Live and Let Live

It’s a pretty great day today, if you’re into human rights and equality. If you’re not, I think it’s a very good opportunity to evaluate for yourself why that is. There may be any number of reasons, but it’s worth understanding them for yourself and being consistent in your behavior. Rather than hiding behind a wall of rhetoric, it’s worth considering why today’s events make you happy, angry, or whatever else.

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I used to find it frustrating when people didn’t like media that I loved. It’s easy to associate your emotions regarding a particular thing with your sense of self, and then view any criticism of that thing as a criticism of yourself. I love Thief– I think it’s a brilliant game that changes the dynamic of so many video games and focuses on movement and exploration instead of violence– outright punishing use of force in a way that other games don’t. It’s important, though, that I don’t take the extra step and say that because Thief is a nonviolent game, that it’s somehow better in some absolute (moral/philosophical/whatever) way than other games that aren’t nonviolent. It’s easy to take that step into pushing that view onto others– trying to portray something as objectively good rather that subjectively good imposes that viewpoint on the people hearing you, which I think is problematic.

We seek to validate our opinions, and one of the things that’s come from the Information Age is a shift from validating our opinions through the acceptance of those around us to achieving validation from “facts”. We’ve become masters of rhetoric and debate in the last decade, with an endless wealth of information and education at our fingertips. We can justify any opinion with some piece of information that cements our validity. Sometimes this is worthwhile– certain particularly complicated things are worth researching and developing opinions on based on fact. However, note the timing there– the opinion is based on fact, not supported by them. When we then take these opinions and push them on others, we’re forcing our knee-jerk reactions on people and trying to mask that in some way.

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A lot of times, we get some kind of input and have an immediate reaction to it, deep in our hindbrain, before it reaches our consciousness and becomes subject to rational thought. When we’ve already had our reaction, it’s easy to use our (powerful, effective) rational thought processes to justify, rather than evaluate. Frankly, we’re wired to do so– doing differently is difficult for us. The complexity and nuance of our world has grown faster than our brains’ ability to process it as effectively as it could. I think that we can often gain insights into ourselves and a better appreciation for our own opinions when we try to break that cycle and honestly evaluate why we hold the opinions we hold, rather than justifying them. Our opinions may or may not change, but we’ll understand them better and (I think) be more secure in them.

I like Thief. Externally, I like that it represents a nonviolent approach to games through a lens that’s normally violent, and I applaud the creativity there, but that’s not why I like it. I like Thief because I have spent much of my life not believing myself physically competent enough to handle a conflict, should one arise. My mind has always been my refuge, and any advantages I gain and any problems I solve are done with my mind rather than my body. Thief lets me express that– it’s a game about being smarter and more observant than your foes, who are all stronger and hardier than you are. It’s a space in which it’s okay to be smaller than those around you (I am) and rewards planning and observation (which I’m good at) rather than necessarily requiring quick-thinking and twitchy reflexes (which I lack). It’s a game that makes me feel okay about being the kind of person I am, rather than creating a person wholly unlike me that I can use as an escape for a while before inevitably returning to the real world, in which I lack the qualities of the protagonist I just finished experiencing.

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I dislike The Witcher. It’s a game that makes me uncomfortable with its setting and characters, and while I recognize its quality, I don’t have much of a desire to spend time in that world doing the things that exist in that space. There are a lot of things I could say about the Witcher– how it treats women, how it exacerbates certain societal issues, but the reality is that those are justifications– I don’t like the game because, regardless of its quality, it makes me uncomfortable to play.

I don’t need to justify my opinions on Thief or The Witcher with some kind of moral or statistical high ground– I’m not trying to tell people they should or shouldn’t like either game. I often recommend against people playing Thief, because it’s a game that doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, and in a similar vein, I’ve suggested The Witcher to people despite personally disliking it.

Sitting down and evaluating why I like or dislike something often makes me realize things about myself, helps me better decide what new things I want to try, or simply makes me feel secure in my opinions. On occasion, I will run across something that is genuinely important, something bigger than my opinions, and that needs evaluation with data and facts… or that barely affects me in any way, and requires that I just step back and let the people who have a genuine stake in the issue weigh in.

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I love Thief, but it would be unreasonable for me to demand that everyone love it. I dislike the Witcher, but my opinions on it shouldn’t impact the enjoyment of people who love that game for entirely legitimate reasons. I am largely unaffected by gay marriage at a personal level, and my opinions on it are best summed up as “it’s a good thing, because it makes people happy and more free in a way that doesn’t significantly affect others”. I’m in favor of increased happiness and freedom, and I’m in favor of people playing the games they like.

Today is a good day for issues that are bigger than just opinion, and it’s a good day to play a game you love.



Source: Digital Initiative
Live and Let Live

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