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.