The rise of the information age has made it so everyone has a soapbox and a megaphone and so long as they have the will they can get their opinions to anyone. Because of this you can find anyone to agree with your opinion on varying subjects such as which formation is best for an attacking football squad all the way down to which color is most pleasing to the eye. Because of the human tendency to enjoy things we agree with, when it comes to whom to follow we tend to gravitate towards those with opinions closer to ours. For some it goes to the extreme that we even block those with opinions different from ours and to that I feel that it stifles creativity and creates an echo chamber where ideas become stale and continue down radically unbalanced paths. Here I hope to show you the benefits of hearing those with different opinions out and maybe even engaging in conversation with them so you can both grow together.
Fallout: New Vegas proving once again it is the superior Bethesda aged Fallout.
A lot of my strife with social media blocking and the general wagon circling that is social communication has been born out of the recent American Presidential Election Primary race (oye, we are not even to the general yet). In general most of my friends are democrats but even that party has been fractured thanks to an ugly primary season. Now while I don't care to dive into the whole political race here I have seen so many people be called out and vindicated for who they support. Celebrities being told that they were never talented or that they are idiots simply for the person they support. The same can be said about gaming, how many times has a writer been written off for their ideas on a certain topic only to have another article either ignored or ridiculed for something completely unrelated. No one is inherently evil or wrong for their opinions because that is what they are, opinions. Opinions that are wrought out of many different factors such as life experience, methods of being raised, personal tastes and even geographic region. By definition an opinion is as follows.
A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge
While I disagree about it not being based on knowledge because knowledge can be based in personal experience the not based on fact is what resonates with me. Outside of stuff dealing with hard scientific fact a lot of opinions are not able to be proven right or wrong and therefore fall into that beautiful grey area of perception. Most opinions about video games fall into this category so no matter how hard anyone tries a definitive final answer cannot be wrought about whether or not Gone Home was good (it is) or whether BioShock Infinite was an improvement on the original (it wasn't). Hearing other opinions enhances your understanding of the topic at hand by showing the yin to your yang and from it you can gather a better, more rounded opinion on it yourself.
You'd be amazed how hard it is to find any image based on discussion
Recently an article was published about what board games can teach video games. While the article did make a few good points albeit through a slightly condescending tone one example could not have been more true. Face to face interactions are generally less confrontational than that of those online. The mental block of typing on a computer to a sometimes arbitrary username (what the hell is an Amna Umen anyway?) removes the act of basic civility and respect for the fact that there is a human attached to that online opinion. I have seen countless twitter reply chains where people start arguing back and forth with each other using harsh and heated words at first and as the conversation gets longer the amount of respect that is shown between both parties' increases. Sometimes these conversations even end with compromises and understandings of the others opinion. If we block people we essentially tell that person and ourselves that their opinion is not worthy to be heard they in 100% inherently wrong. This simply is not true because like stated above no one can be proven right or wrong with their opinions about video games because there is no hard science to prove their stance. Yes you can point to sales or metacritic score but those are still based out of opinions, so they are moot for the purpose of point proving. I had discussions week in and week out with one of my best friends about the state of the industry as a whole and as tiring as it is to hear the argument again and again each week we came more to an understanding of each other's points.
Pictured: Bretibart News
This may be the meat (or meat-free protein substitute) to my blog here. No one likes to be told something they don't want to hear. It hurts, it makes us think about our stance and sometimes it isn't right. But if we constantly hear things that are strictly in line with our beliefs we will never change them. Which in essence isn't a bad thing but at a certain point it can breed radicalism or stagnation and shouldn't we always be striving to evolve ourselves? I have come so close to blocking the 2 main presidential candidates on Twitter because I am so tired of seeing their bickering and childish behavior, but I know that they both hold views that are different from mine so on the off chance one gets through to my feed I should read it and give it pause for thought. This echo chamber problem can be extended into any form of communication, game design, writing style, general opinions on issues. Without dissenting opinions we tend to just kinda fall into a pattern of repeating the old ways, staying in the same genres and ideas and not expanding our palette. You are not challenged by anyone and therefore are not forced to think.
Let's look at an extreme example, white supremacy. Recently I watched a documentary called Welcome to Leith which is about a white supremacists plan to move to a small North Dakota town and take it over by buying up property and selling it only to those of aryan decent. My first thought was how people with such radical beliefs find each other, the answer was a white supremacist forum which I will not name in this blog. But it is a registration required VBulletin board that is filled with likeminded people bouncing ideas and opinions off each other on everyday topics while still being centered around one ethos, white is right. To put it in terms of them changing their ideas, these people are lost and will most likely hold these beliefs until they die.
Now let's ratchet it back a little bit and look at popular news sources like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. All of these are undeniably biased to opposing political parties and for some you can tell their political affiliations based on the source they get their news from. Week in and week out there will be biased reporting on current events. This chart shows political reporting during the 2012 election based on positive and negative airtime for both main candidates.
While these sources are not nearly as biased as hate sites, the bias still exists and it is allowed to be out in the open. Followers of these news sites hold certain beliefs and those beliefs are nurtured and fed upon by the biased reporting. The chances of these viewers getting an opposing view are slim and therefore an echo chamber exists where no opposing viewpoint is allowed to be seen and if it is that viewpoint is almost always painted in a negative light.
Now let's ratchet it back even further to something like game reporting. Everyone knows that Polygon has writers on staff that holds bias towards certain movements. The Bayonetta 2 review while glowing about the gameplay is docked points for what some may consider an arbitrary thing such as the over sexualization of the main character. On the other side of the coin there is Breitbart, a conservative website that skews article reporting with non-sequiturs about past actions of those they are reporting on and general fear-mongering and pandering tactics. The visitors of these websites are similar to those that follow Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC. They hold ideas and opinions and want those ideas to be stroked and coddled with similar reporting and therefore flock to websites that act as echo chambers to their biases. As stated above without a dissenting opinion the general placement of one's opinions becomes more weighted in the spectrum they tend to get their news from. Am I saying that if you read Breitbart you are going to be a white supremacist one day? No, but I don't see you changing your stance on some of the other issues that fall into a more grey area. Also the comment sections on those sites are usually filled with radically one-sided opinions whose users greet others with anger and general wagon-circling which leads me to my final point.
Just that easy.
This is more of a case for just being a better person and not a case against blocking but blocking plays into this. So much strife is exerted in the gaming community between factions of people who want the industry to go this way or that way. So much vitriol exists though that people use global block lists just to keep out people from the other side, or due to certain writers being on staff entire websites are written off for the content they create. Enough is enough, it's time to be nicer to people and realize that there is a person behind that opinion. Look at this picture; this is a picture of James Carville and Mary Matalin.
They are two politicians who are married and for over 20 years were from opposing political parties. Matalin recently switched from republican to libertarian which while opposing is not in direct opposition to the democratic party. The point being is they have different opinions on how the country should be run and are able to be happily married for so long because they respect each other. Why can't this be more widespread, so often we just write people off and don't want to associate with people based on their beliefs, which is in a way blocking out other opinions.
Most people are not evil because they are trying to push something in a way they feel is better for the industry. It is happening so much with the presidential run where I see people on Facebook saying if you support X candidate we aren't friends anymore, and it's just all so hurtful and mean and without end. This doesn't mean that we can't have fun with each other and for the most part Dtoid is very civil with each other, but outside of our little community there is so much hate and it needs to end. If there wasn't so much vitriol maybe we wouldn't need global block lists or even a block feature on Dtoid.
I'll end this with a simple almost hippie thought but we don't have much time or space on this Earth and the internet which is a wonder of technology and will be looked on as a redefining moment in human history brings us closer than ever before. We need to learn to work together with each other and be nice to one another. Because if we can't live together, then we are going to die alone.
Yes that is a LOST quote. You are welcome DanteKinkade