I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my time as someone who is in and around videogames, few have been quite so vital as willing to accept I’m wrong.
It sounds absurd but the more I figure out in games, the more stuff I understand around being here, the less I know for definite and the less I have the answers. It’s a way away from my more youthful arrogance, a way away from the thinks-he-has-it-sussed dude I used to be. It’s a million times more comfortable though. I like being wrong.
I realise it’s probably quite annoying at times as I tend to work through stuff in public, sometimes it’s a tweetstorm for an hour, sometimes it’s approaching different facets of a thing across 2,3 or more pieces on this here corner of the internet. Sometimes it’s getting stuff tremendously wrong and having people correct me or sometimes it’s asking questions and seeing what comes up (not asking stuff that can easily be garnered from shutting up and listening for five seconds, mind). Sometimes it’s writing stuff out, reading it back and just not putting it out there for reals because urgh.
Sure, I have certain ideas, I tend to look at things through a particular lens also but I try to stay reasonably flexible even if that means having to reconsider an awful lot of things (see my last piece on Greenlight for Eurogamer which came out far more positive than I’d anticipated going in after discovering my theories were more than a little off the mark)
It’s healthier for me but I also hope it’s generally healthier for everyone else. It’s part the reason you’ll see me splay my thoughts out on Twitter but rarely take up offers of contributing to ‘what developers think about a thing’ articles unless it’s something I’ve spent some time considering or it’s not in the immediate aftermath or in the middle of a drama vortex. I know my earlier thoughts are rarely my best thoughts, though sometimes (just sometimes) very little changes in time. But it’s that time between that allows me to assess whether those earlier thoughts are the ones I’m more certain of regardless. Most of the time, anyway.
It’s very easy to just react and I’ll freely admit I have a weakness for it on Twitter. That said, my coping mechanism is often if I feel the need to comment rising, just to make a daft and flippant tangential remark whilst I gather my thoughts. If all goes to plan, it gets the urge to splurge over with and gives me the space to think more. It does not, obviously, always go to plan. I’m working at that. See me in ten years again and I’ll probably still be working at that.
Some of this is, definitely, born out of a dislike of certain behaviours. I refuse wherever possible to take a spade to developer’s post-mortems and sales reports that lament on their struggles to get noticed or to sell sufficient numbers to get by. Little good ever comes from the ‘I know what you did wrong’ attitude. It’s all too easy to slip into ‘no-one buys this type of game’, ‘the name is bad’, ‘the art is wrong’ but I’ve never known a game not sell without a whole load of more nuanced and complex issues in and out of a developer’s control playing a part.
I have a detest for pieces that offer advice without listening to what a developer needs, without asking what they need for their circumstances. The worst element of videogames punditry for me is empty no-nothing advice wrapped up as wisdom. The ‘you just do’ and assuming that because someone had a hand in releasing a game once or twice or more, that knowledge necessarily applies to any and every single game. Not only do I find this sort of thing annoying and all too prevalent, but I consider it as trying to put a full stop on complex issues. There’s no need to think this over, talk it over, you just do a thing and magic happens. Shush.
I consider that fairly obstructive and to be quite frank, dull too. All too often it just ends up with empty and useless advice posted as wisdom where just listening or reading could have at least got somewhere and been helpful to someone, rather than just bringing conversation to an abrupt end. It also shuts down folks from bringing their own experience to help work through things and especially in cases where abuse is involved (all too frequent in games), that’s a really poor show and just helps the abuse persist.
None of this means I can’t and won’t be strident with my views, just none of it means I get anything necessarily right either. It does mean I can be more confident that I’ve considered a topic somewhat and hopefully, even if it’s just by the smallest of degrees, I’m a little bit more knowledgable about scenarios that crop up in games than I was before.
Mind, sometimes I fuck it up rotten as well because I’m way out of my depth and needed to hush but never did, just I’m trying to do that much less these here days. I don’t always manage it but I’m working on it, working on being better.
I’m working on being better not just because I want to be better but because I want videogames to be a better place to be in. That’s a pretty big want even by my standards but I reckon this is something we can all push towards and there’s going to be a lot of being wrong involved on the way. Might as well make the best of it, eh?