We are the Pretty Hate Machine
I was recently inspired by a blog entry from a member of Fall Out Boy. If you're already rolling your eyes and making snarky remarks in your head, then this article is targeted at you.
Patrick Stump, Fall Out Boy's lead singer, wrote about the environment of hate within pop culture. It's an interesting analysis of the way that we come together to belittle certain artists or people, almost as an entirely new form of entertainment for ourselves. Think about the common reaction anytime a band like Nickelback or Limp Bizkit is mentioned. It's never a simple "I don't care for them"; it's always a verbal barrage of all-encompassing hate.
While Stump's words were aimed at the music scene, they ring true for our little corner of the world -- the videogame industry. Yes, we're just as guilty of buying into the sociocentric phenomenon as everyone else. This trend needs to change.
Before we get too far, this isn't intended to convey the message that you need to love everything. In fact, I believe that the opposite it true. Criticize and analyze everything. Without criticism, nothing would ever grow or evolve. Nothing would stick out above the rest. We'd be stuck in a perpetual state of middling, uninspired product.
Instead, we need to tone down the undue cynicism. It's human nature for people to bond over shared experiences, but if we focus it on the positive instead of the negative, everyone will be much better off.
Do you hate EA? Chance are, you probably do. About a year ago, it was voted the worst company in America. More recently, EA garnered more negative press for its statements about how microtransactions will eventually be included in all of its games. While CFO Blake Jorgensen has since gone on record to state that they meant all mobile games, the sentiment remains the same. It's not a unique opinion to think poorly of EA.
However, without EA, there's a solid chance that your gaming experiences would be diminished in some capacity. Do you like Mass Effect, Battlefield, Dead Space, or Rock Band? Those franchises all exist, in part, because of EA. The same can be said for about a thousand other titles.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with speaking out against its business practices that you don't agree with. That, along with voting with your wallet, are the only two ways that exploitative conventions will change. Still, it isn't fair to throw around blanket phrases like "I hate EA," because the company has had more of a positive effect than immediately comes to mind.
The interesting niche about videogame culture is that there are considerable barriers to entry to even have an opinion. It requires both a monetary and time investment to be informed. Then, it takes the urge to go share your opinion. It's all much more complex than "Justin Bieber is stupid."
As a result, it's a very vocal minority that engages on Twitter, forums, and comments sections that comprise the voice of the industry. Relatively speaking, it's a pretty small chunk of the population. In a way, we're more prone to falling into the trap of becoming overly pessimistic because we hear the same opinions recycled from all directions.
And to be honest, it really doesn't even matter all that much. While our outcries feel loud as hell at the time, they're usually pretty muffled. Do the thoughts of Diablo III and Error 37 conjure terrible memories? The game still sold a ton of copies. I bet by the time that the SimCity fiasco is completely straightened out, its sales figures will be pretty impressive too.
The truly disconcerting facet of this isn't even necessarily how overly cynical we've become, although that's certainly a problem. It's how, as Stump pointed out, many of us have become defined by the things that we hate. Rather than simply dismissing something that doesn't please us, we make an effort to stomp it into oblivion. I've been guilty of it, and I'm sure that many people reading this have been too.
To quote Stump, "Near-masturbatory complaining has brought together more people than cheap liquor." He could not be more right. We feed off of others' spiteful opinions, and then we reciprocate. There's a cool kids' club for everyone that says the right things, and we all want to be included. It's incredibly easy to find a litany of bitter commentary about the popular topics, and with each opinion read, we become more and more influenced, and increasingly likely to weigh in ourselves.
This is a mold that needs to be broken. It reflects poorly upon us, and frankly, it can't be healthy. I don't necessarily have a lot of hope for society-at-large, but being surrounded by like-minded people, I like to think that we're better than this. We naturally connect with one another via shared opinions, but there's no reason that these can't predominantly come from a place of positivity. Keep the critiques flowing, but let's stop hating things simply for existing. If we can do that, I can't help but feel that we'll all be much better off.
[Image courtesy of Fogs Movie Reviews]