It’s Not My Thing

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might notice that I play video games every once in a while. Rarely, I might form an opinion on these games. And sometimes, that opinion runs completely counter to the largely accepted opinion of the general gaming public. A game that gets rave reviews, that I just don’t get into. A game that is completely panned, that I find something special in.

This is something we’ve covered before. This is ok. The fact that I hate your all-time favorite video game with a passion I had once been saving for my love life is just a natural consequence of the fact that any sort of creative work is by its own nature a completely subjective experience.

Unfortunately, nobody told the internet about that.

Once upon a time, I used to be big on being social about my videogames. Well more social than this blog, at least. Forums were my big thing. Go out, be part of a community just talking about video games. Was all well and good until the opinions came up. It’s good to enjoy video games. It’s good to discuss video games. But as soon as you had an opinion about video games, well, it had better walk the line or you’d see just how tolerant and caring the internet can be. It seemed that there were certain things with each community that you had to hold to, or you’d have to deal with all the fan rage the lowest common denominator could muster.

Final Fantasy VII was the biggest problem there. Some places, it was the dew of perfection that was delivered to us directly by angels emerging from the Chosen Land in Holy Nihon. Saying anything remotely negative about it would get you flamed out of the internet. Other places, it was an over-reviewed piece of total garbage only propped up by the conspiracy of lustful yaoi fangirls, and saying anything remotely positive about it would get you flamed out of the internet. Nearly everywhere I went, there was a game like that. Street Fighter. Dragon Quest VIII. Etrian Odyssey. I remember I got heat at one place for really not enjoying Sprung. Freakin’ Sprung. Have you ever even heard of Sprung? No you haven’t. So who even cares?

I love having my opinion challenged. It’s happened several times on this very blog. However, it seems that Joe Internet Video Game Guy has a big problem with handling opposing opinions without being a total dickhole about it. Like something they don’t? Don’t like something they do? You will hear about it until they’re satisfied.

This drove me from a lot of the video game side of the internet. For a good long while. It got to the point that talking with people about those things I love just wasn’t worth it. I’m happy to say that blogging has been a more open and enlightened experience, but still whenever I try to set my eyes on some corner of the internet that hasn’t been connected to what we’ve cultivated here, it still seems to be the same thing. Vitriol, fanrage, just blatant anger over the ‘wrong’ opinion for what is by nature a subjective experience! To me, this is the biggest thing that made so many flavors of online gaming fandom so completely toxic.

I came to a realization recently. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we can all just agree on four simple words, fandom can be so much stronger. “It’s not my thing.” You don’t like something that someone else does? It’s just not your thing. It’s their thing, but not yours. Maybe it’s a lot of people’s thing, but not yours. Maybe it’s not their thing for a lot of people. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own individual experiences. Someone doesn’t like something that’s holy to you? It’s not their thing. And that’s ok.

Video games are art. Or if you’re not on that side of the argument that barely matters, they’re creative works. Whatever. The point is that just by the nature of what they are and how their made, games are very much subjective experiences. Everyone’s going to be seeing something different in it. Sometimes the differences may be vast, sometimes they’re slight, but the variation inevitably exists. And that is beautiful! That means they resonate, they pull something inside of us out and make us look at it. They take advantage of the fact that we each have our own individual story, and they use that to give us an experience that is so unique to us. If games weren’t to be subjective, we wouldn’t be seeing 1% of the games we do now, and they’d all be a lot more dry.

And that is really the point of talking about games, comparing each other’s story. That’s what makes it worthwhile in the first place. If all you’re looking for is an echo chamber, why are you spending the time in the first place? All you have to gain is just hearing your same thoughts in better words, but if you’re not talking to anybody who doesn’t already have them, what’s the point? What really enhances you enjoyment of the material is seeing it from different angles, from looking through other eyes to explore it more fully. And you don’t get that from demanding adherence to your approved opinions.

So that’s how to save the internet. That’s how to make talking about games more worthwhile. Run into an opinion you don’t agree with? Engage it. Explore it. Find out where it’s coming from. Your own opinions will be all the stronger for it.

23 responses to “It’s Not My Thing

  1. Agreed. And discussion is how opinions become something a bit more useful, and sometimes how shouting turns to arguing and then talking. The gaming world could do with a bit more of that.

    Case in point is No Man’s Sky, which I’ve just started playing after waiting for a year to see if they fixed their catastrophic launch. In many ways, they have – it’s got a ton of new content, it runs better (even on my oldster laptop), and it’s a lot closer to what was promised, close enough to pay for, certainly. But it’s also…lacking. It’s frequently too empty and too mechanical. And yet it’s still well worth playing, I reckon.

    How could you ever convey all of that except with a cool head?

    A year on, there are still those who shriek “YOU PEOPLE ARE CROOKS” when the NMS developers release an update, including the latest one. They don’t want it to improve, they want revenge for their initial disappointment. In this sense, maybe they’ve stopped being real gamers, I reckon, gamers who care about what the game actually is. Some folk spent £40 when it launched a year ago, and I can understand being riled, but doing that and then refusing to give the developers credit for improving it seems ludicrous.

    And, as you say, it’s art. It’s supposed to challenge and be weird and interestingly new. Sometimes we just don’t like stuff. But some so-called objective reviews that hate all over a game basically say “I didn’t like it” instead of “here’s what’s wrong with it”. I guess it’s hard to give a positive review to something you didn’t like, admitting it’s good for its target audience but not for you. But that would be a good thing for us to aspire to!

    • To some extent, I understand why people do that. It’s easier and more viscerally satisfying to tear down something like No Man’s Sky, which had a big moment of weakness it eventually grew past, than it is to take the time to actually think things through. Analysis is hard, and analyzing yourself and where you’re coming from is in many ways even harder. So even as things get better, they stick with the same grumpy bear mindset because it’s easier.

      It’s also easier to be funny by tearing something down than by being constructive about it. And humor is the currency of the internet, so everybody’s wanting to make bank.

      That is a good point you bring up, about reviews not being all that objective. I wonder what it’d be like, writing a review for something you’re not the target audience for from that audience’s perspective. I don’t know that I’ve done it before. Might be an experience to try sometime.

  2. Yeah… When I first joined WordPress I was surprised that video game folks were actually civil, contrary to everything I had ever surmised. I recently made a foray into Reddit (which I’m *slightly* regretting), and I found all those gamers I had been expecting. I really don’t understand why people are willing to get into fights – actually arguments – about fictional things. Or threaten physical harm because you said something they don’t like. I mean, I’ve read studies and opinions on the matter, and I cognitively *understand* the psychological principles behind it, but… why do people still think it’s okay, even though it’s “easy” and they won’t get “caught”? And why is it only gaming? Why is that so ingrained in “the culture” (biggest air quotes I can do from the other side of a screen). Book fanatics don’t flip out the same way as gamers, nor do cinophiles.

    I really hate that I’m about to talk about Dragon Age here, but even though there are DA fans who are judgmental and annoying, the vast majority I’ve come across on forums haven’t been too bad. So I wonder if it’s the type of game? Like, the really open RPGs require players to be flexible and *know* there are multiple ways of doing things, so that primes them to be tolerant? Who knows…

    Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve had those experiences. For what it’s worth, I appreciate that you can challenge the things I say and still manage to be a good human being about it.

    • Yeah, freakin’ hell, the physical threats. I get that it’s because the people who have time to be active in forums and what not trend towards the younger and less socially versed side, but still, it gets harder to argue that video games don’t cause violence when that happens so often.

      It’s Us vs. Them basically. The people who hold my opinion are part of my Us, and those who don’t are Them. And Us vs. Them is the single most toxic and addictive thought process I’ve spent way too much time railing against. It feels good to be part of Us. It’s affirming to believe that Us is better than Them. And it’s easy to treat Them like crap, because they’re not like Us.

      I wonder if part of it may be that the game fandom grew up on the internet, where the social standards are a bit different. Book and movie communities were a thing for long before, but games are a young media themselves. I wouldn’t think that’s nearly all that’s going into it, but I do wonder if it’s a factor.

      You know, you may be on to something, with it depending on the type of game. Most of the worst examples I think I’ve experienced have come from JRPGs, so that could be something.

    • I didn’t even think about that…book and movie lovers aren’t as vitriolic. I wonder if it’s because games are a younger media and draw a younger crowd? The age of the media and how it’s generally viewed as lesser might heighten the vitriol. Since it’s often considered less valid, some gamers think (albeit often subconsciously) that they have to defend what they love due to general dismissal, and that spills over into not accepting other viewpoints.

      • That’s probably part of it. I’ve met plenty of older gamers on the internet, and the places where they dominate seem to be more chill and accepting of differences. But I’ve also ran into a lot of writing sites online that were also dominated by youth, and… well, kind of a mixed bag there. Some places, I do remember seeing a lot of the same vitriol, the OMG why do you like the thing I don’t! Other places, not so much.

        It could just be a culture thing. Different places on the internet have their own cultures, their own rules for what is and isn’t acceptable. Games are probably the same way, just the cultures that have gotten so aggressive against dissenting views are either louder or easier to find. Or it could be that the younger, more active nature of games draws a younger, more aggressive crowd. Could be a lot of things. But thank heaven for these places where that culture does not take hold.

      • I think there’s definitely a correlation between the fact that games appeal to a younger (relatively) audience AND it’s the youngest form of media we have. The pockets of chill do seem to be populated by an older crowd, though there are definitely bloggers here in their early twenties. I think blogging culture quells a lot of that shit, because if you’re going to take the time to write/maintain a blog, you’re mature enough to not be a troll.

        So happy I found the oasis, because I waded through the swamp for a really long time.

  3. Someone actually unironically defended Sprung? Hopeless.

    Anyway, this is a major reason why I don’t swear allegiance to any fandoms. They’re not really big on the whole “individual thought” thing, so you can see why I’d run into a problem really quickly with them. Though video games have more objective qualities about them than, say, music, at the end of the day, whether they resonate with someone depends on the person perceiving it. Sometimes the alleged masterpiece simply isn’t someone’s thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just how life is.

    I remember in one of the first comments you posted on my site, you noted that some of the forums you frequented had a contrarian anti-sacred cow stance on everything, including Final Fantasy VII, and I feel that showcases a problem with a lot of hype-related backlashes across several mediums. Something becomes popular, a person decides to give it a chance, and they’re left disappointed. Suddenly, you see them declaring it to be utter garbage in contrast to the critics who think it’s an immaculate masterwork. I’ve found that more often than not, the reality is in the middle of those two extremes, and it’s childish to believe it can only be one or the other.

    The thing I admire about this community is that its members have much thicker skin than what is commonly perceived as the norm. People can and will engage with opinions they don’t agree with, and this ultimately allows all parties to walk away with a greater degree of understanding for each other.

    • You know, I think I’ve gone through the anti-sacred cow backlash myself. Both Killer 7 and Kingdom Hearts were once on my most hated games of all time list, and that did correspond with a lot of the people I used to communicate with adoring them. I played them years later, away from that context, and although I didn’t exactly enjoy them, they weren’t nearly as bad as I remember.

      Hype has gotten kind of annoying to me. Forming opinions on things before you actually get a chance to see it in a non-developer controlled environment. To some extent, it’s kind of unavoidable, but still, I like to limit it as much as I can. Has kind of changed the ways I get interested in games, though.

      Yeah, that’s something I’ve really enjoyed about this community too. Makes me wonder how WordPress differs from Tumblr, where you really really can’t do that, but it seems like everyone in our network of blogs here seems rather open to actually chatting about their opinions and facing conflicting views. Part of it may be that we’re all cultivating our own communities, and like does call to like here.

      • I think the problem with hype is similar to the problem mainstream gaming outlets have. It’s as though they feel that in order to retain their readers’ attention, they need the hype to constantly top itself. Eventually, it reaches a level where the game could be perfect in every way and still not live up to the hype surrounding it. There’s no middle ground; either this game everyone’s talking about is the Citizen Kane of this generation or a disgrace that proves how far the medium’s fallen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hyperbolic proclamations made by both mainstream and independent critics are a big reason why there’s a big disconnect between them and the general consumers. As I’ve said in the past, it turns the relationship into a series of trust exercises that, all too often, results in being let down in one way or another.

        Yeah, I get the feeling I wouldn’t have gotten away with half of what I’ve written on my site had I shared my reviews with Tumblr or any other community with a similar mindset. It may be true that like does call to like around here, but I’m glad people are willing to engage with wildly different interpretations rather than dismissing them with prejudice as is standard operating procedure on certain sites.

      • True that. It doesn’t help that most everyone involved in the hype train has a vested interest in something that keeps them from evaluating the work for what it is. Developers and marketers have an interest in pushing the game as much as possible no matter what it’s quality, games media has an interest in views and marketing dollars over honesty, and the average hobbyist on the internet gets wrapped up in this culture that values attention and humor over a real discussion. So you run through the entire hype process with most of the attention being paid less to the game itself and more to the parties around it.

        I have to say, I really love that trust exercise metaphor. That fits all too perfectly.

  4. I think I’m pretty lucky because WordPress was the first place I ever chose to try to get connected with people over video games. I’ve had nothing but positive responses here as you and many others have, so I’m still really shocked to hear stories about these fighters elsewhere on the internet. I have even sauntered over to Reddit myself and haven’t had a single instance of someone being particularly negative or throwing down with me, though I don’t normally post strong opinion stuff there or here – maybe that’s why I’ve been spared these heartaches. Either way, I’m sorry that you’ve been experiencing this sort of negativity for a long while and that it has affected you. “It’s not my thing” is one of my personal mantras in all facets of life, gaming included. I read lots of things here about games I haven’t played or never dream of playing because I have the hope of expanding my horizons and hell, maybe even my own level of interest and comfort in types of games I would’ve never thought to jump into. It’s ludicrous to me how opinionated people are and how unwavering their beliefs about these kinds of things can be. I guess it feels a bit like fanaticism, and I think we all know that fanatics don’t play nice in the sandbox.

    • You know what? You just ignore this post. Ignore everyone who says that fandom communities are a cesspool. If you haven’t had a bad experience with them, that is awesome, and I don’t want to take that away from you. If you’ve enjoyed it so far, keep that up!

      I do wonder how a lot of those opinions age. Maybe those who have been so pushy on them look back at their old moods and feel a little bit of shame on those. But yeah, as you say, it’s fanaticism, and those don’t usually go well with other people.

  5. Well said! As a lover of the trilogy of Final Fantasy games 99.9% of the internet hates with passion, I tend to keep quite about it everywhere else but this wonderful WordPress community, haha. I wish people would just respect each other’s thoughts. Hiding behind random usernames seems to bring out the worst in people 😦

    • To be honest, I had to stop myself from calling out to you several times while writing this. Someone who loves a game that nooooooooooobody else does so much that she got it tattooed on her? That is really damn admirable. You keep doing you. The world needs that.

  6. Sprung is the greatest dating sim of all time. How can you not like it? Hehe, just kidding.

    Sadly people tend to believe that their opinions are fact. If anyone has a different view it can instill feelings of anger. This doesn’t apply to video games only. Just watch the news. Your political outlook differs to mine? That won’t do! Time to take to the streets and destroy property.

  7. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

    Seriously sll of this. Blogging is the first internet experience where I feel free to talk about my video game love without starting a flame war. I’d be on the FFVII is the greatest creation in the universe side btw, and I’ve been driven from sites and pages by just saying it’s my favorite game. Here on WP I have friends who think that about FFVI, FFIX, FFXIII, etc., and I’m no longer worried I’ll be flamed for my opinion/preference. Even among IRL friends it could be contentious, but here I truly feel no one has time for that bullshit.

    With websites and forums even social media, you have what amounts to “sound bytes,” but blogging takes time, planning, and patience. People don’t generally go around saying how much they hate something. They just bypass it or as you said, say, “It’s not my thing,” and it’s cool.

    One of my friends LOVES Destiny. I’m not into FPS. I still like his Destiny cosplay, and ask him if he’s played the beta, because I’m not as asshole, and I garner joy from my friends’ happiness. There’s this culture of shitting on things people like, and I don’t understand that. Let. People. Enjoy. Things.

    • That’s a good point, blogging you have to take time to develop, whereas article comments and forum posts are more off the cuff. That would lead more to the knee-jerk reactions coming through most prominently. May explain why places like twitter and youtube comments are even more caustic than most places.

      And yeah, that, cultural thing. I don’t know why people seem to think that they’ll enjoy themselves more if others enjoy themselves less.

      • It’s the off the cuff and the anonymity. They have a vitriolic opinion and they’re shielded by the keyboard, so they figure why not say it.

        I think it’s an “us vs. them” mentality. If someone likes something different, they’re in the “them” crowd. A lot of this comes from lack of empathy, because they can’t conceive how anyone could conclude that something else was better, which is certainly something I’ve been guilty of in the past, but a lot of that was due to being defensive against trollish comments. It just festers.

  8. Hello. I don’t always agree with people and their preference in games but it doesn’t mean what they like is bad. Partly the reason why I started to blog was to share my thoughts and interpretation about games, even if it is not agreeable.
    It is kind of scary anyway if someone agree with me 100 percent. A healthy debate is okay in my opinion because it challenges me to think.

    • That debate is really powerful. That’s really the useful part of talking about things, that being open to being challenged means you have to think your own conception out more fully.

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