Niche Gamer has interviewed Factorio founder and developer Michal “Kovarex” Kovarik, on how attempts to cancel him failed, and secret support he received.
As previously reported, Kovarex posted a developer blog post recommending the programming and management lectures by “Uncle Bob” (Robert Cecil Martin). Some took issue with the recommendation, with allegations of sexist comments, a pro-police attitude, and quoting former US President Donald Trump on “new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.”
One user on Reddit asked for Kovarex to include a disclaimer, but Kovarex’ reply was a succinct refusal. “Take the cancel culture mentality and shove it up your ass.” He denounced those who took offense as trying to label him a right wing bigot, and having the attitude of “Everyone is either a friend or an enemy, and we need to decide fast!”
He also stated the accusations against Uncle Bob were irrelevant, and that he trusted those reading the blog post “to have the ability to create their own opinions instead of blindly following whatever says the person they like.”
When the drama spilled on Twitter and the Steam Forums, calls to blacklist and not buy Factorio fell on deaf ears. If anything, it seemed to encourage more people to play the game, as when reported the game gained over 1,000 new positive reviews, and became the 63rd most played game on Steam.
The game’s official Twitter account even 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.”
We reached out to Kovarex for an interview, asking if the controversy did generate more sales, and how others should deal with similar attempts to “cancel” them. You can find our full interview below:
Niche Gamer: For those unfamiliar, could you please introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about Factorio?
Kovarex: Hello, most people know me as kovarex, I started the game Factorio as my first commercial game in 2012, it is a strategic automation game, which also have aspects like military and logistics.
Niche Gamer: Starting with the game itself, what motivated Wube Software in developing such a title? Did you expect the success you achieved?
Kovarex: I wanted to play this kind of game deeply, but there weren’t any games like that so far, so I started doing it myself, and quit my job to do it full time, it was long before Wube software was formed.
It was a low risk endeavor, as I basically just invested my time, so the financial requirements for it to pay off were quite low. I obviously aimed for success, but I was well aware, that vast majority of projects like this fail, and I was well prepared for to fail.
Niche Gamer: In your own words, what happened on June 18th after you posted the 366th Friday Facts?
Kovarex: One of the Reddit users shown concern about sharing technical insights of someone who was supposed to have wrong political opinions. My reaction was too harsh when it comes to the way I said it, but honestly it probably wasn’t the main reason of so many reactions.
The main concern was, that I strongly denied the core of the cancel culture technique, which is the attempt to deplatform/silent people who have “wrong” opinions.
Niche Gamer: While others have shirked away from “cancel culture,” you bit back. What inspired you to do so, and was there any risk of the outrage escalating?
Kovarex: I’m from Czech, and our historic experience is quite hardcore. Being occupied by Naciz, followed by being part of USSR communism regime. In 1968, the Czech people wanted to “soften up” the regime, which resulted into Russia invading our country and occupying us for the next 20 years.
The experience with propaganda and silencing officially wrong opinions is strong, and since the communism ended in 1989, it is not some very distant past, as our parents and grandparents can talk about it from their own experience.
There are loads of movies and books about that time, and it greatly affects our perception of the related topics. People that were trying to fight the regime were risking everything in their live to do the right thing, and we have plenty of stories of these heroes.
In this context, opposing someone on the internet who would wish to shut some people up is really easy.
Niche Gamer: What was your colleague’s reaction to standing defiant?
Kovarex: Some of them weren’t happy, as it looks like making Factorio political, which wasn’t the intent.
Niche Gamer: The Factorio official Twitter account wasn’t shy about stating the controversy has been “free advertising,” and the game has seen increased player numbers and positive reviews on Steam. If permitted, can you give us more insight into any growth that has occurred after the story broke at-large?
Kovarex: It doesn’t change much in the long run, as vast majority of players don’t care at all who is the developer, or what kind of drama is going on on some discussion platforms, and honestly, I like it this way.
Niche Gamer: While your quote will be echoed for quite a while; what would you advise other developers and publishers do when confronted with mass outrage?
Kovarex: I would propose to state your opposition in a nicer way, and also, be prepared for the reaction. The way it worked was, that the negative feedback was mainly public, and the positive feedback was mainly done by personal messages, which already shows how people don’t want to speak up publicly as they don’t want to be come the next target of the mob.
I personally am able to not take stupid accusation or hate messages personally, so I didn’t have problem with that, but some people could be deeply struck by that.