One of the reasons that Talen Month is segregated away from the other months it is, with the careful buffers of May and March on either side (the M&Ms that aren’t going to try and restrict your access to basic human rights like water), is because I know full well that when left to my own devices, my blog will generally degenerate into me saying mean things about, well, probably Peter Molyneux, or maybe Hideo Kojima, if I didn’t deliberately make it so I have a limited number of complaints every year and those complaints have to land in one spot and it’s months away.
It’s like fermenting, or winemaking, where if I’m going to spend some time to really have a good complain about something then that complaint has to be the best possible complaint and I have to be okay with it waiting until April and it has to be something that lasts. I cannot simply vent my spleen about any random happenstance that bothers me, it has to be something worth the patience. Hating is, after all, an art.
The problem is that complaining is fun.
I play videogames with my friends and that’s fun because I love my friends. Even when I’m playing a shonky videogame that doesn’t quite work or that has problems in it from a structural level, I ultimately enjoy sharing time with my friends in games, and that’s probably reflected best in how I keep playing City of Heroes, a videogame that’s nearing on two decades old at this point and whose game design is still meant to reflect doing real-time combat on dial-up.
Which means the experience of playing with me is often about me talking about things in those games that are bad; pointing out loopholes or failures or the ways the game mechanics create problems that we, as players can exploit, or the ways that the things that have changed over time have made those games redundant or just things like that. And I’ll do it enough and eventually, someone will ask me if I even like this game that I love.
… because as fun as complaining is, it seems like I’m not.
And it diminishes other people’s fun.
There’s a game I’ve been playing a lot lately that has a social element and the most frustrating thing about it is that it has a lot of problems. Failings, really. There are ways in which the game it is could be a lot better, ways in which this game should be better, considering its importance, considering its cultural weight… but there’s nowhere to talk about it. There’s nowhere to talk about it because it’s important to people, because they’re fond of it, and because they’re invested in that, even hearing me complain about it can make them feel like their fun matters less.
I’ve talked about this in the past – how I’ve been asked to leave some topics alone because people are afraid of what I’ll say. As if me criticising Catra could make someone like her less, as if my insight into my experience of a cult and my relationship to the kind of person she is is the kind of thing that would drive you away from it.
It’s a problem, because I would like to complain about things. I would like to performatively get mad at things and demonstrate the way these ideas make me feel and then I would like to set those ideas and expressions down and move on because it should be okay to do that.
… but I can’t be sure I’m not doing it for a bad reason.
Because complaining is fun.