At least one game developer reckons that he and his peers would be more candid with the public were it not for the toxicity of some gamers online.
Designer and programmer Charles Randall, whose career spans 18 years and stints at Capybara, Ubisoft, and BioWare, among others, said in a long Twitter thread that "gamer culture is so toxic that being candid in public is dangerous".
It is his view that things really ramped up over the last few years, but also that these issues have been building for a long time.
"You know why we have to keep what we're doing secret from the public? Because of the toxic culture surrounding it," he said.
Randall pointed to a recent Twitter thread about game design tricks that to make games feel stuff as proof, saying it is filled with gamers angry about being lied to.
"Forums and comment sections are full of dunning-kruger specialists who are just waiting for any reason to descend on actual developers," he said.
"See any thread where some dumbass comments how 'easy' it would be to, say, add multiplayer or change engines. Any dev who talks candidly about the difficulty of something like that just triggers a wave of people questioning their entire resumé.
"'Questioning' here being an absurd euphemism for 'becoming a target of an entire faction of gamers for harassment or worse'."
Randall also blasted the press for generalisations and simplifications that misled the gaming public.
"There are still topics I can’t touch because I was candid once and it resulted in dumb headlines, misunderstandings, and harassment," he said.
"So while I’d talk candidly about certain big topics right now — I know doing so would lead to another wave of assholes throwing shit at me. (And of course I face almost nothing compared to women/PoC/lgtbq+ folk).
"We *love* to talk about development, the challenges we face, the problems we solve, the shortcuts we take. But it’s almost never worth it."
Randall then relayed his experience speaking to a room full of kids about game development, and how the attitudes of some are formed early.
"I shit you not, this kid (somewhere between 13-16 I’d guess) starts talking about how bad devs are because of a youtuber he watches," Randall said.
"He nailed all the points, 'bad engines', 'being greedy', you name it. I was appalled.
"I did my best to tell him that all those things people freak out about are normal and have justifications. I hope I got through a bit. But I expect he went back to consuming toxic culture via youtube personalities, and one day he’ll probably harass a dev over nonsense."
There's much more in the thread, but to summarise, it seems Randall's bigger point was that some gamer folks could stand to be more polite – if only for their own sake.
"Next time you don't like a game, maybe consider just... moving on? What is the value of helping spread hate and toxicity?" he said.
"If more people accepted that it's okay to dislike a game and move on, rather than doubling down on harassment, things would be more open.
"If you are posting extremely negative things about a game you don't like, even with good intentions, you are contributing to this ethos," he added.
"Being critical and explaining why you don't like something is fine. Dwelling on it, calling out the dev, or just talking shit is not.
"Let's be honest: dwelling on something you don't like also isn't healthy. Spend your time on what matters instead."
He later added that those claiming some developers deserve it, that there are two sides, or that not all gamers are like that are wilfully ignoring his points or arguing in bad faith.
Many other developers praised his statements on Twitter and Reddit.
The Long Dark game director Raphael van Lierop called his assertions "100% true".
"It's terribly sad how much less open we can afford to be with our community compared to even 2 yrs ago. Things have degraded so quickly," he said.
"[Opening up] tends to not be worth it. The idiots ruin it for everyone else.
"If people want to preserve their access to developers, they have to do more to protect that relationship. It's not something they are 'owed'."
Haemimont Games technical director Ivan-Assen Ivanov said the gaming press were also a factor.
"Good stuff in the thread, but completely ignores the role of the press – it’s also a factor in keeping developers non-candid."
There are other reasons keeping toxicity to a minimum is good for everyone. Recently, Blizzard said that fighting toxic behaviour is slowing its progress on Overwatch updates.
"We want to make new maps, we want to make new heroes, we want to make animated shorts," game director Jeff Kaplan said.
"But we've been put in this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better.
"I wish we could take the time we put into having reporting on console and have put that toward a match history system or a replay system instead," he added.
"It was the exact same people that had to work on both, who got re-routed to work on the other. The bad behaviour is not just ruining the experience for one another, but the bad behaviour's also making the game progress – in terms of development – at a much slower rate."
Kaplan reckoned that that responsibility for fighting toxicity rests on the shoulders of the community.
"The community needs to take a deep look inward," he said.
"Think about all the times somebody's said something negative to you in the game and imagine now if somebody had said something positive to you instead. There's a way to spread positivity that I don't think is really prevalent right now."