Misgivings

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.

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~ by fiddlecub on April 23, 2008.

16 Responses to “Misgivings”

  1. Don’t let it get to you Kevin! You’re doing an excellent job and I always look forward to read your reviews!
    Keep up the good work!

    Adam

  2. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to have internet fanboys critique every part of your work – no other job is ever faced with that much.. scrutiny.

    I’ve tried having discussions online before.. for the most part it’s been rational, but there are always the quacks who are just looking for a soapbox and are not interested in any discussion whatsoever. My advice is don’t simply ignore them – no matter how hard your shell is, it seems like it’s affecting you. Talk to friends. Scream. Write about it (like you’re doing now). Don’t let it get bottled up inside.

  3. You know, honestly, there isn’t much I can say. Really, in a nutshell, everything I’m thinking just is summed up as the following:

    People are stupid.

    Some people may not like what you write, that’s obvious, and that’s GOING to happen, no matter what, but at the same time, people aren’t FORCED to read what you write in any way. If they don’t like it, they can take their negative ass elsewhere, haha.

    Don’t worry about it Kevin. Trust me when I say, I love what you do, and don’t stop doing it.

  4. Kevin, I had to watch that video review after reading this post. And dude, that was trippy and cool. It did a great job of showing off the game’s major draw — the sadistic killing — in an appropriately demented style.

    I, too, used to get way bent out of shape over assholes in life, whether it was through hate mail, people I met at school, or the jackass who flipped me off while driving the other day. Nowadays I just don’t give a fuck, though. I mean, fuck ’em. We’re not going to please everyone in this world. And most people believe everyone in journalism is biased, which is depressing, but it comes with the territory.

    Anyway, just found your blog, so keep up the writin’!

  5. As a critic, you necessarily put yourself out there for all the world to chime in on your (subjective) success or failure at what you do. Perhaps one’s skin (or level of cynicism) comes into play when deflecting the ardent rhetoric of those who necessarily consume media rather than create it. Remember that you are in a superior position having been given the chance to project your subjective opinion on video games from a professional platform. Your work is inherently legetimate because all you produce is imprinted with the approval (perhaps, if only by proxy) of your company and its established reputation and resources. Legetimate, indeed, and therefore superior to the, perhaps, hateful and inaccurate assesment of a reader (consumer). A most helpful and, ultimately, healthier way of dealing with this kind of criticism (remember, a critic must be willing to and mindful that his job will subject him to an entire range of criticism–both good and bad) is understanding its nature. Some of your readers will be blindly supportive. Others will be unforgiving in their negative criticism. Welcome all of this, for you have created something that creates dialogue. That makes a person think and reflect on their own opinions–however poorly presented or developed. You have created something that has now months away had a lasting impact. Readers are still talking about your work. You have created a discourse. This, truly, must be your reward. You will continue to have to defend your work. You are a critic. There is no escaping this. Should you continue to (or more mindfully) adopt an ethic of integrity, and, more importantly, a more healthy level of confidence, all of these attacks on you will be all the more petty.

    Interestingly, this one reader has created a discourse on your own work. You, as the developing (to speak euphemistically) critic, will need to learn to not expend as much energy in allowing this kind of negligible assaults to affect you as they do. Accept that you are sensitive and then move on and do something proactive. The critic himself owns the words he writes. True, the reader owns his interpretation, but the source is always the originator, the critic.

  6. Hey Kevin, remember when you were still just a Fiddlecub?
    Not an awesome review at Gamespot but still a passionate gamer who did some forum stuff?

    I wasn’t(and I’m still not) a big forum person, but I used to read your Gamespot journal all the time, because it was on the blogroll of all those reviews editors
    You wrote a piece on why you loved the game Project Snowblind, a fun First person shooter with just one moment that drove you wild.
    At the start of the second level of the game(if i remember from my time playing it) one of the opponents whistles a bar or too from Peter and the Wolf.
    I remember how much you loved that moment, how it opened the whole game up to you. A whole journal article, on a moment.
    I remember thinking, “MAN! That’s how much I want to love video games. That how much I want to appreciate minutia and detail. I want to be as good a game critic as the fiddl-ing cub.”

    Don’t let the jerks or the forum kids bring you down. Everyone who really loves Gamespot knows you’re working your ass off. It shows: those reviews are still awesome. They helped me buy Assassins Creed without a second thought, and love it. Same goes for Eternal Sonata, C&C3No More Heroes, and Okami on the Wii(ALL AWESOME!)

    For those of us out there who truly love video games your work at Gamespot has been a damn inspiration. You’re able to see when a game is truly shining, when a game is so much more than the sum of its parts, when you can give the game the benfit of the doubt…and when it doesnt deserve it. Every time you review a great game, it pours out of every inch of your writing. And, best of all, when you recommend a good game, you generally tend to be right.
    We don’t take that for granted.
    If only everyone could love the little moment’s in games as much as you did. Maybe then other people would learn to stop liking video games, and start loving Video Games.

  7. There are always gonna be assholes like this. You just gotta learn that these people have no idea what they are talking about and are just talking through their ass behind the safety of computer screen. If they were anywhere near as intelligent as you, they would have their own job as a video game journalist. Remember, you’re the professional. All these people who send hate mail, well, they just wish they could be as good at what you do and be able to have the same job you do.

  8. I trust and value your work enough to make purchases based off your professional opinion. Don’t sweat it, Kevin––the quality of your work is impressive and improves with every review.

  9. Dude dont like other peoples short comings bring you down you do a fuckin great job

  10. Keep on keepin’ on, Kevin. That shell will get thicker and more idiot-resistant with every passing review. Eventually the trick becomes to not lump the morons in with the rest of the faceless readers, and to understand that a vocal minority often reflects very poorly on what is otherwise a fine and upstanding lot of people.

  11. buddy….tell you what….just take up meditation…it’ll help with all this bloody hogwash that these charlatans keep throwing at you. Bottomline…just do what makes you happy and content. Believe me when I say that there’s no small number of folks who’d want to be where you are right now as far as work is concerned. It’s envy at the end of the day I tell you….frikkin envy. Don’t let it get to you man. Let ‘them’ take all the trouble that they need….idiots.

  12. That guy is just a narcissistic asshole who apparently begrudges people their successes. Who cares what he thinks?

    Well, you, I guess. But you really shouldn’t.

  13. Hey Kevin,

    I’ve read your reviews for awhile now and you are a talented reviewer/writer. Don’t let a bunch of immature assholes get you down.

  14. Kevin, I know that I’m a few weeks late in this reply ( I just found you blog via the Mechberg.com blog), but I always look forward to your reviews, written or videotaped. As you say, the anonymity of the internet breeds easy one-click hate from dick-heads around the world, but it also fosters complacency. I’ve always taken your reviews to heart when choosing whether or not to spend my hard earned cash on a game, and many times, you’ve saved me some money or you’ve opened up my gaming experience to something very enjoyable. I’ve just never said “thank you” or “good review” and given you a virtual pat on the back. So, with the advent of your hate-mail, I’ll balance it out with my “thank you” mail. So, “thank you” Kevin, for years of wonderful reviews and entertainment. Sure, there are angry, mollusks out there who thrive on spitting in your face (virtual or real), but there are also that many people and more, who think you are doing a fine, fine job. Keep your head up, Kevin, because even though many of us don’t voice our appreciation of your contributions to our hobby and passion of video games, we are out there, waiting on baited breath for the next review or episode of “On the Spot”!

    Good job, and keep ’em coming!

  15. Ah, don’t worry about it too badly, Kevin. Despite the problems you face here, just keep in mind that a majority of people really do want your opinion, and that’s why they read and watch the reviews.

    What’s really funny (I just watched the review now), is that a lot of work had to go in by the guy who had to cut it, and put it back together. It really melds with Condemned 2’s stuff, and these few people obviously don’t understand what the underlying message is. Don’t worry about them. 🙂

  16. Gah my first visit to this blog and I read this. Very honest, respect for putting how you feel about this stuff out there. There are some idiots out there and it can only take one or two to spoil the party. I’ve had similar experiences and deal with them in a similar way. Move on though, you’ll soon put it behind you.

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