By All Means, Please Continue

Yesterday was pretty typical in three ways. First, people dumped a  bunch a hate on someone at BioWare, blaming them for “ruining” a particular franchise (in this case, Dragon Age). Second, people chose to express their disappointment with this person’s contribution to Dragon Age by taking potshots at her appearance and slinging gender-based insults like “whore.” (Jim Sterling provides a pretty good summary of the whole ugly mess, so feel free to check that out before soldiering on.) The third thing that happened was the loud and inevitable protest over the gaming populace belittling this woman, Jennifer Hepler, simply because she was a woman. (To be perfectly clear, not all of the commentary directed at her was out of line – much of it had to do with just her work and/or apparent fitness to do the job being asked of her, not what she looked like. ) There was a call to action, as there always is, to end the sort of mud-slinging that led to Hepler’s request to be removed from Twitter. But I’d really rather it continued. Please, by all means, keep on deriding females you don’t agree with by calling them whores or saying that someone should shove a cock in their mouths. I’d really consider it a personal favor if you did.

See, I’m a really busy person, and while I do my best to communicate with the people who take the time to post comments either on this blog or over at The Escapist, or who message me over Twitter, or contact me any of the number of other possible ways you can find me, the sad truth is that I simply don’t have time to answer every single last one of them. And if the sole substance of your commentary is that you wouldn’t fuck me, or that I’m fat/ugly/old (see also that bit about not fucking me), that I should be raped to death (anally seems to be the preference), or that the only reason I’m currently employed is because I fucked someone, then I know immediately that you are either a troll or a fool and I needn’t waste any time paying attention to you. It would really, really help me thin the herd if those of you incapable of verbally grappling with a woman without resorting to referencing her physicality would just keep on going that route. No, really, I’m serious. It’d be a real time saver.

I’m not alone in that thinking, by the way. I asked some colleagues of mine – all men, I might add – if they believed that taking abuse was in our job description, and most of them admitted that yeah, it probably is. Some of them have received death threats. Others have received hate mail based on their appearance. Their genitals (and the potency thereof) have been discussed in disturbing detail, and of course they’re all homosexual, because apparently that’s just the worst thing a person could ever possibly be. (I get that one a lot, too, like calling me “gay” is some kind of venomous condemnation. Gay, straight, or otherwise, I’d still have trouble finding a significant other willing to put up with my reality TV obsession.) While none of us particularly enjoy reading through posts where readers fantasize about caving in our skulls or impaling us because we dared to like a game that they hate (or hate one they love), such posts don’t really have the impact the authors hope they will. They don’t make us rethink our positions on anything, they don’t drive us to abandon game journalism, we don’t suddenly understand how wrong we’ve been and mend our ways. We just call you an asshole and go about our business. Because, to paraphrase Labyrinth (which doesn’t age particularly well, I must concede), you have no power over us.

You are sound and fury signifying nothing. You are intellectually bankrupt, small and boring. We have what you want – maybe it’s a job in the industry, maybe it’s a voice that people listen to, or maybe it’s just the spotlight – and you despise us for it. We’re cool with that. Yes, yes, we’re all stupid, corrupt, fat virgins who are also gay and may also be hygienically-challenged and/or living in a  basement. We know. It’s all been said before, many, many times and will be said again. So keep on slinging that bile.

Or…instead, you could do something really daring and speak to us like we’re reasonable human beings worth of respect. Even if you disagree with us. Even if you think we’re wrong. Hell, especially when you think we’re wrong. Don’t waste your chance to interact with us by calling us names – explain your point of view. Help us understand your perspective, assuming you understand it yourself. We don’t mind when you have an opposing point of view, we really don’t – we welcome the chance to trade ideas and expand the collective understanding of a particular subject. None of us think we’re the final word on anything (well, I am the Grand Arbiter of Cute, but other than that, we’re pretty wide open), and are willing to be persuaded by a good argument. The people who were taking issue with Jennifer Hepler because she admitted she didn’t like playing games might not have really understood the point she was trying to make, but they weren’t wrong to say that her disinterest made them uneasy. That’s a conversation worth having – does a person really need to love playing games in order to be good at crafting them? – but a conversation can’t take place when one side is shouting nothing but hate speech.

But, hey, if you can’t get over the fact that I’m a broad and find yourself fixating on things like my snatch when it comes to pointing out my inadequacies, that’s fine, too. Like I said, you’re just helping me streamline my day.

27 Comments

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27 responses to “By All Means, Please Continue

  1. It’s really weird when you find people who are between the two – who you genuinely can’t tell if they’re an idiot or just really bad at phrasing a valid ‘argument’.
    I’ve had someone describe how I’ll “burn in hell” for liking Sucker Punch, and when I asked what was wrong they simply repeated their ineffective 3 move Profanity-Adjective-Title combo, and said “JUST LOOK AT IT”. The annoying thing is they had snippets of sentances in their dialogue but all that came out without being drowned in bile was that I should appearantly ‘look at’ the film.
    Which I had already done, and enjoyed. Hence the whole problem we were in. My reasons about cinematography, writing, metaphor and feminism where appearantly nothing compared to the killer essay that was neatly tucked under their wildly flapping tongue.

    I really don’t know what do to with those in the middle, they just get angry really quick and fail to progress the conversation – I can’t counter or accept that which is not said.

    On a totally different note: I do feel like I’m cheating in arguments with those who are clearly of the poo-slinging-monkey variety though. When they start to concoct and insult and seemlyingly chocke on something invisible, like in their mind they went “I’ll call him gay! Then he’ll realise that Kevin Smith IS in fact a genius… wait! He likes men! … my whole Keven Smith-based argument philosophy has been shook to it’s very core!”
    Priceless is the only word for someone whose brain has clearly just folded like a wet cardboard box.

  2. Minus the Labyrinth comment, thank you for this well thought out and spot on post.

  3. JBentley

    I’m cool with the whole “come at me bro, it’ll tell me you’re a waste of time” thing until someone starts actually making threats or calling/visiting me at home. Some of these guys aren’t just boring, they’re frightening.

  4. I can see how this sort of thing might help with your daily time management, but it still saddens me. This is the problem with the Internet: no accountability. People say things freely that would get them knifed in the real world, just because they can, and we call them “Trolls” and shrug our shoulders, but I sometimes worry that this behaviour is going to spill over and begin infecting the off-line world on a massive scale.

    A whole generation of people have gotten used to being able to say what they want, when they want to and get instant gratification from people’s reaction to it, good OR bad. That, and the fact that millions of young people have been raised by their electronic devices rather than their parents, bodes very ill for the future.

    Sigh… Anyway, All Hail the Grand Arbiter of Cute (as if there was any contest for the title). I think I’ll go play Fairway Solitaire; there seems to be some sort of gopher-like creature stalking me during my golf game…

    • Susan Arendt

      Oh, no, I’m not talking about trolls. Trolls are trying to rile you up, but have no actual interest in the discussion one way or the other. They’re looking for a reaction, plain and simple. The people I’m talking about are ones who genuinely give a damn about whatever argument is taking place and simply choose to make their thoughts known by talking about how shriveled my vagina must be. Because clearly that impacts my opinion on Gears of War.

  5. I’m new to field so I haven’t had much opportunity to look at people tear into me (yet). That being said, I can’t wait for it to happen. There are always going to be close-minded and/or obnoxious people. When they come out and start blasting someone for no legitimate reason, I’ve always seen that as a way to realize you’re doing something right.

    I absolutely love when people disagree with me and express their opposing views. I WANT people to disagree with what I have to say, provided they present their argument in a respectful and informative manner. If they’re going to disagree and chuck insults/threats my way, that’s fine. I can only assume those dissenters who are respectful make all of it worthwhile.

  6. Adam Johnson

    First of all, you rock. Period. Love the stuff you write and the work you do with The Escapist. Now onto my point.

    There’s certainly a line between expressing a differing opinion and spouting off homophobic, misogynist, and racist garbage. In any creative field you admittedly leave yourself open to praise, criticisms (which, when related to the work, are welcome) and even hate, but there has to be a point where people sit back and realize what they’re saying has no merit to it. As people type “you’re a fat ugly whore who should be skull-fucked by a horse until you’re in a coma” (paraphrasing of course) they never stop to think that what they’re typing has no weight to it or might be inappropriate? Makes me weep for humanity.

    It saddens me the number of people on the internet who would rather revert to the expletive-laiden tirades and feel proud of themselves than to engage in an intellectual discussion with a person they disagree with and run the risk of learning something.

    • Susan Arendt

      I had a guy who made a thoughtless and hurtful (though really quite mild) comment about me in our forums. I quoted him and asked him pretty much just what you wondered – did he ever stop to think that his words might be hurting my feelings? I was genuinely curious.

      He got back to me, utterly ashamed about his behavior. He’d had a bad day and was taking out his frustration online, without ever once following the thought through to its conclusion. He apologized over and over, and I believe he was genuinely upset about the whole thing.

      In many other cases, the offender never, ever thought you’d actually read their comment in a million years, let alone call them on their bullshit.

      • Mohammed

        This. There are two sides to the anonymity coin. One is the power to say whatever you want, hidden behind a wall humanity/electronics. The other is the frustration of being an unheard voice among millions. Unfortunately, the internet is a terrible venting machine, because EVERYTHING COMES OUT WRONG, OR IN ALL CAPS!!!! The only way to express frustration is to fill every word with as much bile as possible. This, of course, leads to someone else reading that, becoming enraged on either side of the argument, and responding with their own bile. And so, the cycle continues.
        The solution? Human heat-sinks. People who have high rage and bile resistance, capable of dispersing all the anger in the most pleasant manner possible. Which is kind of what this article is doing, so thumbs up!

  7. I just read through Jim Sterling’s piece on the Hepler situation, and it occurs to me that a whole lot of people need to be lined up and then the first individual needs to be slapped as hard as possible in the face before being ordered to send it on down the line. Up and down the line it’ll go, in “Silent Movie” fashion, up and down until there’s only one guy standing.

    And his prize? A kick in the junk. A hard one.

    • Susan Arendt

      You missed it yesterday when one of my twitter followers told me that Hepler needed a “thicker skin.” Yeah. Clearly she’s the problem here.

      • Good Grief… This whole ballyhoo reminds of something I read the other day.

        I follow author Neil Gaiman on Twitter and he posted links to the following sequence of posts on his tumblr:

        - Fan A asks Gaiman whether he’s met Stephen Fry and if so, what sort of person Fry is.

        - Gaiman responds that Fry is possibly the nicest human being he’s ever encountered in his life.

        - Fan B comes forward to tell Gaiman that Fry is a “Yid” and like all “Yids” he’s only interested in taking Gaiman’s money.

        - Gaiman informs Fan B that he (Gaiman) is himself Jewish and politely tells Fan B to fuck off, ending the post by correcting a spelling mistake in Fan B’s original post.

        I thought it was a tragic series of digital events, but Gaiman handled it quite well.

  8. Greg

    The sole substance of this comment is that I wouldn’t fuck you. Because, well, you didn’t give consent.

    I sent a supportive tweet to Hepler… I wonder if she’ll ever read it. <3

    Gaming industry looks like it has the most agressive haters… Ahh, let me just hide in the last pre-industrial gaming community, #nethack on freenode.

    If some people think it's okay to use “gay” as an insult, let's use “straight” as an insult for them.
    Yes we can. If we can define the word “santorum”… this can be a meme too

  9. BTW, to veer away from all the ass-hats, I’d say that somebody who doesn’t play games isn’t automatically disqualified from creating them. If you’re able to tell a good, captivating story, the medium through which you choose to tell it becomes irrelevant.

    • I can easily imagine that of the dozens if not hundreds of artists who work on the average AAA title, there might be a few who are awesome artists but don’t care about gaming so much. So why can’t it be the same for writers?

      • Iain Howe

        You have to maintain an enthusiasm for your personal output and the team’s collective output and having a wide understanding and enjoyment of the field/genre is one way of doing that.

        But, really, yes. It’s absolutely fine that an awesome artist or writer or coder or producer isn’t really that into games. I’m having more trouble seeing a Designer who isn’t into games that much – I certainly never worked with one. For now I’d say that’s the one discipline that it wouldn’t work for.

  10. Spade

    People probably aren’t going to like this, but I think it’s an argument which should be considered: broadly speaking, gamers are trained to dehumanize characters they interact with via computer. The following quote from the article you linked crystallized this argument for me:

    “Because that’s what gamers do, if this behavior is to be believed. Attack individuals en masse, forgetting they *are* people, and then acting betrayed when their victims have the nerve to bite back.”

    Just like I’d imagine they’d feel betrayed if NPC video game opponents could genuinely fight back in ways that really hurt them.

    It’s not a perfect argument, as it doesn’t explain why non-gamers can also quite easily treat one another like crap online. But it may at least explain why this type of behavior seems to pop up often enough among gamers to become a stereotyped mass perception of them.

    • So you’re saying that being gamers excuse the sort of atrocious behaviour gamers engage in? That’s kinda flimsy.

      • What I got from Spade’s statement is that because of a consistent exposure to the “non-real” (whether that’s games, TV, movies, you name it), some people have learned to associate anything that takes place on a computer or TV screen as non-real, including their interactions with other people. For many of these Cuddly Bundles o’ Humanity, this “training” (I dislike that word, because it implicitly discounts volition and, as such, responsibility) has been taking place since they were old enough to distinguish the difference between A, B, X, and Y. I don’t think this is necessarily true, but that’s what I got from it.

        To accept that people have been trained or “conditioned” to disregard the essential humanity of another person grants them the benefit of the doubt that they would act differently, if not for the desensitizing influence of the unreal. They wouldn’t; it’s not that these morons don’t know the difference between right and wrong, it’s that the persistent interaction with people in situations for which there is absolutely no “real-world” consequence for unseemly behavior has showed them that there’s no need to behave themselves if they don’t have to.

        It used to be when you were rude to someone, you got socked in the gob; now all you get is a stern written admonishment and loads of attention. Basically, they’re dicks because they can get away with being dicks, and that’s their sole standard of ethics; “getting away with it.” Watch for them on the news the next time there’s a riot somewhere, as they smash store windows and grab TVs and iPads.

        Gaming itself does not inform this horrible standard, it merely exposes that which already existed in their abridged psychological development. Playing Doom II won’t turn you into a homicidal maniac if you weren’t one already, but because these clowns have always been gamers, and their stunted moral code developed concurrently with their hobby, a cum hoc fallacy is almost bound to surface somewhere, as few people will ever bother to discern the difference between correlation and cause. (“Hmm. They’re gamers…. They’re assholes…. Gaming must cause assholes.”)

        That said, I don’t think the point of Spade’s comment was to excuse such cowardly behavior, but to explain it as a means towards understanding it, so that such attitudes might be more handily and wickedly smote, and their charred remains jettisoned around-the-sun, Star Trek IV-style, back to the Lower Paleolithic, where they belong.

        • Iain Howe

          It’s not just that they can get away with being assholes, in some communities they have formed sub-communities who compete to be the biggest asshole. It’s like the less functional a human being you appear to be the higher your position in the collective.

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