I have to write something about this rant thing. It’s so painful. Some random person I don’t know just emailed me asking how I could be married to this person. Those of you who know me know that I have my own challenges with Chris and his hotheadedness, and life with him is both amazingly wonderful and extremely difficult. But Chris is not that rant, and it’s horrible that thousands and thousands people now know him for that, instead of all the other things he’s done and said and cared about. Here’s what I wrote back to the guy who wrote me:
Chris screwed up on this, and he knows it. He was trying to be provocative and entertaining, and in the past the rants sessions have been purposely and explicitly over the top, and that was the tone he took. He was trying to make a point and seriously misjudged where the line should be. He’s paying for it now, and I feel really bad for him, though I think what he said was inappropriate and hurtful. I also know that he didn’t mean it that way. It might be hard to understand how he could have thought this was okay, but he’s a good person, if sometimes immature.
There is another side to Chris that his current infamy is missing. He’s spent most of his time in the game industry trying to make things better for developers and for creative freedom, though I wouldn’t be the first to say that many of his efforts have been controversial. He fought for OpenGL when he thought that was a critical issue and ran GLsetup on a completely volunteer basis for several years. He helped start the Indie Game Jam, and has helped tons of newbie developers get into the business. He really cares about people and games, despite how he came off this week.
Chris was given the Community Contribution Award by the IGDA last year. A friend put up a web page where people could write in congratulations, and the picture that page paints is of a very different person. If you’d care to look at it, it’s here:
I don’t always agree with my husband, and I am not defending his actions this week, and I think he’s always had this side of him that doesn’t know where to stop, so perhaps something like this was inevitable. But it’s painful that thousands of people are learning about Chris the Jerk instead of Chris the man I know. The man I know is actually sometimes a jerk, but he’s smart and creative and he really honestly means well. I don’t know why anyone would take my word for it, but I know in my heart he is a good person.
This all hits so close to home. As happens in the course of any marriage, there have been times when Chris has hurt me, and though it’s painful, I’ve come to understand that there is wiring in his brain that’s different from mine, and if I might generalize, different from, well, most people’s. He doesn’t intend to hurt me, or others. Maybe it’s not useful or appropriate to conflate personal with public here, but the parallel really speaks to me. When people meet him they almost always comment on his charisma, his humor, his intelligence, his passion for his work and the people around him, and often on how much he cares for me and our daughter. When I’m mad at him, or feeling like he’s “missing the sensitivity gene” (that’s right, I follow Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, and don’t pretend you don’t) I sometimes roll my eyes dramatically when people tell me how much he loves me. But it’s true, and if you read the things people wrote about him when he got the IGDA award last year, his caring for others and eagerness to help others is a theme that’s impossible to miss. The other theme that’s impossible to miss is his wacky but for the most part charming tendency towards inappropriateness. As in Jeff Roberts’ story about Chris in the bathroom, which I won’t attempt to repeat here. But the point is it’s all the same person. The charm and passion and the altruism and the energy come from the same place as the harsh criticisms and the lack of sensitivity.
In the end, I think Chris is worth forgiving. I think if all the people who are slamming him on the forums this week knew him, they would think that too.