Whenever Matt Hewson feels like going on a killing spree, he comes here instead. In other words, we have the H-Bombs column to thank for our very lives.
The other day I came across an old expression. “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and they shouldn’t be shared with others.” Given some of the things I read on the internet these days, I find the phrase to be incredibly apt. More and more I am reading comments and posts that at best make me shake my head and at worst make me want to bang my head against the wall. Personal attacks, racism, sexism and plain stupidity are all posted for the world to see and are protected by their “opinion” label. This is especially true in gaming. I challenge you to read the message boards of any major gaming site and not find something that is stupid or offensive. It can’t be done.
“But Matt,” you ask, “aren’t you are writing an opinion piece right now?” Well yes I am, and I am not calling for the end of opinions. In fact, if I was I would be doing myself out of writing work as well as becoming a target for every other games writer out there. Opinions pieces are the bread and butter of any good gaming site/magazine and can be both entertaining and informative. What sets these pieces apart from most of the general tripe that gets posted on message boards is thought. Writers think about what they are producing, not only to make it entertaining, but also to ensure that they are expressing their views in a thoughtful and easy to understand manner. While you personally may not agree with a particular writer’s opinion, chances are you won’t be able to say that it is poorly thought out.
“So are you calling for the end of forums or message boards?” Well no, in fact I want the exact opposite. These are wonderful places. I have personally been involved in one particular forum for many years and have a great time there. A real sense of community can develop and it is something that writers on the sites love to see. But that sense of community can only come about if people think before they post. I hate to sound preachy but if every person on the internet actually stopped and thought about what it was they were saying and how it affected others, the web would be an infinitely better place. Our minds are the one thing that separates us from the other animals on the planet yet many people seem afraid or reluctant to use them.
“You are just upset that people don’t agree with you!” The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I love a good argument and not just the Monty Python kind. Discussing things with people who have a different point of view is, I find, one of the best ways to expand my horizons. I have had many civil discussions with people who thought I was wrong and I came out of these talks feeling enlightened and educated. When I write, I love to have some interaction with my readers. Please comment on anything I have written, but if you say “You is wrong cause Amy is the greatezt game eva” forgive me if I don’t take you seriously. If however I get a comment such as “I think you are incorrect in your summary of Amy’s combat. I found the combat, while simple, a great way to heighten the tension in the game” we are going to get along just fine. Criticise all you like. Just make it constructive.
“Okay, you’ve mentioned that people attack others on the net. Is that really a big deal?” Well yes and no. As a writer I expect a certain amount of antagonism directed at what I have written. It comes with the territory and while I don’t like it, it doesn’t bother me too much either way. Other people have suffered much worse than I have, though, and they may not be able to adopt such a relaxed attitude. I am sure most of you are aware of what happened to Jennifer Hepler, a writer at BioWare. Jennifer suggested that she would like to be able to skip the combat in games so that she could focus on the story. That doesn’t sound so strange, especially considering she is a story writer by trade. But this comment led to thousands of personal attacks, some of which wouldn’t be fit for use in an R18+ comedy let alone to be directed at a living, breathing, feeling person. It is this sort of behaviour that gives gamers a bad reputation, it gives the sensationalist news sources something to use in their latest anti-gaming rant and use it they will. We’re our own worst enemies at times. We constantly strive for acceptance, for the public and media to recognise gaming as the legitimate pastime we know it is but then we go and act like this.
“So what do you want to see happen?” This is easy and I have mentioned it many times in the article. I want people to think before they post. Say to yourself, “Is my argument coherent and constructive?” “Will I offend anyone unjustly?” and most importantly “Can my comment be read?” These questions should be the basis of anything written on the internet. If you can’t answer all three questions positively you should probably save everyone the heartache and not post at all. If you can do these three things, then argue, comment, post, praise and converse to your heart’s content. I for one will welcome you with open arms. Opinions may be like assholes, but well thought out opinions are like great games, something everyone wants to see.