Developers against criticism

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Indie games usually shouldn't be expected to be as "high quality" as big AAA titles because the development team and the budget tend to be a lot smaller. Despite that, some indie games such as Cuphead, FTL: Faster Than Light and Hollow Knight managed to reach that standard. But regardless of quality, no indie developer, be it a professional or an "amateur", is supposed to be immune to negative criticism, especially if that game is being sold for real money and sold on major platforms like Steam.

In the recent years, not only have some indie developers shown their hostilities against criticism, but some larger studios with high budgets also attempted to silence negative reception as well.

The Situation

While it is understandable that people don't like receiving negative criticism, it usually is not meant as an attack against the product or the developer. Negative criticism is meant to inform consumers about a poor quality product and to help the developers understand the issues with their product. Some indie developers see negative criticism as a threat to either their business or to their fragile, over-inflated egos and will do anything to try to stop said criticism.

Likewise, not everyone on the internet knows that constructive criticism needs to actually be constructive and instead mock the game, the developer(s), and sometimes, even people who like the game they are "criticizing". It's very easy to be a target of this type of critic, especially on Steam, which lacks quality control for reviews. Being a target of bad critics or trolling, however, does not excuse toxic behavior (see examples below).

Silencing Criticism

When these developers receive negative criticism towards their games, they usually either respond by censorship, attacking the critic under the excuse that they are hurting their business, sending threats or by whining and calling it "harassment".

It should be important to point out that not all indie developers are like this. There have been some notable examples of indie developers reacting to criticism in a positive way, such as Scott Cawthon, who created the popular Five Nights at Freddy's horror game franchise in response to being criticized for making the characters in his game, Chipper & Sons Lumber Co., look like creepy dead-eyed robots.


When it comes to YouTube videos, they will often resort to filing frivolous DMCA takedowns on them, under the unsubstantiated excuse of "copyright infringement". This is particularly dangerous as the YouTuber in question is at risk of getting removed from the platform after three DMCA takedowns.

Not only are video game reviews protected under Fair Use, but it should also be noted that filing a false DMCA is a crime. Thankfully they usually fail and the target only ends gets called out on it by big-time YouTubers and other people whose messages reach as many people as possible.


The Direct system currently makes it too easy to release games and Valve themselves does very little to monitor the community, something that was not fixed from the former Greenlight system. As of late, Valve has taken more action against toxic developers who act abusive or break Steam's rules. In April 2017, Valve had a meeting with YouTubers Jim Sterling and TotalBiscuit regarding the future of Steam. In the meeting, Valve confirmed that they indeed keep an archive of every single deleted comment and evidence of hostile behaviour by developers and that they wish to put an end to it. Sterling and TotalBiscuit suggested Valve should update their terms of use to include direct warnings against this kind of behaviour including DMCA takedowns on YouTube, and full intent to inflict harsh penalties whenever this happens.

The methods discussed in that meeting, however, proved to be completely inefficient as toxic developers have drastically increased in number since Steam Direct's introduction. Valve often just won't ban toxic developers that attack their customers or blatantly break Steam's terms of use unless they get Valve into legal trouble, major controversies, or both. Even then, sockpuppetry makes Valve's actions count for naught.

Notable Examples

  • Killing Day Studio: One of the first instances of indie developers trying to hide complaints. They deleted various comments from buyers of their scam game Earth: Year 2066 and even renamed their community forums.
  • Wild Games Studio: One of the first incidents of filing fraudulent DMCA takedowns, was when TotalBiscuit gave their game, Day One: Garry's Incident, a negative review. Not only that, but they were also accused of using astroturfing to post bogus reviews on Metacritic.
  • Digital Homicide Studios: Their attempts to silence critics escalated to them literally filing frivolous lawsuits against people who said anything even remotely negative about them. They had even threatened to sue Valve, which resulted in Valve banning them from Steam and the company subsequently going out of business.
  • Killjoy Games: When their terrible game, Air Control, was panned, they tried to blame the players, shamelessly claiming that all the complaints are the result of trying to run the game on outdated hardware. They even said that Air Control was supposed to only be played at 1920x1080p despite it clearly being a very basic Unity game almost all 2000s computers can run. Trying to get away from the game's backlash, they used a sockpuppet account to release their second game, Zen Fish Sim.
  • Zoe Quinn: See Quinnspiracy.
  • Matan Cohen Studios: When his game, Art of Stealth, was criticized, the developer ridiculed commenters and called them bullies. He then sent threatening messages to YouTubers demanding them to take down their videos about the game otherwise he would send DMCA strikes. He was banned from Steam after he was caught using sockpuppet accounts to give himself positive reviews.
  • STICLI Games: When they released their game, Airport Master, they put clauses on their End User License Agreement that said people couldn't make videos about the game without their permission and that gamers were not allowed to get refunds. Neither claim can actually be enforced and the latter is a direct violation of Steam's Terms of Use. They also filed a Trademark violation claim against Jim Sterling's own video, which is worse than a DMCA.
  • Tale of Tales: When their game, Sunset, became a commercial failure, the husband and wife team of Tale of Tales left the game industry, insulting both it and gamers in the process. They even started a Patreon account dedicated to bringing "an end to video games as we know it."
  • Phil Fish: Though his game, Fez, was an actual success, he white-knighted Zoe Quinn during the early days of GamerGate to the point where he began insulting his own fanbase. After he got the money that was to be used to make a sequel to Fez, he again started insulting gamers and his own fanbase, before finally going on a massive Twitter rant which ended with him announcing that Fez II was canceled and that he was leaving the gaming industry. He did not leave the industry, however, as he had developed and published SUPERHYPERCUBE, a VR game for the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.
  • Brianna Wu: Her game, Revolution 60, was criticized for constantly failing to meet its release date and when it was actually released, it received very negative reviews. In response, she claimed this was "harassment from GamerGate" and that anyone who thought the game was bad is simply addressed as "dudebros who don't understand game design". Also, when negative feedback returned from QA testers, Wu blamed the testers for being too focused on the gameplay and being male.
  • Team6 Game Studios: When their game, FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction got a score of 1 out of 10 by Eurogamer, one of the team members of Team6 went on the game's Steam forums (which has long since been deleted, but archived via NeoGAF forums and Tom Branwell's Twitter posts) to claim that Eurogamer was playing with "a non-official and old version" of the game and that they weren't playing with update 4. Tom Branwell of Eurogamer stated that the update wouldn't have changed the game's score, and a Team6 team member proceeded to call the reviewer "a liar".
  • DalasReview: A Spanish YouTuber who bought a Banjo-Kazooie rip-off that failed to get Kickstarted and changed its name to Fur Fun. When it was found that the game had music directly stolen from Banjo-Kazooie he claimed that Grant Kirkhope, composer of the original Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack, had composed it. When Kirkhope denied the rumors, DalasReviewer called him a liar. He also likes to file DMCAs against small YouTube channels but not the larger ones like Jim Sterling, whom he instead tries to sweet-act to them in a possible attempt to change their opinions about his game, which is made worse by the fact that he himself is a YouTuber.
  • Kenneth Caselli and Giammarco Rocco: Their game, Ultimate Arena, was only a bad Serious Sam rip-off made with assets from Unreal Engine 4, and, for the negative criticism of the game, they outright BANNED the people that were criticizing it. In addition, Kenneth Caselli has a YouTube channel named Zeb89 where he has "sponsored" his game: so, principally, the positive reviews are from his young fans, who think that the game is beautiful, but there are channels on YouTube that created videos about this game with a negative review or first negative impressions, and for this, Zeb89 flagged the videos and insulted those channels.
  • Alex Mauer: Though she isn't an indie developer, she engaged in abusive behavior against gamers on YouTube who covered the game Starr Mazer DSP by filing a massive amount of DMCAs and demanding the people she DMCA'd to attack the developers on her behalf, then refused to remove the claims when people didn't cave into her demands. Mauer's behavior escalated into her taking down other games from Steam, issuing multiple death threats against people calling her out, over 100 DMCA takedowns, and Imagos filing a successful lawsuit against her.
  • LordKres: He created a game called Journey of the Light, advertised as one of the most challenging puzzle games ever. The game, when played, is nothing more than wandering around aimlessly with nothing to do. He insulted players and even tried to fool them after this scam was found out with a patch.
  • WTFOMGames: He lied about having brain cancer, which not only lured people into buying his game; That bastard is trying to steal our gold !, but also to attack anybody who had negatively criticized the game.
  • Silicon Echo Studios: They used all the possible loopholes of Steam Direct to post over 170 asset flips at once. They have been also accused of trying to silence critics before Valve finally pulled them and their games out of Steam. It should be noted that Valve only pulled Silicon Echo out after a Steam group discovered and openly revealed the absurd amount of shovelware they were posting and insisted that they be removed, Valve did not take any action up until then.
  • Krafton: PUBG's developer Krafton (then known as Bluehole) have gotten carried away by the success of their game and repeatedly threatened other developers who make battle royale games and made several statements that heavily implied that they want a full monopoly on the genre, even though they weren't the ones who created it. Krafton even filed a frivolous lawsuit against Epic Games, simply because PUBG lately has been losing a ton of players to Fortnite. The issue was resolved after Tencent (Epic Games' parent company) has taken over Krafton in 2019.
  • Richard LaRuina: He filed a false DMCA against YouTuber IAmPattyJack for his review of Super Seducer and started a Twitter fight with him.
  • Soulja Boy: Though he wasn't an indie developer (or even a people in the game industry to begin with), he reacted in the same manner as many of the previous examples when multiple Youtubers called him out on the fact that the "consoles" he was dropshipping were just Chinese knock-offs with illegal ROMs that he was selling at inflated prices and suggested Nintendo would take legal action given their history with copyright. Soulja used Twitter to attack his detractors and Nintendo multiple times, he even used racist and homophobic slurs against his detractors. His tweets were deleted by himself to hide the criticism, although it was too late, as multiple screencaps of the attack were saved.
  • Glumberland: Within a few days, the developer of Ooblets had the galls to call Kickstarter backers "entitled gamer babies", stole lots of money from their Patreon supporters and attacked anyone who criticized their Epic Store exclusivity.
    • To make matters worse, corrupt game journalists and even Tim Sweeney, the founder and CEO of Epic Games defended Glumberland.
  • Google: Although they're not indie developers, they reacted in the same manner as the aforementioned examples when their debut console, the Google Stadia, received very negative reviews due to its unreliability, bad optimization, horrible input lag, price, and game lineups. The company reacted to it by creating burner accounts (basically sockpuppet accounts for companies) to defend the Stadia and playing the SJW card by saying the controller is "gender-neutral" in a pathetic attempt to save the console's non-existent reputation.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft has recently been unable to handle criticism about the Windows 11 system requirements controversy and they have decided to remove some of the comments criticizing the system requirements and TPM 2.0. [1]
  • Naughty Dog: After the plot leak of The Last of Us Part II, they and Sony Computer Entertainment began filing fraudulent DMCA claims to silence those who talk and post about the leaked information publicly. It turns out that Sony and Naughty Dog were allowed to file those DMCA claims by YouTube and the other sharing sites. After the wave of hate, Neil Druckmann told the entire Naughty Dog team in an interview with actor Troy Baker that he originally wanted to thank each developer individually, although the size of the team made him decide to send a message to the entire group, complete with very explicit language, but the main goal of the creator was to make all members of the studio understandable. Neil was desperate enough to say "Fuck the haters" to hide the criticism away.
  • YandereDev: He illegally purchased an entire subreddit to censor criticism, bans people in his Discord server and false copyright strikes videos criticizing him and/or his game on YouTube. For example, he false copyright striked Yandere DataDigger's videos about him. His censorship policies extend to all his associates and allies.
  • Billy Mitchell: Even though he's not a developer, he has filed lots of frivolous lawsuits against people who criticized him, questioned the legitimacy of his gaming world records and exposed him as a fraud with proof, most notably his former benefactee Twin Galaxies for deleting every single one of his records, Cartoon Network for mocking him in a Regular Show episode.
  • Riley: Although he is not a developer, he and his team banned anyone who calls him out as a pedophile from his game, Club Penguin Online, blocked people on their official Twitter account and referred to his critics as paid off YouTubers and misinformed journalists. In addition, he tried to false copyright strike videos exposing him by Joey Hues.
  • Superprism: A developer making mobile games, offered extra rewards (gems, currency) on their game Kingsense if the Google Play Store ratings were boosted all the way up to 5 stars, which at the time, were 3 stars with many more than normal 1 star ratings. This, resulted in massive scrutiny in the gacha gaming community, but eventually they thankfully cancelled it. It sounded like they were unable to take their negative Play Store ratings and wanted to push them back up by encouraging it.


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