Saturday, July 3, 2010

Disappointment and Expectation

It's always a shame when you read something by an author for whom you have the utmost respect that falls below your expectations, or perhaps sideways from them.  But then I wonder : what right do I have to be disappointed?

They have just as much right to write whatever they want, in whatever genre they want, as I do not to read it.  If an author I've previously considered only in terms of young adult fantasy chooses to write an adult Western, that's their prerogative.  If a fantastic multiple-point-of-view author writes what I consider abysmally depressing first-person perspectives, I have no right to judge.  I have a right only to read or not read.  That's all.

People seem to forget this, in the greater scheme of things.  The most recent kind of audience entitlement that I can recall was the uproar over how Diablo 3 looked too much like World of Warcraft.  "It's too colourful!" the 'fans' cried.  "Haven't you played your own games?"  And here's the sticking point for me : they developed those games.  The fans may know the ins and outs and lore and hacks, but the developers know the spirit.  They know, better than anyone, what makes something Diablo.  Yet the fans disagree.  They insist it should be more brown.  Lose the rainbow, throw a sepia filter on that grass and for goodness sakes make it more desolate!  Because that's exactly what the gaming landscape needs - more brown, desolate landscapes.

Forgive my heavy sarcasm, but it's happening more and more often these days.  While listening to your clients (read : audience) can pay off sometimes, letting them dictate your design choices is a terrible idea.  What do they know about game design or art direction?  Certainly not more than someone either educated or trained in those fields.  What right do they have to complain when they're getting something they've been begging for for ten years?  You'd think they would be grateful.  You'd be unpleasantly surprised.

Thus is my expectation - when someone does you a favour, you say thank you, even if it wasn't exactly what you wanted.  I know game development is a little bit different, but I'm far more interested in seeing how it turns out in someone else's eyes than I am in imposing my own vision.  I'm only one person.  I can only imagine so many things.

Once again, that's irrelevant to my opening statement.  If I buy an anthology of short stories, even if I buy it only for one story by a particular author, I have no right to be disappointed in the content.  It's not for me to say how another person should behave, or what they should write about.  It's like finding out your potential partner hates cats if you're a cat-lover.  You can either be offended, in which case your relationship may fail, or you can get over it and move on.  Or, if you're the canny sort, you can realise you have no right to be offended, because really what you're offended by is their inability to live up to your unrealistic expectations.

Yes, BlizzFans, I'm talking to you.  And to anyone else who slams the creator of a series by saying that they're the ones straying away from canon.  I make an exception for Lucas, but only because so many other people have done such exceptional work on the universe that he really shouldn't go around discrediting their ideas simply because it belongs to him, and especially when he didn't correct those ideas before they went to press.

Take things at face value.  As a writer, the ability to see multiple points of view is priceless.  How are you going to be able to do that unless you first recognise and overcome your own prejudices?  You never know, you might learn some interesting things while letting your brain cool in the breeze.  And if you don't, it's always easy to close up shop and go back to the way you were doing things.  It's never too late to narrow your view.

But recognise this, inevitably : disappointment is based on expectation.  Expectation is a choice.  Simply choose not to be disappointed.

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