Saturday, March 3, 2012

This is Just My Opinion...

Over time, and especially in Internet culture, the idea of an “opinion” has been getting out of hand.  Nearly everyone in a discussion feels compelled to preface or conclude their argument with “in my honest opinion,” and this problem is beginning to destroy true discussion.  Any argument can be essentially ended by dismissing the opponent’s argument as simply their opinion.  What does any of this have to do with Video Games?  Well, critiquing them, of course.

When we discuss the quality of something, even though that is a difficult trait to grasp, we want to be able to objectively identify why it is not as good as something else.  Nearly all of this discussion can be shut down by invoking the opinion argument.  Allowing this to happen is a mistake. After all, if this mode of thought is allowed, the fields of art and literature cannot exist as academic pursuits. Since any judgment of these works is based on nothing but dismissible opinion, no one work can be defined as better than another.  Tom Sawyer and Twilight have equal literary merit, and a doodle done on a notebook during a particularly boring class is of no more worth than the work of Rembrandt.

Those examples likely seem absurd because something is telling us that one of these things is indeed worth more than the other.  Even if a person likes Twilight more than Tom Sawyer, they are often capable of saying “yes, Tom Sawyer is probably more important, but I still enjoy Twilight.”  They like it, which is merely a preference.  Preference cannot be argued, and the difference between a preference and an argument for quality.

If you have ever found yourself saying: “this thing is just terrible, but wow is it enjoyable,” then you know that a difference between quality and preference is present.  Ever watched a really bad movie, but had a good experience with it because you had fun with it?  Some people even go so far as to have a “bad movie night,” which admits that these are of poor quality, but still enjoyable.

Without this difference between preference and quality, nothing could ever be improved.  Telling a developer that the gameplay mechanics are tedious would simply be met by “that’s your opinion.” The writing sounds like it came from a bathroom stall?  Just your opinion.  The dismissive nature of this statement simply doesn’t allow for advancement.

Everyone is a bit afraid of criticism, and at times it can sting a bit.  Without it, though, our work can never improve.  Casting off all criticism as merely opinion and not worthy of consideration will bring all artistic improvement to a grinding halt.  Some opinions ARE better than others.  Those opinions have backing in reason and logic.

Do you have a different opinion on my opinion?  Feel free to state your opinion in the comments.  Opinion.
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