Some recent topics and conversations I've read and participated in on the forums and in some PMs has gotten me thinking. Thinking about thinking, or rather, expressing thoughts on the internet. Particularly when it comes to negative commentary and critique. It's easy to be a pessimistic jerk that rains on the parades of others, and I know I've fallen into that trap on more than one occasion; something I'm not proud of, and sometimes it can be difficult to apologize for. It's a concept that's true everywhere on the internet where discussion and commentary are allowed, when it comes to discussion about video games, and Giant Bomb's forums more specifically, I've noticed it manifest in some ways that I'd hope could improve. I mean, how often have we seen so-called arguments that could be boiled down to this age-old gem?
I know I've been guilty of this. I've even been called out on it before. I was one of those jackasses that was dismissive toward Divekick (It's a flash game, it's simplistic, etc.) for...really no reason at all. For the record, I've actually tried Divekick since being called out, and while I can't say that it entralled me to the point that I'd buy it myself, I can understand why other people enjoy it. More importantly, I don't be a dick about it when it comes to other people discussing what they like about it.
That said, I can still be a dick, and it's something I've really needed to work on for a long while now. I've gotten better about watching what I say, though I still slip up. So believe me when I say that nothing I'm saying here comes from a high-horse position of any sort. I need to work on this just as much as anyone else.
Which leads me back to the subject of that image macro. Some of you reading this are probably familiar with my tastes concerning certain games, and they don't really tend to be the most popular choices among the staff, or even the community at large. The internet is such that, if I have an opinion on a game, particularly a positive one, that runs counter to the supposed majority, then my taste is judged as bad and my opinion is null, just out of general principle. Even using the avatar I do can make me a target; I don't know how many times I've seen people's opinions derided simply because they have anime-themed avatars, and it's a specific phenomenon I don't believe I've ever seen in any other community I've frequented, past or present.
It's OK to disagree on things; no rational person is going to, well, disagree on that. Opinions differ, and even when one side is an obvious majority, that doesn't mean that the other side's views should be derided or considered invalid. On the other hand, the minority shouldn't use that minority status as fuel for a persecution complex. These aren't things that I need to say, but when discussing things on the internet, with relative anonymity and a lack of immediate physical proximity shielding us, it can be easy to shoot off a pithy comment ("This game is bad and you should feel bad!"), and somehow consider that a proper contribution to a conversation.
Expound! Expand! Extrapolate!
I realize that no matter what I say here, it'll probably fall on a lot of deaf ears, and who the heck am I to recommend how others interact on the internet? But if there's one thing that I could recommend, one improvement to discourse that I could request, it would be this: Please back up your arguments, whether they be positive or negative. There are a lot of forum threads that pop up asking questions like, "What's the most disappointing game you've ever played?" or "Name a game you like that other people hate," or "What's your favorite/least favorite game from Series X?" And then people just respond with simplistic answers that list the name of the game and little more. There's no conversation to be had, and when the questions are negative (i.e.: What's your least favorite/most disappointing/worst whatever?), a lot of responses just come out as empty. Someone answers with a the name of a game, or a character, or what have you, and then fails to explain why that's their answer.
Would it be to much to ask for elaboration? Not every response to a forum thread needs a doctoral thesis, but it would certainly go a long way toward helping spur conversation if more people were willing to take the time to explain why and how rather than leave people to fill in the blanks. Again, I've been guilty of the same thing; I've responded to such threads without presenting the whys, and it's something that I need to get better at. But if someone says that their favorite game of all time is The Adventures of Bayou Billy, well, I'd like to know why. Even if the reasoning is completely foreign to me, context to latch on to can help provide a better understanding of my peers here.
But more importantly, whether or not someone does provide the reason for why they like something, don't use that as a platform to belittle their sensibilities. Telling someone that they are wrong because they are wrong is...well, wrong. Being part of a supposed majority doesn't provide some innate upper hand in an argument, particularly when it comes to matters that are entirely subjective opinion. I may not like Call of Duty, but it's a better use of my time and anyone else's that would care to read what I have to say if I can present my dissenting views in a manner that is both informed and doesn't treat the person I'm responding to like they are an imbecile simply for holding a different opinion. That only makes me look like the imbecile.
Where am I going with any of this?
Good question. I wish I had a solid answer to that. It's not really my place to tell people how to act. But I can at least hope to promote some idea on how to make general discourse better. For better or worse, it's a topic of conversation that's become heavily discussed around here as of late. But this writing was partially born out of recent discussions, both on the forums and in PMs, that made me reflect on my own personal frustrations with the discourse in the forums, whether those frustrations were of my own making or not. I also understand that in all likelihood, anything I've said in this post will not change anything, and some will probably just see it as self-flagellation and little else.
But I can at least try, right? I guess the point is, there are ways that the discourse on the forums in general could be better. And if more people took a more thoughtful approach to what they say more often, tangible improvements could be made. Not every forum post has to compete to become the Citizen Kane of forum posts, but as long as the general rule of "don't be a dick" still holds, we could all benefit from putting more thought into what we have to say. And in some cases, refraining from saying anything at all. The first and easiest step that people as a whole could take is just being better about accepting the fact that not everyone shares the same tastes, and then not go looking for a fight.
It's something I want to continue improving on, and if you're aware you have the same problem, hopefully you do, too.
Also, seriously, theoretical guy above. Why is The Adventures of Bayou Billy your favorite game? I'm curious.