Last month I came across a post in my WordPress reader called Your Jealously is Showing. This was written in response to an article by Ian Sherr published on the CNET website on 06 June 2019. In Meet the angry gaming YouTubers who turn outrage into videos, the author discusses how content creators are using anger to increase their views and influence across the platform.
There was nothing particularly surprising about this event: I browse through posts while on my morning commute and regularly come across those arguing against a claim made by a journalist. I admit I’ve even written such articles myself occasionally. But there was something about these two that made me uncomfortable. For the past few weeks since reading them, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the online community, where my own blog fits into it and whether my own anger is holding me back.
The CNET article mentioned above does have a point. Sherr wrote: “Now the gaming community is manufacturing outrage videos. If you’re trawling for game news on YouTube, anger is becoming the only emotion you’ll experience in your recommended feed.” The platform is an economy built around attention and participants are rewarded for viewer engagement with ad revenue. We’re hard-wired to be attracted to drama, and so it therefore tends to be the subjects that fuel fear and frustration which generate more clicks.
However, I didn’t see too much of this widespread negativity when I opened up YouTube’s gaming channel as a test while drafting this post. But what I was greeted with instead wasn’t much more welcoming: an onslaught of brightly-coloured thumbnails covered in exclamation marks and capitalised titles quickly reminded why I don’t often visit the site. Each video tries to shout louder than its neighbours in a clamour to get noticed and the result is a place where it’s difficult for me to feel at ease.
Even WordPress has become more like this in recent years. The reader used to be somewhere you could go to find bloggers’ unique thoughts on their hobby or stories about special gaming experiences, but now it’s full of the same news headlines repeated over and over (E3 recently hasn’t helped). Developments in the industry are regularly met with outrage and discussed using expletives in posts often designed to be controversial – one of the reasons why I’ve chosen not to provide a link to the site mentioned at the start of this piece.
It’s said that negativity breeds negativity. That event last month has made me realise that this pessimism is starting to spill over into my own work and it’s now habit to reach for the keyboard when I’ve seen something that angers me. Sure, I’ll always try to trace the original sources and see the data behind news reports for myself; but this type of post is becoming too easy to write while more light-hearted and optimistic pieces are beginning to get more difficult. And that’s kind of scary.
I make a point of trying to promote bloggers who themselves promote positivity, sharing their work on social media to help spread the word. So if I can do that then why am I not being more positive myself? I’ve come to understand this year that my anxiety comes to the forefront when I feel as though a situation isn’t changing regardless of how hard I’m working to make it so. When that sense of going around in circles comes about, the negativity starts to bubble up and my reaction to the world around me twists into something cynical.
That’s no good at all. It’s not going to help bring about change and the only effect it has is making me feel even worse. In Sherr’s article, a longtime YouTuber told the journalist that we now ‘have a whole generation of kids who were raised on negativity’ who are trying to become the next generation of gaming commentators. I have to stop myself from being a part of that cycle. It might sound idealistic but I want Later Levels to be a place where everyone feels welcome and the benefits of gaming are shouted about. There’s got to be a way forward to make that happen.
Unfortunately this post doesn’t contain the answers and it’s something I need to think about further. But what I do know is that from this point forward I need to put more thought into the subject of each post and what ends up being published here. If it’s not something that’s going to enhance discussion, help the community or make its members feel good about themselves and their group, then really: is there any point in writing it? It’s an area I have control over that provides chance to stop the circle of negativity.
The planning for the next GameBlast will begin this week and that’s helping me stay motivated about this insight. Gaming can have so many great benefits and everyone deserves to be able to play, so what better place to start the change than with an event which promotes such positive thinking. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest, dear readers – I promise you’ll see a lighter, brighter Later Levels very soon.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.