Spry Fox CCO, and former game designer at Microsoft, Daniel Cook has penned an editorial reflecting on his time at the company in "the era right before Kinect", criticising Microsoft for pushing the "gamers as bros" sub-culture that emphasises violence and machismo.
"In many ways, a gig at Microsoft was a career peak for many developers I worked with," remember Cook. "Since childhood, they had played console games, worked at console companies and then finally _made it_ to the platform mothership from which all their life's work was originally born. The repeated mantra was 'The things we do here will impact millions.' The unsaid subtext was 'gamers just like us.'
"It was also a cultural hub. You worked there because you were a gamer. People boasted about epic Gamer Scores and joked about staying up multiple days straight in order to beat the latest release. The men were hardcore. The management was hardcore. The women were doubly hardcore. To succeed politically in a viciously political organization, you lived the brand.
"You got the sense the pre-Xbox, 'gamers as bros' was a smaller subculture within the nerdy, whimsical hobby of games. Over two console generations, a highly cynical marketing team spent billions with no hope of immediate payback to shift the market. In an act of brilliant jujitsu, Nintendo was slandered as a kids platform, their historical strength turned against them. Xbox put machismo, ultra-violence and boys with backwards caps in the paid spotlight. Wedge, wedge, wedge. Gamers were handed a pre-packaged group identity via the propaganda machine of a mega corporation."
There was only one problem: Cook, as he states himself, wasn't a "bro". More interested in looking beyond established borders to rech out to a wider audience, Cook found himself at odds with upper management at the company.
"It was a challenge being in a group that knew intellectually they had to reach out to new people while at the same time knowing in their heart-of-hearts that just adding more barrels to a shotgun was the fastest path to gamer glory," he says. "Talking with others in the larger organization would yield a sympathetic look. 'Someone has to deal with those non-gamers. Sorry it has to be you. Bro.'
"I am not actually a bro. Don't tell anyone.
"We made adorable hand-drawn prototypes and watched them climb through the ranks only to be shot dead by Elder Management that found cuteness instinctually [sic] revolting."
Cook left the company after two years to set up indie outfit Spry Fox, something he describes as "easily the best career choice I have ever made".
"As part of my personal journey, I've found that I'm driven by ideals that fit poorly with a highly gated console monoculture: What if games can connect people? What if they can improve the world? What if they bring happiness and joy to our lives? [...] My job as a game designer is to make beloved games, not fit some limited corporate definition of a gamer.
"So far, none of our games have been released on the Xbox. There's been little economic or cultural fit with the artificially propped up tribe residing in that cloistered warren."
Here's a little video of some very angry (very NSFW) dudebros in action at the Call of Duty EU Championships (via EG):