Opinions are a tricky thing-especially in something with as many moving parts as a video game one can find a massive gulf in the opinions on any given game, its mechanics or its visuals and this can lead to a thought provoking discussion….or sometimes just spiral into bitter debates. I touched on this idea in my review scores blog but I thought it might be something worth expanding on in its own blog. Here I’d like to muse on opinions, online discourse and interacting with others via the internet.
I should also clarify that this blog is a matter of my own personal interpretation-I am by no means an expert in psychology or any other field that would be dealing with this topic. This is my own interpretation of this sort of thing, and as such it's open to some disagreement or divergence-I’m playing armchair psychologist here but hopefully some interesting discussion or food for thought can be had. I won’t pretend to be above some of these negative behaviors here or there but I do think it's important to keep trying to get better and examine how one goes about such things in an attempt to do so. The blogs also a bit difuse and its mostly me musing on a few different things that I've noticed and had cause to think about.
Disconnect and Length
Online discussion and debate can be a tricky thing-without tone, facial expression, and body language it can sometimes be difficult to read certain comments with the intended meaning. Additionally people tend to feel more comfortable online as a result-people online will tend to act in a more extreme version of their day to day self or say things that they normally might not due to the lack of face to face interactions. This can lead to misinterpretations, people being more combative or aggressive and people exaggerating what they’re saying to bring their point across more clearly. I think it's possible to avoid this by having longer form comments or posts that allow you to have nuance, as well as allowing people to not be more inclined to make extreme statements due to the format. Yes, people can still make short extreme posts in this manner-but generally the ability is there for people to have as good a conversation as they can in the online format.
Twitter's a great demonstrator of what can happen without more room to say things-points need to be made loudly, strongly and be very concise to make their case. This leads easily to hyperbolic exaggeration that can quickly turn a discussion into a shouting match or argument, lacking any nuance because the point has to be made in such short form that it requires you to distill down and exaggerate to get your point across best. I have seen bitter debates and diatribes on twitter that go far beyond what is seen elsewhere and it seems to my mind that part of that is what I said above-you have to shout to bring your point across and you have to make it as invective as you can due to the limited space. Good discussions aren’t impossible on twitter but the format and the fractured nature of retweet conversations can really hamstring things even if it's not a bitter debate.
Dealing with different opinions, and having thoughtful debates
Dealing with different opinions on a game you love can be a bit difficult, especially if it's one that a lot of people you hang around with or see tend to hate it-or vice versa. Because a game you like is probably one that resonates with you on some level, and a game that you love can most likely resonate on a deeply emotional level it can raise ones hackles to see it insulted. However reacting negatively and getting too snappy can be detrimental to a good discussion if the statements are not made in a condescending manner and come from a genuine feeling on the matter-an important aspect of healthier online interactions is to accept others have different opinions. Not everyone's going to like what you like or hate what you hate-that's just the reality of life. There's far more value to be found in understanding the difference-for people open to it, it's far more worth your time to talk to them about why they don’t like it. That can help people with a different perspective grow a bit more and understand their tastes more as well as helping you come to a place where you better understand why you like something which can deepen your appreciation.
That point kind of ties into another point-having a thoughtful debate with others or trying to convince them of something. Although it has a 0% success rate as far as I can tell, yelling at other people and trying to force opinions on them while denouncing their side and opinions seems to be a popular tactic in online conversations. Often this doesn’t seem like a genuine attempt to have an actual debate, and rather it comes across as an attempt to shut down the other side and force them to concede to your viewpoint or get out your own frustrations. Again this hardly seems helpful if you’re looking to have an actual civil debate or discussion on a topic. And rather than help turn people to your side, this almost always leads people to shut down and lock themselves into their current way of thinking regardless of what else you present to them-killing any hope of convincing them of anything.
The Objective-Subjective shuffle
As I have come to understand it, an opinion is not something considered objective, and therefore is not generally considered to be right or wrong. Opinions can be rooted in objective or subjective matters but generally they aren’t right or wrong in the objective sense. I bring this up because sometimes I see people who will act as if their opinion is objectively correct in an argument. This is possibly incorrect as I view it-even if your opinion is rooted in objective fact it is still an opinion, and holding it up as not being subjective is misunderstanding what an opinion actually is. Opinions are not empirical facts-they aren’t right or wrong, but they can be of different worths to different individuals. For instance, an opinion based on objective realities, empirical facts, and data are of high worth but an opinion on certain aspects of a game if one has never played that game or done into research into it beyond passing views can be worth relatively little.
I also find the idea of attempting to posit that your opinions are correct to be a bit insulting in certain contexts if I’m being honest. It's degrading to all other opinions and people that you think your opinion is the only right one. It shows a lack of interest in the thoughts of others and it comes off as somewhat churlish. Debate and discussion can be such enriching experiences that can make you grow, or consider new perspectives and shut others down like that is a waste of potential and growth in my opinion. It comes across as disrespectful to others and dismissive of outside opinions.
And there's a blog with some thoughts on opinions, online discourse and etc. Hopefully it leads to some interesting discussions and doesn't seem too off base in certain regards. Feel free to let me know how you feel below, thanks for giving this a read. I’ll see about getting back to regularly scheduled thoughts on video games and terrible movies soon enough.