Is Phil Fish about to be arrested for racketeering?

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Phil Fish, the infamous developer of indie game Fez and for being a loud-mouthed critic of everything that doesn’t enrich himself, is rumoured to be under investigation by the FBI on charges of racketeering.

The original story was posted on www.gamerheadlines.com and something weird has happened now. The direct URL for the article now redirects to the Google home page. No other mistyped URL does that which leads me into firmly planting my conspiracy hat on.

Has the FBI forced DNS servers to reroute that URL and forced Google to empty the cache of the page?

I unfortunately can’t find the entire article but the most important pieces were pasted on other sites. Take a look at this.

There are three entities involved in the alleged crime, Phil Fish’s Polytron, the Indie Games Festival, and an organisation to give grants to developers called ‘Indie Cade’. The basic gist behind it is that Indie Cade originally gave Phil a large sum on money to jumpstart Fez. Indie Cade and Polytron then took seats as major judges in the 2011 and 2012 Indie Games Festival, boosting its chances to succeed and gain the publicity to make the title the major hit it became. Since Fez won best in show for both those years (the first time the game hadn’t even been completed), one can assume the plan was a success. It’s worth noting though that the investigation is still very much ongoing, and no formal charges have been made.

Remember folks, innocent until proven guilty! Things certainly must be looking grim for poor Fish however, whom if found guilty will be facing a $25,000 fine and 20 year prison sentence for each count.

Though the now defunct Polytron has been predictably silent on the claims, the Independent Games Festival did have a statement to make.

“The IGF (and its parent company, which has looked into these claims) would like to assure all entrants and gamers that we take the idea of conflict of interest seriously in selecting our judging and jurying pools. Worries about the Independent Games Festival are nothing new (thanks to its perceived ‘star-making’ qualities), but for those who are unaware, we’ll explain again how the process works.”

Unfortunately that’s where it cuts out but the arrogance in that last sentence leaves a foul taste in my mouth. Anyway so back to the point at hand, remember this was all started from a video by ShortFatOtaku which has since been removed so we really don’t know how true any of this is.

So basically the rumour is saying that the people behind IndieCade invested in Phil Fish and Fez, then pushed Fez through as the winner of Best in Show twice ensuring that the title would get a ton of coverage and likely great financial success.

If that is true and the FBI is truly investigating this then we could realistically see Phil Fish behind bars for a year or two as racketeering isn’t something the Federal Government takes lightly. It would also instantly remove the rose-tinted glasses that the world is currently looking through when looking at some indie developers.

Personally it all seems a little too far-fetched to be believable, and smacks of Gamergate conspiracy –  but there is a lot in this world that shouldn’t be happening so you never know. There could have been a large conspiracy to enrich the lives of a few by manipulating the indie development scene. I think now that the big players in the market are taking indie more seriously it would be harder to pull this sort of stunt off.

There is a massive write up with more details about this claim over on reddit which I’m going to repost here as the information seems to be getting taken down all over the place. You can scroll down straight to the comments if you don’t feel like reading it all; this is the end of the article.

We have some interesting facts to disseminate for the public interest. In 2009 Philippe Poisson received investment money for Polytron Corporation in the form of a loan from several influential people.

Ron Carmel of 2D Boy Nathan Vella of Capybara Studios Aaron Isaksen of AppAbove Kellee Santiago of OUYA, formerly of thatgamecompany, and IndieCade Jonathan Blow of EGW Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy Matthew Wegner of Flashbang Studios

These 7 people later went on to form Indie Fund, the “funding source for independent developers” who were “looking to encourage the next wave of game developers.” You can consider FEZ to have received the “Beta” Indie Fund.

Each of these individuals contributed a different amount of money to the FEZ creator and, in return, received a guarantee of a percentage of Gross Profits from Polytron.

While this isn’t necessarily the de-facto standard method of investing in a company, it is a valid method of fund raising and isn’t suspicious in its own right.

What is suspicious are the events that followed the initial investment of Polytron.

In 2011, the Independent Games Festival (or IGF) had 5 members of Indie Fund on the finalists panel, and 3 members of Polytron’s staff. That’s 8 out of 10 judges. Mere days before IGF was to accept submissions, FEZ creator Philippe Poisson had to announce the delay of FEZ. Had Polytron finished FEZ on time, the game would have been a shoe-in to win the grand prize at IGF that year as they had a controlling interest.

In 2012, FEZ gets through nominations and wins big. Of note here is the IGF anonymous nomination panel: all of the finalist judges are invited back to nominate games the following year. So the Indie Fund judges from 2011 would anonymously judge entrants for 2012. The nomination process is simple: a majority of people who vote on your game is all that is needed to push you through to the selection process. While judges are explicitly told that they can only vote on the games they are given, this is not the case, and any judge can vote on any game; for example, eight people who are members of a small clique can give one game a huge starting bias. In this instance FEZ would have started off with a bias of +8, and since it only takes a majority of people who voted to push a game through it would take at least 8 other judges to vote no, plus the number of judges that legitimately vote yes for FEZ. Even more interesting is that judges are not even required to play the game to submit a ruling on them. So, no time need be wasted by the submitting judges: they merely must say yes or no to continue the process. We know all of this thanks to leaked conversations of anonymous judges from past IGFs. We’d like to thank these judges for coming forward.

Interestingly enough, and we think this is not a coincidence, the software used by IGF for the anonymous judges was created by Flashbang Studios – the same studio run by Matthew Wegner who had a financial interest in Polytron Corporation.

FEZ was allowed through the IGF process twice – once in 2008 as a demo, which was strictly against IGF standards, and again in 2012 as a complete game – which created a fire-storm in the indie gaming community. FEZ was a pre-Indie Fund game. Antichamber was also an Indie Fund game, and it too was pushed through the IGF twice: once as Antichamber, and the year prior as Hazard. We do not suspect illegitimate practices on the part of the IGF; however, we do find it suspect that Brandon Boyer is close friends with Philippe Poisson, as he has stated on his twitter account multiple times, and is also friends with members of Indie Fund. We would encourage the IGF to investigate these possible abuses of the anonymous nomination process as well as have an outside third party firm audit the code of their anonymous jury nomination software.

With that being said, I would now turn your attention to IndieCade, which labels itself as supporting the independent game development community. We intend to show that the only thing IndieCade supports is their own wallets.

Kellee Santiago, in 2009, invested money in Polytron which gave her voting rights in the company and a percentage stake in FEZ’s Gross Profits. In 2011 she became Chair of the Awards Jury of IndieCade. Coincidentally, 2011 was the year that FEZ won two major awards at IndieCade:

Disciplinary Excellence in Story/World Design General Excellence by Grand Jury (or, their grand prize)

IndieCade works with “hundreds” of jurors to select a winner, where the Chair of the Awards Jury “works closely” with each juror to help them select the right game. We find it suspicious that the Chair of the Awards Jury works closely with the anonymous jurors (some of which may or may not be members of Indie Fund) and has a vested financial interest in one of the games submitted to IndieCade which, interestingly, won their grand prize.

If this is true, then IndieCade is guilty of siphoning funds through ticket sales and sponsorship money as a prize for FEZ, which is then recycled directly back into the pockets of those investors. Philippe Poisson gets a payday from his buddy investors, and the investors, including Kellee Santiago, get a payday thanks to their loan agreement.

Coincidentally, after its big awards win at IGF, FEZ was released less than a month later. This helped bolster the property and contribute to its hot sales. We question just how much of a hand Indie Fund had in procuring those IGF awards.

We suspect that Indie Fund has manipulated events to guarantee that their “beta” product – FEZ – would be a success and give the investors at Indie Fund a good name, at the cost of damaging the entire reputation of the indie gaming community.

This racketeering allowed FEZ to receive top marketing in the gaming media through its win at IndieCade, and helped line the wallets of its investors thanks to its win and Indie Fund’s suspicious involvement with IGF.

If FEZ received such preferential treatment thanks to Indie Fund, what other games also received this treatment? Did Monaco, Antichamber, Dear Esther, and Framed, which are all Indie Fund games, also received special treatment because the investors at Indie Fund have their hands in the cookie jar? What other companies does Kellee Santiago have a vested financial interest in? What financial interests do these anonymous jurors for IGF and IndieCade have? Why aren’t any of these interests disclosed to the public, or even the developers that apply to these expensive events? Of the journalists that covered this, how many of them were “incentivized” by Indie Fund or their members to cover these games positively? We may never know the answer to these questions. We do know that these different festivals are extremely important to marketing departments, as Edmond McMillen stated on a podcast where he recounts a conversation he had with a Microsoft marketing director. Until we get full transparency of the judges and judging processes behind IGF and IndieCade we cannot trust their results.

The following parties were reached out to without success before we aired this piece: Brandon Boyer Philippe Poisson Ron Carmel Nathan Vella Aaron Isaksen Kellee Santiago Jonathan Blow Kyle Gabler Matthew Wegner IndieCade Independent Games Festival

We would encourage these people who have any comments on this story to reach out to us at [email protected] if they wish to clarify, dispute, or affirm any statements made herein.

For further analysis on this situation I would refer you to CameraLady’s Video, which you can find on Short Fat Otaku’s YouTube channel. Special thanks to: Camera Lady Peter No One Temet – an unfortunate victim to house slipper abuse RogueStar Anon Our anonymous leakers, developers, and judges and the 1971 Supreme Court case: New York Times Co. v United States.

Last Updated: September 10, 2014

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

  • Admiral Chief Assassin

    …and JUSTICE for all

    [cue the music]

    • Skyblue

      #dealwithit

      (Not one of their best albums but still great)

      • Admiral Chief Assassin

        I actually rank that one as their second best for me
        (puppets first)

        • Skyblue

          It’s my joint 3rd fav with Ride the Lightning after Puppets and Kill ’em All.

          • Budgiecat

            legit order

          • Bugdiecat

            legit order?

          • Budgiecat

            fuck off!

          • Bugdiecat

            make me

          • Bugdiecat

            didn’t Sal ban you from gematsu yet.

          • Budgiecat

            Shut up Gariya

          • Domo-kun

            soon I hope.

          • Bugdiecat

            nope

          • Budgiecat

            yes plse

          • Bugdiecat

            too stupid to spell please, lol.

          • Skyblue

            lol dude. you just made my Saturday!

          • Domo-kun

            wow

          • Budgiecat

            hmm so now you follow me here too? How many alts you have?

          • Domo-kun

            wow

          • Zak Dwyer

            could you get any more pathetic?

          • Budgiecat

            who the hell are you now? Another damn alt? lmao

          • Zak Dwyer

            No, just some guy on the Internet who saw some other guy on the Internet being a retard.

          • Budgiecat

            Well yell at him then and tell him to stop stalking me!

  • Admiral Chief Assassin

    Take him AND his silly beard to the slammer!

    • HvR

      Lucky for him he is already used to having his face covered in pubes.

    • SailHatan

      You’re staf!??

      I like this site now.

      • Admiral Chief Assassin

        I’m not sure I know what to make of that…

  • Hammersteyn

    Hehehehe

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      If ol’ Phil goes to jail he’d be a pap snoek very quickly.

  • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

    Phil is bipolar and probably has some intense anger issues, but racketeering? I don’t think so.

    It is kind of a catch 22 here… For them to invest in the game it needs to be good and then when the game is good it wins prizes.

    So then do they have to ban all the games they invest in from their own convention? o.O

    • Brady miaau

      But is it him or his backers?

      • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

        I would put it on his backers more than on him. I kinda feel bad for the guy.

        • Skyblue

          Saw the cray-cray shit he went through in that Indie game movie. I feel for him and don’t think he had anything to do with this but he is a bit bat-shit imo and probably needs more than a little “assistance” in future.

      • Skyblue

        Fez is still a pretty unique experience. I can’t see him having anything to do with the prizes as he is so self-absorbed/important.

    • Rags

      Its simple, as an investor you should not be on the voting panel to select which games will win the prize.

      • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

        I wonder if the voting panel even knew about them backing the game.

        CEO backs game, voting peon has no idea…

        I see your point though. I don’t think this is deserving of prison time though.

        What EA does with every game they touch deserves prison time and possible banishment from Earth.

        • Rags

          I think Kellee Santiago of Indie Fund is the main culprit here. They are not backers, they are investors in Phil Fish’s company.
          http://gamesnosh.com/fez-investors-outed-judges-2011-igf-award/

          • Bo

            The problem is, the backers made alot of money based on the contract they signed (the paper scan was available in the phil doxx). Matthew Wegner alone made roughly $30K on a ~$2K investment.

    • Pieter Smal

      PS: Try paranoid/schizophrenic.

    • Nathan Oliver

      There is no catch 22. The appropriate response, if you’re a judge, is to recuse yourself when there’s a possible conflict of interest or a perception thereof.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Doesn’t sound that believable to me. Would need to see something official first.

    • Nathan Oliver

      There are leaked documents showing Fez’s financial supporters as well as the voting panel members who’s competitions he took part in. I believe it was something like 5 judges that were supporters.

  • Francois Knoetze

    I can’t stand this doo5…That is the only word I could describe him as. He is a loud mouth self entitled prick. I understand that people have been harassing him etc. can only imagine how bad it can get but that is no reason to parade around all over the social network. the more he reacts the more people react. delete your social accounts and shut up then nobody will bother you futher

    • Admiral Chief Assassin

      Nah, he is half a doo5. A whole one you can still use!

      • Francois Knoetze

        I salute you sir behind my desk of papers and admin! half a doo5 it is.

        • Admiral Chief Assassin

          XD

  • Neji

    While reading this article, this was playing in my mind the whole time; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz4-aEGvqQM

    • Skyblue

      DUN DUN!

  • ZubSaber a.k.a Hans

    I’d imagine this is pretty much how it went down in the Wild West. The massive but unchecked growth in this industry is inevitably gonna breed outlaws and train-robbers.

    I’m not saying that’s the case here, but it’s clear from all the recent drama that this industry is a bit young and doesn’t know how to manage all the money being thrown at it… Yet.

  • Sir Rants A Lot: On Pandora

    /tinfoil hat/
    That would explain why he wouldn’t make FEZ2. Was a use and run.
    /tinfoil hat/

    • MeritByPostNotFame

      He wasn’t the sole creator of Fez in the first place. He had a friend do a majority of the coding. That friend likely left for the same reason nobody likes him – he’s a shitcunt. He obviously delayed the game for the investors, but what took him longer was not having his friend around to code everything for him.

      This is the same reason he couldn’t fix issues with Fez or make Fez 2 while blaming it on his fans: He’s a glorified graphics designer.

      • Sir Rants A Lot: On Pandora

        Stop logic-ising (is that a word? It’s a word now) my sarcasm tinfoil post!

        • MeritByPostNotFame

          I’m just using your post to springboard a reason to make my own comment.

          • Sir Rants A Lot: On Pandora

            Hehehe. All good 🙂

            But in all seriousness you make an interesting point

      • I am not sure as I can’t remember exactly, but that friend and him were involved in a long-time law case over who owned the rights to the IP. To the point where Fish wasn’t allowed to show the game at E3 leading to his first breakdown.

      • robert jokeseph

        you do realize the person who did the coding was renaud bedard, who has been friends with phil since the beginning of fez’s inception and was solely responsible for 100% of the coding?

        the person phil fish was formerly friends with was the person who did the original soundtrack for the game (not the one heard in the game, but the one the current soundtrack replaced; you can hear what was worked on before he left polytron here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Fez+Demos+EP/3898426) and that person did zero of the coding for the game and literally hasn’t done anything special or of significance since. meanwhile, renaud bedard (who again, is still friends with phil fish and did all coding of the game, including porting the game to PC etc) has gone on to work on Below, which looks fantastic.

        so, you know. get facts correct first.

  • flint

    But how will he finish Fez 2? 🙁

    • His cellmate will help him, I’m sure they’d call it a mutual agreement, kinda like a game jam….but with other things attached to it…. on a side note I wonder what his cell name would be….small fry?

  • Christmas__Lights

    Gamer Headlines took down their own article because they couldn’t provide a definite source for their information, which was absolutely the right thing to do, since journalistic integrity is sort of the foundation of this whole thing

    That being said, Fish is the one who performed the “hack” on his own company. The 1.5GB archived file that was leaked was compressed FOUR HOURS prior to the hack. In Mac format. Because we all know how much those elite 4chan hackers love their Macbooks.

    By leaking so much NDA-protected information, as well as login/password information of his own employees, he’s guilty of QUITE a bit more than just racketeering.

  • Kromas of City17

    I dedicate this song to Phil.

  • Livnthedream

    Lazy gamer is right. They pulled the article because it was entirely speculation based on another video that has been pulled for legal reasons. You are not the media we need.

    • The article makes that abundantly clear. But since the legal reasons weren’t specified it could be construed as a cover up..

      So we’re helping by putting all the information out there for people to judge for themselves.

      also.. lazy gamer.. how lazy is that insult

      • Livnthedream

        Its false information. Christ have you even tried to contact the ones who put up the original video? I mean its not like its not all over her Twitter that she pulled it for unspecified legal reasons. Nor is it overly hidden that the article was pulled for over stating facts, as the authors of the article posted to Reddit and Twitter. And yes, I called you lazy because this is pretty freaking lazy. If you are going to report on stuff, at least have a clue about what you are reporting.

        • Tor Sjoberg

          Phil Fish please go

          • Livnthedream

            Oh please. That kind of shit is what is making the entire GamerGate thing look bad. I have posted pretty damn enthusiastically about this since shortly after it started. Feel free to check up on me on Twitter (Mike Hatley @Jimdandy26) or on Reddit (Apollofleetfoot). Stop scrubbing shit up.

          • Tor Sjoberg

            My bad, I have looked at your twitter and see you have my niece as your photo, please proceed and best wishes from /pol/

          • Livnthedream

            Fair enough. I find that amusing though as I haven’t spent any time on 4chan in nearly a decade, and even when I did I hung out on /tg/.

        • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)
          • Livnthedream

            Please stop being part of the problem. Or do you really want the status quo?

        • Ragnar The Vengeful

          What I like about the article is that it provides details concerning confirmed rumors. It is not unconfirmed rumors since the existence of the rumors have been adequately confirmed. What makes these even more news worthy is the way these rumors are being removed, updated and edited which opens up the door for the perception and speculation of a cover-up. It remains rumors though and I believe it may prove to be false but it is still news worthy.
          I seriously doubt that mr. Fish would be charged no matter how little I think of him but I still enjoy the news.

          • Livnthedream

            “Confirming” rumors is useless though. I could start a rumor that Fish is a transsexual squirrel. The mirrors of the “original source” are around if you choose to dig for them. Most of the changes to the video in question were factual errors that they made, ie timeline being off. There was nothing concrete at all in the video, just enough that a real serious look needs to be taken. There is no direct evidence of racketeering, just that everything lines up in such a way that it looks like there has been.

          • Ragnar The Vengeful

            The headline says it all though. It didn’t say Phil Fish is about to get arrested. That would have been stating a fact. The headline instead pose a rhetorical question. The entire article isn’t about the guilt or innocence of Phil Fish, but rather the fact that allegations have been made and comes to the conclusion that it’s all probably total BS. Anyway, it is all comes down to personal preference but I think this sight is perfect for my gaming news needs.

          • Livnthedream

            The headline implies that there is proof of racketeering in the first place, which there isn’t. At best there is enough of a timeline to launch an investigation. I disagree with your conclusion. This is not the sort of completely reactionary “news” that I want. If it were then I would watch Fox News.

  • Pieter Smal

    Fish should be arrested for wetting himself – again and again!

  • RvS

    Um, the article got taken down because the writer couldn’t provide a source for the FBI investigation, i.e. it was just wishful thinking (unfortunately)

  • Dakt

    No sources lol

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    But how can this be? He’s a SJW? And SJWs can do no wrong! /s

  • OVGrounded new game+++

    I smell something fishy.

  • Sk3tz0

    Phil Fish and Fez.. Sounds like a Moroccan Fisheries..

  • bartleby451

    When will all this incestuous bullshit end? I’m so sick of these smug, self-centred, narcissistic little pricks and their sickening little cliques, jesus it’s like school… People like this really are making gaming a grubbier place to be.

  • Matthew Cline

    What law would he be charged under? If it would be RICO:

    1) What were the other acts of racketeering? RICO requires at least two acts; just one isn’t enough.

    2) Exactly which of the list of crimes which RICO covers would it fall under? Bribery?

  • Matthew Bentley

    Uh, most likely reason it got taken down being that it was slander, you idiot.

  • Jalil Middleton

    No, he wont. The corrupt system is going to let this faggot off “on a technicality”.

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