Making Better Gamers

One of the drawbacks to writing to a set schedule is that when things get hot and comments or a whole post is needed, it’s really hard to pull off.  Either the existing topic has to be changed or the workload doubles in an attempt to try and get it all out.  On the benefit side though, the passage of time allows for a lot of really great content to come out to help deal with things as they happen. And in my strong tradition of using other people’s better words and works to help me, this post follows very closely in that tradition.

Very few people who follow video games do not know about all of the horrible garbage that went on last week.  If you don’t follow gaming and the industry so much, lucky you.  This week, the consensus on the issues seem to be: thank god that’s over for now.  But of course, it’s not really over, and never was.  For a complete run down on the key events that set things off, this link from Badass Digest covers most of the sordid details.

But now that we do have a little bit of time and space we can start to ask, what to make of all of this?

Leigh Alexander has a great piece about what’s actually going on culturally in the gaming scene and it’s worth reading in full.  She doesn’t hold back with her analysis of the culture and the ways that it is changing, stating:

Traditional ‘gaming’ is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug.

This is actually a good thing.  It means we’re growing as a culture and stretching ourselves in order to gain more and more meaningful interactions from and within our medium.  It also means that the old guard, the original listless, social misfits, who never learned how to interact with people, because no one ever taught them, are beginning to get squeezed out of a genre and culture that they have traditionally defined as their own for quite a long time.  Their reactions are not entirely unpredictable.  As it was with geek culture in the 00’s getting co-opted and going mainstream, so too is Gaming.  Dan Golding points to the demographic changes to drive a few more nails in:

And lest you think that I’m exaggerating about the irrelevance of the traditionally male dominated gamer identity, recent news confirms this, with adult women outnumbering teenage boys in game-playing demographics in the USA. Similar numbers also often come out of Australian surveys. The predictable ‘what kind of games do they really play, though—are they really gamers?’ response says all you need to know about this ongoing demographic shift. This insinuated criteria for ‘real’ videogames is wholly contingent on identity (i.e. a real gamer shouldn’t play Candy Crush, for instance).

Today, videogames are for everyone. I mean this in an almost destructive way. Videogames, to read the other side of the same statement, are not for you. You do not get to own videogames. No one gets to own videogames when they are for everyone. They add up to more than any one group.

Videogames are not for you, is a bitter pill to swallow.  Combined with the cultural mainstreaming of so many of the other traditionally male geek staples, from comics, to super heroes, to sci fi, and it becomes a lot to be forced out of.  These are people who are seeing their whole world being co-opted and taken from them by the very people who drove them away to begin with.  And they are very, very upset.  So much so, that they are actively engaging in horrible behavior that is driving people away from them in droves.

And it would be sooo easy to walk away too.  It would be so easy to say, goodbye.  No one would be critical.  No one would blame you.  No one wants to have to put up with the willful ignorance of a group of people that never bothered or cared enough about themselves to learn how to interact with people in the real world.  Tim Colwill, Editor in Chief of Games.On.Net has explicitly said goodbye to the hardcore “gamer” community.  And his post is amazing.  It’s honest, brave, and condemning to everyone who would take up this fight against “social justice,” as though social justice was bad and should be avoided at all costs. He calls everyone to task who has ever been part of this ignorant, angry mob and basically tells them to get lost.

But is that going to make anything better?

The last piece I’ll link to on this subject, and I know I’ve thrown a lot of links at everyone today is this final, remarkable piece by Devin Faraci, also from Badass Digest.  In this post, he says much of what I’ve thought of the whole thing on my own.  I remember being one of those listless, angry, social misfits, and what it took to get me out of that mold.  And it wasn’t people washing their hands of me and being done, but people who would actually step up and say:  “No.  This isn’t the way YOU should act.  This is wrong, and it doesn’t get you what you want.  THIS is what you actually need to do, to get what you want.”  I didn’t always listen, and I didn’t always think the right way, but without those people, I’d likely still be a completely horrible person.  Mr. Faraci gets to the heart of so many problems in our culture in just these two paragraphs (but the whole thing really needs to be read, so don’t shirk!):

For male geeks there’s a disconnect with what they’re told – be a nice guy and you’ll get the girl – and what they see in action around them. They get told lies that I think are really insidious, like ‘It doesn’t matter what’s on your outside, it matters what’s on your inside,’ which lead to entire affinity groups that dress and smell like shit and don’t take care of themselves. This leads to a horrible cycle where socially awkward weirdos who dress like garbage get rejected by attractive women, which cause the socially awkward weirdos to start blaming women in general for their problems and reinforce their social awkwardness. They do it because they have been raised in a world where women are not humans but prizes, and so they can’t see them as individuals.They can’t understand that there are women who are also socially awkward weirdos who might truly be into comic books/video games/Dungeons & Dragons.

There’s a lot more at play here, including historic social segregation of girl and boy interests (segregation that has only begun to break down in the last few decades) and the way that the media gives young men unmeetable standards of beauty for their mates, but this is the heart of it. It all comes down, again and again, to the same problem: lonely boys who have no social skills who are wallowing in self-pity.

It’s an impressive list of issues, no?

Now for the important question, what to do?

When I ask myself this question, I keep thinking back to my own past and the things I’ve done and seen growing up.  And I’ve decided, I’m not going to say no to “gamers ” and their culture.  Their culture is a reflection of me and the values I’ve allowed to live and exist around me and it’s time to do something about that.  This won’t be some crazy call to arms or anything.  I am not so self-deluded as to believe that I can change a culture all on my own (though some of my friends might disagree, I am pretty self-deluded).  But I can work harder at being a good example.  I can work harder at being a good listener.  I can work harder at trying to get to the REAL bottom of people’s problems.  I’m already doing my best to be a good example to 3 small humans out in meat space.  There’s no reason not to be an example in every capacity that I am able to, even if this is just my “fun” space.  And you won’t find me attempting to lord over my experience or knowledge as some kind of superior state that I’ve achieved thanks to my smarmy awesomeness.  Lord knows I’m no saint.  Most everyone I know will tell you I’m no saint.  (Deluded, remember?  Or would they say asshole…..regardless!)  I’ve made some wretched decisions and mistakes in the past and I will own up to those here in the near future.

But this is my official statement of intent.  There are lots of problems with “gamer” culture that need to be addressed.  There are also lots of problems with misogyny, racism, and exclusion coming from that culture that need to be addressed too.  You won’t see me shying away from any of those problems or searching for false equivalence between them.  You WILL see me trying to get to root causes, and trying to find the best way to deal with these issues for everyone.  I will continue to strive to examine both good and bad cultural viewpoints on this site, as I have in the past (while still trying to have a little fun too).  I will continue to strive to be a good example of a netizen, a father, a husband, and a person and not be too hard on myself if/when I screw up.  And I will work as hard as I can, to help everyone that I can, with what limited capacity as I am gifted.  Are you confused about something? I will try to help you.  Are you sure of something?  There’s no such thing as sure, let me see if a different point of view can give you a new way to think about things.  In my recent past, I’ve built large groups and systems that were welcoming and inclusive.  I’m proud of them to the point of bursting and I will never stop building such groups and systems ever.  Because you see, secretly, I’m not really interested in making better gamers.  I’m interested in making better people.

Like Mr. Faraci says, “it’s time to stop knocking people down and start trying to help them up.”  That’s the only way this is ever going to improve.  I’m not sure what I can change, or fix, or improve, or even if I can do anything.  There is an endless tide of garbage spewing forth from the internet that is soul-devouring and brutal.  But this site will be one oasis from all of that, I guarantee it.  And I won’t surrender to cynicism, or anger, or ignorance, or fear, ever.  Hang around with me, and you won’t have to either.

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2 Responses to Making Better Gamers

  1. LockOn says:

    After a brief email conversation with a friend, I got permission to post the exchange as a comment here:

    From: Freeze Warning

    I must look like Alice to you…

    Because you sent me tumbling down a psychotic and surreal rabbit hole with your blog post today. And now, the story has grown so big, the whole thing has become fodder for ‘the pundits’ outside of gaming to point out whatever they feel is wrong with the gaming culture (or the culture in general), whether they crusade against misogyny or political correctness or whatever. And so it ends up being boiled down to simply more anecdotal evidence bandied about in the culture wars.

    All that aside, I did discover this little gem at the end of my journey if you haven’t seen it (I’ll link to the article I found the the YouTube video in rather than directly to the video itself for sake of ease):


  2. LockOn says:

    To which of course I have to respond:

    “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
    “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
    “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
    “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

    Also, just for bonus points:

    “I don’t think…” then you shouldn’t talk, said the Hatter.”

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