Monday, July 28, 2008

Always a Critic

I worry sometimes that I'm too negative. If I scan back through what I've written on this blog, I see more negative statements than positive statements. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with criticism, but when that's all you've got to say it's pretty darn depressing. Saying the glass is half empty is fine, but focusing on the fact that it's one eighth empty is taking it a bit far. I don't want to be that person.

Sometimes the most succinct way to describe something is in the ways that it differs from something similar. If you had to illustrate everything from scratch every time, building up from the base to the small details, it would take forever. It's far easier to talk about things in relation to other things. This is a fundamental optimization of communication. But hidden in these comparisons are value statements. You say what something is, and you say what it is not. And it saying what it is not, you are often describing what it should be. And in pondering too often what things are not, it is too easy to lose sight of what they are.

This is a common problem. No one really talks about the ways in which the world's religions and denominations are similar; we focus on (and wage wars over) the miniscule ways that they are different. We don't talk about similarity because similarity is understood. There's nothing more to say. Everybody likes ice cream; everybody likes bacon. It's far more interesting to talk about ways in which we are different. But there's a difference between knowing how you are different from something and defining yourself by how you are different.

I don't think of myself as a negative person, and I don't think that I'm overly negative in my interactions with other people. I enjoy a good argument, but that's not the basis for how I relate to others. So is this disproportionate negativity just an anomaly of my writing?

I definitely know that I struggle with it constantly in blogging. Far more topics flit through my head than I have the time to put to words. So there's an ongoing selection process for deciding what topics to write about. The topics I write about are the ones that I have the most to say about. I've talked before about how this leads to me writing about games. But it turns out it's also a factor in contributing to an overall negative tone.

Concrete example: You'll notice I never wrote about Iron Man. Why? Iron Man was freaking awesome. Thoroughly enjoyable. I'd recommend it to almost anyone. But everyone knows that Iron Man was awesome. I didn't feel the need to tell anyone. It was just understood.

I also haven't written anything about The Orange Box, which was one of my favorite games from last year. Portal is gaming perfection, Team Fortress is refinement of a classic, and Episode Two ends with one of the most epic gaming sequences I've experienced in a long time. It's not like I decided to not write about it. It's still totally on my list. But I've subconsciously preferred so many topics over it. What's wrong with me?

I think it's a natural tendency, and one I'll probably always struggle with. Constant Vigilance, I guess. But at least I'm aware of it. I began this blog as an effort to help my memory, and in respect of that I think it's important to keep my personal time capsule from becoming a depressing log of spiraling negativity.

1 comment:

  1. It is better to blog about things you care about, have passion for, than to splooge out "I <3 Things" to seem more positive.
    Most of the things that you wrote over the past year seem genuine; keep that up.