Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My name is John Berry, and I have a negativity problem.

I read a really great article last night. The Onion, as part of an ongoing series on shows that lasted 100 episodes, did a profile on Homestar Runner. I loved the SBemails from the get go, and fell in love with Strongbad like everyone else did on the Internet in the early '00s, but something that caught my eye especially was this quote:

'But Homestar Runner ended up feeling very like the purest possible expression of one corner of the Internet, the one that wanted to just like stuff, instead of always feeling at a remove from it. It codified the pureness of being a little kid and falling in love with your first TV show or movie or book...'
This is exactly the same sentiment that I had in mind when I started BWP. The thought process that ran through my head when I was designing the logo, when I was writing Hulks and Horrors, and when I decided that naturally the first sourcebook for my new urban fantasy game should go back to the world of cyberpunk, one of my first loves in RPGs.

But the article ultimately comes to a conclusion I can't quite agree with, deciding that the show doesn't feel as refreshing today in 2013 as it did in those days. But the thing is, that feeling that I quoted, I think it's even more relevant right now that it ever has been: the importance of actually just enjoying things, instead of confronting everything with cynicism and criticism.

Over the last year, a lot has happened in my life. I left school. I had to move back in with family. I funded a book. I wrote that book, and I'm in the process of editing it. I emigrated to Finland. I married a Finnish woman who I love dearly. It's been a lot of change, and because of that change and the stress of all that work and the culture shock, I've spent a lot of time online because it has always been kind of a fall-back for me and it provided something like a consistent virtual home when everything else in my life has been so changeable.

But I've been getting restless with it. Frustrated. Angry. Even afraid. Most of all, though, I've just been more and more tired of it. The internet has always been a place where the disaffected vent their frustrations, but in recent times it seems like it has grown worse by orders of magnitude. As if the entire web has lost the ability to communicate in anything but a relentless torrent of hostility, cynicism, and negativity. The rough-and-tumble fun of internet discussion has given way to one battleground after another, its warriors entrenched in this or that camp and seeing anyone outside of it as nothing less than the enemy, and no battle tactic is unacceptable in assuring that enemy's utter destruction.

But here's the thing: the warzone starts with those who fight in it. And I am by no means an innocent party to that. While I've increasingly been quite publicly vocal about the ugliest side of these never-ending battles, I've had my own part to play in others. We make the environment around us in our own image, by how we choose to act and the face we project to the world, and mine has long been just as negative in many cases as those I have grown so weary of.

My name is John Berry, and I have a negativity problem.

It's time I fixed that.

Last year, Monte Cook made a pledge. For the entire month of August he vowed to abandon the negativity, to post only positive contributions to the online world. It worked out pretty well for him. I seriously considered joining him, especially after Numenera became such a flashpoint as he fell under the crosshairs of another warrior camp. For some reason, I didn't.

Today, I honestly can't say I know why. I mean really, what have I to lose? Why cling to the very same negativity I see as so destructive? It does me no favors. It does my mood no favors. It adds pointless stress. It certainly doesn't help creativity in the slightest.

One of the things I was trying to do when I started BWP and when I made H&H was to stop just bitching about stuff not being the fun I wanted, and make my own fun. Well, the internet is the same way: if it isn't fun anymore, it's time to look at what I'm doing and make it fun again. To ditch the negativity and the snark, and focus on the fun. These are games aren't they? I should have fun talking about them, right? And besides which, what kind of face am I putting on BWP when my public persona is still one of such an asshole? I want to be welcoming to potential new players, not drive them away.

So consider this my pledge: I'm done. I'm done being negative, I'm done taking sides, I'm done drawing battle-lines, I'm done flinging snark. For the rest of this year, I will be taking the same pledge Monte did: no more negativity online. And likely, beyond.

I don't expect this to be easy. In fact, I expect it to be pretty fucking hard. I've lived and breathed cynicism for a lot of years now. But you miss other things, being that guy. You miss joy, you miss excitement, you miss that very feeling that Homestar Runner captures, and that I try to capture with my own games, because you can't put yourself in that head-space when most of your daily life is reading and doling out more negativity and snark.

It's time to get back to making the stuff I want to see and talking about how awesome it is, and do my little part in creating a better atmosphere for those games to be received in.