Catchy title right? This is your one warning, this is going to be a bit of a rant, some of the things I say in this post you might not agree with but I need to get this off my chest. Again, that’s your one warning.
Last night I got into a pretty heated debate because I was actively rooting for a team to lose where a player had been sited publicly using the phrase “Raping the opposing team like the little bitches they were.” My rooting wasn’t based on the team being bad at what they do, I just simply did not want him to win. While this was the main starting point, it sort of snowballed from there into a bigger discussion about gamer culture.
Words have power, and so does your station
We live in a world where things aren’t pretty. Everything isn’t sunshine and roses, and I understand that. But in gamer social groups, there’s been a shocking increase in the level of bigotry, sexism, victim shaming and “rape culture”. I say shocking because I remember a time where the downtrodden, beaten up, picked on folks flocked to the gaming communities to find safe harbor. When we would close ranks when one of our own got attacked or felt misplaced in the world. You could rely on those that played the various games with you to be trusted companions through the worst of times. It’s gotten to a point though, that I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. It’s something that I hate, something that I wish wasn’t the reality of it.
As you add the idea of money into gaming, or competitions or anything that allows there to be someone who can declare themselves the best, you get an odd mix. Some folks are pretty awesome, genuinely good people who just love the game and love playing them. Other’s aren’t so nice, and have a tendency to spew things like using the term rape as a joke or casually in conversation, making fun of women or using sexual orientation as a means to judge someone. In short, recently there are a lot of jerks that have wormed their way in to things. Part of that is just the nature of the “gamer” tag growing so much and including such a large number of people now. The more people, the more likely this is to happen. The problem really is that it sort of was like a small infection that grew. Over the years it became alright to say you “raped” someone in a competition or use terms like “I’m going to rape their face, or they just got raped”. Somewhere along the line, people stopped getting offended by it and just let it go.
It’s particularly bad because those hailed as the top of the gamer geek food chain do this, not everyone mind you but all it takes is one, and for some people that’s all the justification they need. They see some e-celeb using the term “rape” casually so they think it’s OK for them to do it. They see those same e-celebs talking down to women or using terms like “little bitches” and then they think it’s OK for them to do it. I once saw a top ranked CS player many years ago rip a girl’s shirt off, and instead of being escorted to a padded room, the boys gathered around him cheered him on. Your words and actions have power, and the higher up you are on the social geek chain, the more power they carry.
But it’s not what I meant!
Now that there is starting to be backlash against this again, there are a bevy of excuses making their way to the front of the arguments to justify people using these words. Well, that’s all they really are, excuses and justification. One that particularly rankles at my sense of humanity is the one where “It doesn’t mean the same thing”. Words carry meaning based on the time and culture in which you use them. Lets look at the word “Gay”. Many years ago it was used to mean something completely different. It meant happiness, elation. Look at the song from West Side Story – I Feel Pretty. The musical took place in 1961, and well, it meant something much different then when compared to even 20 years later. Use that term now, and happy is not the first place people go to when associating it. If you use that word, I find it hard to believe that you don’t know the connotations present. When you’re using those words you need to know what they mean in your current culture climate. If you’re unsure, you look it up. Saying it doesn’t mean the same thing is a cop-out, even if you didn’t mean it like that, it’s all about how people perceive it. That’s is a lesson I learned a long time ago.
Another very common phrase I hear in response to this sort of behavior is “that’s just how it is!”. I’m sorry but that makes me downright angry. The reason it is like it is right now is that it’s been let go for so long. The behavior has gone unpunished, at let to fester, so people think it’s OK. They see their e-celebs get to do it without recourse and then they think it’s alright to do the exact same thing. Saying “that’s just how it is” is something that when I hear it, makes me incredibly angry.
The use of terms like Rape, Bitch, Gay or any other word that is considered the ilk of those needs to simply not be used. When they are used, they shouldn’t be swept under the rug, regardless of who uses them. They aren’t OK.
A call for change
There needs to be an honest change here. There needs to be repercussions, especially when it’s an e-celeb who does it. In regular sports when this happens, there are consequences. Suspensions, fines even removal from events are pretty common occurrences in professional sports for this sort of behavior. Why then, isn’t it a common occurrence for e-sports? I don’t think I’ve heard of any of the offenders being told to do more than offer an apology. Why not suspend them for the next major tournament? Why not fine them if they want to keep competing? Why not give some sort of recognizable hand slap other than making people simply apologize when they just continue to do more of the same afterwards.
Change of this nature though has to start from the top down. From the more visible players in these games. When they’re enforced to the rules, or they suffer repercussion, people are going to notice. They will take note that the bigger people aren’t allowed to do it and will begin to question if they should be doing it. I’m not questioning their ability as players, I’m not questioning the hard work that they do, but if your perpetuating these horrible things as something that’s OK to say, then there should be some repercussions. We should be asking for a change, we should be seeking it out. I don’t suffer people saying these things on my mumble, or in any game I play. Whether it’s raids, battle grounds, League of Legends, Diablo, SC2, CS, TF2 or any other game, I don’t allow this sort of stuff to gain root. I may be a constant gardener, but until it’s no longer necessary that’s what I’ll be.
With that said, I won’t ever root for a team that has players that say these things, or act like they’re completely socially acceptable.
So this is where I lay down a bit of a challenge, and I hope you accept it. This is a bit of a pay it forward / get your gardening gloves on. If you agree with me, and do not like this type of terminology in your games, your social sites, your guilds or what have you, step up. Ask people to stop. Tell them to stop. Remove them from your channels, add repercussions lets help make environments where these things don’t stand. Try to practice good sportsman ship, watch that line between fun and complete trash talking. Be excellent to each other, and help make our game communities better places.