Lusipurr does not let us use contractions in our posts.
Apparently it offends his sense of style, which is odd. As an English major, he should know that liberal use of the apostrophe defines classic works of English literature. Also, look at Robert Burns. Dude is a certified “have-to-read-in-English class” poet, and he gets to go around saying things like “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,” just for talking to a mouse he found “cowering” outside his Scottish hovel one day. Also, “hovel” apparently originally meant a vent for smoke or a shed for animals. Look it up! It is exactly the sort of place where Scots would live.
But for some reason he lets me use the word “druthers.” The etymology of this word says it is a contraction. Why does Da Boss let me get away with such profligate prolix promiscuity with his beloved English language?
I think under that gruff exterior that sends gushy tweets about his main squeeze, he is really just a softie. And let us think about that: he is a kind-hearted soul that gives a band of rogues, miscreants, fart app aficionados and lost Canadians a place to come every week to bitch about video games and attempt to drive poor Oliver and Ethan to madness. Seriously, guys, way to hang in there through the podcast abuse that gets flung out. You go, girls.
When I first met Lusi, it was on the Wild, Wild West of the Internet. For those of my readers who are too young to remember what the Internet was like before Facebook and Youtube civilized it, there was this dark and unholy place known as Livejournal, which was how ugly girls shared topless pictures with whiny poetry-writing wuss-men before Myspace streamlined the process.
Lusi and I would banter carelessly back and forth on philosophy forums, debating the relative merits of Roman Catholic dogma, British empiricism and that stylish übermensch Immanuel Kant. Then one day he had the perhaps-insane idea to ask me to write a column on video games after I bitched about how lame Aion‘s closed beta was.
But before that, I had no idea that he would have been a gamer; he seemed to me to be the type that might avoid video games as gauche. I mean, I knew that I liked them, sure, but I eat chili and cook meat with fire outside, as my Viking ancestors did in the days when we were conquering his ancestors. I lack refinement and polish; for Heaven’s sake, I drink iced tea that is supersaturated with sugar, like some sort of barbarian.
Which said a lot about my views about who played video games, and about the general state of games. Well-known MMO blogging site Massively.com recently linked to a story about gamers bucking the stereotype, which nicely dovetailed with a few things I have been ruminating over in the wake of the apparent end of the “Dickwolf Debacle”. For those just joining us (and who missed my epic stomping fit back in August) the linked blog has a good timeline of exactly what a dickwolf is and why we are debacling over it. I suppose I am really miffed that we did not get included on the timeline, so hopefully a trackback link will get us noticed.
There is no question that the Debacle exposed a lot of bad stereotypes on both sides of the argument. After all, even though I am squarely in the “Gabe and Tycho reacted in absolutely the wrong way to a fan’s reaction to the comic” camp, threats of violence against Gabe’s wife and kids is not only wrong, it is criminal and I hope that someone spends some time in jail over it. It makes me embarrassed for my “side,” because that is just plain idiotic.
On the other hand, let us not forget that the other side created twitter accounts like “teamrape,” allied themselves with the thoroughly detestable “men’s rights activism” movement, and in general acted like a bunch of privileged, misogynist dudebros, which is an unfortunate stereotype about gamers.
To tie these two themes together, I realized that my own views on gaming were based on a bit of self-loathing. Despite the über-confident approach I spin out all the time (a side effect of my education) I am often unsure of myself, down on myself, and my own worst critic. Because I am sort of a socially awkward kind of guy, I bought in to the “loner male not good with people who lacks cultural refinement” because I thought/think that describes/described me. And that was when I realized that stereotypes about gamers are bad and we should actively work to dispel them.
Except it does not help when gamers reinforce those stereotypes like they did in the Debacle… except that now that I reread the timeline, I find I was too negative. For every “Dick Wolvington” or “teamrape,” there were progressive, feminist, liberal and leftist bloggers out there discussing it… and not all of them took the side of the somewhat-reactionary and overly-snarky Shakesville.
Do not get me wrong; I read Shakesville from time-to-time and enjoy it, but it is not the sort of site I would send someone to for an introductory education to feminist critical theory. I like Melissa’s snark, but she (unapologetically, I believe) writes in an abrasive manner and can be a little dismissive and derailing herself. Oh well, no one is perfect.
I thought Courtney Stanton’s response was the best: the answer to speech one does not like is never to call for a cessation of the speech, but to engage in free speech oneself. That people who ostensibly supported Gabe and Tycho’s freedom of expression tried to shut her down by demanding that she prove she was a rape survivor shows just how interested they were in actual free exchange and discussion of ideas.
The problem was never the comic itself; the original Shakesville reaction to it was not an unjustified reaction. The strip is triggering, but no one has a duty to avoid discussing triggering things, just to label them (if one is being polite about it). But I am not sure that Penny-Arcade owes its fans a triggering label; hell, they may not have even known the term before, and it would be unfair of us to impose upon them some sort of requirement that they devote their free time to reading social theory journals.
But their reaction to a fan (not a critic) and her understandably negative reaction to a comic that contained a superfluous rape reference was where it all went wrong; instead of just saying, “Hey, sorry you got offended reading our comic, we did not mean to upset you, because the point of the joke was actually to make fun of arbitrary moral actions in MMOs…” Gabe and Tycho acted upset that anyone would dare criticize them in this fashion and made light of very important and very real social theory regarding rape and rape culture. I am not saying that they needed to agree with all of that fancy academic theory, but they should not have been so dismissive of it and encouraged the misogynist tripe on Twitter and elsewhere.
And I am really upset it ended up like it did, but feel like I needed to comment on it to try and pull something positive out of how bad it all ended up. I think that stereotypes people have about gamers and gaming culture need to evaporate, and for better or worse, people like Gabe and Tycho are major cultural trendsetters for gamers. It would have been nice to see them push the gaming community in a more progressive, socially-conscious direction, but I suppose that is not their primary purpose or duty.
But it can be mine.
I am a gamer. I play video games. I sometimes forego going to social events with people I know “in real life” to stay home and play video games with people I only know over the Internet… and I do not find anything wrong with that. I am sociable; I smile and laugh when I am out with people. I have a great marriage. I have a great job, two degrees, and I am not above whipping out my iPhone at lunch for a quick round of Angry Birds. I am an academic and a feminist. I believe in social justice. But I also like Mountain Dew (well, the Diet variety, but still) and am not above ordering delivery pizza for dinner. I have rolled my fair share of polygonal dice while attacking the darkness. If someone told me they had a plus two broadsword, I would know what they meant. I actually took a course on the linguistics of Middle Earth and analyzed poems written in a fake language. I live a balanced and healthy life while being a huge freaking dork, and I love that about myself. And I pledge to try and show the world a positive face for the gaming subculture, a subculture I believe can be inclusive and tolerant and positive.