[Editor’s note: Brilliam has a bone to pick with the scumbags that give a bad name to gamers for his Monthly Musing piece. — CTZ]
Now, as much as it probably seems that I’m writing this to get a rise out of people, I’m most certainly not. I love games. I love people who play games. I even love gamers. However, there’s so much about the community, the general behavior, and the day-to-day insanity that bothers me, that I feel like I need to spew all of my thoughts into one long, epic blog post. Hell, you know what? This is my Nerd Manifesto. When I’m dictator of Geekland, all will avoid the wrath laid out below or be first against the wall.
If you’ve got a bad case of TL;DR, please skip to the bottom. I’ve put together my Ten Commandments Of Not Being Palpably Hated As A Gamer By Brilliam at the end; it’s kind of a cheatsheet for everything else.
I DON’T KNOW YOU, AND NOW, I DON’T WANT TO.
The current gamer culture is one whose entire identity sprung out of scenarios of anonymity. It’s virtually the first and only subculture that was put together not in meatspace, but on the Internet. What does that mean for the culture, though? Well, for one, it’s become apparent that it makes people dicks. Without the fear of physical retribution, be it in the form of a braces-bending haymaker or the sight and associated guilt of seeing a defenseless person weep in front of them, the gamer community has decided it is acceptable to be more awful than would be allowed virtually anywhere else on the planet. People call each other the most heinous things, but it’s not just the name-calling; forums, chat rooms, and virtually any space where people online can interact is a prime location for a dogpile. Should two people exchange words in real life, outsiders will usually not interfere, because it’s just not something you do— even in a public place. Now, online, since it’s a conflict being carried out in a public space, everyone assumes it’s their duty or some shit to step in and give their two cents. And, since people are less often likely to take the less popular path in these scenarios, most of these situations end up with one person being verbally assaulted by everyone.
I know you’re probably thinking, “yeah, but this happens with non-gamers too.” Well, true. I’ve seen this type of shit happen on all sorts of forums and blogs and online communities. But, think about this: have you, as a gamer, ever been involved in an online dogpile? Have you ever talked shit on Xbox Live that you would if you were, say, playing against people in real life, at a sketchy pool hall full of strangers? If you don’t think you’ve ever been involved in any of this behavior, you’re either sent from heaven to sweep me off your feet or you’re lying to yourself. Gamers, we have to rise above this shit. I want you all to pretend you’re Barack Obama when you play Xbox Live; that dude wouldn’t go off and call you the N-word because you spawn-camped him, would he? And, online, if it’s none of your business, keep the fuck out of it. I’m looking at everyone who got on the Luc Bernard dogpile. Who cares if he was wrong or right? It doesn’t matter that you think so.
YOU ARE NOT IN A GANG WITH ROCKSTAR GAMES. DON’T ACT LIKE IT.
Another gamer truism that blows my mind is the need to defend the medium whenever it is under any sort of scrutiny. Consider this fake headline: “Some parents took a kid’s videogames away because he stabbed each of them with a butter knife.” Consider this fake, but incredibly realistic, community response: “Blasphemy! It’s probably THEIR FAULT HE GOT STABBED! Those parents are shitty fucking people and deserve to get stabbed again!” Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Let me tell you an awesome story: once upon a time, there was something called rock music. Some people thought it was the devil! They wanted to ban rock music across the land — keep records out of the hands of youth, and drown all of the musicians who made it. Sound familiar? Well, here’s the fucking kicker: rock music was not saved from censorship because a bunch of angry rock fans called detractors cunts. If anything, that delayed the inevitable acceptance of the genre. Do you fucking see what I’m getting at here?
What’s even more ridiculous is the games-art dichotomy as it relates to criticism. The same people who’d argue “GAMES ARE ART!” are the first to refuse artistic criticism of those games. I’m not talking about “how tight the graphics are in level 2,” here. I mean really getting into the guts of what are considered “quality” game stories and mechanics and breaking down everything good, bad and ugly about them. Take BioShock, for instance; I can’t think of a single situation where that game was thoughtfully broken down into its strengths and weaknesses, where someone, somewhere, didn’t take it as a personal attack. Hell, remember that Braid article I linked to a couple weeks ago? Where they said the game was “nearly perfect, and a complete embarrassment to itself?” Well, the text of the article states that as a puzzle platformer, it is transcendental, but as a story, leaves the critic wanting (more specifically, wanting much much LESS). Here’s a response he got from a lead editor on a rather well-known gaming site (no, not this one):
“Every fucking article on this site consists of the author jerking off in front of the mirror, enamored with their own presumed intelligence. You’re fucking snobs. You make smart people look bad.”
To me, this response is the perfect example of people defending games like they’re their best friends. Maybe they are. But, Jesus. People are allowed to dislike, and, hell, even HATE things you like.
And, for the record, hating fiercely on a game is fine by me, in the right context. That context is in a review or article directed at the piece in question. Once you direct it at the creators, well, go back to section one for my feelings on that.
Jesus, though, this is the one thing I hate most. It’s basically fanboyism, and we’re all guilty of it at points. It doesn’t need to be directed toward a console; you can be a BioShock fanboy, or an artgame fanboy, or a Hideo Kojima fanboy, or what have you. BUT DON’T BE ONE. People who dislike shit you like? They’re just as right as you are. Don’t belittle them. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, if someone is offended by something in a game, be it perceived as potentially racist (remember the RE5 thing?), chauvinist (remember the Braid thing?), or whatever else (remember the … Eternity’s Child … thing?), approach the topic with curiosity, NOT defensiveness. If someone feels offended by something, get to the root of WHY, don’t say “only a psycho would think that’s racist/chauvinist.” That’s divisive, hurtful, and will only calcify people’s fears. Instead, ask, “why do you feel like that?” and, once you have an idea, say “Wow, yeah … I suppose it could be interpreted like that. I interpreted it like this.”
YOU REALLY NEED TO GET OUT MORE
As a gamer who also knows how to duck and weave through a multitude of real-life social situations, it frustrates me that when people find out I’m a big-time gamer with an urge to break into the industry, they assume I’m some psycho loser-nerd who honks when he talks and can’t stop furiously rubbing his crotch when a woman says Tetris in front of him. But, every time I go to an event where self-identifying gamers hang out (arcades, conventions, game meet-ups, etc), it all comes crashing back to me why those stereotypes exist: because they are so fucking true.
Indeed, the gamer nerd stereotype is one of the most apt stereotypes around. Punks get a bad rap for being rude, but most of the kids in the Montreal hardcore punk scene that I’ve met are fucking kittens. Jocks get hated on for being superficial and fiercely competitive, but I can’t count on two hands how many sports nuts I’ve met that have opened up about their feelings, or acted with grace and humility in a competitive space. I’m not saying that gamers aren’t all unsocialized — but, gather a dozen of them, and I bet you that well over half of them are socially stunted. When they’re in high school, they have an excuse; they’re in fucking high school, and at that point in your life you’re basically an awkward man-ling whose body is telling him to fuck and kill while his mind is becoming aware of new concepts such as, like, philosophy. What kills me is the twenty, thirty and forty-somethings who’ve had a bunch of time to figure it out, and haven’t. I blame the Internet again. Sure, you meet like-minded people, but FUCK, that’s not what life’s about. It’s about interacting with EVERYONE, be they similar to you or different.
But, you’re probably thinking, “Damn, Brilliam, you’re right. I am a fucking creepy weirdo in real life! What do I do to fix this?” Well, here’s a few ideas:
– Google “etiquette.” Skip the parts about cutlery placement. But, the other stuff, take it to heart — or, at least, stop WILLFULLY BREAKING THE RULES OF REAL-LIFE ETIQUETTE out of some misdirected anger at weird social mores (seriously, you have no idea how often I see this stuff. Like, really, there’s a reason people don’t belch on the train when they’re by themselves.)
– Go out and join a club. Not a gamer club, because it will likely be full of unsocialized weirdos too. In fact, find something where nobody will be talking about videogames, and challenge yourself to interact with people without talking about videogames.
– Volunteer. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. I can’t stress how valuable a social learning situation this is. It’s like work, but people aren’t there bitching about how much they hate what they’re doing (it’s voluntary, right?).
– Treat women like people, not prizes. You know how your one friend has that really hot girlfriend, and it’s not fair because you’re less weird/less ugly/etc etc than him? He probably “has her” because he doesn’t think about women like you do. Stop being a fucking weirdo.
– Get really good at hanging out with people you don’t particularly like. It’s a life skill. Get used to it. Plus, it’ll eventually make you hate less people, making you even more awesome.
– Remember how great everyone felt after PAX? That’s because real-life hangouts are more rewarding than non-real-life hangouts. Remember this when you decide that it’s easier to just hang out on the computer tonight, instead of going out and being around people.
GET ONE (1) NON-NOVELTY SHIRT
Clothing is indeed a way for you to express yourself. Kinda like language, in a way. It says a lot about you. It also makes you look good. Gamer fashion, though, is like the English of a newly-landed immigrant: limited, and blunt, and without nuance. You don’t need to express that you like Portal with a shirt that says “The Cake is a Lie”. More importantly, you don’t need an entire wardrobe of shirts that correspond to your favourite things. Novelty shirts eschew aesthetic merit for blatant marketing. I’m not saying you need to watch Project Runway and get a fashion mullet, here; just, like, switch it up a bit. Honestly.
Also, wearing a collar isn’t going to end your fucking life. In fact, it will almost always make your life better. I’ve had to find a shit job or two in my life. You know, telephone surveys and shit. And, there’s always a kid who hates his job, and dresses like a complete slob. Protip: dress for the job you want. I know that sounds like a cliche, but really. Look a BIT serious about your job. In most of those places, that really IS enough for a promotion, and a promotion is enough to get another new job, etc. Also, if you’re bitching and moaning about not having a girlfriend, WEAR A SHIRT WITH A COLLAR. And NOT JUST TO A DATE. You might meet someone on the bus home tonight; you really want to be wearing that Nortel Counter-Strike Invitational 1998 t-shirt when you spot someone who could be that special someone? If you say “yes, because that special someone will accept that,” then you are fooling yourself. But that’s more of a socialization thing, as above.
Also, gentlemen, showers and deodorant. Yes, every day. That’s all I’ll say.
PUT YOUR E-PEEN AWAY
Holy shit, one of my least favorite dichotomies about gamers is the insane elitism. Seriously. This is coming from someone who used to be an indie rock nerd (and even then, THAT was back in the late 90s and early 00s, before Myspace made indie a “thing”). Did you see how elitist that previous parenthetical statement was? Still not as bad as gamer elitism.
There are so many goddamn flavors of game elitism, and they dictate practically everything about our culture. The word “noob” is pretty much the quintessential example: it’s saying, “You are less invested in X than me, and therefore of less worth.” It’s like high school; a bunch of immature fuckheads trying to build a pecking order based on entirely irrelevant standards. It gets even worse, though, when it leaves the realm of a specific games and enters the realm of discussion ABOUT games. How many people on this site are guilty of acting superior because they’ve been here longer? Maybe not you, gentle reader, but I know SOME people are. Remembering Summa does not make you or me worth any more than someone who’s been here for only a few months.
It doesn’t stop there, either; there’s the “real gamer” elitism, too. Somehow, it got into gamers’ skulls that a Solitaire player is worse than a Peggle player which is worse than a Madden player which is worse than a Halo player which is worse than a jRPG player which is worse than a shooter player which is worse than a fighting game player which is worse than a retro gamer which is worse than someone who “gets it” and loves all games except for the shitty ones like Madden and Halo. What the fuck, people? I know what I said sounds ridiculous: IT’S SUPPOSED TO because we’ve al been guilty of thinking like this at some point. If you’re going to hate on frat boys, do it for valid reasons, like date rape and beating you up in high school. Don’t do it because they bought Madden again this year.
“GAY”: JUST DON’T SAY IT
Honestly, I don’t give a fuck how cool or not-cool you are with homosexuality. You only get to say something is gay if it is literally homoerotic in nature, or if it is related to Christmas. There are hundreds of better words that will exhibit your frustration. While we’re at it, let’s also avoid other words whose meaning has slid: don’t say slut unless you mean someone whose sexuality is more liberal than your own. Don’t use Jew unless you’re talking about an adherent of Judaism. Don’t say fag unless you’re asking Jim Sterling for a cigarette. Don’t say retarded unless you’re talking about road construction that was slowed down by weather or bureaucracy. And if you’re even THINKING about using a word whose sole fucking purpose is to belittle someone based on their race, gender, sexuality, or physical or mental capability, don’t even think about it: quit talking. Period.
And to those who think I am an apologist for the politically correct movement, fuck you. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I hate political correctness, when it gets in the way of well-meaning people trying to say well-meaning things. But saying you “hate political correctness” because you’re a well-meaning person who’s trying to say a shitty thing? You are useless and I don’t like you. You’re just using a platitude (look it up) to be lazy with your speech. Which reminds me of my next point:
LEARN THE LOGICAL FALLACIES, AND DO NOT COMMIT THEM.
Nothing makes a debate more useless than when one or both parties do not understand the very basics of logic. Honestly, you don’t need to be a super-genius to figure this shit out. Search Wikipedia for a list. Here are some choice cuts:
ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE. “I grew up playing ultra-violent videogames, and I turned out fine. Lets kids play what they want!” WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! Whether or not games hurt kids, this argument is invalid. Not every scenario in the debate is like this anecdote.
SLIPPERY SLOPE. “If we ban this game, then what’s to stop the government from banning thought?” This just isn’t an argument. It just isn’t. Period. Stop it.
AD HOMINEM. “Jack Thompson can’t talk about videogames because he’s clearly a psycho.” Try attacking the argument, not the person.
STRAW MAN. “Jack Thompson is trying to silence an entire industry. It’s preposterous and should be stopped.” See how I switched his original argument (kids shouldn’t be able to get ahold of mature games) and replaced it with one harder to defend? That’s a straw man. Don’t do it.
BANDWAGON FALLACY. If everyone believes it, it must be true! We gamers like to think we’re above this one, but really, we do it too.
RHETORIC. While rhetoric in and of itself isn’t a sin, it can be bad if you are using it to win an argument in lieu of actual, valid points. Making someone feel bad for believing something instead of explicitly stating why they’re wrong is a great example; likewise, referring vaguely to statistics without having those statistics at hand makes it impossible to refute your point. There are a million and one ways to do this, and they’re all equally nasty and bullshit. Refer to your local Wikipedia for more info on the evils of rhetoric.
Sadly, that’s the easy part. The hard part is A) ensuring you NEVER use (or worse, abuse) these fallacies in an argument, and B) having the stones to call someone on it if they do, and C) having the grace to accept when you slip up, and fix your argument accordingly. Especially C.
FUCK OFF WITH THE CEREAL SHIT, ALREADY
Stop saying “it’s just a game” and leaving it at that. It’s appalling. You’re spending every waking moment thinking about this industry and its material, or talking about it on a website, or experiencing it, and yet, once you feel out of your depth in a conversation about it, you just say “WHY SO SERIOUS” in a Heath Ledger voice and pretend like it’s not a big deal.
But it is.
Games are a medium, like music, film and theater. Probably billions of people have played them. They’re cultural artifacts. They’re a facet of our nation(s), and they’re a facet of ourselves. They shaped us. Do NOT fucking run away from meaningful, heartfelt, serious discussion of them. Or, from meaningful, heartfelt, serious discussion of ANYTHING, for that matter. The Internet was meant to exchange ideas, not lolcats. I know you’re scared of real discussion. Well, face your fucking fear. We’ll all be smarter because of it.
I’m sure I could continue, but I feel like I’ve done enough of them. Without further ado…
Ten Commandments Of Not Being Palpably Hated As A Gamer By Brilliam
1. Thou shalt not be a dick online, be it via Xbox Live or via Messageboard;
2. Thou shalt not act like a child when the media belittles gaming;
3. Thou shalt not engage in any fanboyish behaviour, and accept all criticism with humility;
4. Thou shalt get out of the house, be around real people, and have interests not related to gaming;
5. Thou shalt act at least slightly appropriately in public;
6. Thou shalt not own a wardrobe only consisting of slobby novelty t-shirts;
7. Thou shalt recognize that all gamers, and, indeed, all people are created equal, and treat them with respect;
8. Thou shalt find ways to express thyself without using words that disparage based on prejudice;
9. Thou shalt learn how to argue correctly, and accept when you have failed to do so with grace;
10. Thou shalt start treating games and, indeed, all topics as something where meaningful discourse is encouraged.
There it is. If even a fifth of the gamers who didn’t follow those rules started following them, the Internet would be a better place. Arcades would smell better. More people would get into games, and games would become accepted, and world peace would eventually occur. And, gamers, even though you’re a crass, mean, shitty group of motherfucking motherfuckers, you’re also smart and have a bit of potential. I fucking HATE you, but I also believe in you. WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER!
Brilliam (who is apparently just shy of the 3500 word mark. Wow.)