Wednesday, February 11, 2015

You Have My Word

Recently, I read an excellent piece about the attacks of trolls, Trouble at the Koolaid Point.  In it, the author describes how extreme tactics work in silencing people and the motivations for those tactics.  The inspiration for trolls is not in hating the individual's work - but rather, in hating the individual's popularity.

Bad work is everywhere.  I need open only a few pages on the internet to find something that I disagree with.  It takes only a few more pages to find something that offends me and soon after that I am going to find something that disgusts me.  We all have this experience with the internet.  It would be pointless to spend too much time railing against it, even for trolls.

No, the issue arises when something that disgusts becomes popular.  It is the popularity that is the crime - for popularity is seen, in this instance, as evidence of evil willing the fight against all that is good in the world.  And evil cannot be allowed to win.  Therefore, those in the world who will raise evil to the level of popularity must be crushed underfoot, by whatever means that requires.  No bad deed that a troll performs can be as evil as the popularity that troll is set to end.

I read things like the Koolaid Point article linked above and I wonder, when will it be my turn?  I'm certainly courting trolls, what with posts like the one I wrote yesterday or this one recently.  I wake up to hate email occasionally and the tone is certainly that of the article - that I don't deserve to have a blog or that I don't deserve attention, or that the author is writing the email because I don't deserve a public comment on the blog.  Naturally, I observe this with a jaundiced eye; of all the possible insults in the world, there is no lower hanging fruit than to be called unworthy.  That is, after all, what the word 'shit' means.

We view most things in the world to be unworthy - and we have all, at some point, been affected strongly by the disapproval of others.  From the first we're denied entry into some group or clique, we fail to meet the standards of the school we'd rather be attending, we're picked last to play baseball because our bodies haven't matured yet, we get cut from the basketball squad, we don't get picked for the part in the play and so on.  Most drama about being young is about initially not belonging, then overcoming the disapproval of peers in order to belong.  The entire process of becoming mature is found in the acceptance that there will always be others who disapprove.

One of the earliest hard lessons I learned about this came from my first sales job.  It was awful work.  I was 17 and I had answered an ad to be a phone solicitor for a carpet cleaning company.  The office was a hole, a cheap room with rotten carpets (irony) and telephones on cheap tables - not even the booths we associate with call centres.  There were no computers, this being 1981, so we had cruddy pages full of numbers and addresses to call.  The two bosses were impatient and abusive.  A literal stream of people started the job every day only to fail, since most of the work involved cold-calling people.  Working a shift meant continuous abuse from the people called and continuous abuse from the managers, unless you were able to sell quite well.  I did not last long.

The reason was simply that I was too squeamish to offend the people on the phone by pressing them to buy.  Successful sales is based on your ability to transform upfront disapproval into approval in a short enough turnaround that you can make people empty their wallets.  It is an art.  Not an art held in high regard - but an art that, if you're able and of the right mind set, will make you wealthy.  I did eventually acquire the art - I have used it recently in helping sell my books.  But it is important to recognize that to sell those books I have had to get into a person's face and risk disapproval.  Disapproval comes quite easily and truth be told I do not sell everyone - there will always be those who storm away with disgust.

Because this is what it is to sell something.  Even an idea.

I try to sell something with every post of this blog.  Admittedly, it is generally a hard sell.  I have ideas that are not popular.  I have a personality that does not encourage endorsement.  I am gruff, intolerant, difficult, critical, mocking and patronizing.  When I get tired, I rant and swear and go on too long about unpopular things.  I trash the WOTC and I trash people who play for 'fun' and I trash players who act selfishly.  In doing this, I come off as a troll myself, screaming about my disdain and rejection of you, the reader.  It will seem that I have said, many times, that you do not deserve the game you have.

Except that I have never said that.  I have never implied it.  I may hate the game you play.  I may belittle it.  I may describe to you the reasons why it sucks and why I would not play your game.  I may do so in burdensome detail.  But I won't say you do not have the right to play and I won't say you don't deserve the world you have.  Quite the contrary.  Your world is what you make of it, whether you build it or buy it.  You exactly deserve the world you have.

That is not sarcasm.  We all deserve everything we have.  The people we hate deserve the attention they get, because for all that we hate about them, there are others who love them.  The people we hate are entitled to their money, their fame, their success and their willingness to ignore everything that you have to say about them.  We may hate these people, we may disapprove of them - but that does not really matter where it comes to what they deserve or do not deserve.  Because, thankfully, we are not the only voice making that decision.

By all means, hate me.  Scoff at what a rotten salesman I must be, since I am clearly not selling YOU.  This is as it must be.  I am selling a very hard product.  I am selling work.  I am selling sacrifice.  I am selling the notion that, as a DM, you should expect a zero-sum gain from your players.  These are difficult things to buy.  They require a certain mind-set, one that comes with recognition that the world being run is failing.

People who are running worlds that fail again and again will reach for any straw, even one that will burn their fingers.  They are dissatisfied and they have no idea why.  They love this game but everything they do with it seems to suck.  They play in other worlds but those worlds seem to suck too.  "Why?" they ask.

Then I come along and say, you're treating the whole thing as a joke.  You're treating every game you play lightly and without the commitment it deserves.  You're putting your energy into the wrong things.  You're seeing the whole problem from the wrong perspective.  Etcetera.

These people are willing to listen to be because, while I am saying that they suck, this is something they already know.  It isn't a mystery between us.  They're not getting their backs up and thinking, "What a self-righteous bastard he is, telling me I suck."  They are thinking, "Fuck, he's right.  I do suck.  I hope he can tell me how to stop sucking."

It's all in finding your market.  My market does not include players who see the game deservedly as a joke or as light entertainment.  My market does not include those who are still enamoured with the game as it first excites everyone before it becomes repetitive and boring.  My market does not include those who will eventually grow bored of the game and then quit.  My market consists of people who are now jaded and don't want to quit.

It's a small market, I'll grant.  But my message is, you don't have to quit.  You can keep playing.  Do this.  Try this.  Think this way.  There's a million things to do yet.  You just have to change.

As miserable and crabby I may be, this is a glorious, beautiful message.  Those who want to hear it, who need to hear it, don't care how unmannerly I am.  They only hear how committed I am, how passionate, how certain I sound that I know what I'm talking about.  The more certain, the better - because they don't want to do all this work and get shit back.  They need faith.  And nothing is more guaranteeing of faith than a uncivil bastard who thrives despite all the disapproval, all the enemies he accumulates, all the hatred he draws.

I write and I write and I write - and every word sells the solid, reliable, concrete foundation that I am offering you as a DM.  Work hard.  Read me.  Steal from me.  Your world will be wonderful.  Pay no attention to detractors.  They don't matter.  Believe in yourself, in your efforts.  They will not be wasted.

I promise.

A video of my reading this post can be found here.  My eyes are on the text too much at the beginning, but I manage in the later video to get on top of that.  Another attempt, perhaps two or three more, would vastly improve it.  I'm going to be deleting old attempts at my videos on youtube, while working to take the making of these videos more seriously; I feel positive that I'm going to re-record this, but I want to see how much attention it draws as is.


Harvicus said...

I was in a company presentation just yesterday that broke down the process of Adult Learning into 4 stages, which seem to apply here. The first is Unconsciously incompetent, in which you are an dumb but do not know it. Which seems to be the stage many people resisting your ideas seem to be at in the realm of learning how to DM.

Next you graduate to becoming Consciously incompetent, in which you are still dumb, but at least recognize it. These are those DMs that are looking for help and ready to accept it.

Then you might find yourself happily at Consciously Competent, and things are pretty much good.

But after a while, you become Unconsciously competent, where you know the right things, but have lost awareness of why or how.

Trouble and friction often arises between those in the top and bottom groups.

Scarbrow said...

We keep coming, don't we?