I Don’t Like Mondays

Learning how to take criticism is a life-long journey. Sometimes, it is simpler as a writer to just switch off and ignore everybody, but there are also moments in the development process where the right commentary can completely alter the momentum of a project. For many successful writers, Social media is a place you simply don’t go to. There’s a very good reason for that, and it is seen every day, often with quite depressing regularity from the same group of destructive, morally ambiguous users. Those who now feel their voice is more important than anything else, and will comment relentlessly on anything which they feel an opinion is warranted on, are slowly eroding away centuries of conventions that have kept many institutions afloat.

Criticism relies on some fundamental principles to remain relevant and useful.

Philosophy underpins much of what I am: it should be the same for everybody, but for some, all that matters undoubtedly, is the self and nothing more. Having a reasonable debate with such people can become impossible face to face, so one anonymity is introduced the entire delicately balanced structure will come crashing down. If you don’t grasp the basic concept of the Social Contract, I’d urge taking some time on Wikipedia and other sources to learn about Jean-Jacques Rousseau, because this is a fundamental part of existence that really does matter quite a lot, and extends into pretty much every aspect of our current lives.

Grasping criticism effectively comes from the realisation that your work and your ego are two different things. A criticism of content is not a personal attack, just as a disagreement over ideas or beliefs should not become a fight. Once one is able to establish basic tenets of existence (everyone is equal, regardless of sex, ethnicity and religious belief) all of this should be a simple, hassle-free process. However, that’s not been the case for… well, since that bloke came down a mountain with a bunch of carved tablets which were supposed to keep everybody in check.

Rules only have relevance if everybody sticks by them.

In reality, with so many people now granted a voice that can be heard in places that would never previously have been the case, the rules of our Social Contract on Social media are distorting and warping. Lies and truth become the same thing because individuals are unable to distinguish where one starts and the other ends. Is this country an enemy, or a friend? Is this leader asking for peace because they want it, or have circumstances dictated the need to change direction? What set of circumstances have pushed this movement to emerge now, and why did this not happen years previously? So much of life is filled with questions, yet few people take the time or thought to consider the answers.

Most days, people complain about what upsets them the most.

April 14-20th is Mental Awareness Week, and it is really rather important that everybody, regardless of their own personal issues, grasps how society as a whole is contributing to slow, overall disintegration by refusing to think outside our own lives and issues. Criticism should be an essential part of the creative process, and yet so many people now refuse to take the concept on board. Without it, you will never grow and improve, but most importantly of all, you will lose respect from those who, in many cases, simply wish to help and support.

Learning to deal with contention, now more than ever before is vital to developing as a better human being.

The Last Worthless Evening

Don’t take that attitude with me, young man. 

There’s a blog post for my personal site coming up on Twitter’s continued attempts to curb ‘noise’ on their platform, and how it’s no different in reality than spam filters and nuisance phone callers. That’s not why I’m here this morning, however: I wrote a post on the other site yesterday on how compromise is an inevitable part of any process, and it sent me off in various differing directions. One of them concerns writing itself, and how sometimes what you envision with a piece is not what you’ll end up producing. There is a phenomenal amount of compromise in working for somebody else, for starters, and that’s probably the reason why I prefer to work alone whenever possible. However, without that compromise, often there is no real progress.

I do work now for a number of different organisations and the editing process for each is different. One has a strong bias to using the Internet’s own search robots, another has more of a focus towards transparent explanation of editing processes, and so on. Mostly it’s all down to the people wielding the scalpels at the other end and not me. I just provide the ideas: how that is subsequently transmitted to its final destination can often vary wildly from place to place.The same is undoubtedly true with game design, when I think about it: there’s an initial ‘concept’ and then comes the business of taking that and inserting it into an existing structure. So, what I envisage at the start of a piece could have subtly altered by the time it makes it to ‘live’, and it often does. I try not to get upset about this, and accept that both criticism and alteration becomes an often essential part of the journey.

There is a lot that can be learned by grasping the counsel of others.

You say that NOW… ^^

The problem that a lot of writers seem to have when their own work’s on the table is taking criticism. You just have to look at Twitter as a short form to understand just how complicated and explosive a contrary opinion can be on probably a minute by minute basis. In fact, if you consider what happened when the company itself announced a change that many people had been happily using for months? The End of All Things will probably cause less trauma when it happens, mostly because nobody will be left to be critical of its execution. Half the problem is the way in which things happen, and then the ‘who should we actually blame’ game begins and frankly, it’s just horrible to watch. I felt totally sorry for the totally innocent Twitter developer who got pulled into the argument last weekend: yes, he may have written the code, but he’s not the one directing Twitter’s financial management. Saying ‘well if it’s going to be destructive, you shouldn’t do what you’re asked’ isn’t exactly an alternative either. Yes, this could work in some situations, but honestly? If you want to blame someone, go find the people in charge. They listened last weekend, and now everybody has an opt out. Crucially however, that change has still gone live. You didn’t stop it.

However, sometimes you can affect change via protest.

From sky.com
Liverpool fans were capable of reversing a decision by American owners to increase ticket prices, a climb down which will undoubtedly have ramifications across the Premier League. The very visual and damning way in which 10,000 people left didn’t really help the team either: a 2-0 win became a 2-2 draw, and you have proof that sometimes grand gestures make the point. However, if people keep paying money to purchase stuff, and don’t vote with their feet, how does anyone know there is a problem. It was a point I made today in a couple of places too: complaining that too much money is spent on in game purchases isn’t the company’s problem, its yours. The company offers the product, you choose to buy it, and saying it should be cheaper doesn’t really work when they’ve already got you to part with your cash for a physical copy of the game, often months before it goes live. If enough individuals genuinely said ‘fuck this, we’re not coughing up’ you can absolutely bet that would affect the marketplace. Thats why contentious games often travel the Kickstarter/crowd-funding route these days, just to check there really is a market to begin with.

Eventually, large corporations get the message. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, for instance, is a great example of how one organisation grasped that taste matters more than simply selling a product. It isn’t just about doing the same old thing over and over, if people actually complain correctly. The problem is with video games, no two people have the same particular issue, and that means that a mass walkout’s only likely if everybody can agree on an issue.

If you don’t like what a company is doing? You need to learn to complain about it better.