Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pulling the Pin

Why is everyone so angry?

Facebook: Still screaming about politics and social issues.

The News: Still screaming about politics and social issues.

That one review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn I read at GameFAQs: Ranting about how worthlessly terrible the game is, because it's just like Golden Sun 1 and 2, which the author loved, except not as challenging and not as creative. Sounds familiar. The author gave the Gameplay and Replayability categories each a score of 1/10, which does not indicate "too easy and creatively disappointing"; that indicates the designers didn't finish the game and left it physically unplayable.

...Alright, so if that qualifies as "everyone," then my world is especially tiny. But I was on the Internet for all of five minutes, and most of that time was spent wading through a sea of vitriol. Which brings me back to my original question: Why is everyone so angry? Or, perhaps the better question is why everyone is so unable to express their anger in a marginally rational, halfway constructive manner?

We get angry sometimes. We shout and punch things, or clench our fists and grit our teeth. We complain about it incessantly to our friends, or take it out on people who don't deserve it. Maybe we blow our cool and say and do things we can never take back. But if we have any grip on our own humanity, we'll recognize when there's a real person on the receiving end of our anger—someone who can talk or smack some sense into us, or storm out and drive the message home that being that angry is not OK.

As soon as we sit down in front of a computer, we lose all sense of filter. We forget who's reading what we write—or we care even less than usual. I know from personal experience that is feels good sometimes to get my anger and frustration out on paper. Yet while my anger will eventually pass, the words I write are as good as set in stone once they're on the Internet.

My emotions and opinions may change, and the unpopular things I say can be debated and forgiven when I anger someone face-to-face, but anything I write will speak for itself every time anybody sees it—be it moments or years from now. Unless I feel like I can make my anger and frustration into something meaningful that other people will find amusing or thought-provoking or useful in understanding me as a person, I don't express it in a public forum online. I don't want to ruin your day unless I'm sure something good will come out of it.

I can't say the same of myself when I'm expressing anger or frustration in person. I don't think any of us can. That's why the a written medium is so great for being angry: we can take the time to sort out precisely why we're angry. We can make a case for being angry; we can win people over to our cause and righteously smite the offenders with our smoldering, justified anger. We can, but often we don't. Anger is a grenade, and too often we pull the pin before thinking about where to throw it. How many times have we blown ourselves up? How many times have we taken our friends with us?

Look, Internet. Be angry. It's healthy. Just watch where you're tossing those grenades. Anybody who's played a first-person shooter knows that a little friendly fire is bound to happen every now and again...but when you stop aiming at targets and start letting the grenades fall where they will, you're no better than the bad guys.

And, like a first-person shooter, the "bad guys" are just regular people who've sat down to play a game, and happen to be on the opposing side. Get angry at the issues; get angry at the game.

Love the people you're playing with.

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