Just a Hater
My mother has a rule. It’s the Kubrick Rule. Perhaps it’s more of a theory than a rule, but it goes something like this…
“Stanley Kubrick is a terrible filmmaker. His films are terrible films. The problem is, some guy, some movie critic decided they were good movies – probably just to make a name for himself – and then came the result that others began to agree, just so they wouldn’t seem to not be in the know. It became “hip cultural currency” to be Kubrick fan and that’s how guys like him get to be worshiped, even though it’s inexplicable if you consider their body of work.”
So, the Kubrick Rule is a strange little introduction, but it sets up what follows here. It’s a little bit of a rocky road but I’m going somewhere, stay with me. This is a point that has a lot to do with communication in the gaming hobby.
I am definitely my mother’s son (insert mama’s boy joke here…). I find many things that are popular and well thought of to be inexplicable. I think Grant Morrison is a terrible writer – if a comic has his name on it, I’m going nowhere near it. I hated Batman Begins. I can’t stand R.A. Salvatore’s books. I can’t stand games based on the FATE system – or FATE-style play. I wish Games Workshop would put me in charge of writing the next set of rules for the 40K wargame – because they’re currently awful. I think the Serenity movie is a terrible piece of film and it nearly ruined my love for the original material.
That list is restricted to “geek” things, but I assure you, this carries over into the rest of my life as well. I have serious problems with a lot of what is considered high-concept “art.” I’m willing to admit that maybe I just don’t get it… but sometimes I think I really do…
Now of course, that last statement sounds a little arrogant, but it sets me up to move into the point. And that is, I want to talk about communities and the way we communicate in our hobbies. My problem is – I tend to buck the trend. I’ve noticed two significant trends in this arena I find interesting and instructive.
The first goes a little like this: “Don’t listen to that guy, he’s just a hater.” I find it interesting that forum communities don’t support opposing views very well. A strong tendency exists in the communities I’ve frequented to assume that if a poster writes anything contradictory to the “common opinion” that clearly their opinion has no value because “they’re just a hater.” It’s frustrating to have a well-reasoned idea shot down, not because it lacks inherent value, but because the argument is in any way contrary to the “group-think” of that community.
But hey, it’s the internet, what do I expect? Well, I expect more, but that’s not really as important or as frustrating as my second point. I was recently lurking on a conversation taking place on the D&D forums over at Wizards. In this discussion, a poster suggested some ideas for how he or she would improve the game – from a business standpoint. Of course, this was a terrible mistake because he was immediately vilified by the community. But the reasoning was interesting to consider. What everyone jumped on him (or her) for was lack of expertise.
That part really intrigued me. Specifically, the idea that this poster was some “wanna-be” who wouldn’t know is head from his *** because if he was sooooo smart about how to run a gaming company, wouldn’t he be running one himself? I’m paraphrasing the responses and condensing several which were much more rude to the original poster – but really, that’s a strange argument.
After all, what does the poster know? Well, for one, said poster may be a successful business owner of their own company. Perhaps a professor of business at a university? But his or her day job keeps food on the table. Running a gaming company may not. Heck, this person may be an idiot. That’s possible. But it wasn’t what the poster actually wrote which was attacked, but the poster’s presumed lack of ethos to write about it.
Let me put it this way. I’m a student of Rhetoric and Writing. I am something of an “expert” of several topics in my field and my particular interest is technology and composition pedagogy, plagiarism, and interdisciplinary studies. I have also been a manager for a corporation, studied leadership, and currently I am teaching composition at a University. My professional credentials do not include game design, film-maker, or professional comic-book writer. However, I’ve been gaming for nearly 30 years. I’ve written two games of my own and countless pages of material for games I’ve run. I assume that most people who read this blog have a similar experience. When I (we) make a comment about something in the gaming industry or a game I’m reading, I think (and I do) that I have enough experience to realistically make intelligent inferences about those things and I don’t expect to be told that I can’t simply because I don’t work for Wizards… it’s such an odd argument that it really boggled my mind. And if I make a comment (and I’m putting myself in the shoes of that poor poster over at Wizards) about the business side of gaming, well, it’s true that I don’t make games for a living – but I have 13 years of practical experience running small to medium size businesses and again, feel fairly confident in making inferences from those experiences.
Again, I’m not entirely certain that I should be surprised. I’m not certain that I can change it. But consider this a call for intelligent discussion, a call for reasoned response, and above all, a call for reading what someone says and judging the merits of the writing, not just the writer.