The Noise and the Fury

Last week the New England Patriots (a professional American football team that plays near Boston) lost to the New York Giants (a professional American football team that is inaccurately named because no one wants to watch the New Jersey Giants ever in a million years). To those disinterested in the competitions of giant, armored men, this game was to those of us who do not share such a view a pretty big deal, if not the most interesting ever played. In New York, and I guess to a lesser extent New Jersey, there is joy at the results. In Boston, almost apoplectic angst.

Stick with me, this isn’t actually an article about football, even though I’m about to link to an article on ESPN.

As a fan of the Green Bay Packers (a professional American football team that, you note, did not play in this very important game), I know a little bit about disappointment and distress at losing the big one. Or, more specifically, not even getting to play in the big one. However, to witness some of the reactions, you might think that the defeated Patriots had committed genocide. In this article (http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7...) Rick Reiley hits it right on the head, the wailing and gnashing of teeth is ridiculous to the point of being almost offensive.

The sad thing is that I can’t help but feel like the Patriots probably now know what it feels like to be a game designer that has launched a poorly received game. Or, put another way, I think Tom Brady may for one brief moment have something in common with a Brad Wardell or Denis Dyack.

Let me clarify, this isn’t about to become a protest of the fact that people can get disappointed, disenchanted or even disgusted when things go poorly. This isn’t even an article saying you shouldn’t invest yourself in the things for which you develop a not always rational passion. Those are not philosophies to which I subscribe in the least. All that said, I can’t help but feel like there is a growing pattern of unhealthy obsession and extreme reactions to entertainment of all kinds.

There is, or should be, a nice thick line between disappointment and entitled outrage. The first is what happens when your football team loses a football game or when a video game you were looking forward to isn’t as good as you had hoped. The second is what happens when your neighbor drives a riding lawnmower into the side of your house — or better yet you are falsely imprisoned for a felony. These are not things that we should still be interchanging recklessly.

I understand frustration at draconian DRM, overpriced games, developers cutting corners, reviewers missing the point and almost abusive tendencies of publishers. I don’t want to seem like these things aren’t worth discussing, sometimes strongly, but I feel like perspective too often gets lost in the knee-jerk world of tweets, 24/7 coverage, enthusiast press and the new digital frontier. At the risk of sounding like I’m pointing out that there are starving people in Africa so shut up and eat your lima beans, don’t we have better things to aim our righteous fury at?

I feel like we are living in an age where extreme reaction and hyper-sensitivity isn’t just the norm but rewarded. I can’t tell if it’s because we have all just given ourselves permission to deviate as needed from what should be social norms, whether we are still trying to figure out what a social norm is in the age of Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards and talk-back TV, or whether I’m just becoming intolerant to what feels more and more like a great big bunch of noise.

It’s easy enough, I suppose, to ignore the people who rant and rave without any consideration for logic, argument or basic communication skills. But my concern is that they are the trailblazers of modern criticism, and that too many of us capable of better and more are inadvertently being led down the chaotic path. Because it’s not just the screamers, the madmen yelling at the sidewalk. I see this destructive approach as often couched in the artificial disguise of calm logic as anywhere else, because this isn’t so much about tone as it is self-centered tunnel vision.

And, there’s no preventing that kind of dialogue. I know I can not prevent anyone from chasing their windmills, but that I can wave a hardy ‘no, thank you’ when they insist I mount up and grab a lance.

There is room in this short sweet life for diminishing that which can be diminished, and existing in a world where not everything is a matter of vital importance. There is room for subtlety and being engaged only to a reasonable extent; of being able to say “Nah, I don’t care much for that, but if it happens, I’ll get over it.” There is room for understanding that this is a fundamentally unfair world, and no need to rend your very flesh every time something kind of unfair happens. It is OK to empathize even with those whose priorities are not aligned with yours.

It is OK to not be a champion for every cause, but just a person getting by who doesn’t have all that much time to care about every little thing that happens in an entertainment industry. It is OK to just get over it sometimes. In fact, I’d say it’s probably something most of us — certainly me among them — could strive to do a little more often.

Comments

From Wikipedia (I'm in a hurry, first source I got)

In the 2000s Boston's professional teams had arguably the most successful decade in sports history, winning 7 championships (3 by the Patriots, 2 by the Red Sox, and 1 each by the Celtics and Bruins).[1] When the Bruins reached the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the city of Boston became the first city in the 21st Century to have all four of its major professional league teams win a league championship, and it is the only city ever to have championships in all four major professional leagues within a ten-year span (from the Patriots' victory in February 2005 to the Bruins' in June 2011).[2] In just six years, between February 2005 and June 2011, Boston's teams completed what Sports Illustrated dubbed as the "Grand Slam of North American sports".[3]

Juxtaposing this with the stuff I saw written in that article you posted...wow, just wow. Is there a bit of a culture of entitlement going on there?

Oh, and I agree with you on the actual point of your article too. Wow.

As many of the old timers here know, I am an alumni of the University of Oklahoma. In the 2000's, we went to four (4!) national championship games. We lost the last three (won in 2000, lost in 2003, 2004 and 2008). I have friends that I went to college with that complain about our team not being "good enough", or that we choke.

My only reply is that we have been to FOUR national championship games in a decade. In what world is that not a spectacular achievement? Win or not, no other team has been there that many times. Would I have liked to have won another one or two? Sure. But I will never understand the people that think if you don't win the last game of the season then it was all for nothing.

I guess that's all I have to say about that.

During the Olympics a while back, I saw a rather disparaging interview where the commentator asked an athlete (I think it was Greg Louganis but really can't remember who it was) if he thought he had failed by "only" getting a silver medal. The athlete stared at the interviewer for several seconds before saying something like "Are you asking if I am disappointed at being the second best athlete in my chosen field in the world?"

So yeah, it really feels that at some point we entered a world where the only options are perfection and disgrace. People seem to forget that sometimes the best we can do is just that.

Title misread as "The Nose and the Furry". I'm quite disappointed by the actual content.

Exhibit A: Reaction to Chobot's appearance in Mass Effect 3.

plasticsaber wrote:

Exhibit A: Reaction to Chobot's appearance in Mass Effect 3.

Totally justified! IMAGE(http://i387.photobucket.com/albums/oo320/allina1985/simleys/1132_childish_teasing_smiley_sticki.gif)

plasticsaber wrote:

Exhibit A: Reaction to Chobot's appearance in Mass Effect 3.

Heh! Yeah that's pretty much it.

It's bizarre this trend lately of attacking a game before it's even released, often based on a handful of screenshots or a single comment from a designer or a strange casting choice. People need to chill out! It doesn't happen as often in goodjerville, but it does on occasion.

After it's out I suppose people are certainly entitled to be disappointed, but the anger that some people seem to muster is crazy. I like to think of myself as pretty laid back, if a game turns out bad, I generally just sigh and move on. The last thing I want to do is lambast it on a forum, at that point I want to stop thinking about it altogether.

Redwing wrote:
plasticsaber wrote:

Exhibit A: Reaction to Chobot's appearance in Mass Effect 3.

Heh! Yeah that's pretty much it.

It's bizarre this trend lately of attacking a game before it's even released, often based on a handful of screenshots or a single comment from a designer or a strange casting choice. People need to chill out! It doesn't happen as often in goodjerville, but it does on occasion.

I think it's worth bearing in mind that the valid reason some were angry, upset or unimpressed about that casting choice wasn't because it was Chobot - it was because she had previewed the game in the last fortnight, and starring in it was perceived to be a conflict of interest - which is a fair point.

CY wrote:
Redwing wrote:
plasticsaber wrote:

Exhibit A: Reaction to Chobot's appearance in Mass Effect 3.

Heh! Yeah that's pretty much it.

It's bizarre this trend lately of attacking a game before it's even released, often based on a handful of screenshots or a single comment from a designer or a strange casting choice. People need to chill out! It doesn't happen as often in goodjerville, but it does on occasion.

I think it's worth bearing in mind that the valid reason some were angry, upset or unimpressed about that casting choice wasn't because it was Chobot - it was because she had previewed the game in the last fortnight, and starring in it was perceived to be a conflict of interest - which is a fair point.

Yes, that point is completely fair. But I don't think it suffices to justify the volume and vehemence of the abuse that her avatar will apparently suffer at the hands of Shepards everywhere come launch day. And the point isn't restricted to Chobot - not every such misstep (and EA/Bioware advertising has had its share) needs to be made a rationalization for frothing outrage. In fact the anger usually obscures the valid kernel of the objection.

Strangeblades wrote:

1) Did we all bitch about games back when we were kids playing Super Mario and that Luigi was not getting enough screen time? No? We didn't? I wonder why? Oh yeah. I know. It was when the Internet showed up and gave each of us a soapbox, a megaphone and a mask.***

2) Just play the games. I think getting upset about an entertainment product, ANY entertainment product, is counter-productive. If it's not entertaining go do something else. Jesus. You only have so much time on Earth before you are worm food. Spend less of it bitching and more of it playing.

I don't know if it's a symptom of getting old, but I find I only have so much energy for getting annoyed with things before I say "f*** it" and just move on (I'm sure there's counter-examples from my posting history). Like you say, make better use of your time by spending it playing video games.

1) Did we all bitch about games back when we were kids playing Super Mario and that Luigi was not getting enough screen time? No? We didn't? Then I wondered when that happened. Oh wait, I know. It was when the Internet showed up and gave each of us a soapbox, a megaphone and a mask.***

2) Just play the games. I think getting upset about an entertainment product, ANY entertainment product, is counter-productive. If it's not entertaining go do something else. Jesus. You only have so much time on Earth before you are worm food. Spend less of it bitching and more of it playing.

Spoiler:

***In the interest of, um, uh, my point here is my real name and what I do. I'm Shannon Quesnel, 39 years old and I'm a reporter working in Elliot Lake, Ontario

Should I be disturbed that I find myself agreeing with Strangeblades as wholeheartedly as I do?

Great article.

There have been many times I have felt in the past few years that the only way anyone can get their point across is to be outraged by something. Personally, I am outraged at the fact that I have to be outraged all the time. I long for the day where I can express my opinions as "mildly perturbed."

FeralMonkey wrote:

Should I be disturbed that I find myself agreeing with Strangeblades as wholeheartedly as I do?

F-yeah. That's some crazy sh*t you're talking 'bout.

Great article! I wonder how much this sort of unjustified outrage ties in with the sense of entitlement that seems to be growing in our society. We've grown accustomed to being the very best at all things at all times, and when that doesn't happen, our poor little egos can't take it anymore.

On the flip side of the coin, however, how much of this is just a vocal minority giving everyone else a bad name? With the Internet, its easier than ever to get your voice heard, and those screaming loudest seem to be those in the outspoken minority. I think there are many from Boston that have had a reasonable reaction to the Super Bowl loss (like was mentioned, Boston's had an unheard of run in American sports).

In the end, I think my point is that we have a couple of different factors merging at this intersection of unreasonable outrage.

"I see this destructive approach as often couched in the artificial disguise of calm logic as anywhere else, because this isn’t so much about tone as it is self-centered tunnel vision."

Word. I always wonder a bit if the long-term screamers always got what they wanted as 2-year-olds by throwing tantrums until their parents broke.

Eventually, you have to get over the fact that someone's doing something you dislike. You can only control your own actions.

I think Origin's EULA is ridiculous - so I decided not to get EA games, let the company know why, and moved on. My time's worth too much to spend bolstering ranks of the raging toddlers, even if said toddlers have a point.

plasticsaber wrote:

Yes, that point is completely fair. But I don't think it suffices to justify the volume and vehemence of the abuse that her avatar will apparently suffer at the hands of Shepards everywhere come launch day. And the point isn't restricted to Chobot - not every such misstep (and EA/Bioware advertising has had its share) needs to be made a rationalization for frothing outrage. In fact the anger usually obscures the valid kernel of the objection.

Oh totally, I agree. What bothered me were people's violent, openly hostile reactions to her as a person being in ME, rather than the journalistic issue at hand. Priorities, people.

Great article!

Things like video games, sports, movies are a great way to get together with friends and a have good time. When you start being the kind of person who foams from the mouth about how bad it is, well the fun stops and you've killed the entertainment.

And let's be honest, most of us value our opinion higher than anyone else does. So just laugh, enjoy, and don't be an asshole.

Interestingly, I think this ties into a discussion with friends last night where we were discussing the reaction to the child rape scandal and Joe Paterno, specifically how people were indignant that the whole affair NOT CHANGE THEIR ENJOYMENT OF SUPPORTING THEIR TEAM.

I agree with the major conclusion: people in the US (and probably dating back to the Romans in their ampitheater) have no sense of proportion when it comes to their entertainments.

Strangeblades wrote:

1) Did we all bitch about games back when we were kids playing Super Mario and that Luigi was not getting enough screen time? No? We didn't? Then I wondered when that happened. Oh wait, I know. It was when the Internet showed up and gave each of us a soapbox, a megaphone and a mask.***

2) Just play the games. I think getting upset about an entertainment product, ANY entertainment product, is counter-productive. If it's not entertaining go do something else. Jesus. You only have so much time on Earth before you are worm food. Spend less of it bitching and more of it playing.

Spoiler:

***In the interest of, um, uh, my point here is my real name and what I do. I'm Shannon Quesnel, 39 years old and I'm a reporter working in Elliot Lake, Ontario

I play games because it's an enjoyable hobby. Getting legitimately upset is perhaps a strange response, but arguing and being impassioned about the evolution of that hobby seems reasonable to me. I didn't argue about SMB because I was a kid. I don't hold my tastes and ability to express them to the standards I had in preadolescence.

Nathaniel wrote:

I agree with the major conclusion: people in the US (and probably dating back to the Romans in their ampitheater) have no sense of proportion when it comes to their entertainments.

I don't think the USA has anything on soccer fans abroad. Europeans pretty much invented rage-quitting in the form of open brawls in the stands, and "soccer hooligans". You don't see 8ft chain link fences and rings of police at american football games. Its HUGE news when one person gets a beat down for wearing the wrong color at a game here.

And as to the topic, yes - outrageous responses are rewarded on the internet. But this is a societal problem - not an internet one really. We now have 24hr news, and 24hr sports networks, where the biggest response will always be the most outrageous reporting. Its why FOX News *puke* has an audience period.

And with abundance, its easy to be extremely picky, which is what we are seeing in the MMO world right now. So many good MMOs that you can play without a monthly sub. And its such a well defined genre that its easy to see the WoW imitators from the genre benders. Just like with sports and news, the wannabe's stand out from the innovators, and its fun to /point /laugh just like you want to do IRL to douchebags and tools if it were socially/morally acceptable to do so.

I find that GWJ has the opposite problem to the topic of this article.

Any minority response that isn't fawning adulation gets attacked as entitlement 'getting worked up' and dismissed or made fun of.

While getting the pitchforks out about videogames is silly, -discussion- presumably what we are all here for, doesn't need to be a circle jerk.

It's difficult to sympathize or get worked up anymore when even the most jaded of us would have to admit that with digital distribution and advances in middleware etc.. we as PC gamers have a vast selection of quality games from AAA releases with console controls to Indy niche genre games that have production values that years ago would rival $50 games for $10 or less.

So while it's everyones right to get worked up why bother? Instead go play a game that you do like.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I find that GWJ has the opposite problem to the topic of this article.

Any minority response that isn't fawning adulation gets attacked as entitlement 'getting worked up' and dismissed or made fun of.

While getting the pitchforks out about videogames is silly, -discussion- presumably what we are all here for, doesn't need to be a circle jerk.

I'd get worked up about this, but ... .

I find that GWJ has the opposite problem to the topic of this article.

Any minority response that isn't fawning adulation gets attacked as entitlement 'getting worked up' and dismissed or made fun of.

While getting the pitchforks out about videogames is silly, -discussion- presumably what we are all here for, doesn't need to be a circle jerk.

Well, that was kind of the point of why we made the site in the first place though. Not everything needs a guy to come in and remind us all why something also sucks. Not everything is a discussion that needs a counter-point, and there's few things more annoying than someone wandering into a conversation clearly created for fans of something to share their enjoyment just to drop some science on why X also sucks.

Sometimes it's ok to live by the philosophy that if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything.

Elysium wrote:
I find that GWJ has the opposite problem to the topic of this article.

Any minority response that isn't fawning adulation gets attacked as entitlement 'getting worked up' and dismissed or made fun of.

While getting the pitchforks out about videogames is silly, -discussion- presumably what we are all here for, doesn't need to be a circle jerk.

Well, that was kind of the point of why we made the site in the first place though. Not everything needs a guy to come in and remind us all why something also sucks. Not everything is a discussion that needs a counter-point, and there's few things more annoying than someone wandering into a conversation clearly created for fans of something to share their enjoyment just to drop some science on why X also sucks.

Sometimes it's ok to live by the philosophy that if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything.

...

That's sort of the problem with the internet as a medium, though. If you aren't speaking, and speaking frequently, you tend to get forgotten and left out of the conversation. In light of the way that dynamic works, I understand why people feel compelled to respond.

While no one likes 'that guy' who feels compelled to say something unpleasant for the sake of saying something that's not what I'm talking about.

If one casts a dispassionate eye on the last few pages of the X-com thread you will see one person making articulate and calm, if slightly verbose, comments being met with quite uncalled for dismissiveness and snark. And that's becoming a pretty common response to anyone who steps out of line.

Isn't that just a form of groupthink, which pretty much seems to be just something people do. I don't think you'll ever be free of it in any kind of discussion forum, but as an individual (part of the group or not) you need to be aware of it happening.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

While no one likes 'that guy' who feels compelled to say something unpleasant for the sake of saying something that's not what I'm talking about.

If one casts a dispassionate eye on the last few pages of the X-com thread you will see one person making articulate and calm, if slightly verbose, comments being met with quite uncalled for dismissiveness and snark. And that's becoming a pretty common response to anyone who steps out of line.

Wait, are you saying "No! You are stupid and wrong!" isn't better than "I have considered your contentions but remain unpersuaded"!?

Stephen Crane wrote:

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!"
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”