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JoyfulSanity's blog

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JoyfulSanity avatar 4:19 PM on 06.09.2013  (server time)
The Story Behind JoyfulSanity's Avatar

An introduction after four blogs is a little silly, isn't it? It's like being at a party for three hours and finally telling everyone your name. In Destructoid's case, it's a party full of characters so diverse and quirky that it could be the cast of an RPG. That's probably one of the reasons why I've wound up sticking around.

I was honestly floored by the positive reaction to my previous blog, even if that was in part just riding the success of a popular post.  I certainly owe an introduction at this point, although my life story isn't that spectacular. I've given tidbits of my upbringing here and there, but I'm mostly just an "easy mode" American white male in his mid twenties.  I've spent quite some time figuring out how to explain the angle I come from as a person on the internet, and I eventually realized that everything unfolds by answering a very simple question.

What is your avatar?

The screaming zombie is M Night, a most lovable undead character from an RPG Maker game I've been working on with a few internet friends for quite some time. The title is Driving Shadows: Antimatter Introspection, a game as ridiculous as its name.

It's an RPG that combines the quirky high-emotion of Japanese RPGs with the exploration and universe building of Western RPGs. I'll leave the descriptions at that, as plugging a game that is currently on indefinite hiatus due to all of us having work/classes is a bit silly. I actually bring this up because the RPG Maker community was my first "home" online, and wound up shaping everything about the way I act online.

In the early days, the RPG Maker community was just a bunch of 14 year olds that were ecstatic about trying to make their own games, and I was no different. You know, that age where "All Your Base" was old but we'd still find it hysterical. Even though we  made fools of ourselves  and produced pretty bad games, everyone would still say you made the next Chrono Trigger and give you a 10/10. The constant affirmation was obnoxious in retrospect, but it did encourage me to keep producing content and gradually get better at it.

That changed once there was enough people who could actually make quality projects in spite of the software limitations. The expectation for games shifted away from "it should be fun to play" and turned into "is it as technically impressive as what we've seen before." This is the point where young JoyfulSanity started to feel less comfortable, but it did create a stronger desire to produce better content. The attitude towards new guys was generally a bit abrasive, but there was usually a counter balance of responses from fellow newbies.

I actually did wind up with some notoriety after I made a couple mildly successful game demos, which I owe to the bits of constructive criticism I received from the most stellar members of the community. But a while after that general time period... you might guess where this is going.

The larger communities turned wildly aggressive and hostile, resulting in a self loathing paradox of everyone making games and virtually no one enjoying them. I vividly remember one incident where a two-week contest was held on one specific site for a small cash prize. The initial pitch as a fun event to inspire people to get a game finished proved to be grossly misleading. 

Each game was "reviewed" in a way similar to someone trying to impersonate the Angry Video Game Nerd. One particular review consisted of the judge talking about how he called up his friends to come over so they could laugh at how bad the game in question was. Almost everyone who entered was accused of "money grubbing" because of the cash prize. This was something the elite members of that particular community found quite amusing and essentially told anyone who entered that they were asking for this kind of reaction. Remember, it's one thing to make fun of professional videogames, but many of the entries were made by teenage kids. I was so appalled that I had to take a brief hiatus from doing anything on the internet, as at the time I perceived the RPG Maker community to be indicative of the internet as a whole. That's far from the truth, of course, but it made me realize that I might be on track to become exactly like that.

I'm more than a few years removed from all of this, and thankfully what I've seen of the RPG Maker community in recent years has been very positive and helpful. However, this background taught me a valuable lesson about online interactions. 

When we create our accounts and enter social communities, we all enter anonymously. We can't immediately judge someone by age, race, gender, etc... and in a way, that's kind of awesome. On a site like Destructoid, all we initially know about each other is that we have a common interest in videogames. The ability to engage with others and take breaks at our leisure allows the introverts and extroverts to be as social as they'd like without exerting themselves. The potential to meet people we never would have had the chance to talk to is exciting when you think about it. At one point or another, I've made friends with people from every continent (save Antarctica obviously), which has given me more global perspective than any classroom has.

On the other hand, that same anonymity makes it easy to forget that there's a human being behind each account, which I'm certain is what happened in the story I told. This freedom allows a false sense of confidence that makes it easy to behave in a way that few people would actually act out in real life, thus leading to "trolling." Not everything needs to be kittens and rainbows all the time, of course. Despite the super positive nature of my previous blogs, I think we can benefit from the occasional biting sarcasm and cynicism.  There are plenty of times when being negative is a necessity for someone to learn from a mistake. It's when we forget the person behind the keyboard that I start to get worried.

All this said, I'm happy to report that the detrimental behavior is something I haven't really seen around these parts, so I certainly don't address these concerns to any of you.

To be honest, "JoyfulSanity" came from a screenname generator, but it resonated with me because of how negative and insane I had previously perceived internet communities. I'm a person prone to having a good argument or suggesting something to make a blog better, but I never want to come off as disrespectful or discouraging in the process. Even when we "rage" at something (like the Xbox One, as of late), I like to take it as an opportunity to enjoy some witty comments and learn some interesting points of views. The different backgrounds we come from is something that I find attractive about the community, and my goal at all times is to show as much respect to each person as I possibly can, even in the face of harshly disagreeing with something.

At the end of the day, we're all here to enjoy ourselves. Never losing sight of that is something which has defined me as a person. And yes, my screaming zombie avatar helps remind me of this.

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