Dang, that’s a list of negatives. I really don’t like to be, or go out of my way to be, a negative person. When I’m at work, I think about how I’d rather be home playing something. I read about games of all kinds and get excited. I like the majority of people I follow on social media because they’re funny, smart, and good people. It’s just that when I get to the keyboard for these entries, I somehow gravitate towards the darker thoughts.
Where does this come from? I honestly have no good answer for that, and that bugs me because I like introspection and believe that I’m pretty good at it (if I do say so myself, and I do!). I also have no compunction against being open about myself. I guess in some ways we all have visions on how we’d like the world to work that are one part “how can I reshape things to benefit me?” and one part “how can I make people see the error of their ways (as I see them)?” I don’t think that thinking like this is something we necessarily do overtly or even maliciously, but as I do think that human beings are inherently selfish, I think we’re always going to be interested in trying to shape the world in our own images.
Seeing as how impossible it is to turn a ship with only a thread, and if a thread is all we have to work with, what’s the point of trying? Or better yet, what’s the point of sticking around once we realize that any attempts we are trying to make are futile? Raging against the machine has become an intramural spectator sport in the Internet Age, and I think that a lot of people enjoy being angry more than they’d enjoy receiving the outcome they’re supposed to be advocating for. Being angry makes other people angry; it’s like declaring that it’s open season on intelligent discussion, thereby lowering the bar so that everyone can participate. Being angry means no filters, letting people swear and insult and let their mouths (and fingers) run faster than common decency would otherwise allow. Anger generates page views and “interaction” in the comment sections. It strokes egos.
I try not to rage that hard, though. I’ve got more of a melancholy sense about this community and my own participation in it. On some days I’d be 100% happy to just pack everything up and walk away, if I had something else to walk to, but I don’t. Had I spent all my video game money on power tools or needlepoint, I’d be in a different place. But investment reaches a point where you can’t back down even when you really want to. On the other hand, I don’t really want to. I really enjoy what I get from video games. They’re escapist entertainment like books and movies, but with agency. They evoke and reward intelligence, skill, and determination. They showcase technology and it’s advances. In a lot of ways, they make me feel good about people, progress, and the future.
Except when they don’t, or when the community uses it’s focal points against itself. “Hell is other people” is a truism almost anywhere, especially in the geek community. It’s really easy to block it out, especially on social media where you can mute, unfollow, or block the most offensive — or just people who pissed you off that one time for no good reason. What’s hard is simply zipping it and not letting loose. For example, when the controversy du jour occurs and takes social media by storm, there’s an inevitable point at which we start seeing posts asking why more people aren’t outraged by the situation. I’d be willing to bet more people are outraged by the situation, but those people know that it’s pointless to wade in, guns blazing, because that doesn’t solve a damn thing, and in those controversies neither side is spotless in their beliefs or tactics. Some people just choose not to make the situation any worse over being seen waving a banner just to appease one side or the other.
What I consider the real let-down, though, is when I question what I’m getting out of my personal involvement. Everyone’s had times when they’ve sat down at the PC or on the couch with the intent to play something, only to find that they don’t want to play anything. When I start to notice an ongoing trend, though, that never extends beyond the thrill had in the discovery of a new product, I notice that there’s really no long-term tether beyond the reliance that there’s always going to be a steady stream of “new” to keep giving me that high. Maybe that’s why Steam Sales are so popular (aside from good old fashioned retail therapy), and why many folks in my circles are so flighty when it comes to picking a game to play. We’re either looking for something we seem destined never to find in the long run, or simply find it in the first hour of gameplay and rarely beyond that.
Sorting through the pros and cons of the situation is a zero sum outcome. I’ve got nothing better to do with my free time, and I do enjoy it when I’m in that zone. But there’s a lot about it that I don’t enjoy, and I don’t always enjoy what I do all the time. Sometimes I’m not able to do what I would like to do — play more with others, create my own game — and that’s depressing. Other times I allow myself to get caught up in hype for a new product because it just makes me happy to be part of something that other people are excited about. I think the fact that I am still here shows that I value the times of excitement and happiness more than the times of disgust and boredom.
Maybe there’s something to cling to in that. I do wish things were better. I wish the community was kinder, I wish folks were more receptive to others as individuals with their own goals and skills. I wish people would devalue anger and sarcasm as virtues and realize that we all like the things we like for reasons that a unique to us, and that that is an actual virtue. It makes very little sense to be at odds with one another when we’re virtually buried in opportunities to enjoy the situations in each other’s enthusiastic company. I also wish I could find the long term enjoyment beyond the thrill of learning something new. I wish I were more achievement oriented, in some ways, because I think that would be a good way to drive my engagement.
That’s a laundry list of wants. I guess that if I want to make some kind of change then I need to not end this on a down-note. The best we can do, and the most we can ask of others, is to give it a shot. I think we all want the same thing from ourselves and from our community, which is to have a good time, so we have to just keep on keepin’ on to find that silver lining, to find the fun, to not suffer the ignorant and the selfish, to agree to work together to be more inclusive, and to do all of this wherever and whenever we’re able.