The Culture of Extremes is an unhealthy phenomenon that has grown in the United States online LARP culture, and has signs of existence outside US LARP culture, is the concept of extremes being used as the mainline basis of all discussions, debates, and arguments in regards to culture, mechanics, and game content. The “slippery slope” debate if you will, only we have cut the transitive property of the slippery slope out of the equation and instead assumed the utmost extreme scenario as the default logic and reason.
Some potential signs of the slippery slope or concept of a “culture of extremes” can be found identified in posts and communications with certain reoccurring traits. Now, speaking just from my observations and my opinions, the following reoccurring phrases and trains of logic are good warning signs of content that is following a slippery slope, culture of extremes, or sensationalistic focus. These do not apply 100% of the time, because to assume that they do so would be to also give in to the culture of extremes.
“A lot of people feel/think/said…”
Statements that have this precursor in its content often are attempting to add validity to whatever comes next by suggesting representing a majority voice. In LARP culture it is unlikely that any one person speaks on behalf of a large number of people. I have personally found that what should be said instead of “A lot of people…” is “I talked to a couple people, and I agree with them.” The fact is that any social group of any notable size is going to have conflicting opinions. Just because an opinion is yours doesn’t make it better than anyone else’s unless you can define and structure your opinion with actual logic and facts. To quote another great game designer, Caias Ward, “Citations or G.T.F.O.”
Use of a product name or organization name instead of the actual source (the largest umbrella).
If a person has an issue with another person, and both of those people are a part of the same culture and community, transitive association of the experience between two individuals is often assigned to the group or organization instead of finding the most rational connection. If you meet a total asshole at an event, and you then say “X event is a culture of assholes” you are assigning the traits of an individual to a larger group or product. Maybe a product or group does have a platform or content focus that encourages certain negative social aspects. However, if you assign a definition of “negativity” to the product the assholes are participating in without finding a direct correlation… you are illogically assigning the blame for social conflict on the largest umbrella instead of the actions of an asshole (or really, sometimes it’s the case that the person speaking is the asshole). Pabst Blue Ribbon and flannel did not create hipsters, hipsters adopted these items and incorporated them into their identity.
Citing the exception as the common rule.
This scenario is the game designer’s anathema. When a player identifies a ten to twenty step process to cause a specific situation and a certain extreme outlining use of a rule set, this is a textbook sample of an argument of extremes. To use Dystopia Rising LARP terms, sure, a person may be able to combine a certain weapon, with certain brew, a skill buff, with two unique gizmos, a Strain advantage, a profession concentration, and two advanced profession skills to technically produce an amazing single scenario situation… but how fucking often is that stupidity going to happen? And if these steps are super readily available for the situation, allowed without the local story teller or Director saying “no”, and you must make the argument of technicalities then “No, the rule book does not need an additional 50 pages of errata to patch a situation that only exists in theory and technicality”. Just because a game runner could say “your dead” doesn’t mean they will, because all the mechanics and design work doesn’t create an experience. It is the framework for one.
The effortless cause.
This one is going to make some people angry, and really, I am OK with that. Often it is easier to look at the work and efforts of other people and criticize with theoretical extreme scenarios in regards to what they are doing instead of doing something productive. Unless a person, group, or organization has some fundamental massive flaws, chances are good that most groups are attempting to do something on the scale of “good” and may not be functioning on the same experiences and knowledge base as you are. However, in a culture of extremes, it is easier to vilify and damn entire swaths of people with carefully selected scenarios or situations pulled out of context instead of facing our own individual lack of constructive productivity.
I would guess that the social void that is the human condition sometimes causes people to assuage their own guilt of inactivity via making others appear to be “the devil itself” or take the frustrations they have with their own involvement and project it on others. In doing so an individual does the minimal efforts of sharing someone else’s meme or attack post instead of actively doing something to help. Just a theory, and one that scratches on something I would rather talk about around a hookah instead of doing a blog post on, but I think it has some merit. I think the idea can be summed up with “Sure, you reposted about how shitty something is. Now what are you going to do about the situation you are aware of other than pass the buck?”
The need of a voice.
This is a situation that I believe is tied into the greater social design of the political, economic, and cultural zeitgeist of the United States overall. It is my theory that individuals feel powerless, meaningless, and unable to change the real world. Our political system has representatives that I do not believe have the support of most the people (to quote the Washington Post “Breaking News: People hate all their presidential options”). It is my opinion that people feel that the current state of the world environment, our economy, our government, and the overall tension of the world is not something that people can make change in (connected to the effortless cause).
But you know what I can do? I can call the person who designed my entertainment a piece of shit because of a minute thing and prove to the world that I too am smart. However, to make the degree of investment some individual puts into arguments about the minutia not seem irrational, the subject matter needs to be inflated to be a “bigger problem” or to be a trigger for a “something larger”.
Now, to not be trapped by my own design, I have stated that these are my opinions and observations. I also do not think that every single use of these examples ARE a sign of a culture of extremes, however, to my experience they are COMMON reoccurring examples and signs. Every single one of these examples that are provided could have the smallest details blown up, applied to a specific scenario, and debated by looking at a microcosm instead of a macrocosm. I get that. These are simply items that I personally find as good warning signs to become more aware of what you are reading and what you are expressing in your day to day life.
I do not believe in extremes and absolutes. Even my disbelief in absolutes is not absolute.