How not to handle criticism: featuring John Clowder

12/12/18 EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that the link that was originally at the end of this is dead and now redirects to a shady site, so it now redirects to a similar source.

Today, we’re going to talk about something practical. This is intended to be game dev advice from one amateur, but really, this is applicable to anybody that makes things for people to consume.

This post is going to be about taking criticism, more specifically, a post on how not to handle it. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to criticism, but it’s something that we have to face. But you know, it could be hard to take criticism with grace. How do we learn not to freak out toward criticism? I say that the best way to do that is to look at an example of somebody flipping out, so that we may look upon them and think, “jeez it’d suck to be like that guy.”

Our example will be John Clowder, also known as myformerselves and revolverwinds, creator of the cult RPG Maker games, Middens and Gingiva. He is also somebody that didn’t handle one negative review very well. Middens is a game that’s well-regarded, having mostly positive responses. However, one fellow on, NTC3, dared to give it a mostly negative review. Say what you will about the review, but it’s Clowder’s reaction to it and what we should take away from that reaction that’s important.

clowder1Rule 1: Don’t immediately argue with a reviewer over their negative points.

This is the first reply in what is probably the greatest review thread on the rpgmaker site and Clowder is already on the defensive. There isn’t any consideration for the reviewer’s negative points on Middens or any reflection on the positives, Clowder just goes in there. To me, getting argumentative immediately characterizes somebody to be hard-headed and unaccepting of criticism. It’s not a good look.

There’s also another take-away, with the whole “assessing those that create when you do not is ignorance” bit:

Rule 2: Don’t say something along the lines of, “if you can’t make it, don’t criticize it.”

In fairness, you get a bit of perspective if you’ve spent time in someone else’s shoes. Like hey, people that accuse game developers of being lazy is an actual problem and maybe if they understood how much time and effort is put into something, this attitude would be less prevalent. Trying to work on my own stuff certainly has given me more appreciation for people that make games.

But the thing is, even if somebody doesn’t work on games, that doesn’t mean that their points aren’t valid. You can think a song is good without being a musician or a professional music critic, you can find a tv show enjoyable without ever having worked on content like that. What exactly is your audience, if you expect your critics to be game developers on your level? Heck, game dev friends might actually hold you to higher standards, so criticism from your average player may be preferable. Appreciate those reviews and listen to them.

Also to note, this point of view would mean that any positive reviews of a game by somebody that’s never made one should also be ruled as irrelevant. But, nobody ever parrots this idea if the consensus is positive; NTC3 points this out amidst Clowder’s rantings, as the rest of the reviews for Middens are positive, but Clowder never even said a thing toward those reviews – not even a simple thanks. So hey, don’t say that a person’s opinion is completely invalid if they’re not in your shoes, because everybody knows that it’s only used against negative criticism and is a sign that you can’t handle it.

And so, NTC3 tries to justify his points in the face of hard-headedness, but it just prompts another response:


Rule 3: Don’t angrily accuse people of “not getting it.”

To be fair, people sometimes miss the underlying messages in games. Heck, sometimes people could miss the explicit messages too, just take a look at Metal Gear Solid fans that think war is badass. But here, Clowder shows attitude as he argues the meaning of his game. Combined with his previous hostility, it’s less like Clowder is explaining what was missed but it feels more like him calling the reviewer an idiot for not seeing his vision. Throughout the thread, Clowder just keeps contending that NTC3 “just doesn’t get it” refusing to consider that, “hey, maybe I am the problem.”


So hey, if somebody doesn’t quite get your work, maybe stop to understand why they don’t understand. If they don’t get the themes of your work, maybe your execution is vague. Maybe they’re not the intended audience? At the very least, don’t be like John Clowder.

(Also, as a sidenote: Claiming that somebody doesn’t understand your vision kinda doesn’t help accusations of pretentiousness.)

But that’s not all. As this argument went on, other users joined in on the thread, usually taking up NTC3’s side of the “debate.” A user going by Fidchell tells him to get off his high horse and while they were a bit rude about it, it really didn’t justify the response:


Rule 4: Please don’t do this.

Holy fucking shit, you shouldn’t talk to people like this. Like it’s one thing to be hard-headed, but it’s another thing to treat somebody like this. Yeah, it was a bit rude, but this person wasn’t being a piece of shit. This wasn’t quite a death threat, which is why I imagine that Clowder wasn’t just flat-out banned from this site, but it’s still such a lousy thing to say to somebody. Seriously, if you talk to somebody like this for the crime of not liking your game very much, you’re probably not going to get a lot of respect from circles and in all honesty, serves you right.

So, look at the ramblings of John Clowder and please resolve to not be like that. Besides, that guy is actually awful beyond his handling of criticism, so fuck him anyway. Criticism is (or at least, should be) a healthy thing that helps people improve. We gotta know what we’re doing right, but we also need to know what we may be doing wrong and try to fix that to make games that more people can enjoy. It can be frustrating, but please understand and please don’t be an asshole about it.


  1. John makes solid points in all regards. A review can be subject to review. It is not a sacred process.

    In your case you are reviewing the review of a review.

    In honesty the original review that is being commented on is snarky and condescending and vapid which is likely why you didnt reproduce it here. The very fact that the artist’s comments on the critique spur more interest than the critique itself is proof of its banality.

    Valid points are like the edge of a circle. Unless theyre insightful they are all equally distant from each other. A good point hits the center.

    Half the reason gaming is taken as kiddie fare is because the commentary on them is childish and anti-intellectual. Calling an artistic work pretentious is the gist of all anti-intellectualism. Instead of elevating the dialogue they dumb it down as meaningless.

    Remove art from film and I wouldnt touch the left overs. Same with games. Some people like fiber in their diet and others take consuming vegetables as a form of self torture.

    In that sense the reviewer plainly doesnt get it because to them something gas to taste good to justify consumption.

    I’m glad the artist had the courage to stand up for their work. You mess with baby bear and you mama bear.


  2. I’m not saying that a review can’t be subject to a review, rather, I’m pointing out that said review of the review carries an attitude that is unbecoming of creators. While the post doesn’t have screenshots to the original review, the link to the review and the thread itself is still posted, so I’m not trying to hide it. The thing is, the matter isn’t of whether Clowder should review said review or not – if it was, I would have gladly included screenshots. The problem is the general attitude that Clowder carries himself with, acting dismissive and hostile. You may see NTC3’s review as banal, but regardless of the intellectualism angle you’re trying to push, it’s still an honest review. And to have a hostile attitude toward honest reviews just isn’t a good look.

    I do believe that games can be art. In fact, I considered Fidchell rude for their own dismissive attitude toward art games. But if creators of art games get mad at people for not getting it and dismissing their concerns, it does not reflect well on art games.


  3. You should have gone into how he was on Uboachan. Look up the Middens YNFG thread – criticism galore.

    You could practically do a part 2 on how pretentious this guy is.


  4. Hm, the game did have awful pacing. I do not buy setting your own pacing shit, especially since I wanted to play more but simply got bored after a few kills. Also, I heard gingiva is more story based?? I loved Genie from middens (I wanted more interactions with her), I guess nomad was fine… I guess?? His schtick I suppose was that he was this vague mysterious figure. But damn if you wanted to make me feel sorry for a character do not pull that shit out nowhere right at the end of the game. I felt sorrier for his “brothers”, which were minor character compared to nomad. While I got to one ending, I honestly feel put off from trying to get the true ending. Pity since middens overall was quite witty, pared with pretty artwork. But Jesus Christ were the battle mechanics (status effects) a pain to remember. It the end it is not enough to keep your attention or more then few minutes, middens in some instances reminds me of an over wordy essay.


  5. As you know, the author of Middens, a man in his thirds, was exposed as an online predator by Clowdergate. The chatlogs can be found on webarchive and were removed because of tumblr’s privacy TOS. In his current city though there’s no law against abusing a 17 year old, so he may have got away.

    Contrary to what he told the smartasses on tumblr, Clowder still goes online by Bargainbinbible and there’s two proofs: the Bargain Flickr is named Björn, and in wayback machine you can find him posting his Bargain letterboxd chatlog with a friend in a jornal on the deviantart revolverwinds page.

    The funny thing is in one review Sir John Mark Meyer from Batavia rants about how adolescence lasts forever in America, while he himself has a fetish with teenagers.

    Mr. Björn also used to refer to black people as “negroes” and made fun of homosexuality. All in the deviantart archive.

    The last thing I wanted to say: on uboachan there’s this user tagged d00dman. It’s Clowder again.


  6. I listened to the podcast and in its core what John Clowder was saying is that Middens in the early stages was a highly political game focused on the world building and Clowder’s confusing ideas about natalism; but ended up being just about “the nomad and his gun” AKA his shameless rip-off of a shock book/movie called A boy and his dog. Genie’s judgemental and cynical personality is taken from Blood, a sentient dog who helps his owner rape, kill and eat women. Clowder even stole the 30 nothings stuff from the story. There was something about the protagonist, Vic, (an other wasteland nomad) having his way with 25 women before he became a reproduction tool (Nomad too is an “abuser gets abused” character.)


    • ahhhcktchually Wikipedia says – * when his semen has been used to impregnate 35 women, he, too, will be sent to “the farm.” *

      Clowder said in his female hidden persona, referring to Exeunt Nomad – “when I had won around thirty-five battles.”

      Thank You people for pointing out his Alt. It’s entertaining. Clowder seemed to have had a lot of Malicious Fun purposefully baiting lesser chess players into making him lecture about Dice Chess & mocking the Fans’ reviews internally while saying how they are good and he is “afraid of submitting his own =^[”

      And a Hint – sending e-hug-s to his e-mail-s was never out of question for a good wanna-be-Detective. Huggy Huggie! =^]]


  7. Hey, if you’re coming in here from the future, I removed a few of these comments because they verged toward doxxing territory.


  8. Hey, I’m from the future. After getting done seeing myformerselves’s work on YouTube and then playing all three of his games, I ended up reading about the controversy.

    I will not address the grooming allegations, simply because that’s all they ever were. I personally feel like it was just another internet shit head stirring the pot. But that’s neither here nor there.

    After reading the review in question and seeing his responses, I personally feel like the review itself was antagonist, especially when they start off with calling his work “pretentious”. I think very few people remember how much effort goes in to projects like these, that itself should demand at least a molecule of respect.

    My own opinion is that myformerselves’s started off completely civil and continued to do so until people got even more aggressive about it. A creator is *entitled* to respond to criticism. When you submit reviews of someone’s work and completely and utterly tear it down, you should expect the same response.

    This is exactly where shit hit the fan and myformerselves started to act like an asshole:

    “Perhaps you should get off your high horse and understand not everyone enjoys pretentious, gratuitous “art games.” No need to start attacking people because they’ve rated your featured “game” below 3 stars. :)”

    And even then, he was still being fairly reasonable.

    All I see is more attacks. I would have viewed the entire review as an attack personally. The reviews and the responses to Clowder were bait, plain and simple. There was a completely different way NTC3 could have went about their review, they chose to be as much as an asshole as possible while attempting to look reasonable from the outside. Any imbecile could see that.


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