Came across this article recently, and .. I must say, that I disagree. Well, why link it then? For one, I don’t disagree with it entirely. The part about Passive Aggression is spot on, and has been painfully experienced by most of us, more than once. The Commiseration Spiral is, too, something to be careful about (although it’s not actually related to the section it’s listed in). For another, though, I strongly believe, that the misuse and bending of the Perspective approach is one other large reason for the emergence of internet drama, since it allows people to give themselves a pass on something they know they shouldn’t do, but do anyway, because, hey, no one can get hurt, like, for real, right? So, let’s have a look.
1. P1 and P3 are very much the same thing – perspective. They’re both saying the same: your problem is not a real problem because of the context. For P1 he plays the “pales in comparison” card, for P3 the context itself is declared inherently irrelevant. That’s one and the same thing, and doesn’t make for anything but padding the numbers. Yeah, I know, I’m trolling semantics here – it’ll get better, promised. It’s just not nice to be offered three drama-slayers and then find the third being the same as the first!
2. Perspective is not an irrelevance threshold. In fact, Mr. Wilson writes lots of profound and valuable things on perspective, only then to dismiss them saying he’s having something different on his mind, namely the good old “kids in Africa” conception. This is, and always has been, the lamest argument ever, for anything. If you have the flu, you treat it – you don’t watch pictures of AIDS victims instead, because theirs is much, much worse. When you get your pay check, you don’t throw it away, just because you didn’t make as much as Bill Gates.
Perspective means, you keep it in context. It means you treat a problem arising in a certain environment with tools appropriate for that environment. It does not mean, that you ignore the problem entirely, just because in the general scope of problems it’s a minor one. It does not mean you feel less strong about an issue that is important to you. Perspective means, that you don’t go out and kill an actual person, because he ninja’d your loot. Perspective, however, also means that even the fiercest forum flame won’t resolve child starvation.
3. Calling it “pretendy fun time games” accomplishes more than just putting the P to the front. It also obscures what’s most important. See, it’s not about pretending. It’s about fun. And it’s about time. It’s about spending your time in a way that yields you fun. And that is important. It’s not as life critical as finding food for a starving person is, but, again, perspective is not an irrelevance threshold. The following is a very simplified view of life, but, in a way, everyone fulfils their less pleasant duties in order to be able to then commit themselves to more pleasant things.
What part of their life a specific person views as the more or less pleasant, is subjective and may strongly vary. If you choose your favourite hobby to be online gaming, however, you expect it to result in fun. More importantly, fun through joint activity with other people. And that’s the kink. Online gaming, like every multi-player constellation, is a contract. An agreement with other people to spend time in a way that maximizes common fun had. Thus, if, say 5 people meet and set out to have fun together, but then one or more of them start acting in a way detrimental to the others’ enjoyment, those others are taking real damage. They will have ended up losing real time, without having gained the real benefit they were after – fun. Their lives will have become one day shorter. There won’t be a second July 16th, 2009, in my life, no matter if I spend it satisfactory or not.
4. The “pretending” people are, in fact, real people themselves. If the character Rocket Tits tells my character that he’s raping dogs, it’s RP; if the girl pretending to be Rocket Tits tells me I rape dogs, we have an issue (this is referencing the linked article, so, if you have not read it, you might be surprised by the wording). That’s an important difference. The game is played by real world persons, not characters. It’s the real world persons who invest something into the game (at the very least, time, see above), and it’s the real world persons who intend to derive something from it (fun, see above).
If the way real world person A behaves during their common game sessions causes discomfort for real world person B, then there is an issue. I’m not saying person B is automatically right, mind you, I’m just saying it is an issue. A real world issue, because two real world persons are not getting along, yet are supposed to spend time together for the sake of having fun. And it totally doesn’t matter if their vehicles of having fun are fictional characters, when their animosity is a real one. Perspective, the other way round: if the measure at hand is fun had, a fun-killer is a real problem, not a pretended one.
5. Just walking away (not explicitly suggested in the article, but always a related implication) is not a satisfactory solution. At least it’s not an easy one. People invested time, effort and heart into this (whatever “this” may be), they did it because it was fun, and because it was supposed to yield even more fun in the future. It’s not the part about wearing capes they take seriously, it’s their joy and entertainment they take seriously (if that makes any sense). They care.
To sum it up, this is why I’m not a friend of the “perspective” argument. Too often is it used to justify inconsiderate acts with the notion, that, taking perspective into account, no one really gets harmed in any meaningful way.
So, if you want to avoid drama, don’t call “perspective!” on everything as soon as you find yourself on thin ice. Rather, when making decisions, take into account some of the perspectives of those other people you share your fictive world, your hobby with. It’s not just a game. It’s a hobby. It’s a time sink. It’s a source of fun and satisfaction. It’s a collective activity you and your peers love, or you wouldn’t be spending so much time with it. Everyone who says “it’s just a game”, is missing the point.