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In defence of Alex St. John (sort of)

April 20, 2016


I’m sure if you are inside it or merely a follower of news on the games industry, Alex St. John’s piece on how people are ungrateful about being in the games industry has caught your eye.

So in the same way I broke down the GCN acting like babies and unfairly shifting blame to Games Workshop, let’s tackle his article. And how it’s actually right in some of things it says.

Bear in mind, I mean some. His experience with life and his general smarts have lead him to base statements that are almost there in their actuality. And I do call these smarts. He worked his way up from pretty much nothing and thrived in an industry that is known for being cut-throat. People in those positions aren’t dummies. Just disconnected.

I can’t agree with how he has applied those principles and reached his conclusions. But Alex St. John, like it or not, makes some good points. So let’s do this.

What he gets right:


Let’s start with the biggie – the whole employee resentment thing. Meet the Karpman drama triangle. It’s actually something that happens to a lot of people in life – people put themselves in the role of the persecuted and then they proceed to find reasons to be persecuted forever.

Both in my work and personal life I’ve met this type of person multiple times-in fact a recent ex-housemate became the persecutor of that triangle whilst still putting themselves in the victim role in their mind. That mindset is insane.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he came across that scrap of info in a HR meeting once in many years in the industry. We’ll come back to how he’s misapplied it later (see below).

Envy and self made millionaires

You can see him grasping at a point with this talk about self made millionaires. We do live in a society that constantly flaunts (now accelerated with the toxic effects of social media) how easy it seems for some people to make money. If you are run down or not quite enjoying your job, it’s easy to look at someone like the Kardashians and think ‘How did they get that? I deserve that for working hard’.

In our society where so many are fed the lie of the American Dream, encouraged to develop resentment towards others and self loathing for not matching up to impossible standards, it’s easy to see that the grass is always greener.

I imagine it’s the same when developers look at one hit wonders or people in the indie scene who blow up over night in the gaming industry. The question at some point if you are down in the dumps will become, “When do I get mine?”

Creating games is art.

Yes. Undoubtedly.

What he gets wrong:



What he gets hilariously wrong:

No, really. Every single conclusion he makes. I use the word hilariously, because his ignorance is scary. It’s a laugh or cry situation, full of false equivalences and a lot of very odd ways of thinking that show he’s been disconnected from his staff for a long time.

For a start, he’s clearly a big believer that all you need to do is pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you’ll be successful and that anyone who isn’t isn’t trying hard enough. It’s all there. The log cabin upbringing. The dismissal of crunch time as ‘just something you do if you love your job’. That art ≠ a job you deserved to be paid for. It’s randian ideology writ large.

Only that’s not how capitalism works. The human body is not meant to stand up to extended periods of stress and tiredness. That he can take the ideas of the drama triangle and people being rightfully irritated at being worn down by unfair working conditions, then apply it to mean that anyone who complains is a whiner…wow.

To ignore how everything is relative. To espouse the argument of ‘well at least we’re not in a third world- so be grateful’ is the worst kind of false equivalency. To laugh at asking for a sensible work life balance. It boils my piss. Its an attitude that wouldn’t be accepted in industries outside of retail*, unless you had a salary to match the damage you are doing to your body working 80 hours a week. 

People who are asked to work such hours, without appropriate compensation, who are mocked and belittled by their bosses and told to appreciate their employers working them to the bone – it’s the definition of a toxic corporate culture. 

And how sad is it, that we are meant to accept this as normal?


Sorry, I can’t be impartial in this. I’ve worked 80 hour weeks in a corporate culture like that. It burnt me out and slowly poisoned my world outlook, to the point where I’ve only just recovered creatively in the past few month. I am teh biased.

But I’m surprised that that someone felt this was ok to publish on a website – well actually I’m not, VentureBeat were probably rubbing their hands at the thought of the clicks – but that someone thought to write such a piece with no such self awareness is a sign of being separated from the people who helped made you the success you are. Entirely. 

That I’m not so ok with.

*Just a timely reminder -retail workers, you do God’s work. Which nobody appreciates you for. I do. This one’s for you.


From → Rant

  1. Just great.

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