Thursday, January 5, 2012

Negativity vs. Objectivity in Blogging

I'm pausing my 'Top Four 2011 gaming highlights' (which isn't all that exciting, lets face it) to tackle a post I read yesterday by Thade. He criticises the blogging world for being too negative and asks if we actually like the games we play.

I've visited this topic previously, and while I agree that news, and perhaps some bloggers, do focus overly on the negative, I think that it is both inevitable and necessary. The basic point of my previous post was this:

The other important question is why do I continue to play games that annoy me? If I'm writing critical posts about World of Tanks, for instance, then it stands to reason that I'm not actually having fun.

I do have fun playing the games that I write about otherwise I wouldn't continue to play them. Ultima Online, A Tale in the Desert, and Civ 5 being good examples of games that I just didn't stick with. When I write critically about a game I am playing I do it for three reasons:

  1. To vent my frustration about game-elements that are annoying me.
  2. To provide a review (good and bad) of the game so anyone unfamiliar with it could decide if they may want to play it.
  3. In the hopes that if enough of us say the same thing the game may change in a favorable direction.

Online games are a particular genre that breeds a lot of in-depth thinking and discussion. The fact that we play them for years at a time inevitably results in complaints and/or suggestions for improvements. The fact that the games are patched, updated, and changed over the course of time means that input from the community is necessary and, potentially, game-changing. Coupled with the fact that companies are increasingly releasing games that are buggy or unfinished and I think it's not only healthy, but necessary that we point out their failings.

If I bought a car that didn't work, I'd return it with a full report to the dealer as to why. Games are no different, and I agree that there is a point where constructive criticism becomes pointless whining, but also think Thade is a bit off target here. He says:

"If you’re not willing to forgive MMO mobs for pathing issues, Evade bugging, and respawning until the end of time, then why are you playing? If you’re going to play Skyrim, say “I really enjoyed this, but…” then what are you doing? Why are you playing?"

I don't think it's about forgiving MMO's their failings and it would be a disservice to ourselves, our readers, and the games we play if we were to omit such discussions from our daily posts. When I read a review of a game I want to know what isn't good about it. If I'm looking at a game I'm already sold in the idea of it- I want the nuts and bolts!

That isn't to say Thade doesn't have a point. As I discussed in my aforementioned post, and as Tim pointed out, games are meant to be fun and an endless wall of negativity can suggest that element (fun) isn't being had- so why bother? I don't think anyone likes too much negativity- or maybe each individual has their limit. I avoid the daily news for that very reason- too much negativity. Maybe Thade has a low of tolerance for negative game posts, but I think they are necessary and if done well (and coupled with the positive aspects as in any good review) can be useful to individuals, and the gaming community as a whole.

For the sake of transparency I will admit that his post immediately got my back up because he started out with a criticism of one of my favorite bloggers- Melmoth, from Killed in a Smilling Accident. I think that the British have a particular affinity for sarcasm and irony that can sometimes be misinterpreted. I know as a Canadian (with Comedy roots firmly in the British tradition) I was often taken very seriously on subjects I was making fun of. Where I expected a laugh I was often greeted with somber, often horrified expressions. Ooops.

I realize Melmoth can take care of himself, and this isn't some school-yard anti-bullying campaign by an oversensitive Canadian jerk screaming "stop picking on my virtual friend or I'll tell the teacher!" Thade does recognize the satirical slant to KIASA's work, so I'm not suggesting he is 'picking' on them, or bullying them in any way. Besides, the teacher doesn't care, and we are all aware of what happens to rats: First time you catch me alone in the shower- BANG! Shanked and left for dead....and no one wants that, least of all, me.


  1. I did say I didn't mean to pick on him, haha; perhaps that didn't go over the way I intended.

    What I meant was: "He is both 1. not the only person that does this, and 2. probably the most innocent of us all when it comes to this stuff."

    I definitely support criticism as I feel (and it seems you agree) that it's part of the pressure system that instigates fixes and changes now and again, but my point was (which you seem to see) that the level of negativity far, far exceeds a level that really says "This needs work but we like it." Some blogs have gotten so "dark" as it were that the message really seems to me to have become "We hate these games; we should go back to books."

  2. Ironically enough I am trying to read more books....

    Perhaps I avoid these blogs- which is possible- but I haven't encountered any that continually knock me over the head with negativity. They certainly wouldn't feature in my daily reads as I do agree it gets tiresome if it's all that's being printed.

    Forums' are especially bad for this and if I see one more 'T59 is OP' or 'Russians are team killers on the test server' post in WoT forums I may snap :)