Why gamer rage over casuals, gender, and race needs to die

Angry gamer boy

There is a “rage bubble” in gaming, and hopefully it will burst soon. That was the word from the founder of QCF Design in Cape Town, Danny Day, who co-developed and released Desktop Dungeons.

Day recently subjected himself to an interview with us, in which he gave his views on everything from DLC and in-game currencies, to the skills he would look for in new employees.

As studio head of QCF and gaming since he was a tyke, Day has a lot of insight to offer on game development, gamer culture, and gaming in general.

The first part of our interview may be found here: Desktop Dungeons has made South African developers QCF Design R9 million so far.

In this second part, Day weighed in on the rage and fighting we’ve seen among gamers over a variety of issues.

He also bravely tackled the topic of gender and ethnic stereotyping in gaming from a historical perspective, by looking at Nintendo’s Mario character.

To preserve the full context of the interview, Day’s answers are reproduced below with only minor edits.


How has gaming changed between when you first started playing games, and when you started making games?

I watched the Casual bubble happen and thought, “Hey, these games are tiny enough that maybe I can make something like them, lets try!”

Um, wow… I guess there have been loads of cycles of expansion and contraction?

There’s this repeating loop where new developers with smaller budgets can colonise a new type of game, hardware or other niche and then you see a lot of interesting differentiation happening until the larger budget systems figure out how to maximise for the new space and then slowly push the small studios out.

When I first started playing games, PCs didn’t really have a distribution system, so games would filter through to you in strange ways and patterns. Consoles were all grey imports.

Arcades still existed, but were somehow more dodgy…

I’d been playing stuff for years before the Internet happened, so I watched the rise of trying to get games to connect to each other – first over serial cables, then LAN, then your crappy modem.

Modding was the new best thing ever because a game could become something entirely different, thanks to some people in Sweden who were just like you that liked reading obscure text files.

I watched the Casual bubble happen and thought, “Hey, these games are tiny enough that maybe I can make something like them, lets try!” and then the bubble burst and the huge casual portals ate everything.

Then they stopped being massively profitable and most of them died. Now they’re just these big dinosaurs grazing a paltry few tens of millions of dollars off an established market.

I watched the Facebook bubble, the mobile bubble (remember when there were new games in the app store top 10 every week? No? Well, can you imagine?) the Steam bubble, the XBLA bubble…

There are a lot of bubbles, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Danny Day

Danny Day

The rise of 3D cards was cool, no doubt there, but have you seen how much our game interfaces have changed since then?

And yes, games have become more graphically whatever and there’s more herpaflops pushing pixels around, but who really cares about that?

When you know what’s going on with those systems behind the scenes, they become a bit boring.

I mean, yeah, it’s cool and technically awesome that someone’s pushing 8 lights per pixel in a deferred renderer, or how mind-blowing Carmack’s Reverse was when it made vertex shadows possible on regular machines…

But those tricks die, or fade away into just being what everyone’s doing now anyway.

The rise of 3D cards was cool, no doubt there, but have you seen how much our game interfaces have changed since then?

So I kinda don’t really care about the whole graphics obsession… I mean, yeah, I can see exactly why some new console game isn’t running its backbuffers at 1080p to maintain 60fps.

The frames-per-second is a shipping-blocker, so they optimised for that and still had to render X more shaders per poly than their nearest competition, buffer size is practically a slider that you can change late in development, so they did what they had to do.

Boo, what evil devs they are for not justifying the size of your screen! (But can you really tell anyway, honestly? Without the badly photoshopped comparison shots?)

I want the people who feel they’re entitled to “own” gaming as a whole to stop shouting so much and fighting quite so hard to protect something that was never theirs in the first place.

I care about things like coherence of vision, style, and people.

It’s mostly the people though… Every bubble has introduced more people to the joy of playing games. People were never going to play Quake on the bus, but they can play stuff now, and have a more fun commute…

I’m always a bit saddened by people who seem angry that more games exist now, or there are more people playing more kinds of games. How is that a bad thing?

I guess I want the rage bubble to burst too.

I want the people who feel they’re entitled to “own” gaming as a whole to stop shouting so much and fighting quite so hard to protect something that was never theirs in the first place.

You’re playing something that someone else made because they were fascinated by watching people play the thing. If you’re not rewarding to watch play, who is going to keep paying you enough attention to keep making things for you?

Have you seen the smile on a grandmother clearing a difficult puzzle on her phone? Seen the little dance someone does when a new cat rocks up in their Neko Atsume garden?

Imagine how rewarding it is to have a part in giving people happiness like that.

Super Mario Bros princess in another castle


Have the changes in the medium and industry been for the better?

Stereotyping chases people away from games when it really shouldn’t.

Yes and no.

Yes, 3D cards are cool. Yes, realistic graphics made my dad and I share our experiences of Rome and Florence, except he was talking about the physical cities and I was referencing Assassins Creed.

But being able to show actual humans instead of @ signs put us on a road of maximum stereotyping as an industry.

And that’s something that chases people away from games when it really shouldn’t.

Why is Mario a he, why is he rescuing a she?

Why does Mario have a mustache? Because it was hard to show a face with that few pixels in the sprite, give him a huge nose so we can see it too.

Why does Mario wear overalls? Because overalls have those easy-to-understand buttons on the front and they’re one piece, so less colours needed for sprite work.

Why the hat? Hair edges are hard to integrate with other art…

That all works easily, but it gets flipped around:

  • Oh, Mario wears overalls, so he’s a plumber, obviously.
  • Oh, he’s a plumber with a huge nose and a huge mustache, must be Italian (this makes more sense if you’re Japanese and from 20 years ago, nowadays we’re more likely to assume the connection because of Mario).

But it goes deeper still:

  • Why is Mario a he, why is he rescuing a she?
  • How did that she become a princess?

Before graphical fidelity, those would have just been odd characters and symbols, maybe they wouldn’t have been gendered at all.

As graphics evolve, stereotypes seem to become more and more blatant, and because game developers tend to have been gamers that played these things unquestioningly, it’s hard to figure out how or why they got that way.

That’s when you end up with ridiculous boob-tube armour that would never work in a combat situation, and then dudes with not much life experience wonder why they can’t get their girlfriends to play games with them.

This is just scratching the surface, but it’s a bit back to that rage bubble thing again. I’m really looking forward to that bursting.

I had to be born white, male and extremely lucky to have a lot of support to draw on

I love how the changes have meant that I don’t need to have been born in the US and have to have coded a ground-breaking 3D engine in C++ before I could even think of making a game.

I love that digital distribution and the wealth of platforms mean there’s some way for me to make a living doing this from Africa.

That naturally extends to me wanting more people to have access to these opportunities too… I mean, I had to be born white, male and extremely lucky to have a lot of support to draw on (both financially and educationally).

I couldn’t have kept trying to make games with zero success for as long as I did without that head start. It shouldn’t require that head start, is what I’m saying.

I love how the changes mean there are more smaller studios out there, not just because I’m one of them, but because the smaller studios honestly make the most interesting games for me.

I love that there’s room for more chest-high-cover shooters and games about going mad in pitch black underground seas.

I love that I live in the future and magical pieces of glass can run games I feel nostalgic about.

I hate that not everyone gets to play. But I hope we can keep the changes happening to bring more play to more people.


More on local game development

The most important skill you need to be a game developer in South Africa

This is how much money successful games from South Africa have made

What you need to do if you want a job in game development in South Africa

Types of jobs in game development in South Africa

What to study to become a game developer

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Why gamer rage over casuals, gender, and race needs to die

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