Defending The Defended



Okay, cool, now you’ve got that out of your system, we can move on.

There are layers of discourse (ahhh, there I went and said it again) that can affect and infect the ways you engage with a space. I use discourse neutrally here; I’m talking about games, you’re reading about games, chances are things I say influence you either to agree with me or to disagree with me more vehemently, but none of that is ‘discourse’ as a perjorative. It is a conversation that happens over time and place and there’s no sin or crime in engaging with it.

I know that especially in queer circles, there’s this treatment of discourse as a poisoned term, which is frustrating. Discourse, academically, represents a thing that happens, like you’re observing a meterological event or a particular type of river structure, it’s not an activity you do like a punch-clock job at the discourse factory. I was way too used to using the term ‘take’ to describe people’s individual perspectives and described relationships to things before I found that for some reason, a lot of people I knew considered calling something a take was insulting. I don’t think of it that way, and I don’t mean it that way – it just seems a more ready way to attribute an opinion I think of as interesting to its actual source rather than say something like ‘X’s autoethnographic reflective hypertexts’ or whatever term would make people feel properly alienated from me refering to something as their opinion.

These opinions are vitally important to me, as you might imagine as someone who runs a blog where I dedicatedly give you my opinions on things, even if those opinions can be framed pretty defensively as ‘mostly just true,’ like ‘this is a technique for achieving this graphical effect I like to try and achieve’ like when I made ripped paper in GIMP. I think that one of the most frustrating things that we can get in the habit of experiencing and expecting is that when we want to make sure our opinions are shared, we somehow elevate them, as if by borrowing the constructive language of a particular legitimising media form – usually a review, but sometimes an ‘essay’ (which is often ‘a review, but longer’) – then we can tell people about something that we experienced and related to without ever expressing something of who we are and why we think that.

And that gets to this strange place of feeling like our feelings of things like alienation or isolation, or having our opinions disregarded, is something that can be represented by the media we experience. If I like a type of media, then I see people making fun of that media, it can be very easy to internalise the idea that that ridicule is implicitly being cast on me! I need to get up and get in their face and make sure they understand that they’re wrong to make fun of that thing because after all I like it, but then rather than say that, I have to find some way to express that my liking it is a part of an objective fact.

That’s how we get into this squirrelly position of talking about things that may be in fact, very big, very successful, and completely fine without our defenses, that we nonetheless may find ourselves leaping to protect and defend because we aren’t really even that concerned about the thing, but rather, upset by the idea of our feelings not mattering. Which we then compound by not treating our feelings like they matter by, say, explaining that that’s what we want to talk about.

This is all predicated on a recent example of this that I thought was very silly but which I haven’t stopped gnawing at in the back of my mind.

Somewhat recently, I saw someone taking to a public space to talk about how they were sick of holding back the opinion that The Last Of Us was good, actually, and they wanted to stop pretending it wasn’t. This is the same The Last Of Us that has sold over 20 million copies, a 95 on Metacritic, near universal acclaim, numerous 10/10 review scores, a recent remaster that also got near universal acclaim, and a prestige drama TV series on HBO. It seemed that somewhere in the pocket of the internet this person was spending their time, it was somehow a controversial, defiant opinion to say that they were one of the twenty million people who played The Last Of Us who didn’t walk away going ‘wow that sucks.’ This prompted a little back-and-forth, but hopefully nobody was upset by it and I really hope this doesn’t look like me coming in to bat for trying to win an argument that’s months old because I have a blog and the other person doesn’t.

Rather, I want to think about the kind of contention that can happen when you see talking about things, a social experience you do with people you want to relate to socially, as defending things, a moral activity you do against people who are buttheads. It turns liking media into moral code, and it can create these strange squirrel hole situations where you wind up seeing something like (say) God of War or Final Fantasy XIV or The Matrix Revolution as being media that needs ‘defending,’ where without your input, without your position, on it, everyone who doesn’t like it the way you want them to is somehow doing something wrong, or is missing something obvious, or just plain bad because they don’t get it.

I feel like one of the worst things I’ve seen happen to the discourse I’m in is the proliferation of a particular form of media critique that can be cooked down to ‘X is good, actually.’ or ‘X is bad, actually.’ It’s a framing that presents itself as correcting me, and that immediately puts me on the back foot, and that correction brings with it the idea that my opinion is an incorrect thing that they, the presenters of the argument, can correct me on, and that I should want to do that. It presents a world where media has inherent quality and your opinion is not worth examining on its own.

You gotta remember: Media isn’t good.