Is It Ever Okay to like Problematic Things?


There’s a lot in this thread I haven’t read, but:

What I really dislike about the phenomenon of calling out problematic media is that it often is used to shame people for enjoying things. The goal of pointing out these things is to make sure people are informed, aware, and conscious of these problems, not to shame them for just liking something.


Yo THIS. Took me a while to get good at this.

An anecdotal example: I had a friend who was super into God of War, which hey, totally fine. I see whats great about that game even if it’s not exactly my cup of tea. I put him onto Dia Lacina’s piece about the game instead of just doing the knee-jerk thing and pointing out all the flaws I personally found and we were able to have a really great conversation about games as a general subject from there, even though I didn’t change any minds.

I think a lot of that has to come down to the second person in the conversation though. I had a similar thing about RDR 2 with another friend, where I mentioned that I had watched a lot of the game and noticed some things and read some crit that I thought was really insightful about RDR 1 and 2, and the ideological battle between Arthur and Dutch that I found interesting in contrast to the first game’s staunchly libertarian narrative etc etc. I immediately got a defensive “man you just dont get it this game isn’t political” and it turned into an actual debate about what I thought was a base level mutual understanding about media as if my suggestion that a politics may exist in a game about “The Wild West” (ugh) was an insult to their tastes. Acting in good faith doesn’t always go they way you plan, unfortunately.

On the topic generally: It’s totally okay to like “problematic” things. I even kind of hate the term “problematic” or “problematic fave” as it tends to act as a qualifier for genuine enjoyment and value which shouldn’t be qualified, and can be a way to deflect the actual conversations and reflection on the media itself as if acknowledging the “problematic” nature of something is enough. This attitude can be relatively harmless (though sometimes frustrating) when talking about a movie or something, but I’ve seen people I know it apply it to bigger, systemic problems (read: capitalism) to excuse and deflect conversation about said systems.


So this has been on my mind lately. And the recent article about Fortnite’s emotes got me thinking about it again.

I’ve been playing that game since it came out back in July 2017. That’s when it still was a co-op PvE shooter. I liked it. I spent some time with it. When Epic announced the Battle Royale mode, I was skeptical. I was definitely raising an eyebrows. But I gave it a shot because PUBG wasn’t running smooth on my computer, making the game unplayable for me. I got it on PS4 and I loved it. I’ve been playing it every since then. This game makes me laugh. It’s a game I can play when I’m feeling depressed because it gives me a space to get out of my head and focus on something else. It’s a game I play for self care.

There are moments that happened in that game that I think about and enjoy. The whole story line leading up to the Cube’s explosion is still the coolest thing I’ve seen in a multiplayer video game. And even just the simple stuff like having an impromptu volleyball game with another player. The goofy stuff people do in the pre game lobby that makes me laugh. It has pulled me out of some really bad breakdowns.

The game’s mechanics are also fun and imaginative. Awhile ago, Balloons were added to the game, giving players the ability to jump higher and float up if they wanted to. Later on, they buffed balloons, by simply taping the balloons to the player’s back, allowing them to shoot while floating. Later on a sticky grenade was added, but it was simply a plunger with explosives taped on. The game allows you to create and enter rifts that transport you up into the sky, allowing you to drop back on the island, giving you the opportunity to reposition you and your team to give yourself a better position or escape a bad situation.

But that doesn’t mean the game is without it’s faults and issues. Epic lifting popular dances from black artists is unethical. Epic also filed a lawsuit against a 14-year-old for cheating rather than just banning them. And more recently, Marshmello tweeted out that he and Epic “made history” with what they claim as the first virtual concert. Despite that it has already been done, and in some cases, on a much larger scale than the 10 minute scripted in-game event.

It’s also a game, that despite being such a cultural phenomenon, it didn’t stick here. Even after Fortnite Fortnight, interest in the game dropped and only a small group of people who talk about it. And even in the social circles that I follow for games, Fortnite didn’t stick with folks. Most people stuck with PUBG. Folks on Twitter, in some cases, mock the game and the people who play it. The lawsuits only gave them a sense of justification for shaming people (and kids who are asking honest questions and want to learn). It feels hard to have these conversations sometimes. And I think it’s important to make it clear that shaming folks for something they enjoy is just as bad as people who deny and ignore the issues as they happen.

Sorry for the wall of text, but this has been on my mind for a long time.