It turns out there are a lot of angry people on the internet

I’ve got into using Twitter over the past couple of years, and I’ve found it’s a great place to find out about gaming news (and news in general), as well as seeing some interesting opinions on things I take for granted. Oh, and amusing videos of animals, but that goes without saying.

But I’ve also realised that I’m very much living in my own social media bubble. The people I follow tend to share the same opinions as me – generally a bit lefty, and mostly happy to poke fun at video games at the same time as sharing the joy of playing them.

But something happened this week that reminded me that the people I follow in no way reflect the internet – and society – as a whole. The below tweet popped up on my feed, and I have to say it made me cringe:

I love the Xenoblade games, but some aspects of the designs are a bit questionable to say the least – the ‘breast slider’ from Xenoblade Chronicles X springs to mind. With the above character, complete with ludicrous body proportions, it almost feels like the series has jumped the shark and become a sort of parody of itself. Frankly, I find it a little bit embarrassing. I’m happy to play the Xenoblade games, but I think if anyone wandered in while the above character was on the screen, I’d have a hard time justifying why I was playing something with a sort of, I don’t know, porn-parody lacy cat woman bobbling about on the screen.

Still, it seems other people have no problem justifying the lacy boob lady. In fact, they’re OFFENDED if you even THINK that you might be offended by it. I scanned through some of the comments on the above post, and I was pretty shocked by some of them, e.g.:

And:

And let’s not forget:

This is just a sample of the comments – and currently there are around 800 replies to this tweet. What really struck me is how angry the replies were to what seemed to me to be a fairly harmless comment on a pretty damn ridiculous character. I mean, it’s clear that not everyone will think that lacy boob lady is an issue, and they’re perfectly justified in thinking that. But the replies aren’t along the lines of “Respectfully I disagree with you, and here’s why”, it’s more along the lines of “HOW DARE YOU INSULT MY GAME, YOU ARE RUINING EVERYTHING”.

If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that fear is the root of all anger (although to be fair, I’m fairly sure George Lucas nicked that from behavioral therapy, but anyway). So what is everyone afraid of? One commenter specifically says that comments like this will “ruin everything for everyone” – but do gamers really fear that the slightest criticism of a game’s design will really “ruin” it?

Apparently so. We’re living in very strange times at the moment. Donald Trump seemingly swept to power by tapping into the feelings of “angry white men” who felt they were being disenfranchised. And Matt Lees wrote an excellent article last year on how the alt-right and GamerGate are very much connected (read it, it’s fascinating). There are genuinely men out there (and it’s overwhelmingly men) who feel threatened by any perceived attacks on their hobby of video gaming. It’s like there’s some sort of epidemic of insecurity.

I felt it myself earlier today, when I left a comment agreeing with Ethan Gach’s Kotaku article suggesting that we might need to rethink difficulty menus. My comment agreed with his point that Wolfenstein II is much more enjoyable when played on easy, but I resented the implication that I was some sort of “baby” for choosing a lower difficulty – a point that is very much emphasised by the options screen.

Almost immediately, someone felt they had to get in with a slight:

Again, it feels like any sort of criticism has to be immediately shut down – along the lines of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”. It’s indicative of a macho subculture, people who perceive themselves to be the “real gamers” – and everyone who disagrees is a “whiner”. Which is patently ridiculous. But it clearly shows that plenty of people out there feel threatened – and that same feeling of perceived threat is what far right groups around the world are capitalising on.

I feel like there’s far more to say on this, but I will have to leave it for another time. Still, I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts in the comments, particularly your own experiences of the Angry Internet.

8 Comments

  1. To be fair, blaming this all on one side is just encouraging that same us vs. them mentality. Just like with our political parties, the vocal internet jerks and crazies aren’t all conveniently confined to the side we happen to disagree with, as much as we’d like to believe otherwise. We’ve all seen people make crazy allegations that Mass Effect is pornography and Tomb Raider is a rape simulator and so on and so on. I’ve seen enlightened liberals rallying for children to be executed for using homophobic slurs against heterosexual peers. Both sides have their own extremist factions and both sides have their own entirely valid arguments about certain things. The problem isn’t with us or them, it’s with all of us and the illusion of power of anonymity.

    What it really comes down to is why does a differing opinion matter so much to either side? Sure, random stranger “extreme gamer” may have been rude in their approach to your opinion in the first place, and that is unfortunate, but you’re playing his game right back by going on the defensive. I mean look at what’s happening here in the last example. You’re offended that someone is offended about you being offended and threatened by the fact that someone is feeling threatened about you feeling threatened, and surely someone will read this, disagree with you, and feel quadruple offended/threatened, and so on and so on, and this is how those 800 post threads happen.

    When does it end and what does any of it even really matter? Your opinion realistically should have no effect on this person’s enjoyment of anything, but he’s taken it upon himself to be affected by it and that’s his ridiculous burden to bear. Let him bear it by himself instead of picking up one of your own, because honestly? Who cares what this guy, or any other person like him, says? It doesn’t matter and it only has power over you if you give it power over you.

    This is what I’ve learned after years and years of arguing with people on the internet in the past. The only way to win the game is not to play. The only way for the fire to die down is to stop fueling it. Etc etc. If someone wants to have a legitimate conversation with you about a difference of opinion, great, but otherwise let them carry on being angry children in the comments sections of IGN and such, where they can wallow in their own infinite loops of irrelevant misery about everything, and just don’t worry about it.

    1. As they say, don’t feed the trolls. I think in writing this, I just had to express my shock at how angry people can get at seemingly meaningless stuff. It genuinely surprised me – enough that I felt I had to write about it. Clearly I don’t get out and about in the Internet enough. I live s sheltered online life, it seems.

      Anyway, perhaps you’re right in that I may be inadvertently perpetrating an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Maybe we all need to feel safe in our little groups.

      Even so, it bothers me how much anger and hatred is out there.

      1. Do you know what, I was thinking about this on my way home. I said that people are angry because they’re scared, but I think I reacted so strongly to this because I’M scared. I think reading all these angry comments ignited my worries that society is becoming more violent and divided, which is why I found it hard to just brush them off as Internet nonsense….

      2. Yeah, the world is funny that way. Sometimes I find myself worrying about the same thing, and it’s hard not to when you look at the media and peoples behavior on the internet and it’s all screaming “EVERYONE HATES EACH OTHER AND WANTS EVERYONE ELSE TO DIE!”, but then I go outside (on the rare occasion that I do so) and oddly enough, barely anyone is actually acting like that.

        Seems like the media and many politicians would rather we all be in constant fear for various reasons though (i.e. money), and go out of their way to fan the flames and prey on our fearful and competitive natures, and it’s all just a big ugly snake that’s forever eating its own tail now. Me, I’ll stick to just worrying about my own personal problems and enjoying everything else.

  2. I think this is an area of overlap between two different ways that people misread each other.

    Common in discussions of any kind of media; the idea that you have to uncritically accept something without commenting on its flaws to like it at all.
    These people think that anyone who says anything at all could be improved is attacking the work. (This is directly related to the well-known phenomenon of people getting angry about a still-high-but-not-perfect review score.)
    A subset of this are the ones who think any expression of distaste toward any potentially offensive or extreme content qualifies as an actual attempt to “censor” the game.
    A strange lack of awareness of the fact that there is any state between “this is fine” and “outrage”.
    Anyone who expresses annoyance, frustration, sick-of-this exhaustion, or even detached intellectual criticism of anything, especially anything that can be remotely connected to politics, gets responses from people who think it’s “outrage” instead.
    And this is often used in harmful ways; in fact accusing people of making a bigger deal out of something than they really are it may be the most common way of attempting to silence an opposing view without doing anything to refute it.

    1. Very true. I think Twitter does a good of stripping out all nuance as well, limiting arguments to tiny slices of outrage or support. At times it feels like the Internet does a good job of polarising all arguments to either outrage or embattled support. Thank heavens for havens of discussion like AMAP, eh?

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