I got another pretty horrible piece of hatemail today over the Condemned 2 video review, which l found odd, since it makes one private message and two emails all in a 24 hour period on the subject. I am not very good at taking this stuff in stride, though I am much better at it than I used to be. This one in particular said the following: “I hope you aren’t being paid for this. Please, spare me the agony I suffer from every night thinking to myself that people like you are getting paid far more than someone like me who works their ass off. Or gets paid at all.”
I know that the anonymity of the Internet makes it easy for people to say awful and hateful things like this, but the nature of Kevin-ness is to take words at face value. I write for a living; I know the power that words have over people. In the large scheme of things, my words are quite insignificant, but I know that they still wield power over those that read them, in this case, by helping them decide whether a product is worth their money. In the case of charismatic heads of state, words can lead to genocide. I am neither very charismatic, nor am I a head of state, but I do take what I say in written form very seriously.
Not everyone feels the same responsibility, nor do many people care how their words affect others. It’s always surprising to me, no matter how much hate mail I get, because direct hatefulness is so foreign to me. Sure, I get angry at people, or I question the quality of their work from time to time, but statements like the one in my email today are so outside of my core being that I wonder what kind of awful blackness must drive someone to communicate it.
In the midst of negativity, the part that bothers me is the suggestion that I could get paid for doing what I do, when this guy is “working his ass off.” I suppose it’s pretty wondrous that anyone could be paid to write about video games, but there you have it. Indeed, I am lucky to do what I do. But at this stage, work is all I do. I play games for at work and write; I play games at home and write. I have spent numerous overnights at the office in the last few weeks, working as hard as I can and delivering the best work that I can. Not that I expect any random GS reader at GameSpot to know that, but it amazes me that anyone could take this one piece of content and make such an assumption about the overall quality of my work, or even worse, to assume that I am not working hard at what I do.
I wish I didn’t feel this occasional need to defend that work. Overall, I’ve managed to let go of most of this stuff, but over time, insecurities creep in. Some guy somewhere is getting his rocks off sending the fatass GameSpot reviewer the middle-finger in email form. He doesn’t think about what affect those words have, or worse, he enjoys the possibility that a human being on the receiving end could be bothered by it. The weirdest factor in all of this is that the video review wasn’t my brainchild, though I thought the idea was brilliant and I went along with it. And honestly, I enjoyed the result, and a hard-working video producer was up until midnight cutting that video. Questioning the video’s creative value is one thing, but questioning the integrity and worthiness of the individuals that made it is another thing entirely.
It’s possible that I will never be truly used to this kind of thing. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know that ambivalence to hatred is a quality I want to possess. And Lord knows that having my grandfather kick me and my lover out of his house for bringing sin into it, and being beaten up in a rural Pennsylvania bar for being gay, were far more hateful things, and a lot less anonymous. But I suppose all these sentiments come from the same awful place in people’s hearts. I can’t imagine treating others with such contempt.
All in all, I feel I am good at what I do, and work has become the center of my existence right now. But my emotional nature isn’t always a good fit with the shit that gets lobbed my way. Gaming journalism and emotional sensitivity aren’t a very good pair, but it’s me. I won’t lose any sleep over it now, though six months ago, things like this would consume me. But they won’t ever stop bothering me, though I hope that they bother me less over time.
It’s the nature of the beast, as they say. My coworkers have generally harder shells than I do. My shell is more like that chocolate syrup you pour over ice cream and then hardens. All you have to do is tap it with a spoon to make it crack.