In a biting retrospective of his years working as a designer at Microsoft, Spry Fox founder Daniel Cook has expressed his frustration with the exclusive culture he experienced developing for Xbox platforms.
In a guest editorial for Kotaku, Cook said he worked at Microsoft at a time when the platform holder was hoping to broaden the Xbox brand’s audience.
“Ultimately, the anemic outcome of this great leap forward was a handful of resource starved trivia games and gameshows. But the dream of bringing socially positive games to more people really appealed to me,” he said.
Unfortunately, Cook said he found the already-established culture quite hostile to this dream.
“The repeated mantra was ‘The things we do here will impact millions.’ The unsaid subtext was ‘gamers just like us,’” he said.
“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. For those raised post-Xbox, Microsoft was an unquestioned Mecca of modern gaming culture. Dude. They made Halo.”
Cook said it was “a challenge” working with 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”.
“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 revolting,” he said.
After leaving Microsoft, Cook started Spry Fox and makes whatever he damn well pleases, and feels he’s doing a much better job of reaching broader audiences than the template-like design processes he described as in use at Microsoft during his time there.
“Hardcore gamers, women, men, children, families, bros, feminists, and wonderful people that play no other games – they play these intimate, quirky games of ours,” he said.
“Of you count up the numbers, we impact tens of millions. Deep down, I’m not sure if any of them are people like me. 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.”
Ouch. Harsh words indeed. Spry Fox’s mobile efforts inclue Triple Town, Steambirds: Survival and Leap Day.