Passion, Fun and the Battle Against Cynicism

Those who know me know that I have five overriding passions in life.  I am passionate about my faith and my God, which is the entire reason for my being.  I am passionate about my lovely family, who bless me every day with their love and general hilarity.  I am passionate about writing, as you probably can tell by the way I can’t seem to stop.  I am passionate about movies, not just for the entertainment but for the art.  And I am passionate about games, because they fascinate and involve me on so many levels.

Passion can come in many varieties and flavors, some upbeat, some angry and some involving 6,000-word posts on a class nerf.  Generally I want to stay positive about my passions, because being negative — while occasionally fun and easier to write — is draining and ultimately corrupts any joy you have left.  There’s always bad to be rooted out, but that doesn’t mean one has to roll around in it until cynicism coats everything.

Leigh Alexander penned an interesting article on Gamasutra last week about cynicism in gaming, stating that (and I’m paraphrasing here) everyone’s unhappy in the industry.  Developers are unhappy, gamers are unhappy, journalists are unhappy.  The root of the problem, Leigh says, isn’t easy to pinpoint, but instead involves how these spheres react to each other.  Bad games makes for unhappy everyone; companies putting undue pressure on employees makes for unhappy devs; negative commentators makes for unhappy devs and other unhappy gamers; closed-off devs and untrusting gamers make for upset journalists; and so on.  It’s like a cynical feedback loop that becomes self-sustaining and unstoppable after a certain point.

Gaming never used to be anything negative with me, except when I couldn’t get a game to run on my ancient PC.  Back in the day, my friends and I simply loved games, played games and debated games, but it was always in the spirit of something we liked, similar to toys and cartoons.  With the internet, now I’m exposed to thousands of people who instantly disagree with whatever I think or feel, and aren’t ashamed to tell me so, and sometimes seem like they never want me to like games at all.  Is it too late?  Am I destined, as both a gamer and a games journalist, to become a bitter cynic who plays MMOs but hates them and myself while I do so?

Man, I hope not.  I really don’t.

It’s important to critically evaluate things, to be sure, but there’s a virtue in taking the “glass half full” road too.  I don’t think we cut developers enough slack, I don’t think we give each other enough respect when it comes out our differences in gaming tastes, and I don’t particularly care for this attitude that we can’t like a game without being called a “fanboy” or look forward to an upcoming MMO without “falling prey to the hype.”  Those are the cynics talking, and I categorically refuse to join that crowd.  I’m sure I have my days, but that’s not who I want to be.

Working for Massively has opened my eyes to the field of games journalism, which has a lot of great parts to it and sucky parts as well.  There’s an air of cutthroat journalism when it comes to getting exclusive, jumping on stories ASAP, and being better than one’s competition, but that’s more or less the name of the game.  Fortunately, there’s just so much to like about it — getting to write about something you love, for one.  Getting to talk to the people who make the games you love and forming relationships with them as you do it.  Being part of a team of writers who prize good, creative writing above all else, and support each other, particularly when one of us has a minor victory.  Getting that rare positive comment on an article that makes your day.  Shyly telling someone that you’re an honest-to-God journalist and realizing that that’s true.

I feel bad when I see the negativity that goes on in the comments, and on Bio Break, and in forums, and on other blogs, because I don’t want people to hate something they want to love.  Nobody likes to be disappointed, let down, burned out or snookered, but it happens, and those acidic feelings tend to make their way onto the web either to be exorcised or to spark a riot.

I think Leigh was a little too harsh, because there’s a lot of love and passion and excitement and joy in all spheres of gaming — and I truly believe that those of us who want to be positive, who are having a good time, and who would choose to love rather than hate don’t feel the incentive to write or talk about it as much.  We’d rather just be playing.

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24 thoughts on “Passion, Fun and the Battle Against Cynicism

  1. Werit July 28, 2010 / 1:41 pm

    I’m not sure it’s lack of incentive. I usually consider myself a pretty upbeat writer.

    For me the reason why is simple, negativity is a stress, which is not why I play games or write about them.

    Negativity does sell in any medium, just the way it is.

  2. Scopique July 28, 2010 / 1:43 pm

    The Gamasutra article scared me, but as stated, it’s just ONE side. It’s a totally valid side, and the focus of the article, so I don’t fault Alexander for painting such a bleak picture.

    I don’t know about the developers or the publishers, but the greater gaming community is the worst part of gaming, IMO. I think the explaination is far to nebulous to nail down in a paragraph, a page, or even a tome because so many people are just so ANGRY about their hobby.

    It is, after all a hobby. It’s not life or death. No one will die because they didn’t get their pet feature in Game X, or because something changed in Game Y, yet so many gamers take things personally.

    I like to think I try very hard to be positive, even if it pushes me over the edge into some kind of “rose colored glasses” territory. I have been gaming for almost 2 decades now, and I keep on going because I enjoy it. If I were to nitpick instead of look for the things I like and appreciate, I’d have to give it up, which is not something I’m willing to do.

  3. Jason July 28, 2010 / 1:51 pm

    I disagree!

    Teehee…sorry. Couldn’t help myself. Carry on.

  4. Wasdstomp July 28, 2010 / 1:55 pm

    I am on the other side. I tend to be more negative on my blog. I like to talk about things that I find make my gaming experience worse.

    I hate wearing the rose colored glasses. Why do I want everyone to think a nerf that happens is okay, or content removal, or horrible content being added, or whatever.

    Yes I am negative because I want to see things change for the better. I want to give players, and devs a different look at the game from my perspective.

    If I just kissed up to the gaming companies I would be no different than most politicians who support things depending on trips, free goodies, money, cars, or whatever.

    I feel my blog is more like Consumer Reports. I give an unbiased opinion based on how I feel, and players and devs can know that what they read on my blog is my true feelings, and things I really would like to see changed in the game.

    I don’t just make posts to get a rise out of people, or to see how many thousands of hits I can get in one day. It is to create a community that makes games better by working together by commenting, and replying on my blog.

  5. theerivs July 28, 2010 / 2:01 pm

    There was an experiment once. It was called the Happy News, it would only air good news, and fluff pieces.

    Well the show tanked? Why? People don’t want to hear good news, people want bad news, drama, etc.

    Why? When they here bad news, or bad things they actually feel better about themeselves.

    Now lets take this to the gaming world, if people heard everything was aok in gaming, there wouldn’t be competition, rivalries, etc.

    If Devs actually took the time to create an awesome game, instead of releasing crap and trying to make it a good game, maybe we would have happier gamers.

    But as my goblin friends say, “Time is money, friend”

  6. Hartwell July 28, 2010 / 2:15 pm

    I’ve been checking out your posts here now and again and have often been pleased with your little snippets and mature outlook on things… and I think this post drives home why I am enjoying what you do.

    Being called a fanboy or being accused of falling prey to hype are the worst, most insincere arguments in discussions about games. They’re the worst kind of dialogue-killers and I find them frustrating and you’re right: it’s cynicism for cynicism’s sake.

    I miss the days where we could get excited about things just because they looked cool. Because they explored an idea that is awesome, even if it wasn’t executed perfectly. We need to be allowed to enjoy things despite shortcomings, because there will ALWAYS be shortcomings in whatever medium, be it books, movies, or games. The glass-half-full mentality is the only way to stay sane and the only way to derive pleasure out of the entertainment created by others.

    In fairness you shouldn’t shy away from pointing out an imbalance in a game, or problems with execution but let’s not throw the whole dish in the sink because the pasta is a little over-done.

    Thanks for the honest, mature view of industry and critcs. God bless.

  7. James July 28, 2010 / 2:26 pm

    Growing up sucks, eh, bro?

  8. Jeremy S. July 28, 2010 / 3:01 pm

    George Carlin said it, and “I” have to paraphrase, do to my fading memory 🙂

    “People in this country[US], you know what we need? what we REALLY need? We don’t have to be buddies and join the local bake sale, we don’t have to be friends, [heck] we can even down right hate each other, but we NEED to respect each other.”

    I think there is a clear distinction George made, and it’s important. I’ve seen disrespect from people trying to be nice, and people who didn’t seem to like me.

  9. Song7 July 28, 2010 / 9:06 pm

    “Writers, reviewers and critics of all stripes cope with being made largely-lambasted “personalities” by a consumer base that often seems more interested in the writers than they do about the work being done in the field the writers cover.”

    I would have to agree with this part of that article. It is in fact why I read your posts, 9 times out of 10 I could care less what the topic is. I just care how you approach it and how you get you point across within the blog post. The same goes for most of my favorite bloggers.

    I added that last sentence so you didn’t go getting a big head or something. To be honest there are only 2 or 3 I consider favorite.

  10. Utakata July 28, 2010 / 9:15 pm

    Two things…

    1) I tend to look at things with cautious optimism. For example, I disagree with the way Blizz has redesigned the talent tree for Cat. But I am hopefull they have designed them so they are better than the ones currently…allowing each player to solo in each without ever having the need to respec or duel spec to get around it. Not sure that’s reality right now…but this is in only beta. And I think you get my drift.

    2) And games I play and enjoy are my friends. That is I priase them when I think they are doing something right. And criticize them when they’re doing something wrong. Again, using WoW as an example…I thought the Dungeon Finder was a brilliant idea; Real ID simply horrible. Though this tends to get me hit from both WoW apologists (read: fanbois) and WoW haters (read: trolls)…sometimes at the same time depending where I post. 😦

    …and finally:

    I’m not sure where James is going with the “Growing up sucks, eh, bro?” But I do know that growing is never over till we’re deceased.. Until then it’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, whilst we try to improve ourselves the best we can…and perhaps even try make the world a better place. 🙂

  11. Dblade July 28, 2010 / 10:32 pm

    You can’t be positive about changes you think are bad ideas. It’s also hard to squee over new MMOs because we are in the middle of a bad time of them, and a lot of us were sold hype on things which didn’t deserve it.

    At best, all you can say is “maybe it wont be so bad.” That’s not being passionate about it for good.

    It’s not a zero sum game, but all of us differing players are connected. You like F2P, but if it becomes mainstream it’s probably going to screw over a gamer like me because that’s on who they make money on. That’s what makes it hard for all to be positive too. There isn’t the connectedness for something like offline games and movies. You liking red dead redemption doesn’t hurt my liking of JRPGS.

    Those are some of the reasons why you see a lot of negativity. I don’t think a lot of us want to be negative, but you can’t close your eyes and wish that things will be well.

  12. Rog July 29, 2010 / 5:39 am

    I honestly feel that the biggest problem with the games industry, for awhile now has been this:

    Too many have been taking advantage of the people who LOVE games. Especially the devs who love making games. They’ve been exploited and when it happens, most of the public won’t stand up for them because there’s this assumption that they have the best jobs in the world. It’s heartbreaking to be honest.

    The second biggest problem is similar, or at least another culture-related issue. It’s the Us vs Them problem:

    It’s not good enough to sell a game, it has to ~beat~ the current top game. And fans take sides. Enjoying a good game isn’t good enough. If your game is decent, that’s not enough, because it’s not the next Halo-beater, or WoW-beater. It’s not just games versus games or consoles versus consoles either, it’s become entrenched in every aspect. Now you can’t agree or disagree with even pricing models without being labelled in some polar / bipartisan fashion.

    I think there’s a lot more at play here within the industry (or business in general) lately than just negativity. There are some serious issues reducing quality, increasing costs and driving a lot of honest enthusiasm into the dirt.

    The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. Passion doesn’t need to be exploited and wins for some doesn’t need to push losses for others. Gaming culture is at the forefront of our culture overall, I honestly believe that. We can help change things.

  13. Youri July 29, 2010 / 7:16 am

    Hey Syp,

    I have been following your blog Daily for the last year. I love to read what you write.

    Your passion for writing and gaming shows. Because of you I gave Lotro another chance and thank you for it.

    It may be the first time I reply but I am part of your silent crowd of supporters.

    Regards,

  14. chaosmos July 29, 2010 / 8:38 am

    I believe gaming has a serious side, but overall it should be *fun*. If I find myself losing sight of the fun, it’s time to make a change – take a break, find a new hobby, or switch up the games I’m playing. There is enough stress and negativity in the rest of my life, why should I let my passion for gaming get infected with it too?

  15. Syp July 29, 2010 / 8:42 am

    Thanks for the responses, encouragement and thoughtful insights, everyone!

  16. biophazer242 July 29, 2010 / 9:03 am

    I think the comment about ‘growing old sucks’ is similar to what I feel about alot of people in the community I interact with. So many people have the ‘get of my lawn you damn kids’ or ‘when I was young we had real music not this music you have today’ mindset. People seem to want to compare things to games of the past rather then just look at the game as its own product. How often do we see a comment about ‘the next UO’ or it will never be as good as SWG preNE. I think most writers on the blogs I enjoy reading try to be more open about new games and less negative in general. Not to say Massively does not put up an article saying a game has issues, but I see less posts saying this game sucks and will fail in a month, that seems to be the players more often these days.

  17. Julie Whitefeather July 29, 2010 / 9:22 am

    My work much the same way. God and family first and then everything else. God never lets me down, but organized religion does nearly constantly.

    If developers are depressed really only developers can answer (maybe I should as a few). Anything I could say would be conjecture. As for gaming, it saddens me to see the avalanche of “social” (read anti-social) Facebook games come crashing upon our shores in search of a quick buck. On a more personal level it upsets me to no end when publishers and developers alike turn a deaf ear to me. The latest fiasco being CCP who doesn’t seem to care about resetting my password. Further back, Mythic telling me how I should play their game rather than listening to how I want to play it (and the majority of their customers as well). In general it only makes this worse when a dev or publishers promises the moon and the stars and delivers a box of bland gaming at best.

  18. Rackham July 29, 2010 / 11:37 am

    Those are great points Syp, and pretty much the reasons why I keep coming back to your blog time and time again. You maintain a level of maturity and “glass half full” approach to most of your writing.

    But more importantly, you don’t go all the way over to the blinded, gung-ho positive-ness that some bloggers get caught in. i.e. fanboyism

    You have always managed to take a level-headed approach and look at the news from all angles, both good and bad and constantly question yourself in your writing.

    True qualities of a good journalist in my opinion!

    But to respond to the comment about unhappy game developers, there are a few out there who strive to break that mold. Carrie Gouskos and Josh Drescher are two prime examples. Even in light of the horrid stuff they’ve had to deal with, they’ve managed to keep a positive outlook and keep a level head through it all.

  19. Cedia July 29, 2010 / 2:21 pm

    You know what, Syp? I disagree with you on a lot of your points so much that it leads to much eye-rolling in your direction. 😛

    However, this post of yours completely makes up for all of it. Good man, and I agree completely.

  20. Tesh July 29, 2010 / 3:54 pm

    If I didn’t care about game design, I wouldn’t be writing about it in the first place. I have no problem calling out bad design or boneheaded business decisions; without knowing what is wrong, it has little chance of being corrected.

    That said, there’s a huge difference between complaining about something because of cynicism or worse, and looking to correct mistakes with an eye to making things better.

    Or, put another way, all is *not* well in Zion, but there’s a lot of good around as well. Ignoring either is dishonest and counterproductive.

  21. Void July 29, 2010 / 10:21 pm

    I’m glad your posts tend to be upbeat, it keeps me coming back to read more! Keep up the good work and positive attitude.

    The mood of a post is something I’m going to keep in mind now that you’ve pointed it out. I think I usually stay upbeat and talk about the things that excite me instead of posting scathing reviews.

    If someone enjoys their subject matter I would think their writing would tend to be more positively skewed.

  22. mbp August 1, 2010 / 4:12 am

    Nice post Syp. Despite all the cynicism that surrounds gaming at the present I am beginning to think there has never been a better time to be a gamer especially a PC gamer. There is an explosion of creativity and of value going on in the hobby right now. Indeed there is so much great stuff going on that it is impossible for one gamer to keep tabs on it all, especially a middle aged gamer with family responsibilities. That isn’t a problem however it is an opportunity, in fact it is a whole world of opportunities to explore and enjoy first rate virtual entertainment.

    Passion, enthusiasm and positivity are great Syp. Keep up the good work.

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