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 ( 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.


Stephen Crane is stupid. And wrong.

I just got around to reading this article but had to comment. I've adopted the Seattle Seahawks as my NFL team after living in the area for the past 12 years. When the Seahawks lost the Superbowl, I was extremely sad and discouraged. It didn't help that there were some really horrible referee calls, or that one of my co-workers was a loud-mouthed Steelers fan who loved rubbing it in. But in the end, I recognized that it was still an honor to make it to the Superbowl, considering the Seahawks have long been considered that team for "mocha drinkin', tofu eatin' Seattle pansies" by our competitors.

At any rate, I'd wish people got quite as upset about real life events as they do games or sports. Just think if the Superbowl rioters could channel their efforts towards reforming Capitol Hill or Wall Street. Or what if all the competitive PVP players who get so angry about their game's latest "nerf" paid half as much attention as Afghanistan.

AARRGH. Double post, srry.

I generally avoid professional sports of all kinds but I still get enraged by the overall situation. The reason being that there are far too many millionaires on the field. For the amount of money some of these people are paid, they should always win every game forever. Fans are shelling out how many hundreds of dollars for tickets these days? I feel the same way about Hollywood. A movie made for $200,000,000 should be a transcendant epic or the people responsible are wasting all the marvelous gifts life has showered upon them.

This class division worked its way into gaming during the late 90s when John Romero invented the rockstar developer, driving Ferraris and owning penthouse offices. We've never fully shed that imagined belief that game developers are supposed to be just as talented and capable as the superstars of other entertainments. When the sequel fails they flushed all that money we paid them down the toilet.

So where's my rage coming from? I think it's a sense that fans should at least be getting their money's worth from industries that provide momentary fluff entertainment. If we're going to go for bread and circus the bread should at least not be scorched and the circus not swapping out the lions for marmots. Mostly I just avoid getting upset except at the situation, in which the mobs of fans are just as worthy of blame as the prima donnas on the field.

Other industries that are responsible for things like making the world a better place for generations to come (like teachers) are on the border of financial collapse and still recieving the same rage of entitlement from the media and faceless internet masses.