The Trials of the Generalist

“You can know everything about something or something about everything, but nobody can know everything about everything.”
— Me, just now

There was some gentle-natured ribbing — which, on the Internet, means someone telling you you’re a complete fumbling idiot — in the comments section of the TWIMMO #67 post on Massively. One commenter states that our analysis of Final Fantasy XIV is junk because

Gary said “…I sure have, I uninstalled it” Mike didnt play much past launch (don’t blame him) and the other guy never played it. How much of an informed opinion can they form from such limited experience?

You know you’ve made it when an unidentified Internet commenter calls you “the other guy.” I’m famous!

He’s right, I never played FFXIV, and Gary and Mike only have limited experience while he, the self-admitted fanboy, knows more about the game than the three of us put together. Which sounds like we, the so-called “experts,” are really just a bunch of posers.

At least it looks pretty...

When it comes to FFXIV, he’s right; we probably aren’t the best guys to discuss it. And when we cover Guild Wars 2, there will be people out there who know more about it than we do. The same holds true for Eve, for The Old Republic, for The Secret World, for Age of Conan, for Star Wars Galaxies, and for any of the other dozen or so games we’ve covered on the half-dozen times I’ve been on TWIMMO, not to mention the dozens of games I’ve written about in the magazine.

My question to you, “(Unverified)” — no, that’s not right… I’m going to call you “Stan” — would be: How much do you know about those games?

Maybe you are a gaming connoisseur who’s played all those games and can offer detailed descriptions of all of them. But chances are, you’re not. MMO players tend to stick to a small number of games, playing and experiencing those games obsessively, and then, sometimes, moving onto the next one when they get bored. Experience tends to be fairly narrow, but heavily focused in a small number of areas.

Now, take the typical gaming journalist, such as moi. We can’t just limit ourselves to knowing just one game, especially us editors. We have to have a working knowledge of all of them, but as you’re no doubt aware, it’s impossible for us to be experts in — or even to play in any significant capacity — every MMO out there. As a result, we’re going to know more about a wider range of games but we’re generally not going to be experts in more than one or two — just like the typical player. See, we’re not that different. If we’d been on The Sanctum or The Republic or Legendary and didn’t know about Rift, SWTOR, or WoW, then sure, go ahead and rip us a new one. But there are usually five or six games covered on a typical episode of TWIMMO, and we can’t know a ton about all of them.

This phenomenon isn’t restricted to the MMO world. Ever listened to the national broadcast of your favorite sports team and winced when the announcer rattles off some trite, or even outright falsehood about your team or a player? “Smith is the guy who makes this offense go. Without him, they’re really going to struggle in the running game.” Of course, you, the fan who’s watched every one of your team’s games this year, knows that the backup running back ran for a hundred yards in the one late-season start he got last year and looked good in the preseason, not to mention that Smith is an overrated piece of crap the media just likes because he gives good interviews. That guy in the booth is an idiot.

But yours is just one team, and while you might know more about that team than the announcer, how much do you know about the other 31 teams in the league? Maybe a bit, but I’d guess that announcer, who has to cover all 31 at some time or another, knows more. And when he talks about some other team as being “tough against the run,” you’ll nod your head and smile, even as fans of that team are screaming at him (because their team only looks good against the run because teams pass on them all the time) for his lack of knowledge.

Winter! If you don't play FFXIV, I will eat you!

That said… Stan isn’t all wrong. You can always learn more. In fact, in one of my earlier TWIMMOs, Gary asked us about League of Legends and I and the other guest both said, “Uhhh… I’ve never played that.” Gary kinda had to improvise a bit, and I felt a little guilty for my ignorance. So I jumped into LoL and now I’m an uber-super-awesome level 8 summoner who sneaks in a few games at work and would love nothing more than another opportunity to wax eloquent on his vast noob-pwning experience (Sivir and Morgana FTW!). And maybe I’ll try FFXIV when it re-launches, but as Stan said, he couldn’t really blame us for not doing so originally, which is why I haven’t played it yet. See, even we pay attention to reviews.

So the next time you want to rage at a generalist for not having enough specific knowledge about your chosen obsession, whether it be a game, a sports team, a TV show, or whatever, think of everything that they know that you don’t and cut them a little slack.

That said, there’s still no excuse for Tim McCarver.

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4 Responses to The Trials of the Generalist

  1. dndhatcher says:

    There is value in getting a general hearsay opinion that is based on broad perception and multiple sources. If you have read enough industry media, social media and industry blog/forum you may actually have a more valid opinion than a small amount of play/testing would give you. I’ve never played an FF game and I read enough about FFVIX to know not to make it my first.

    As an example of personal experience being a bad measure of a game, I tried LoL. I got as far as “click to move…” and had a caniption (I dont waste my precious leisure time on old POS click to move games anymore). After calming down I finished the tutorial mission and decided it wasnt the game for me. If I based my opinion of the game on my experience, I would call it a crappy old click to move game, not worth wasting time on, but I happen to know from plenty of other sources that I am wrong and it is an addictive and reasonably deep PvP game.

  2. Pingback: Why I Won’t Be Playing TERA | Wintry Mix

  3. Pingback: Why One Gamer Won't Be Playing TERA

  4. Sprinks says:

    I really love TWIMMO and GBTV in general. Most of the time I enjoy the insightful commentary (and even the gentle ribbing among the GB “anchors”). However, I think fans of the show want to hear informed opinions about even the games that you’re not able to play. FFXIV and TERA are great examples. I think it would be beneficial to have “guest anchors” when these topics are part of the show. There are certainly informed and passionate people out there concerning games such as the two above. It feels like the fan mentioned in your article was mostly upset over the fact that his or her game was brought up and then basically crapped on because no one knew enough about it.

    Instead, include someone knowledgeable and comments like the above will all but disappear, in my opinion. As mentioned above – I love the show(s) on GBTV, but there is always room for improvement. We are all excited about GW2, but sometimes it feels that games that are not GW, WoW or SWTOR get shoved to the wayside.

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