I'm sitting at home on a Friday morning watching re-runs of the Shield. The dreaded lurgy is swarming all over my beloved city infecting and polluting fine citizens such as myself, so perhaps now is not the ideal time to write an investigation but I feel it's a worthy topic. I warn you, this might be a bit more of a long read than my normal posts. It's more about culture than strictly video games. It'll also be less dick jokes and more social policy, either way, I hope you enjoy.
I work an office job. Without giving too much a way (official secrets and all that) it's for the British government. To obtain my lofty appointment, I studied Politics at university, I've always been interested in the way people interact with each other, and particularly I've always been interested in different political theories to promote a better society and ways in which we can cultivate this either through policy or at a grass routes level. Philosophical ideals of a utopian society as well as activism can be fascinating and encourage genuine change in social ideals.
What the hell has this got to do with anything? Well recently I've noticed a number of references to Social Justice Warriors, always in a negative light. From the top echelons of gaming media such as Yahtzee Crowshaw's YouTube channel to common grass-type comments on D-toid articles, I've seen references to social justice.
This threw me, as personally I've always thought of social justice as a good thing. The traditional definition of social justice is to encourage better behaviours in your fellow human and your self by being aware if how your words and actions can affect others. It's about being socially aware, considerate and respectful. On a philosophical level, it encourages the same values of some religions and moral thoughts but with a societal angle, promoting the improvements to a society as a whole through this considerate attitude, rather than "because god tells me to" or even "because it's wrong". For more information consider some of the teachings of the Buddha, or Glasgow's own Franz Ferdinand:
So imagine my surprise when people seemed to think this was a bad thing. Shouldn't we as a community encourage right thought? Arn't racism, sexism and homophobia bad things? I'm sure we can all agree on that right? In fact before my little investigation I would have considered some of our game journalist heroes encourage social justice, promoting good behaviour, calling out those who damage us as a community and promoting unity when possible. Sound familiar? Yeah, it's pretty much what Destructoid promotes. (To me anyway, sorry if this is not universal)
So imagine my surprise when I googled Social Justice Warrior
For those who don't know (and I didn't, I miss internet things regularly because of work) a Social Justice Warrior takes these principles to the furthest degree. Blaming people and cultures with no evidence or thought process, making massive leaps of logic without forethought, and best of all clawing and biting at people who don't agree with their often convoluted thought process. Here's an example-
This is not good. This is not progressive. This is just stupid.
I'm of the opinion that we shouldn't just point and laugh at people who subscribe to this thought process. There is more to learn from this that just another corner of the internet full of deluded people.
The first thing to consider is that despite this often being poorly thought through, and very often without merit, the intention of the poster is reasonably admirable. Okay, so I am assuming that your average SJW isn't just attention seeking, but those who genuinely mean it do so from a good place. Remember it wasn't that long ago that causal homophobia was wide spread, and those who stood up to it we're labeled quickly and harshly. Watch Eddie Murphy's stand up if you don't believe me. So while some of the attitudes of these SJW's can be difficult and sometimes downright irritating and patronising, on occasion they're highlighting genuine causes, and drawing attention to causal language that might cause offence can encourage gradual grass roots change.
An example you can try at home!
Sadly, this does not apply to the majority of these SJW's... In fact after a little research it seemed the majority of these people are more interested in the attention and the Tumblr points rather than actually provoking right thought and right action. As someone who can sometimes play the moral police to my friends and colleagues I know that understanding the issue is paramount to understanding. Lecturing others on your views will never, ever help anyone when it is not thought through, when it is not supported and when it is not welcome.
The latter brings us back to video games, once I had noticed the prevalence of SJW's on certain internet sites I couldn't UNnotice them. Where I work we are encouraged to promote positive attitudes, but only when it is welcome. Social issues are not to everyones taste, some people just straight up do not give a fuck. And when mountains are made out of non existent mole hills, is it really much of a surprise when social action promotes such a negative reaction? Take for example this cutting regarding to the new Smash Bros game...
It doesn't take a genius to pull this one apart. But underneath all that screaming, there maybe a genuinely good point about the perception of those who use keep fit software, race in Nintendo games and promotion of good body image. Is this the place to discuss it? Christ no.
Are these people trolls then? "Maybes aye, maybes naw" as we say in Scotland. Some are, that's for certain, some are desperate for attention and some are trying to score points amongst their contemporaries. But some may genuinely trying to improve things. The old adage, "Don't feed the trolls" seems most fitting, rather than screaming abuse right back at these people, we should be pointing out that now is not the time, encouraging them to explore their ideas in community blogs rather than slap dash comments.
It can be hard not to rise to caustic comments particularly when they are about something we love and care about. But the video gaming community is in no position to exclude people or be cruel about their views. Remember for better and for worse, we are the people who scream racist abuse over Call of Duty, send death threats over twitter, and there's all that unpleasantness with Miss Sarkisian.
I don't know about you, but I've been persecuted and teased for my choice of pass times. Things have moved on leaps and bounds since the old days of strictly for the nerd-core. But the reality is, the common perception of those of us who love our hobby to the existent we love it is that we are socially maladjusted, nearly always white, straight and male, and often opinionated. This maybe thoroughly incorrect, but it is the perceived reality.
If we can encourage positive attitudes without them being labeled and bullied as SJW's, we might just be able to improve the perception of our community. We should aim to be welcoming, promoting discussion and forward thinking. Obviously, there are some people who need to be chased out of the barn, but we need to differentiate between the trolls and the attention seekers from those who are genuinely looking to stimulate discussion and change.
SJW's remind me of feminism ten years ago. People hear the activist who is shouting loudest, without realising that there are so many people who want to have a nice discussion and change things for the better. That shouting activist may very well not be an activist at all, but an angry bitter individual. If so, just like in the past, we can politely show them the door. But perhaps we could be a little nicer? There may be some good ideas underneath all the noise. But some of these people are vomiting on keyboards, just like so many voices screaming out for attention. They should be pitied not bullied.