Dealing with the haters

A friend over at Xbox.com just asked how I handle the hate posts that appear — people saying, you know, you guys are all idiots and this score is wrong and that score is wrong and this magazine used to be great but now that I’ve seen this one review that I totally disagree with, I’m cancelling my subscription because you all huff dong. Doesn’t that make you feel bad, he asked, doesn’t it wear on you? The answer is yes — but I just put it in perspective, and take what I can that’s useful. Because there’s no other way to take it.

The hate posts are inevitable — but I have to accept them the same way a game developer has to accept that not all the reviews will go their way. Some people obviously truly enjoy being hateful about stuff, but you have to consider the source of their anger. Sometimes, they are legitimately disappointed in the product, or really think the review missed something important, and want to speak up about it. That’s the good kind of angry post — it’s really constructive.

Mostly, though, I find the hate posts fall into two camps: a) people who are insecure in their own instincts and feel threatened by the fact that they like a game and we don’t like it as much, so can no longer use OXM to “prove they are right” about a game, and b) people who want this job and are jealous. Now, I didn’t buy that last one for a while, because I saw it as an egotistical cop-out — “oh of course everyone wants to BE ME.” But now I’ve realized…yeah, some of it is people who see a game review and go “I could do that, it’s not that hard” and just sort of think if they challenge the authority and make me look dumb in a public forum, then somehow my bosses will go, “Hey…that kid in the forums…he’s got moxie! He’s hired!” You know, like a rags-to-riches movie from the 1940s, where people wear fedoras and talk fast. It doesn’t work that way, but it doesn’t stop them from tilting at windmills thinking “I will make him look dumb and therefore look cool myself.” It’s the same bully mentality you see on grade-school playgrounds.

Here on my site, I can make the rules and say what I want, more or less. If you start bugging me, I don’t need to tolerate it so much. But when I represent the magazine, I can’t just kick out people that I don’t like, even the rude fuckwits. I have to let them express their fuckwittery and sort of dig their own grave — and that works really well. Even as they rant, some of them don’t realize that the entire forum has just tuned them out and branded them a troll.

If they start ruining everybody else’s fun with how they express their hate — or if they turn it on someone else — then I will take action. But if they’re just venting their spleen about the magazine and making me the target of their hate, well, I kind of have to let them. I don’t show up in a forum and expect a shower of roses; I’m a target. And when you get down to it, even the hate is often legitimate feedback; I would prefer they gave it politely, but the lack of tact doesn’t negate whatever kernel of truth may be lying under all the bile.

So it’s not always fun. But it is often educational.