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Alakaiser's blog

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Alakaiser avatar 2:37 AM on 07.01.2010  (server time)
I Believe I Can Develop an Opinion

Come on, you know the words to the chorus. Don't hide it.

As a living, breathing, thinking person, you likely have a set of beliefs. Not necessarily religious or philosophical, mind you, but beliefs. Some of you reading this may firmly believe that the Playstation 3 is an awful console, or that PC gaming died years ago and nobody noticed. Maybe you believe jazz is the greatest form of music, or that The Wire is the greatest show in television history. Maybe you think I talk about television too much on what is essentially a video game blog (I probably do!)

We all have these things, for nearly every facet of our lives. Even if we don't know how we feel about something right now, when we are presented with it, we'll develop our opinion of it based on our previous beliefs. This is not necessarily the best example, but it's why something like a game or movie trailer is so important. We're shown footage for 30 seconds to a minute (or sometimes longer), and suddenly an initial opinion of that title is in our minds. Personally, I have reached a stage in my life where I will gladly decide whether or not to see a movie based on its trailer*.

(*) - That said, if a particular friend of mine sees a movie I have written off, and gives it a positive review, I'll reconsider my stance. We have similar taste, and rarely do we disagree. Of course, when we disagree on something, it's suddenly a fun topic of conversation.

It is hard to shake these beliefs, sometimes. For many of us (myself included), we may be presented with an objective fact that is not in line with our current beliefs. Speaking for myself, I might end up defending why I think I'm still right, or flat out dismissing the opposition's argument altogether. It probably goes without saying that that is a slippery slope, so to speak.

"Oh god, he's going to talk about Ebert?" Relax, it's not what you think.

That is why I've found myself impressed with Roger Ebert. No, I am not here to argue about whether or not games are art. As it currently stands, I believe that people could argue about this until the entire species has gone extinct and we wouldn't be anywhere close to a consensus. Rather, I'm here to mention an article that Ebert just published**.

(**) - Within 24 hours of me writing this entry, to be clear.

Allow me to paste the very first paragraph of his article, and a bolded line a few paragraphs later:

I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place. I would never express an opinion on a movie I hadn't seen. Yet I declared as an axiom that video games can never be Art. I still believe this, but I should never have said so. Some opinions are best kept to yourself.

I should not have written that entry without being more familiar with the actual experience of video games.

Ebert goes on to explain his apathy towards video games, and discusses some of the holes in his argument. Being able to acknowledge major errors in an argument you have presented is nothing to take lightly. Many people in his position would gladly dismiss anything presented against him, and put their fingers in their ears while screaming at the top of their lungs.

This is a personality trait I greatly admire, and one I do my best to keep in my own life. There are many things in my life that even as recently as a year or two ago I would have completely written off as being "not for me." To name a few: Dungeons & Dragons, Facebook games***, country music, and a wide range of food styles I never would've tried years ago.

(***) - This was probably the silliest change for me. It basically boiled down to a good friend of mine going, "Hey, you should try this," me trying it, and then realizing how dumb I had been. They're games, just like any other. This is a topic for another time, though.

Stealth music recommendation! Lucinda Williams is pretty awesome. And yes, I picked the track from Rock Band to link.

The biggest problem with trying new things is the predisposition I'd have with these things. As a hypothetical: I hate Dungeons & Dragons, but someone is forcing me to try this new thing. I begin playing it, and am now finding reasons to confirm that I hate this game. Another thing that goes without saying: this is the wrong way of going about this.

Try something out, and then develop an opinion. Do not do this the other way around. Even in Mass Effect 2****, Mordin's apprentice points out that Mordin supposedly does this wrong. If you're listening to an album, and decide you hate it prior to listening to it, you will find a reason that you hate it. The lyrics might actually be the worst words ever written by the human race, but that doesn't make the way you went about it any better.

(****) - What, you thought I wasn't going to mention Mass Effect in this one? Come on.

The opposite is also true, of course. You might want to like a game so much, that you're willing to ignore major flaws in the game. Just because you like a game does not mean you have to accept it as perfection. I greatly enjoy Dragon Age, but the game has some pretty major technical issues (at least on my computer) that strike me as being fairly egregious. It doesn't mean I can't enjoy the game, but ignoring its faults would be doing myself a disservice. As good as something might be, it can always be a little bit better.

In short: make up your own damn mind, and don't make it up until you've actually experienced whatever it is you're criticizing. If you're wrong, don't be afraid to admit you're wrong. I think you'll find that's a more admirable trait than "sticking to your guns."

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