I am a pessimist, and I have a negative outlook on life. I know it; I own it; I’m trying to change it. Or rather, I’m trying to modify it. I don’t want to ever be a blind optimist, though I know they live longer. It’s a funny twist of life–optimists live longer*, but pessimists are more realistic about life. Anyhoo, I’ve been thinking of negativity vs. positivity a lot this week because of several things I’ve seen/heard on the internet. One is a post on Ask A Manager about a coworker being relentlessly (I initially typed resentfully, which is a Freudian slip If I’ve ever written one) positive and forcing others to be positive as well. The reaction in the comments was swift and brutal–the coworker must be murdered, and no jury would convict. I had to laugh, albeit ruefully, because that was my response as I read the letter as well. The comments touched on the toxic positivity mentality that is prevalent in America (and I went down the rabbit hole of suggested links, also about this kind of forced positivity), which struck a chord in me.
I can hear you thinking, “Minna, what does this have to do with video games?” My response is, “Relax. I’m getting there. I’m just taking my sweet time as is my wont.”
I listened to the latest RKG podcast for producers, and one of the questions was from a supporter who had secured a job in games journalism. His main question was just asking for tips on how to be a good writer in the field, but he also touched on his guilt at being a white cis het man in a field that is, well, glutted with them. I’ll get to the second part later, but it’s the first part that ties in with the positivity/negativity theme. Gav went off on a rant about how he hated it when people immediately tore down something as their go-to. He was speaking specifically in the industry, and he said it was his pet peeve how people just wanted to rip on something new. Rory was in agreement with Krupa being a bit more tempered. Krupa pointed out that it’s not easy to write a negative opinion/critique well, which I agree with, but he wasn’t as on board with the ‘don’t be negative’ thing (possibly because he’s the problem solver in the bunch).
Gav said there was someone on Twitter that he follows who always is snarky about something new coming out. Again, I’m assuming in the field. The example he gave was the new Jurassic World movie in which apparently Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum are appearing in. He’s super-excited about it, and the aforementioned guy on Twitter posted something snarky about it. Gav was like, “Why can’t you just enjoy it for a second? Maybe it’ll suck, but why not just revel in it right now?” He didn’t say ‘revel’, but you get the picture.
Full disclosure, I’m touchy about people policing other people’s Twitter/FB TLs/Feeds because I’m a weirdo who doesn’t like what other people like and because I’ve had it done to me. Someone got mad at me because I posted so much about cold and snow on my FB page (heard about it through someone else), and I saw another FB friend post something about why do people who hate Christmas have to talk about it? Why couldn’t they just keep it to themselves? I hadn’t posted anything really anti-Christmas that year, but she certainly knew how I felt about it. I’m sure I wasn’t in the forefront of her mind when she posted her rant, but that’s kind of my point.
Here’s the thing. Those of us in the minority are usually well-aware that our opinion is not usual. Many of us keep 90% of that shit to ourselves for that very reason. Small example. I was at Cubs yesterday and exchanging pleasantries with another customer. I said something about the sun being so bright, and she said, “At least there’s no snow!” I laughed and said nothing, and we went our separate ways. Had I been true to my feelings, I would have blurted out, “I fucking love snow!”, but it wasn’t necessary to say that to a stranger.
Here’s the other thing. When you are in the majority about something, you vastly overestimate the times you hear about the opposing opinion.** Or rather, you don’t notice how many times your point of view is being vocalized. If you live in America, you can’t fucking escape Christmas starting from the day after Thanksgiving (actually before, but I’ll be generous). It’s everywhere, and it’s annoying as fuck if you don’t actually like Christmas/are indifferent to it/don’t celebrate it. Let’s say you read three posts on Facebook in a week about how Christmas sucks. You probably read a hundred pro-Christmas posts in the same time-frame, but because you like Christmas, it doesn’t even register in your brain.
Side Point: Someone’s FB wall/Twitter TL is their own. If they aren’t saying truly offensive things, then they can say whatever the fuck they want. If I want to post every day about how much I love snow/cold and hate winter, I will. If you don’t like it, you can mute me, unfollow/block/unfriend me, or, you know, simply gloss over my posts. I hid someone’s posts on FB because they posted political news at a rate of like thirty an hour. I am not exaggerating. No way they actually read everything they posted. I got tired of it and didn’t want to see it, so I hid them. I did not tell them not to post them because it’s their wall! They can do what they want. Back to Gav. If you don’t like it, mute his feed. If you like the rest of his stuff, shrug and say it’s just Chad being Chad. Chad (not his real name, of course. I don’t know who the person is) is doing Twitter the way he wants, and that’s his right.
Side Note to the Side Point: I’m not saying to barge into other people’s conversation about, say, Love Actually, and say why you hate it and it should burn in a fire. Don’t be a joykiller if you’re not in the conversation. And, yes, I hate that movie for many reasons I won’t enumerate here, even though Alan Rickman was brilliant in it as always. If someone asked me my opinion about it, I would be honest. I have tweeted about my distaste for the movie, and I don’t feel I should have to refrain from doing that just because so many women love the movie. But, it makes me uncomfortable when people imply that if you don’t like this very popular thing, you should just shut up about it. I already censor myself about my likes and dislikes to a great extent. I’m not going to do it completely just so someone else doesn’t have to experience one iota of discomfort.
Which brings me back to gaming. For me, personally, I prefer to have a thought-out critique of something rather than an all-out hype of it. Even if it’s something I’m looking forward to, I want to know what the possible downsides could be before purchasing it. Let me use the example of a game called Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt Red, a Polish development team who delivered the wildly successful The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt in 2015. Let me preface this by saying I played Witcher 3 and loved it, and Geralt of Rivia (protagonist) is one of my vidya game boos. The Bloody Baron, one of the quests, is brilliant and haunting, and the game is gorgeous. I hated the first DLC for reasons I won’t get into in this post, and I haven’t played the second.
One of the knocks against the game is that it’s overwhelmingly white. So very white. The reason given was that it’s based on a Polish novel (series? I think?), which, ok, fine, but yeah, it’s very, very white. In addition, it’s sexist in that the notable women are all sexy, slim, and very much man-adjacent. Meaning, they are there for Geralt, even though they all have lives of their own. There is one woman who doesn’t fit this mold and is my favorite, but it’s only a matter of degrees. No, she’s not super skinny or always flaunting her bosom, and no, she’s not trying to jump into Geralt’s pants, but she’s still attractive and fit. The men, on the other hand, are allowed to be all shapes, sizes, and visual attractiveness with no impact on their character. It’s annoying, but I was able to keep it at bay because I really enjoyed the main game.
I say all this because I was pretty excited when the first trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 dropped. However, my excitement turned to disgust when the two main characters turned out to be horrible terrible stereotypes of a Chicano gangster and the ultimate cool girl tough chick respectively. I mean, cringe-inducing stereotypical, and no one in the industry said a damn thing about it. There were concerns about the gameplay, but the characterization? Nada. To me, it was as if CD Projekt Red said, “You want diversity? Here’s your fucking diversity.” Either that or they really are that clueless. Neither says anything good about them. It turned me off the game completely, and I was dreading the second trailer release. It wasn’t as bad, but it still had stereotypes in it (black drug dealer, who also was in the first trailer. I didn’t mention him because his appearance was brief). I am still wary of the game, and I probably won’t buy it.
I think you can see the connection between this and Gav’s rant about positivity. Would I be in the wrong if I were in the games industry and pointed out my very visceral negative reaction to the trailer? There was no way I could have said anything positive about the game after viewing the trailer, and I would have felt as if I were doing a disservice not to mention the issues I saw with it. In addition, things don’t change without people pointing out the problems, and the gaming industry is already behind other popular culture mediums in terms of diversity.
The world needs the people who point out issues and problems just as much if not more so than it needs the cheerleaders and the hype people. There has to be a balance.
*Though as we all know, correlation is not necessarily causation.
**This is actually true in general. We notice negativity and things opposite to our own point of view more than we do things that vibe with our worldview, but I’m focusing specifically on majority/minority in this instance.