're bashing. If a game is bad, you should definitely tell your friends, family, or random Internet strangers. Developers need to know when their work is not up to par.
We can be nice about our criticisms, though. Rather than hiding behind anonymous usernames and shouting profanity at every little thing we don't like, how about we remember what we were taught at a very young age? Treat others as you would like to be treated. Be nice to game developers. They know that you are paying their bills, they don't need to be reminded of that. They need to know when something just isn't working in their game, but they don't need to be called every nasty name under the sun in the process.
Remember that game developers are just like that Hollywood dreamboat buying a frappé from a local coffee shop. They have families and friends, hobbies and lives outside of their video game jobs. While they need to have real feedback and criticism about their work, we can be less salty about it. I've had my moments just like anyone else. But it's the little things that remind me I can take things down a notch while still getting my point across. Hollywood stars might be just like us, but game developers are human too.