So I was recently watching a video by one of my favorite Youtubers, and I came across a comment that irked me (yes I strayed below that unholy line into the Youtube comments section…god forgive me). The comment basically said “if you can’t make anything better than don’t criticize the creator of the game”. The game in question was a fan-made game that was a clone of another game called Five Nights at Freddy’s, a horror game where you play as a security guard monitoring security cameras on the night shift at a fictional Chuck E. Cheese style place. In the game, the animatronic mascots wander around at night, and if they manage to get to you it’s game over.
Anyway, the game in question that I was watching was a straight up re-creation of that game, just with a different setting and different characters (and they’re actual ghosts this time instead of animatronics). But my point is that I read that comment and found myself annoyed. “If you can’t make anything better than don’t criticize”? What kind of logic is that? Does the game creator belong to some exclusive club where only the members can critique whatever he or she makes?
The whole point of criticism is to allow in viewpoints that you wouldn’t normally consider. That’s how it works. You want these different viewpoints, because it will help you craft your work into an even greater version of itself. You can’t narrowly select the type of people you want to critique your stuff, otherwise you run the risk of getting inadequate feedback. For example, if you’re a writer, you can’t just get critiques from other writers. That’ll certainly help, but they’ll always look at your stuff through a writer’s perspective, meaning that they’ll normally focus mostly on stuff like grammar, punctuation, and word choice. They might not give you feedback on plot development, characters they liked, or scenes that stuck out in their minds. Getting feedback from someone not in your chosen field is a great way to get the viewpoint of someone who is in your potential audience, so to speak, someone who is looking at your work as a piece of entertainment rather than a lofty piece of art or expression.
Basically, even someone who maybe can’t write at all can still provide input on something they’ve read. They’re not excluded on the sole basis of being unable to produce anything near the creator’s level. That’s just plain stupid reasoning, used by people who just don’t want to deal with criticism in an open and honest way.
Think of it like this. If we made criticism this elite club that only certain people could belong to, then what would be the point of free speech? We would be constricting people’s throats, silencing them because we deem them “not worthy”. Sure, there are people out there who have little more to say than “this sucks” or “ur a fagget”, but how do we silence the bad speech without stopping the good? In a lot of ways, we have to let the jerks win to allow the truly decent people to win as well. We can’t just create exceptions to the rules whenever we want. It’s on us to separate out the mindless chatter from the critiques that are actually genuine and honest. There will always be those people who just want to push others around, who take sick joy in making others feel bad (Schadenfreude is a fun word…German word by the way…).
We need constructive criticism because it helps us see the issues in our work that we may have missed. As anyone with a passion project can tell you, sometimes you need a second set of eyes because you become too close to the work. Even if you believe you aren’t blind to the flaws, you can still be overlooking things. It’s a sad fact of human nature. Our eyes will glaze over, so to speak, if we’ve been working on the same thing for too long. That’s why it’s always recommended to take a break every once in a while, so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective.
So next time you see someone using that line of logic, remember that they’re probably just unwilling to deal with the criticism and so they’re most likely trying to distance themselves from it in whatever way possible. Remember the importance of constructive criticism, and how it’s different from meaningless “this sucks” criticism.
Of course, if you are one of those people who believes that if you can’t make something better than don’t criticize? Then I hate you.
Well…not really. But I disagree with your sentiment because if everyone thought that way, criticism would serve no valid purpose anymore. There would be no reason to criticize anything, because the people doing the criticizing would be a bunch of like-minded people with little to say. You need those people from different walks of life and different fields of study because they show you different perspectives and ideas. And they will see things that you didn’t. That I can guarantee.
So I hope you can understand why I think the whole “don’t criticize unless you can do better” line is an absolute load of crap.
Well that’s all I have for this week. Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and until then, have a wonderful week.