Why does there always have to be a loser?

As I read both coverage and discussions of many modern amenities but particularly the technology we use to entertain ourselves, I am constantly reminded of this new famous Louis CK rant:

Though I feel there’s nothing wrong with having a gripe when a product or service you purchased isn’t acting as advertised, he’s completely right. Entitlement culture drives me nuts. People have become addicted to being upset and angry and latching on to very minor negatives to fuel that addiction. Failure has almost become a drug to our society and culture.

This past week, the PlayStation Vita launched and I bought one. I’ve been using it every day and I’m loving it. It’s not without fault and like most Sony products, it has a few head-scratching design choices. Overall though, it’s an amazing piece of technology and frankly I think it was a steal at $250. I have a 3DS and like that too but this has hooked me much more and will definitely be my first handheld of choice. However, were you to check with many video game enthusiast podcasts or forums, you will see waves of people nitpicking minor issues with the system as proof that Sony still doesn’t “get it” and how it’s a sure sign the product will fail and how iOS is taking over the world:

“Why are there multiple ways to go back in screens?”
“Why does tapping an icon bring up a launcher? I don’t want to launch my games twice!”
“Why does the wi-fi turn off in certain games?”

This is a small selection of what I’ve read. As someone whose job often involves teaching technology-challenged people, I facepalmed quite hard at hearing the level of stink being made about these points. These are all things that have reasons behind them and which are trivially easy to deal with once you’ve experienced them once. They require absolutely no additional time or effort and ultimately cause no inconvenience. I could sit my Mother down with the Vita and show her how to use it as well as I can within moments. Yet, these are treated as game breaking points by many. Forget that every competing device has its own quirks and frustrations, the focus is on how these minor issues–all of which can and probably will be fixed in future software updates, one of the great benefits of modern technology–mean the Vita is doomed.

The following sentiment is the most choice of all:

“Oh in a month, we’ll all be talking about how they’re all just sitting on shelves because you’ve gone back to gaming on your iPhone.”

This is always said by someone who doesn’t own a Vita and probably never will. Rather than just abstain from a conversation about a product they aren’t interested in, they always have to duck their head in just long enough to take a dump on those who do believe in it. This is done solely out of a desire to validate their choice by demeaning someone else’s. The enthusiast press is as guilty of this as anyone else. The Vita can’t succeed, even at its very competitive price because “the handheld market has moved on.” This is said with no empirical evidence beyond the fashion trend based, unsustainable growth of mobile gaming. I bought into the Vita not just because I like it but because I believe there’s a market for its kind of device and it’s a market I want to be a part of.

As someone who takes gaming very seriously, I would love to see a world where every medium can thrive. PCs, consoles, dedicated handhelds, mobile phones, social media, more games in more places is a good thing for the industry and the players in my opinion. But there seems to be a large and increasing number of people who want less choice and want only the things they like to succeed. If you’re not into the Vita, I totally understand that but how does its failure improve your life or your hobby and why spend time and energy being a cheerleader of its demise?

I use the Vita as the most recent example relevant to me but this exists everywhere across all things in modern culture from technology to politics to celebrities. There’s a sick sense of pleasure many seem to get by watching things fail and I think it’s a disturbing trend. What has happened in society that has made us so constantly angry, so spoiled, so entitled and so disturbed that we crave for things and people to lose? I have no professional or academic knowledge of such things but I’m sure it in some way involves people feeling better about themselves by revelling in the failures of others. But as someone who was depressed for many years and fixated on negativity (something I will discuss in another lengthy post some day), that never really helped me. I wonder if that was just in my case or if people do in fact improve their emotional standing in this way.

I think one facet of an ideal world is a bevy of choice, having things that cater to everyone’s wants and desires and being able to partake in the things that make you happy and ignore the rest. If I’m into something you’re not and vice versa, that’s great because having both available means everybody’s happy. But that’s not good enough anymore. People can’t just do what they enjoy, they can only be truly happy if everyone else is also into “their” thing and if everything else fails as proof that it was the one “proper” thing. It sounds eerily religious and though I don’t care for religion in general, I think those tenants applied to things as ultimately trivial as entertainment products is even more disturbing.

It causes you no more harm as a person nor takes any more effort to just hope for the best and that everything has a chance to succeed, including the stuff you aren’t into. That’s not to say that legitimate faults shouldn’t be pointed out and discussed or that people shouldn’t state why they won’t partake in something. However, I think rather than being stated in the context of how every minor issue is a sign of failure to delight in, they should be stated as how improvements can be made. A fault shouldn’t spell immediate demise, it should be something that can be improved so everyone’s happy.

As much as this post sounds like I’m putting myself on a pedestal, I’m really not. I say these things as someone who used to be a prime example of revelling in failure and who even now when I’m actively trying to break the habit, makes mountains out of molehills on a semi-regular basis. I’ve tried to cut back the amount of trivial whining I do and it’s tough sometimes because old habits die hard. This isn’t a new phenomena and maybe I’m starting to notice it more elsewhere because I’m trying to eliminate it in myself. It saddens and worries me to see our society so focused not just on seeing people lose but latching onto trivial concerns and actively encouraging it so we have more things to feel superior to. Happiness is ultimately found in improving one’s own life, not in tearing down others.

People need to try saying “That’s too bad.” when something fails rather than “See, I told you so!” I think we’d all be happier in the end.

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3 Responses to Why does there always have to be a loser?

  1. Pingback: Some Ranty Thoughts On E3′s Relevance « Geek Bravado

  2. Pingback: On Nintendo | Geek Bravado

  3. Pingback: So that was E3 2013 – Now with video! | Geek Bravado

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