Underneath my yellow skin

Living in an echo chamber

I love the internet. I just wanted to get that out of the way because I’m about to do a thousand-word post on why I hate a certain aspect of the internet. First, though, my ode to the internet and how it’s opened up my world. Back in my twenties, I was a hot mess. I was deeply, chronically depressed and could barely drag my carcass out of bed in the morning. I am lucky that I have always had at least one really good friend to moor me (shoutout to Kat who has been there with me throughout the ages), but I still felt isolated and lonely.

The internet changed all that. While sitting at my desk, I can get on my computer and visit places all around the world. I don’t have to leave my house to visit all different kinds of communities that I might not have available in my neighborhood or surrounding areas. I can talk to anyone about anything. It was wonderful and made me feel a little less alone, but not completely. Why? Because even on the internet, I was a weirdo. I was fine with it, but it underscored that even on the wide world web, I was a misfit.

It started when I was into politics and visiting political websites. I would get really into them and then realize a few  months or a year later that everyone was saying the same thing. It was understandable, but I got bored and frustrated because I felt the conversations were stifled. I would move on and try to find something different and then it just repeated itself.

It was the same with Twitter. I kept seeing the same shit over and over again. Such as Rush Limbaugh during the Sandra Fluke fiasco (which was one thing that made me realize the limitations of the internet). People kept tweeting their shock and dismay about how horrible he was to her. “Can you believe he called her a slut and a prostitute?” Yes, yes I can. That was his whole shtick. That’s why he got paid the really big bucks! It was disgusting, yes, but shocking and surprising? No. I tweeted something like if he said she was a forward-thinking feminist who was doing good activism, then you can tweet me in shock and surprise, but not for him calling her a slut.

I see the same thing happening in the advice columns I love to read and call my stories. Ask A Manager is one of my favorites and the commentariat is usually known for being thoughtful and nuanced. Once in a while, though, there’s a subject that comes up that really divides people–such as the thermostat wars and pranks. For the former, it’s the pro-cold people vs. the pro-hot people. For the latter, it’s the pro-pranks people vs. the no-fucking-way-keep-those-pranks-away-from-me people. Then, nuance goes out the window and it’s MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY.

It reminds me of how it’s so easy to craft your online experience so you never have to listen to a counter opinion. It’s a fashionable thing on Twitter to just shoot out an opinion and refuse to engage at all in the topic. There are times when this is valid or if the OP (original poster) makes it clear they are ranting and not debating, but that seems to happen more and more.

I saw a series of tweets by a games journalist I respect about the difficulty of the FromSoft games in which he railed against gatekeeping and pooh-poohing the people who don’t want an easy mode in the games. He was very sneering in his tweets and it unaccountably hit me in hard. Why? Because I’m deeply ambivalent about an easy mode in FromSoft games and it’s not for gatekeeping reasons. But that’s become the new mantra about anyone who questions keeping the games as is–you’re just gatekeeping.

Are some people gatekeeping? Yes. Is everybody? No. And that’s what the issue is–nuance goes by the wayside. Also, it’s hard to debate that accusation even if the other person is arguing in good faith because there’s no way to not sound defensive when arguing against an accusation.

Side Note: I find it interesting that very few people talk about an easy mode for roguelike or platformers–it’s only FromSoft games. I don’t know what to do with that, but it’s just something I’ve noticed.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t engage with that games journalist because one, he wasn’t looking for a discussion. He was proclaiming his superior opinion and his scorn. In fact, he was doing the exact thing the GET GUD N00BS LOL assholes do but from the opposite side. And I’m saying this as someone who isn’t completely against an easy mode.

But, we get into the muddied mess of art and creative vision and do all games have to be for everyone? I have to say that I’m coming at it from the viewpoint of someone who sucks at the game. It took me 150 hours to beat the first game plus DLC. and I hated it by the time I was done. It took me a lot of blood sweat and tears to reach the point where I actually saw the beauty of the game and how revolutionary it was.

Now, I’m not saying that because I gutted my through it, others should, too. But I do think learning how to play the game is part of what makes it so special. If you just want to know the story, in all seriousness, go watch videos of it. The combat of the game is integral to what the game actually is. Taking that away would change the heart of the game.

The bottom line is what is the responsibility of game devs when it comes to accessibility versus their creative vision. Now, the argument that putting in an easy mode wouldn’t change MY experience is a facile one and not necessarily true. But more to the point, it glosses over the issue of how that would even be incorporated into a game like Dark Souls. Supergiant did it with Hades by adding the God Mode (lessens the damage you take every time you die up to 80%) which is one way to do it, but the scope of Hades is much smaller than a Souls game.

I’m also saying it from the perspective of someone who can’t play hard platforming games or first-person games. I just accept that there are games I can’t play because that’s their vision for the games. Should I hamper their creativity by demanding I can play their games no matter what? It’s not the same as other pop culture, obviously, because it’s interactive, but where is that line drawn? I don’t know, honestly, which is not a very satisfying answer.

The point is that the whole debate around that issue is toxic because both camps are hunkered down and only listen to people in their own camps. This happens in real life, too, of course, but it’s so much easier to do online. I don’t know the answer to that except to constantly be on your guard against it. It’s easy to slip into groupthink, however, which is why I keep moving from website to website. It’s my answer to a thorny question.


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