There is great value, of course, in being able to draw on internal strength and fortitude to face disaster or negative circumstances with an attitude of forbearance. There is also value in going through life looking for aspects to enjoy and concepts to embrace. Conversely, people who spend every day in a sea of negativity and complaint are dull and unpleasant.
Tadhg Kelly’s “Your Rage is Pointless” article, however, is not about those kinds of situations.
While I can understand frustration with people who only complain and never construct, if there is a consistent sense of rage within some general area, it is almost certainly not pointless. In fact, it almost certainly points to some central problem, some central issue that ought to be discussed and confronted.
The rictus of universal cheer is a touchy spot for me, both as a mother and as someone who has struggled with depression in the past. I personally perceive prescriptive positivity as a symptom of our society’s encroaching Harrison Bergeron-ization. Mr. Kelly lives in London – I’m not sure how it is in the UK, but here in the US there is an over-medication of our kids combined with an educational system that discourages critical thought and encourages unquestioning acceptance of the status quo. This is anathema to me.
Likewise anathema is the suggestion that negative reactions are universally destructive. We need critical thinking and criticism in the games industry just as we need it anywhere and everywhere else.
All is most emphatically not created equal. Things exist on bell curves and on spectrums. Giving everything and everyone the same “special snowflake” treatment is unfair both to the edges of bell curve and the middle. Some things are better than others, and some trends are downright bad. Popularity can never be a measure of worth.
Kelly seems specifically concerned with the rage around social games and gamification. I personally see these as very separate fields, and I do think there are valid reasons for anger pertaining to each.
Taking one at a time, I think a lot of the anger about social gaming concerns the fact that its popularity is removing funds from other game development areas. Given the extremely – and objectively – limited nature of Facebook and related games, as well as the current demographic of people who have not historically been serious gamers, it ought to be easy to see why people rail against the current popularity and ubiquitous nature of these games. Particularly the latter – people who have spent their lives thinking about how to make great games, as well as people who have historically played a much richer set of games than current FB and related games, are now confronted on a daily basis by this nascent genre that is designed to appeal only to the most limited of gaming instincts.
This anger is not pointless. It shows us that there is much more that can be – and should be! – done with this genre. This anger is rooted in the fact that money is being poured into yet another FarmVille clone that could be used to develop something innovative and interesting. Venture capital is often a zero sum game, and this anger is not wholly unwarranted, and to say it is is disingenuous. Some of the people who are angry about this are of course simply sitting there being mad. Some people are working on ways to change this status quo, and some people are working despite the status quo. Simply claiming that “any game is a good game and any new gamer is a good new gamer!” is naive at best and plain stupid at worst.
The reasons for the anger surrounding “gamification” ought to be as obvious as anything, though. Sure, there are a couple of people who are trying to do good and interesting things in the area. They are so few and far between as to be difficult to locate. I am uncertain how anyone could possibly make the argument that gamification typically even represents the development of real games, even if one were attempting to argue that “more games is always better than fewer games” (a highly debatable point in any case.)
Can games [help to] “save the world”? Insofar as any one thing, sure, I suppose they could get their hand in there. Some smart people sure are trying. But I’m pretty sure that neither gamification - even that ostensibly designed to, um, make me “better” – nor the current incarnation of quote-unquote social games are going to save the world. As far as I’m concerned, in fact, the former is actively doing it harm.
Why wouldn’t that make me angry?