Feminist Geeks on gamer culture

All gamers have some stake in what “gamer culture” means. Feminist Geeks points out that it contains some undesirable bias:

ENWorld is actually a pretty respectable site with good discussions, but many of the posters and moderators don’t really give two flying fucks about alienating minority groups. Because… well… D&D/table-top games are typically enjoyed by the default: the white, cisgender, heterosexual male. In a patriarchal, heterocentric society, this makes some of the discourse problematic. By deeming it “preference,” too many folks are veiling their prejudice. And, on that forum along with so many others, it’s acceptable.

I had an interesting discussion with the ENWorld mods a few years back. It taught me something about their approach: they are not concerned with right and wrong; they are concerned with pleasing people and keeping the site running. Their philosophy is akin to that of James Bond on a mission to save the world: keep running by any means necessary. Selectively delete posts to change context, lock threads, ban someone without letting them fully explain themselves – it’s all good as long as the bulk of gamers keep returning.

The power is yours! Oh wait.

I’m not suggesting they don’t care, exactly. Rather, for them, there is only one issue and it’s keeping gamers talking on ENWorld. Intellectually, they can agree as to the value of certain propositions, like not objectifying females – but practically, if there is the danger of some gamers being upset, they won’t tolerate arguments about it on the site. It’s realpolitik.

You can’t protect sexist, ableist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic language by saying you are not “politically correct” or don’t believe in “PC-ness”. . . know that using such language DOES make you sexist, ableist, racist, homophobic and/or transphobic. And it’s not okay.

More precisely, it means you are engaged in the perpetuation of cultural bias – not necessarily that you subscribe to it yourself, though it seems likely. In my case, I was briefly suspended for making the observation that if one truly doesn’t attach stigma to mental disability, then questioning one’s mental faculties should not automatically be considered offensive.  There can be an honest question about whether or not one is capable of grasping something, just as there can be a question about whether or not English is one’s first language. If, on the other hand, one gets offended, that means one thinks there is stigma attached to mental disability. If that isn’t clear, consider the similar example of someone who gets offended if it is suggested they are black: clearly they attach some stigma to being black.

I tried to explain this using the case of dyslexia, but there was a huge uproar from people afraid this would open the way for them to be called retarded on an internet forum, as if the mere suggestion could make it true. The mod reaction was that logic was irrelevant; my statements would bother or offend people, ergo, I was wrong, not those who stigmatized the mentally disabled.  Not only that, I “should have known better” than to make this subversive observation.

Ur Doin It Wrong

Ur Doin It Wrong

Now, is the site good? Sure. I’ve had some great discussions there and most of the people are fantastic. But it’s not concerned with equality or the truth; it’s concerned with being a site where gamers hang out, to the exclusion of all moral concerns.  Social justice, conversely, requires people to loudly object to such biases where they occur.  Everyone is forced to choose, ultimately, which is the higher priority.

Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 12:11 AM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Read Butler some day. Feminism is a type of cancer currently eating the mind of the society.

    • Would that be “Feminism” as the advancement of a specific agenda nominally aimed at benefiting women, or feminism as in the concept of gender equality?

  2. […] is in stark contrast to just about the entire history of video and computer gaming.  It’s an old issue, and it’s interesting to see Bioware trying to do something about it. Published […]

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