Off the Edge: A Commentary on Forums and Commentaries…

Off the Edge

Everyone needs a good rant. And it’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to go off a bit. It’s been a busy few weeks so I thought I’d take a break to let off some steam.

A lot of people use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family; share random things about themselves; or surreptitiously stalk people. I use mine almost entirely for news and the occasional non sequitur. I’m a fan of several things, including boxing, films, and miniature wargaming. And news flows freely on Facebook in the form of rumors, leaks, and on-the-scene reports.  The news is almost always welcome; the response to news in the form of comments rarely is… I thought I’d let some gripes go about the mood of internet commentary:

1.)    Negativity: I’ve been to several forum sites for ALL my favorite hobbies and the commentary of the reading public is about 90% negative. And of the negativity about 80% of those aren’t just dismissive but also hateful. Games Workshop releases a new model and “it’s the ugliest, most expensive thing ever,”   a new movie comes out and it’s “boring, slow, and overrated,” a fighter wins a fight he was expected to lose and it was because his highly favored opponent was “old, washed up, or over-trained.”   I made similar comments in my How to be a Fan posting series, but why is EVERYTHING the worst thing ever? Rarely will you see some positive comments, but forums and article comments don’t seem to be a place for discussion any more. They’re all just places for people to bitch… Apparently those who remain silent are the quiet approvers…

2.)    Pop-Cultured: This one isn’t related to just forums, but following themed news sites (sci-fi sites, gaming sites, fan sites) they all seem to be obsessed with the same few topics that everyone is obsessed with and post them endlessly. For a few quick examples out of MANY:

  1. Nintendo Culture: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw said it best; Nintendo has basically been making three games, the same three games over and over again for 30 years. And people freak out every time the new Zelda (which is just like the old Zelda) is released like it’s made out of gold…
  2. Game of Thrones: People love the show. I don’t particularly care for it (fantasy soap opera with nudity) but it’s all the posts talk about. Mostly they talk about characters dying. My thought, if all these characters die at random why would I care the least about any of them?
  3. Firefly: It got cancelled. Lots of great shows get cancelled. It’s not coming back. Saying it over and over doesn’t help.

So what’s the problem with these posts? Well we see about 800 Game of Thrones “these people died” posts a day. Meanwhile other great fantasy/sci fi topics are getting ignored by sites supposedly designed to discuss sci fi and fantasy but seem to be stuck in the same few loops. I think it would be remiss if themed sites ignored the most popular topics, but when 90% of topics ARE Nintendo or Game of Thrones the site has become a specified fan page. How about introducing people to some lesser-known material? Save “All Firefly All the Time” for the specific fan pages.

3.)    Memes: I won’t lie. I do find some of them hilarious. All the “Shut up and take my moneys” and Grumpy Cats make for good quick reference moods but they’ve become ridiculously overused. The evolution of the Meme is so fast even Professor Richard Dawkins’ head would spin. It’s gotten to the point where people almost talk in “Meme.” And they are almost always snark-based. So not only are people negative but they’re lazy and negative. Posters could use some training in how to be cleverly negative. Read this review or this review from Roger Ebert to see how it’s done. Just posting “meh” or the Picard face palm isn’t nearly so effective.

Yes I’m aware of the irony of complaining about internet complainers. But what can be done?

First, remember why you’re there. If you’re on a hobby site you’re there because SUPPOSEDLY you enjoy the hobby. Then why are you just complaining? Some forums have an active debate where people discuss merits and even theories, but many are just lines of hatred. The latest rulebook for Warhammer 40k hadn’t hit SHELVES yet and people were declaring they were quitting because it was the worst ever. Calm down. It’s a hobby. It’s for fun. If you’re not having fun do something else instead of bitching about why you’re not having fun playing something you haven’t played yet based on news you read 15 minutes ago.

Second, remember these are people you’re talking to not just screen names. Debating is good. We all have unique perspectives, but declaring someone’s opinion invalid simply because it disagrees with yours is non-sense. Could Ali beat Tyson? We’ll never know. But your guess is LITERALLY as good as mine. So just because we disagree doesn’t make either of us wrong. Also those about whom you’re spewing your venom are also people. Jervis Johnson is certainly not an idiot and wrote very complex rules for a very complex game in conjunction with several other game experts. If you can do better maybe you can make your own game (with blackjack! And hookers!) or maybe it’s easier to arm-chair general and criticize than actually DO something? Being proactive about things is hard but it’s actually progress rather than just whining.

Third, remember none of us are perfect. We will make mistakes, lose our rags, and make bad decisions; but remember it’s EASY to criticize, which is why the rewards for doing so are so low. It’s much riskier to actually be out there doing something, but the chances at achieving something and making an actual difference. If you’re ever proved wrong or change your opinion be gracious enough to admit it. You’ll be surprised how effective that is…

I know I’ve sounded like “can’t we all just get along” before, but it may not be the best philosophy, because we can’t and shouldn’t. Disagreement leads to new ideas (Thesis+Antithesis=Synthesis=NEW Thesis+Antithesis, etc.) but we can be respectful at all times. I’ve had many, many great debates with people and we were all are allowed to conclude our discussions as in the Napoleonic Wars, “in good order, with colors and arms.”

It’s just the internet. It’s hobbies. It’s entertainment, people. It’s NOT that critical.

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