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Death of a Know-It-All

Sean Sands | 4 Oct 2009 13:00
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What I've begun to notice, though, is the way in which these opinions are expressed. There is a casual comfort with declaratory statements that imply both authority and experience, often where none exists. As gamers whose only credentials are as consumers, we dissect the economies of gaming as though we were Milton Friedman. We analyze sales data as though we were Sam Walton. We judge art as though we spoke with the voice of reasonable critical analysis.

It feels like there is a pervasive sense that because one feels something is right, it therefore is. Whether the topic is piracy, digital rights management, Activision's business dealings, or the relative merit of quick time events, opinions and perceptions are trotted out as though they were mandates handed down from the Ararat's Peak.

I'm not begrudging the expression of opinions, nor trying to curb dissent and debate. It simply occurs to me that I am better served by imagining that perhaps, just perhaps, the assumptions I make about other people's intent and professional ability aren't automatically accurate. I sense that we have become so polarized by our own opinions in this online age, that truth is nothing more than a mirror of our own perceptions.

We've become obsessed, it seems, with opinion.

When IGN hands down an 8.5 for a game, which is its own kind of opinion, there are those who will rise up in holy defense as though they had been personally offended by the arbitrary score. When a science fiction author tangentially associated with a game dares espouses opinions contrary to the gaming elite zeitgeist, boycotts spring from the ground like April tulips.

I admit that it has taken a force of will to not assume that the people I disagree with aren't operating from a position of ignorance or bad faith. It requires effort to give back the benefit of the doubt, particularly when you are sitting there at the stoplight while everyone else is cruising by. Still, the real effort, for me at least, turns out not to be about having faith in my fellow man but overcoming my own ego.

I am not in a position to give others advice, but I can say that the effort has been worthwhile for me. Discovering that you don't know everything about everything, and more importantly that you're not expected to, is in its own odd way quite liberating.

Sean Sands is a writer and podcaster. His wife has been trying to tell him for a decade that he doesn't know half as much as he thinks he knows.

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