Benjamin Widdowson, co-founder of SUZAKU and creator of the upcoming Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story recently discussed the prevalence of cancel culture and contemporary puritanical outrage, offering his insight into his own personal experiences navigating this climate as a contemporary game developer and advice for those who may deal with it in the future.
Widdowson discussed these topics in a recent interview with Robin Ek, owner and Editor-in-Chief of The Gaming Ground. Through the course of the interview, Ek asks Widdowson numerous questions regarding his upcoming Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story, which was successfully Kickstarted in 2018 and is set for release in 2020. These topics include the story of SUZAKU’s creation, the experience of the studio in making Sense, and the influential works that inspired various aspects of Sense’s production.
During the interview, Ek asks Widdowson about the response and feedback Sense had received, to which Widdowson notes that he is “one of those gamers who feel like the AAA industry doesn’t want me around and is actively trying to get rid of me” and that the “gaming media” have “largely and purposefully ignored us,” while also claiming that SUZAKU and Sense have “been outright blacklisted by several [outlets].”
“Ek: How has the response and feedback been so far from gamers and the gaming media since you first announced, “Sense” to the world? And what has it been like working together with Top Hat Studios Inc?
Widdowson: Top Hat Studios is amazing, and Joe, the owner, is a great dude. He has been supportive and helpful directly, which is not my typical experience with publishers. I love the guy, and am very happy to be forming a long term relationship with Top Hat.
The response from gamers has been great, I feel like I tapped into something missing in the market right now, mainly because I am one of those gamers who feel like the AAA industry doesn’t want me around and is actively trying to get rid of me.
I really hope to keep living up to their expectations and fully intend to work FOR them first and foremost. They’re customers first, but the number of people that have put their trust in me to make this game is incredibly humbling. I actually think about that all the time, and keep it in the front of my mind when I make decisions.
The gaming media has been the exact opposite. Most of the mainstream outlets have largely and purposefully ignored us. Whistleblowers have let us known we’ve been outright blacklisted by several.
The usual spiel, yada yada, problematic this, sexist that, unrepresentative humbug. I do want to give a shout out to Twinfinite, OAG, and Dual Shockers and Noisy Pixel though, they covered us early and often.
Of course, we’re very thankful for every article we see, and the streamers that have played our game wherever, on twitch, youtube, or elsewhere. So definitely thank you as well for giving us the opportunity to get our message out here.”
Ek, using Widdowson’s opinions as a jumping off point, then asks Widdowson if Sense would be uncensored upon release and to expand on his thoughts on “censorship and cancel culture in the games industry,” to which Widdowson responded that “Censorship of any kind, but particularly of art is an absolute cancer on the world” and that “Anyone who thinks that censoring videogames, movies, comics, etc. for ANY reason has the markings of a tyrant and should never be listened to by anyone,” particularly “early 20 something twerps with useless BA/Gender Studies/HR degrees” who try “to shut down the freedom to create freely because they lack the ability to make things that people actually want and like” :
“Ek: I take it that “Sense” will be uncensored on release? And while on the subject of censorship. What’s your take on censorship and cancel culture in the games industry? And what do you think could be done to tackle cancel culture and censorship in the games industry?
Widdowson: I have to be very tactful here I think haha. So let me organize this as a bullet list:
– Right now, Sense is looking to be uncensored on all platforms. That said, Sony is the only platform that could pose a problem, BUT we don’t have any content in-game that should be egregious. So at the moment, all is looking good. We’re sticking to our plan in the event that Sony requires any changes, which is that any KS backers that wanted a vita or PS4 copy will also get a digital PC copy for free. We are following the situation very closely and will be really clear and loud with everyone as we know more.
– Censorship of any kind, but particularly of art is an absolute cancer on the world. Anyone who thinks that censoring videogames, movies, comics, etc. for ANY reason has the markings of a tyrant and should never be listened to by anyone. Those people do damage to societies and cultures unlike any other. I have no patience for that garbage anymore.
Too many have fought, bled and died for a bunch of early 20 something twerps with useless BA/Gender Studies/HR degrees to shut down the freedom to create freely because they lack the ability to make things that people actually want and like.
And make no mistake, all this idiocy on twitter and elsewhere is about jealousy from people who lack the ability to succeed on their own in any forum.
Most of these people were handed all they could need on a platter and have no conception of how to actually MAKE something and SWEAT and get beaten down, and stand up again over and over until you finally succeed. Success isn’t a place you arrive at, it’s one you build yourself.
These intolerant little intellectually deficient toddlers give up on anything the minute it doesn’t go their way, and the ones who have success seem to constantly fail upwards until they bankrupt a beloved company or two.
Andi has shared with us stories of his time in academia, and the intellectual core which drives these highly progressive, censorship heavy ideologies is dark to the core. One thing he pointed out, was that any of the people who believe in how video games are art are also ardent supporters of censorship or mandating hardline radical politics in games.
It seems ironic, but a large part of this is that by making video games art, and then having the power to censor them and pummel developers into submission over certain depictions, quotas, or whatever nonsense, it makes them (feel like) authority figures on a societal level.
– Cancel culture is a despicable “tactic” employed by these same types of people. Remember that thing about jealousy? Take someone who’s achieved a large measure of success and a large market. X developer shows a trailer at E3 for his first full game that everyone thinks looks awesome? BOOM! “problematic”, and tons of salty tweets starts surface.
Don’t get me wrong, it is entirely possible that the victim of a mob can actually be a gigantic PoS, but more often then naught it seems to be intentional targeting of successful people by people incapable of succeeding due to hard work – either because they’re incapable of doing it, or have lived such a privileged lifestyle they literally cannot envision how your blood and sweat can bring results.”
Widdowson then puts forth four tactics, “never apologize,” cease any support for “people that engage in this behavior (on all sides),” minimize “engagement with these people,” and speak “with your wallets,” and states that these tactics are “the only way to stop this stuff from happening”:
“– Never apologize to the mob, if enough people stop doing the corporate non-apology, or the “I’m sorry, I’m woke now”-apology then the mob loses it’s power and the “game” stops being exciting for the hangers-on. An apology is a vindication, a self-defeat, a statement saying you acknowledge you did something worth an apology. Don’t do it.
– Stop supporting the people that engage in this behavior (on all sides), and stop supporting the companies that employ them. Money talks, eventually…
– Minimize engagement with these people. Starve them of attention; make them feel like they are screaming into a void of exactly 0 people that care. Remember, these people subsist purely on outrage, anger, and discomfort. You don’t have to. So if you really need to engage with these people though, make sure you do it in a way that benefits you. We’ve connected with some great fans and new customers thanks to this.
– Speak with your wallets, if you see a large company bend the knee to the mob, stop giving them your money at all. You don’t need the next AAA EA/Activision/whoever published game, but they certainly need your money. You guys have 100% of the power. Never, ever forget that you determine actual success regardless of what those in “power” redefine that word to mean.”
Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is slated for release in early 2020. A demo of the game can be downloaded from Sense’s itch.io page.