[Wednesday Ramblings] Context, The True Evil
Posted by Trevor Gulley
There’s been a rather large kerfuffle in the gaming world over the last few months. Ever since the harassment during the Cross Assault event, the issue of gender in gaming has been front and center. Yes, the portrayal of women in gaming and the inclusion of females as gamers has always been an issue, I’m not saying it hasn’t. What I’m getting at is there’s more at play here. To me, this problem isn’t limited to the worlds of forum trolls and man-children who’ve never had to deal with the real world, but is a systemic infection. Like, any topic in politics. Lots of people express outrage or disgust at the way things are going, but when asked how they would fix it they either offer talking points provided by their political club or pass the buck by flinging blame. Take the recent counter point to Obama’s (admittedly not perfect) healthcare bill. The CEO of Papa Johns is upset that, after all is said and done, his pizzas will be 14 cents more expensive–and people are up in arms about this.
Really? I ask. So what? [political digression]
Bill or no bill, you still live in a country where not only can you can order a goddammed pizza, you can do it while: sitting on your couch and watching TV/gaming/what have you. You probably don’t even have to talk with anyone if you order it online. Not only can you do that without any human interaction, the pizza arrives and you greet the delivery driver without fear that the person delivering your pizza will instead shoot and kill you (at least as long you’re a middle class white guy living in a reasonable neighborhood. This is, of course, context and we’ll come back to it). Can you really, without the slightest tinge of guilt, complain about the 14 cents that will help you provide healthcare for your workers who are human beings the same as your customers? Can those who oppose the bill say the same? If you can, and can’t also come up with a way for a civilized country to take care of its citizens in a way befitting members of a developed nation, then please shut up until you can.[/political digression]
To come back to my point, the current opposition reaction is that the healthcare bill needs to be repealed. To them, there is no other option even on the table. Not one that insurance and medical costs need to come down or that maybe, just maybe, wages could go up. Political position notwithstanding, the point I’m trying to make is what effect someone’s context has on how they look at the world. For someone who makes money selling pizza, 14 cents per must be a big deal, for someone who lives in say, Uzbekistan, having food is a big deal. It’s all relative. Context. Admittedly, I should have been an anthropologist with how much this fascinates me on a culture study level, but such interest is helpful in being a writer. As such, I would say the Geek Gender debate is this generations’ social revolution–or at least part of it–though it could still go either way. I feel this generation will either break down the current self-centered context or reinforce it so much that it will probably doom us.
For a different angle, here’s another tangent: A little while ago, John Scalzi posted an article about how being a SWM (straight white male) was playing life on the lowest difficulty and though I personally don’t feel that my status as such has been of any benefit (though I’m sure it has), I’m positive it hasn’t been much, if any, detriment either (beyond having long hair in a field where that’s frowned upon and being a non-christian in the south). However, I don’t think SWM as a whole is a culprit. I bumped into a posting on twitter yesterdayday asking people to vote for a panel about the effect Bro Culture has had on the internet. I can’t find the page, but here’s the graphic:
Pretty telling. Even if their sizes are overstated, the overlap is no lie. Anyone want to hazard a guess what happened in between those years? Yup.You guessed it, the PS2 and then the Xbox. Now, I’m all for more people gaming, that is after all the ignition for this post, but how many bros do you know who play Call Of Battlefield, Madden/NBA 2k, and/or a fighting game to the exclusion of all other games?
…and there’s my context talking. See? Even in an article about being aware of the bigger more systemic problem, I can’t get beyond my own occasionally narrow worldview. It’s the lens with which I look at the world and while being aware of it helps to mitigate its influence, I can never completely get outside of it. I will never see the types of gamers who play only specific titles as real gamers. Heck, to me, the ‘Ville players are more gamers than them because casual games are just arcade games with better graphics. I mean, you never win, you pump piles of money, and their huge time sinks. Thinking about it that way, that might be why I have a tough time not getting wrapped up in an MMO, it’s really the same thing. Further, I wonder why i can’t see shooters the same way, since, at brass tacs, its the same thing. Perhaps it has to do with in arcades, MMO, and, Casual games you’re never reallt directly competing with other players. Yeah leader boards may rank you and compare your score to other players’, but it’s not like a Shooter or RTS, your performance in a game depends solely on you, your skill, and a little luck.
Talking specifically about gaming and bro culture (see how I brought that back there?) I think the problem stems from video games replacing traditional ones as a child’s first competitive environment. No, I don’t think League will ever supplant soccer as the game of choice for parents to enroll their kids in, but in ages of diminished parental involvement, games don’t require ferrying a child (plus team mates) from place to place or early Saturday mornings on cold aluminum benches. This means that for a growing number of kids, something like Call of Duty, Starcraft, or League are their first experience dealing with other player of a game in a competitive role. I’m inclined to believe that most of the raging 12-16 year olds I end up playing with on occasion aren’t really all that bad when away from the keyboard. so how does that become Bro culture? Well, to provide an example that might be too powerful, I encountered an advice blog (by way of Scalzi) and one of the postings was how to deal with creepy guys in your social circle. (I warn you the letters are a bit…disheartening with regards to the situations conveyed). For those who didn’t just read, the main point is that bad behavior ends up supported, because of the context. Because other guys don’t call a guy out for his creepy, unsocial actions or justify it in some way, that state becomes the normal and then you end up with what happened at Cross Assault.
Of course now that we come to the close, I’m sort of a hypocrite. I opened up with the statement that just talking about this isn’t enough, but to be honest, I don’t have anything to offer that isn’t already. I’m not involved in many social circles and the few I am a part of are mostly women (which is why I think Scalzi’s article doesn’t feel particularly on the nose for me, but that’s another topic altogether). I’d like to think I do something by being chill with the
surprisingly large number of ladies who play FNM at C&G or when playing League with Rei’s guildmates that I’m helping, but even in reading that back to myself my bias is quite apparent. I shouldn’t feel awesome or what have you for treating someone else like a human being. Its just the right thing to do.
So do the right thing and don’t expect a reward for it–at least not an explicit one. If more people’d do the right thing, then there’ll be more gamers and more people to play with. That alone is a pretty fracking sweet reward.
Anyway, I’ll catch ya’ll next week!