The past two weeks have been particularly rough on the reputation of gamers (particularly video gamers), what with the whole Dickwolves thing and all. If you don’t know about it by now, then you probably don’t care to; just Google “Dickwolves” and you’ll find out more than you ever wanted to know. But this isn’t a Dickwolves post; more like a general post to which the Dickwolves saga has acted like a catalyst. Nikki and I were discussing this a few days ago and she mentioned that it “almost makes you ashamed to be a gamer”. She noted that on Fridays, when it’s casual day at work, I often wear my gaming related shirts (including the one that just says, plainly “gamer” in Courier New font) and mused that in the wake of this Dickwolves thing it might give her pause.
It made me think about that, mostly because I never considered wearing my shirts with anything but pride. I’m a gamer; it’s what I love and it’s a huge part of my life. I understood her concern well enough: traditionally, those who play video games as a hobby have a stigma for being social outcasts, exaggerated reputations of males who have never known the touch of a woman, living in their parents’ basement. Over the years, online gaming has fostered the additional element of spoiled, childish and vocally abusive behavior. These past few weeks we can now potentially add the role of sexually abusive rape apologists.
Am I ashamed of being a gamer as a result of that? No, not even a little bit. Of course it’s shameful when people can’t control themselves in a public setting and certainly it’s unacceptable when anyone says that someone should be murdered, raped, or even better (or worse, actually), “raped to death.” But this doesn’t make me ashamed of being a gamer, because these things are not indicative of gamers in general, they are indicative of the human race, a thing which I am sometimes ashamed of being part of. These behaviors are carried on in all walks of life by a great many–too many–people. It is behavior that was even demonstrated by the very anti-rape culture that was so offended by the entire Dickwolves episode, going so far as to make joking threats to murder someone’s family. That these things seem more prevalent among gamers from time to time is, in my opinion, more a matter of the synergy between the medium of games and the nature of computers and the internet. Video gamers by their very nature tend to be attuned with technology, meaning they are more likely to participate (and oh, quite visibly) online than, say, classic literature readers or those who garden as a hobby.
Misogyny, violence, racism and other vices of their ilk — these things exist everywhere and did so before video games were ever invented, but the internet has provided an outlet for which those most likely to express these concepts can do so with anonymity, speed and at a lengthy distance. Moreover, the internet, for all its many good points, also makes it easy for these people, often the very vocal minority, to realize they are not alone, and to unite with people of a like mind. In the olden days, you usually had to put on a white robe with hood and gather at night near the old oak trees for some of the vicious things we hear. Occasionally, there were burning crosses. That’s not a requirement anymore; nowadays, within moments you can find someone who shares your viewpoints no matter how outspoken or heinous they may be.
It’s undeniable that gaming as a culture needs to “grow up.” But that’s because humanity needs to “grow up.” We don’t (hopefully) assume that all children are hoodlums because a few of them join street gangs, or that every police officer is a power-hungry racist maniac because of a limited number of bad shootings or cases of brutality, or that all scientists are dangerous madmen because some engaged in unethical behavior. Why then assume that every game player shares the personality or problems that a select few evidence? As people, we like to generalize, especially when that includes belittling to make ourselves feel superior.
As video games become more and more mainstream, boasting almost 200 million consoles shipped this generation, a greater number of people will enter the hobby, including online. Within every population you have the unruly vocal minority, the black sheep who give others a bad name. But those people can’t change the fact that video gamers are the consumers and connoisseurs of (as far as I know) the world’s most interactive art form; we’ve saved the world and the universe innumerable times and countless stories have been played out through our actions. Games (board, pen/paper and video) as a medium have positively contributed to the skills and lives of people everywhere, and many of the world’s smartest people can be counted among video game players. Okay, that last part is totally unsubstantiated on my part, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
So, of course I’m proud of my hobby. Why shouldn’t I be?