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.