For many of us, games have a deeply personal and specific meaning. We like the games we like not so much for their craftsmanship or content but for the way they engage our minds and spirits. Games create incredible, irreplaceable moments infused with emotional resonance, and it's only natural we would feel some sort of personal connection when a piece of digital entertainment syncs just right.
It is precisely this personal connection that leads many of us to act like total morons.
If you're like I am, some of your fondest memories occurred either in games or in their periphery. My best friend and I still tell stories about crazy things that happened in our World of Warcraft guild and the time he one-shotted me with a well-placed Soul Calibur kick. An ex-girlfriend and I often meet up for coffee and reminisce about the summer we spent living together charting Wind Waker's ocean. The fun, the joy, the love -- these feelings are attached to the games that accompanied them.
And this is where the problem arises. Because our experiences with games are so extremely important to us, we tend to take things personally when other people slight those titles. Not everyone reacts to a game in the same way, and not everyone has the same collection of experiences, so it's only a matter of time before someone trash-talks the title that you hold in such high regard. Your emotions engage, your feelings take over, and before you know it, you're writing an angry comment attacking a human being you've never met for an opinion he or she has that literally means nothing more to you than a few seconds wasted reading the text.
"Games don't have any inherent meaning; people have to ascribe meaning to them in the way they ascribe meaning to films, poems, books, and paintings."
Negative comments, whether intentional or not, often read as personal attacks. Since we have such a deep individual connection with a game, we don't see a negative comment for what it is. We interpret it as an insult aimed at us and our experience with the title, not at the actual game. In other words, when someone writes that World of Tanks is a pile of junk, it initially reads in my mind as, "You are stupid for enjoying this; your entertainment is invalid." It creates a visceral reaction that can't necessarily be avoided.
This goes both ways, of course. The next time you find yourself writing a grouchy comment about how stupid Call of Duty is or how Wizard101 is nothing more than a pay-to-win money generator, stop and consider your reasoning. Then consider why a person might play that sort of game. Just because you don't see the fun in something and can't connect to it doesn't diminish the joy of others or vice-versa. Any, and I do mean any, experience generated by a game is valid for the person who experiences it, regardless of whether or not it makes sense to you.
Games are just games. Remembering that will go a long way toward making the gaming community more civil.
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