The Cynicism of the Commons
This is something I’ve been thinking about recently. There is just about nothing that comes out of video games that lacks controversy. It can be taxing and makes most video game news just disinteresting. You can’t get excited about anything because you’ll invariably not be able to enjoy it with others. Whenever you try to get into the comments and chat about how excited your are you see people furious with whatever the news is. This gives you the illusion that there is no happiness to be found from gaming.
But the way I see it, this is something similar to the tragedy of the commons. Imagine you run a website about cooking. For every food that someone loves there is another person that hates them. But you don’t necessarily realize that or think about it. So you write a recipe with bananas and find your comments about people who hate bananas. They can’t believe you’d use them in your recipe and ruin it. So then you try tomatoes, and again, everyone is furious. Tomatoes?! You madman, this is absolutely preposterous! How about olives? Again, the comments are full of rage.
What does that leave you, the writer? It gives the impression that everything you try is terrible. Nobody likes what you do, no matter what you try. You try to mix it up and nothing seems to please “them”. The commons is this massive pie chart, but folks don’t see the slices, they just see the pie. I can’t blame them either. It eats away at me when I’m trying to have a good time. So I end up evading comment sections altogether. I have a hard time believing that this is an unusual reaction to take as a positive person. Just about anything a person thinks is unique about them, is not. That’s one of those revelations that everyone has at some point while using the internet.
Every little quirk that you think is “yours” ends up on a meme.
With that in mind. If positive people are avoiding the comments then what are you left with? You are left with the vile dredge of hatred that remains. In the end you’ve got this impression that your hobby is nothing but nastiness. It also gives the impression that what you like is not liked. That it is “yours”. But it isn’t, you aren’t the only person with your interests. You, like those that disagree with you, are one of a vast population.
It’s not even just unfortunate for you. I don’t generally like using the term “bandwagon” but it’s apt in this discussion. The only people commenting end up being people who are mad about something. So they see everyone else raging with them and it creates this vacuum chamber. The more emotional people are about a topic the more concentrated this becomes. Anyone that happens to be outside of the “group” but is interested in discussing the topic will be demonized and harassed until they leave. This isn’t something that “sometimes” happens, this is something that always happens.
Because of this nobody ever has their views challenged. Having your views challenged doesn’t mean you are wrong. And the goal, to me, isn’t even to get people to change their views. Instead I think it is important to chat with people because it helps flesh out your views. You get to see new angles at topics in your life and become more nuanced in your opinions. An example of this could be something like abortions. Two people can both be very against the act, but the ways that they wish to tackle it could be vastly different. One person might want to completely eliminate the option while the other wants to prevent conception in the first place. And even THEN those two views can be more nuanced, with more granularity and diversity.
Monocultures are dangerous in nature and in mentality. But the internet has evolved in a way that is almost tailor made to culture it. It’s a shame because it means that nothing gets better. Things change, certainly. I’ve watched quite a few games change. Movies, books, etc. But it is almost never addressing the root problem. Outside of games you can find this politically in the US. Kneejerk changes to media is a lot like voting for a president but ignoring congress. Yes, you can “win”. The person you vote for becomes president. But folks will, year over year, complain (rightfully so) that politics never changes. They complain that this problem they find important never changes.
But it doesn’t because they’ve been absorbed into a monoculture. They do things that don’t matter, that are tangentially related to their woes at best, and celebrate when they “win”.
I find it sad. And it’s likely why I’ve become less and less involved with online discussions about just about anything. I might be interested in trying to foster something more productive. It’s not about agreeing, it’s about being friendly in your expression of self. Not leading with demonization and hyperbole. Until someone, or somewhere, does this, we’ll continue to suffer the Cynicism of the Commons.