This used to be fun. I’m tired. I don’t know why I’m here anymore.
The thing is, the negative opinions, even the harshest of them, don’t bother me. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Some of them will be rational. Some of them won’t be. Some folks will try to explain their opinions, but not everyone is good at articulating their opinions or even understand why they feel the way they do. Some folks are going to forget to cake their opinions in “opinion words” like “I think” or “I feel” or “I prefer.” This is people being people. And if the justifications are illogical or irrational, that doesn’t mean they are wrong to feel the way they do because generally an opinion comes before a justification. If I play a game or test a game or read a game or read an article, I’m going to come away liking it or not liking it, but it takes some thought to explain why. And I may not get that right. Self-analysis is really hard.
And if you think it isn’t hard for you, you’re wrong. Precisely because self-analysis is hard and precisely because the rationales and the justifications come after the opinions, we can all be fooled into misinterpreting our own thoughts. And we can all misstate or miscommunicate.
So the opinions don’t bother me. The analyses don’t bother me. 5E is the greatest thing ever? Sure! 5E shoves 4E under a bus? Fine. This mechanical idea will lead to disaster? Okay. This rule system is great? Cool. Whatever.
Its the fucking opinions of the opinions. That’s what gets to me. Its the constant need of people to respond to these opinions. Not just to voice a counter-opinion, but to disprove or invalidate the other opinion first. It is not enough to voice your own opinion; you must destroy the opinion you are disagreeing with. There are a lot of tactics people use here, but its all utter pointless bullshit.
So, for example, you can pick apart the justifications using logic. And then, when you find a contradiction, you’ve proven the opinion wrong. Except you really haven’t. First of all because the opinion comes before the justification. And second of all because a person’s ability to justify or explain their opinions does not actually have anything to do with the value of their ideas or the truth of their opinions. All you have proven is that you are better at logic and debate than the other person. But their ideas might still be good and your ideas might still be shit.
So, instead, you might just invalidate the opinion. Give it a dismissal. Assume the person is holding a negative opinion just because they want to hold a negative opinion. This person hates that game not because he has perfectly valid reasons, not because he genuinely doesn’t think its fun, but because he hates things. That lets you say his opinion is invalid. It doesn’t matter what he thinks because his opinions are not based on the thing itself. But this is just ridiculous. Basically, it requires you to read the person’s mind.
I’m not saying there are not stupid, irrational opinions out there. I’m not saying there are not folks who hold opinions just to stir trouble or be contrarian. What I’m saying is no one knows the difference except the person voicing the opinion, and in the case of the stupid, irrational ones, they probably don’t know either.
But arguing with those people is pointless. The stupid, irrational ones can’t be argued with because they are stupid and irrational. The contrarians can’t be argued with because they are contrarian. All you’re doing is fanning the flames. Arguing with them gives them fuel and they are never going to stop escalating.
Putting aside the idiots and the haters, that leaves only people who have genuine opinions. They may agree with yours. They may not. They may be well justified or poorly justified. They may be well explained or poorly explained. But they are genuine opinions. And people have a right to them.
The thing is, if you feel you have a right to your opinion and you feel people should give you the benefit of the doubt if you can’t quite phrase your opinion or justify it perfectly, you also need to extend that right to others. Put another way, if you want people to respect your ideas, you have to respect other people’s ideas. Even if you don’t agree with them. Voicing your opinion should not be the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand and asking everyone to take their best shot. I don’t think any intelligent, rational person really wants to do that.
So, what about the idiots and the haters? Well, what about them? The true idiots and the true haters aren’t going to suddenly grow key brain lobes or stop hating. Nothing you say is going to change it. But what you can stop doing is giving them attention. The internet is all about attention. Blogs need views. Tweets need retweets. YouTube vidoes need watches and ratings. And on and on it goes. More to the point, people need attention. If you really want to silence the idiots and the haters, all you need to do is ignore them. Then, they will languish in oscurity. Or else they might actually figure out that people aren’t buying what they are selling and they might change their product.
One way or another, it comes down to this: live and let live. If someone voices an opinion you don’t agree with, you can put your own opinion out there without attacking the other. Then, you can let people make their own judgments. And if you are afraid to trust people to tell good opinions from bad; for example, if you are afraid to trust the designers and developers at WotC to listen to the majority of gamers, well you don’t really respect people to make these judgement calls.
Ultimately, I am doing the exact thing that I am railing against here. I’m willing to admit I’m an asshole too. I’ve gone crusading against “opinions of opinions” lately and this post is basically the nuclear option in that fight. But I have a justification! Big surprise there, right?
Here’s the thing: negative opinions don’t hurt the gaming community nearly as much as “opinions of opinions” do. As noted, things are already muddy between genuine opinions, genuine opinions badly explained or justified, irrational stupidity, and outright trolling. But the “opinions of opinions” thing takes a shotgun approach: just start blasting away at all of them. The problem is, the folks in the community who might have an opinion to voice see the shotguns getting cocked and they end up afraid to open their mouth. I don’t know about you, I can handle haters and idiots screaming away in their corners because I trust people not to listen to them. What I can’t handle is people who might actually have good, useful things to say clamming up.
Worse than that, the thing is: justifications and rationales CAN BE discussed. Usefully. I can dislike something and explain my reasoning and someone else can offer a different way of looking at it that either makes me reevaluate or to understand my own opinion better. Discussion of these rationales and justifications can be extremely valuable to everyone involved: those having the conversation and those listening. But they don’t work without trust and respect first. If you come in with the goal of disproving my opinion, you are not approaching with respect. You have to come in with the understanding that my opinion is both valid and genuine and then discuss the rationales and justifications from that direction.
If you come in to attack the opinion, you’re putting the person on the defensive. They aren’t going to hear what you say after the part where you tell them they are wrong to feel the way they do. Because they really do feel the way they do, even if their reasons or explanations are incomplete, confused, or irrational. But they are now in the position of convincing you that they feel the way they do, not in analyzing their reasoning. They are now on the defensive. No good is going to come out of that.
So, in addition to convincing people to clam up and not speak their mind, you are also ruining the possibility of the good, useful discussions with the people who do speak their minds. Either way you look at it, a negative opinion is less harmful than an “opinion of an opinion.”
Put simply: the online D&D community is not being hurt by the haters and the idiots and the edition warriors. Its being hurt by the people who can’t just ignore them. They give the haters and the idiots fuel. They cause the rational, genuine people to clam up. They put rational, genuine people on the defensive and prevent good, useful, and enjoyable discussion.
It all comes down to respect. And giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. And assuming that anyone’s feelings are probably just as valid as yours, whether you agree or not.
I say this all as someone who has pretty much stopped talking about D&D and the new edition. I’ve not really talked about the playtest to anyone over an open channel except in some very vague ways. I’ve stopped blogging about it. I say this as someone who has reached a level of frustration wherein I am sniping at anyone who says “hater gonna hate” as a dismissal or starts picking apart a blog entry or forum post they don’t like in an attempt to disprove it. I say this as someone who doesn’t even want to be here anymore.
And that’s why I’m here, writing this. Because I figured I either had to get this shit out of my head or quit Twitter. But I am not going to be cowed anymore. And I’m going to make a conscious effort to stop sniping at the hater-haters. I’m saying my piece and I’m out of the fight. I’m going to talk about gaming again, in its many and varied tones. And if someone engages me in a non-constructive way, I’m going to respond in my traditional way once or twice, and then I will block them. And apart from that, I will continue to spam the Twitter community with rants about RPGs, video games, my meals, and whatever finds its way into my e-mail box.