The internet has brought us many wonderful things. Most notably, a lot of easily accessible niche porn, but also wonderful things like online bill paying, instant messenger, downloadable games, online games, MMORPG… really, the list is endless. Frankly, it is amazing white collar workers are productive at all anymore. Unfortunately, the internet has also brought us some very terrible things. J-Date ranks high on that list (along with the rest of online dating), but by far the worst of all is internet forums.
Why internet forums, you ask eagerly? Your puppy dog eyes betray a depth of hurt: after all, you undoubtedly spend your time trolling gamefaqs.com, or perhaps like me you pick a flavor and hit up the Rock Band forums or Civfanatics. But no matter what forum you read, you’re going to get the same things… over…and over… and over…
Perhaps the most time consuming of the forum phenomena. At a certain level, it’s cute. Someone has a point of view. Someone else disagrees. But then it stops being cute after the 20th page of the same arguments. And before long it degenerates into name calling and trolling. Because in this infinite world of infinite viewpoints, people will agree to disagree–and in good dinner company, they leave it at that. But on the internet, where everyone is avoiding actually working (or hiding in mommy’s basement from sunlight), they need to have the last word… or the last last word… or the lastest word…
You spend an hour carefully crafting a detailed essay as to why a particular game developer has dropped the ball on their latest creation. You have a list of cited references, complex charts, and managed to get published by a prestigious sociological journal. You post it on Civfanatics.com. Your first 5 responses are (in order):
“Why don’t you make a video game if it’s so easy.”
“Sid Meier is the best, I’m going to suck his cock right now!”
“I’m going to go patch the game for Sid Meier! Because his awesomeness deserves my worship as a paying customer!”
“Fall Out Boy sucks, that’s not music, we need more Led Zeppelin!” (whoops, wrong forum)
Rationality is out the window. You are in the land of the fanboy. Logic has no place here. And no, I’m not bitter, I swear!
Is it me, or does every forum seem to have the same group of people either jerking each other off, no matter what the topic (Peanut butter and jelly is the best! Yeah!), or the same group trolling each other? Its like all of the kids who weren’t popular in high school banded together on the internet to overwhelm the rest of us. Ordinarily I wouldn’t care, but it seems impossible to hold a meaningful dialogue: anyone who is an “outsider” is either glossed over or rapidly swept away in a sea of angry trolls.
The biggest shame of all of this is that the forums could be a great form of communication for gamer-kind; a near unlimited, highly technical group of people brought together by a given interest (be it games as a whole, a particular game, a genre, whatever). Unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people, and instead of any sort of meaningful dialogue you get a caricature of human communication that is more interested in contradiction and flaming than actual conversation or forward progress for games.
While this might evoke a “so what” reaction, forums serve as the easiest insight a game developer or game reviewer has into the masses at large. And since the masses at large are composed of the vocally abusive asshats and the largely silent majority, it’s a medium that goes largely underutilized. Communications from companies and developers have to be brusque and professional, with heavy moderation. Any sort of attempt at human communication are met with the raging fury of the mob.
It seems that the internet is better at tearing down than building. Hackers and the like can dedicate unlimited manpower against any security system because they don’t want to pay anything (or want the notoriety). Yet when it comes to building useful content, like mods or maps or even actual ideas, the DOTA of the internet are far outweighed by the 100 remixes of Zelda and Mario theme music on GH:WT. And thus where forum communication could be a treasure trove of intellectual capital for a game designer, instead it is filled with the lowest of the low demanding more boobies and decrying anything and everything.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the computer looking at porn. At least I’ll be satisfied with the interaction.