Your Bias Is Showing

In a word, the recent uproar over Killzone 2, its numerous early reviews and the reaction of the clinically insane has been silly. I have watched Adam Sessler’s acerbic and foul-mouthed rebuttal, have read the inane commentary posted on PSXtreme and read a measure too great of posts from the dramatically uninformed and deeply paranoid. I wash my hands of it, and have no interest in using this space to dive into the unholy scatological mire that has been stirred.

I do, however, want to take this opportunity to open debate on the topic of bias.

It is a word with many meanings, but most commonly it is used as a pejorative designed to discredit dissenting opinion. It is the ammunition packed full in the clips of angry readers, and often shot indiscriminately in the wake of controversy. It is rarely used accurately or correctly, and usually comes with very little evidence in support.

It is also entirely accurate to accuse every writer of bias, though what that actually means may be far more benign than common commentary suggests.

I have a bias; an inclination or partiality. Show me a gamer or writer who doesn’t, who has no preference about the kind of game or the platform they play on, and I’ll show you someone whose opinion I care nothing about. Bias informs. Bias gives context. Bias humanizes.

Bias is a good thing.

This kind of outlandish statement may make me the Gordon Gecko of games writing, but my impression is that the most passionate people want everyone else to talk about games as if they were emotionless robots. What may seem even stranger is that I would not describe bias as the problem with these vocal and imperturbable brand advocates.

My bias is toward the PC. That inclination informs the way I think about other games, and gives me a perspective that, say, a passionate console gamer might not have. I think about all gaming in some relation to my bias, sometimes overtly and sometimes in very subtle ways. I can’t, for example, play a console shooter without being intensely conscious of the control scheme and the sometimes sluggish feel to turning and movement with a thumb stick. Detached from previous experiences though I might wish to be, my muscles are too deeply trained, my concept of the genre too firm.

I suppose some would say that I am, therefore, a poor fit for having an opinion on a console shooter. I’m sure there are some who would rail endlessly against my unmitigated lack of credibility, because I can’t look at Gears of War without thinking about Quake or Counter-Strike. And, that’s exactly the kind of fanatical zealotry that makes me want to tear tufts of hair straight from my head.

The problem is the synonymous nature of bias and prejudice. There is a fine line between the two, and I could probably spend a couple of paragraphs distilling the definitions of the two words in what would be, I think, an incredible exercise of the epically boring. Sparing you the etymological study, I will say that I see the key difference as bias describing inclination and preference where prejudice brings preconceived, usually negative barriers. In concrete game terms, it is the difference between these two approaches –

Bias – I have a fundamental problem with the controls of Gears of War 2 because I like the way shooters play with a mouse and keyboard.

Prejudice – Console shooters suck.

I have a PC-centric bias; however I have played numerous console shooters that were able to elevate themselves above that bias. I don’t believe I would have been able to appreciate those games the same way if I had a prejudice.

I realize this whole argument may seem tantamount to saying that insane console fanatics are screaming bias when what they actually mean is prejudice, but the underlying point that I want to drive home is that we need to stop feeling like any preconceived notion that informs a game opinion is an automatic negative. Bias is an inescapable phenomenon. Bias gives weight and history to our opinions.

Bias is good.

Comments

superslug wrote:

is it always possible to be aware of bias?

I find if I go into a game expecting to enjoy it because it has been recommended by a friend I am more likely to enjoy it. If I expect to find an enjoyable experience usually I look for that rather than at the flaws that might get in the way. I think I subconsciously look for the fun my friend found.

I think there can be a lot of influences that are not easy to spot the way people play games and that will affect (effect? I am never sure) their feeling about the game and their review.

I would say it is always possible, if you are self aware enough. But if you manage to silence the 'executive' gamer in you and just immerse yourself in the experience then it may be subsumed in the experience.

Elysium wrote:
I could be wrong, but isn't that only if the thing you're quoting is either a full sentence or the end of a full sentence?

Nope, scribble is right. Punctuation is always inside the quotation.

That's not always true. When the terminal punctuation for the sentence is not a period and not a part of the quote, then the punctuation is placed outside the quotation marks.

Elysium wrote:

Also, I am this close to making it a rule that all threads must end in arcane discussions of grammar and/or etymology.

How close is that?

wordsmythe wrote:
Elysium wrote:
I could be wrong, but isn't that only if the thing you're quoting is either a full sentence or the end of a full sentence?

Nope, scribble is right. Punctuation is always inside the quotation.

That's not always true. When the terminal punctuation for the sentence is not a period and not a part of the quote, then the punctuation is placed outside the quotation marks.

Really? When would anyone ever do that? I emphatically agree with the person who asked, "Doesn't this hurt everyone's eyes?"! Was that correct, and have you actually seen that as an editor and not told the writer to change it?

Nyles wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Elysium wrote:
I could be wrong, but isn't that only if the thing you're quoting is either a full sentence or the end of a full sentence?

Nope, scribble is right. Punctuation is always inside the quotation.

That's not always true. When the terminal punctuation for the sentence is not a period and not a part of the quote, then the punctuation is placed outside the quotation marks.

Really? When would anyone ever do that? I emphatically agree with the person who asked, "Doesn't this hurt everyone's eyes?"! Was that correct, and have you actually seen that as an editor and not told the writer to change it?

That's an awkward example, with which I take different issues. A more common example would be:

Who wrote, "Now is the winter of our discontent"?

The question mark goes outside the quotation marks because the question isn't part of the quotation itself.

scribble wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

The Cubs still suck.

Trachalio wrote:

These same people (fanboys) tend to not know how to use the word "bias" in a sentence. More than a few times I've seen comments like "Kotaku is bias!" or "Sessler loves Xbots, he is bias!" It's basic freekin' grammar! Either someone "has a bias" or they are "biased". You cannot "have bias". Argh!

Are you hitting on me?

Not unless you're British. (Quotation marks go after commas and periods, damn it!)

According to the Canadian Press Stylebook, p. 226:

16. Periods and commas always go inside closing quote marks; colons and semicolons outside. The question mark and exclamation mark go inside the quote marks when they apply to the quoted matter only; outside when the apply to the entire sentance

Grammar buuuuuurn!

Trachalio: GWJ's official grammar masochist?

Trachalio wrote:

Grammar buuuuuurn!

I can only picture the Hulk saying this.

wordsmythe wrote:

Trachalio: GWJ's official grammar masochist?

I wish. I am well aware that there's a lot more that I don't know, grammatically speaking, than I do know. I just happened to have the right resource material at work this morning

Today I got the chance in a work meeting to point out on some marketing materials that the period goes inside the quotes. Though personally, I prefer the British method.

wordsmythe wrote:

That's an awkward example, with which I take different issues. A more common example would be:

Who wrote, "Now is the winter of our discontent"?

The question mark goes outside the quotation marks because the question isn't part of the quotation itself.

Oh, I see. I wouldn't have thought that.

I like the British method, too, and wish I could get away with using it. It just makes more sense to me.

wordsmythe wrote:

Who wrote, "Now is the winter of our discontent"?

Stewie Griffin.

Nailed it!