Attempts to “cancel” a developer of Factorio have backfired; resulting in more players and a flood of positive reviews.
On June 18th, “Kovarex” (Factorio founder Michal Kovarik) posted the 366th Friday Facts developer blog post. Along with discussing development on the game’s updates, Kovarex recommended Uncle Bob (Robert Cecil Martin); and his lectures on programming and project management.
However, some took issue with the recommendation. Previously, some had taken issue with the “The Manifesto for Agile Software Development” and its principles being too focused on management rather than coding, alleged sexist comments made at a keynote speech in 2009 [1, 2], pro-police attitude, and quoting former US President Donald Trump on “new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.”
One user on the Factorio subreddit warned Kovarex about recommending Uncle Bob. “I know I know, politics and games don’t mix well,” d40b explained, “but promoting a controversial person without any reservations _is_ a political act.”
“So it might be worth considering to add a disclaimer. His actions and words have hurt a lot of (typically) underrepresented people and I’d personally prefer to avoid more people getting hurt by promoting him.”
Kovarex’ reply was a succinct refusal. “Take the cancel culture mentality and shove it up your ass.” The comments by both Kovarex and d40b were deleted by moderators. While political discussion was allowed to continue in that thread, it was later locked due to “threats and calls for violence.”
Before being locked Kovarex defended himself, accusing others of labeling him a right wing bigot, and others acting hysterical.
“Why am I right wing bigot again, I hear it again and again, and yet, I didn’t hear any reason for that claim.
This clearly shows the weird one dimensional world you see. Everyone is either a friend or an enemy, and we need to decide fast!
All I did is to deny bashing on someones proffessional [sic] work for his political views, I didn’t even know what they are, and somehow, you had to put me on your political axis somewhere, and sicne [sic] your political axis is so full of hate, you assume that I hate you or LBGT+ people, or whatever you don’t like about the other side your axis.
You have to understand, that I’m not from the US, and I’m nowhere on your little axis, I’m not your friend or enemy, I’m just a guy who would like to decouple ideas from people.”
Kovarex stated he also refused to look further into the accusations against Uncle Bob. “I won’t even search him up. You know why? Because I don’t care at all. I don’t care if he cheats on his wife, is a bigot, or pays proper tips in restaurant. These things are simply not relevant.”
“If Stalin had a good writeup on programming, would linking that be dangerous, because some people might read it, start liking HIM, thus start liking communism and the ineviteble mass murder that follows it? Is this how little we trust other individuals when it comes to access to information?
“I personally trust my readers to have the ability to create their own opinions instead of blindly following whatever says the person they like.”
In addition, Kovarex also discussed accusations that Uncle Bob had denounced female senior software engineers. “I’m not defending that […], but if someone would defend that, it doesn’t make him a bigot just because he proposes that and have some arguments, only if those arguments were debunked and the person wouldn’t be willing to change his mind, then yes, it sounds like a bigot.”
“But my feeling is, that this step is completely ignored in most of the cases. People are called bigots without any attempts at understanding the reasoning, it is the easy way.”
Some had drawn attention to this drama [1, 2], which then spilled onto the game’s Steam Community forums (archived here). “The main dev is transphobic+ more and got canceled dont buy the game anymore,” one user implored. “the dev is problematic you should not buy their game.”
Steam forum users seemed to mock the post; some stating they would buy the game specifically because it angered the poster, those who felt Kovarex shouldn’t be cancelled for his opinion, and to support him standing his ground. Users may also have been opposed to “cancel culture” in general (rendering someone unable to work and alone for fear of persecution, due to outcry over past actions and comments).
The failed attempt to generate controversy may have also seen an uptick in popularity. At this time of writing (and according to SteamDB), the game is 63rd most played game on Steam. 95% of reviews in the last 30 days have also been “Overwhelmingly Positive,” with over 1,200 of them coming after the June 18th post. Negative reviews during that time total 88.
How much the attempt to cancel Kovarex has actually boosted sales will be unknown for a while; but the developers seem to be taking it in their stride. The game’s official Twitter account replied to one of the Twitter users who drew attention to the controversy; stating “I’m really happy for the free ads we are getting. Thank you for that.” This seemed to only frustrate the Twitter user.
As previously reported, the ambitious factory building game was in development since 2012, and first released on Steam Early Access in 2016. The game was originally set to release from Early Access in August 2020, but was moved up to avoid competing with the release of Cyberpunk 2077.
Players are tasked with establishing factories on hostile alien worlds, that can quickly grow intricate and sprawling. They must gather raw materials and design a complex chain of production using a wide range of automated systems; such as conveyor belts, and mechanical arms. They will also need to defend their operations from attacks by the planet’s wildlife.
This is not the only cancel culture news story of this month. As previously reported, it had been discovered that Scott Cawthon- the creator of Five Night’s at Freddy’s- had donated over $35,000 USD to republican politicians, a PAC, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee across 2019 and 2020. Some felt this ran counter to the game’s surprisingly large LGBTQ community.
Due to the website containing this information listing his zip-code and state, this lead to threats against him and his pregnant wife. Cawthon publicly stated he would not apologize “because I exercised my right, and my duty, as an American citizen, to vote for and support the candidates who I felt could best run the country, for everyone.”
“All of this explanation, I fear, is wasted,” Cawthon stated, “as people don’t want to discuss with one another anymore; they want endless apologies and submission. People who are expecting those from me will get neither.”
Cawthon concluded that even if he was cancelled (unable to work with anyone for their fear of persecution), he would retire content. Being cancelled would not lose what he valued most. Days later, Cawthon announced his retirement. “I’ve had a blessed, fulfilling, and rich career,” Cawthon stated, along with that he would focus on his family of six children and wife, but he would still “be around.”