When you write a lot of reviews, you tend to view everything with a critic’s eye. I’ve enjoyed writing reviews since I was in college, though it’s only in the last couple years where I feel like they’ve been anything beyond middling. This tendency is a good way to start a conversation, but not a very good way to not look like a jerk in social situations. I resisted the social convention not to crap all over something someone else likes for a long time. It must be clear that this was not something I did to pick on anyone else’s taste in movies, music, or games. It was simply my opinion, and I assumed that was understood.
My wife set me right on this. In writing it’s poor form to add “in my opinion” to anything you write in an opinion piece, since it’s redundant. But in real life, people do take a small level of offense if you tell them, for example, that they’re stupid for liking Man of Steel. For a long time I thought it was needlessly wishy-washy to clarify when I was stating an opinion, and it still irritates me a little. But I’m also not one to create needless friction between people simply so people can know how terrible Zach Snyder’s interpretation of Superman is. (I’m still right though.)
Once I accepted that it wasn’t necessary or advisable to state strong responses in every pop culture conversation, it actually started to make me more comfortable with not having strong opinions on a lot of different things. Of course I try not to review anything unless I do have a definite opinion on it, particularly if I’m reviewing something provided to me by a publisher. But even in writing, I sometimes find that forceful opinions can be the enemy of nuance. I’m willing to bet that most people don’t care about nuance as much as I do, but in general the conversation on board games in particular is only satisfied when something is judged to be either awesome or terrible. I’m not a writer in a newspaper, where it’s my piece and nothing else. I write for the web, where comments are available immediately and I engage with my readers. Conversation is way better than argument, though there are days when you can barely tell the difference between the two.
And besides, who says you need to have a reason for liking anything? The recent release of the Clone Wars show on Netflix reminded me that I’m the last person who enjoys the Star Wars prequels. I’ve toyed now and then with writing a defense of those movies, but I’ve held off for a number of reasons, mostly because no one really wants to change their opinion on them. But another big reason is that I kind of like them because I want to. I’m willing to overlook considerable flaws because I like Star Wars, and more Star Wars is a good thing in my book. That’s not a reason that you can really explain to people. I’m not even saying it’s a good reason. But it’s enough to get me to like them. I genuinely, unironically enjoy those movies and come back to them every couple years.
There are a number of games, songs, and movies that I enjoy for no real reason. It seems like this fact gets people angry, like we must give an accounting of our taste in popular culture so that others can judge us by it. I just can’t live my life worrying about why I do or don’t like something. Does that make my thoughts and reviews suspect? Maybe so, but I can live with that. At least this way I’ll be having more fun.