Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Is discussion a dying art?
I was reading some blogs, following some links, and most unpleasantly stumbled upon one of the unofficial WAR forums. While there are heavily moderated, and thus good unoffical WAR forums, there are also virtually unmoderated forums about WAR which manage to be even worse than the already abysmal offical WoW forums. Somebody makes a statement of how he thinks things are, or expresses an opinion; and instead of saying "I disagree" and making a counterargument, people who disagree start various personal attacks, describe the other as being mentally retarded, call him a troll, or try to make him look stupid by correcting his spelling.
Is discussion a dying art on the internet? There is a hilarious video on YouTube about a business meeting in which the participants behave like on an internet message board, and even that is toned down compared to some of the game forums out there. MMORPG discussions tend towards the quasi-religious, with many people only accepting one true god (although that god might have changed by next week). And even in the somewhat more civilized discussion between blog these elements pop up from time to time, one blogger claiming that another hasn't got a clue, or is a fanboi, instead of engaging with his arguments.
There are very few absolute truths in this world. Sometimes the facts of a case are clear, sometimes they are disputed. And very often there are no facts at all, just subjective opinions. Me saying that I prefer WoW to WAR is completely subjective. There are arguments for it, but many of them again are based on personal preference, like me preferring PvE to PvP. Somebody else preferring WAR to WoW is equally valid. A blog is not a newspaper, there isn't even a pretense of neutral and balanced reporting. All I say on this blog is my opinion, or a report of what I've heard and believed, not an absolute truth. It is supposed to make you think, to voice your opinion, to produce counterarguments where you think I'm wrong. If you just dismiss me as
And there is enormous value in a more detailed discussion, like saying "I prefer WoW, but the open groups of WAR are really good", or "I like the crafting in WAR, but it suffers from the mail and auction house being not as good as WoW's". If we could all learn to express our preferences in a detailed and intelligent way, devs could read that discussion and improve their games with it. But if we don't use arguments at all in our discussions, and just try to shout down and insult anyone we disagree with, no sane game developer will read that. If we worship our favorite game like a golden calf in its totality, and won't allow anyone saying that maybe this or that feature is better implemented in another game, then we risk that the next game company just makes a clone of the most popular game, instead of trying to combine the best features of all previous games with some new ideas. No game is perfect, the millions of players and huge market share of WoW represent just an overall appreciation of that game; even a small game with much less players can have single features that beat the corresponding feature of WoW. But if we don't discuss, don't argue, don't talk about details, but dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with us 100% with some general statement of his incompetence, then all that information of what exactly we like or dislike is lost. And some guy in a suit will conclude that people want more games exactly like World of Warcraft, because that is all the data he has. We'd all be the poorer for that.