Critical Hit | Demonised Gamers

By Aria DiMezzo 06.02.2016 10

Are gamers all homophobic, racist, sexist, and so on? Does the way that the media labels the gaming community really ring true, or has everything been blown out of proportion? Aria DiMezzo tackles the highly sensitive subject for this latest edition of Cubed3's Critical Hit series…

As I have a quality that leaves me open to be the victim of verbal assault with some regularity, someone recently said to me, "And you're active in the video game industry? Good luck. I mean it--don't let them drive you to suicide."

I happen to be transgender, and I make no secret of that when it is relevant. It's not something I go around shouting to anyone who will listen, but it is something that I refuse to hide, because I'm not ashamed of it. When a conversation makes its way toward homosexuality (I am a lesbian), transgenderism, women's rights, and the like, I speak up, because all of these things affect me in one way or another. While I'll surely rant about all of these issues one day, anyone who isn't a gamer and who knows of the "horrible behaviour" of gamers is usually stunned that I choose to remain part of the community.

However, that's because they don't understand gamers, which is a result of information coming from the media. Gamers are not anti-homosexuality, racist, or anti-transgender, regardless of what the media would have people believe. I have told countless gamers that I'm transgender, and they have never replied with an insult, and if I happen to say that I'm a lesbian, the response is usually, "That's hot," or something like that—it's never been met with something offensive.

To gamers, these are non-issues, and irrelevant when it comes to individuals and how they are treated, and that's the crux that eludes the media and those who derive their worldview from the rantings of the Press. Gamers don't care in the slightest what my sexual orientation is, or whether my gender is more or less complicated a matter than most; it means nothing to them. Everyone gets the same insults thrown at them.

When a gamer shouts what we'd normally think of as a homophobic slur, they're not doing it because they hate homosexuals. In fact, by and large they have nothing against homosexuals. To be totally honest, I've been known to throw such words around myself, and it has nothing to do with homosexuality, which South Park pointed out years ago. When a gamer uses a homophobic slur, they're not thinking, "Oh, that's a homosexual." They're just throwing an insult; sexual orientation has nothing to do with it. Gamers aren't homophobic; they just like pushing boundaries.

These are my people, "Mainstream Media." I am a gamer, and I love my fellow gamers to death. I've been called all sorts of things probably hundreds of times, but it's always irrespective of orientation and gender, and that's the point non-gamers aren't grasping.

A few months ago, I made a joke to a friend that was pretty messed up, and we both laughed about it, because it was a joke. He knew that I was being intentionally offensive, and that the joke was intentionally offensive just because. That's the way gamers are: we're offensive, we know we're offensive, and that's why we're offensive.

The media wants to paint gamers as a bunch of racist, homophobic, sexist bullies, and nothing could be further from the truth. Most gamers grew up being picked on, being called nerds, and being otherwise bullied. A lot of us are overweight, a lot of us have self-esteem issues, and a lot of us are timid in person. Gaming is, and always has been, our refuge from a world that has consistently bullied us, primarily because of our hobbies - so it must be understood: gamers aren't throwing insults at dainty little flowers with soft skin and easy-to-hurt feelings. Gamers are throwing slurs at battle-hardened warriors who have endured systematic bullying from virtually every other element of Western culture; very few parts of Western entertainment have not insulted "nerds" at some point.

"If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch."

On that matter, gaming entering the mainstream also brought in a ton of "Bro-Gamers" who don't understand why such taboo insults get thrown around in gaming. These Bro-Gamers came in, joined the Ventrillo Server, heard the insults, and we could almost see the euphoria shining in their eyes. "Oh, wow!" they cried in unison, cheering. "We can say anything we want here! [Omitted—use your imagination, because we all know what was said here]"

It's true, though; on the Internet people can say whatever they want, but these people can be identified a mile away. Bro-Gamers use the slurs because they think that the anonymity gives them licenses to be ignorant jerks. Other gamers use the slurs because we consider nothing sacred, despise political correctness, abhor censorship in all its forms, and just enjoy pushing buttons.

It cannot be overstated: gamers loathe censorship. The media would be immensely surprised to discover how deep gamers' hatred of censorship actually runs. Gamers tolerate censorship from no one and for no reason, and restricting words because they're taboo, or being held up as holy things that can't be used is a form of censorship. Gamers use those words to spit in the face of censorship and those who support it. Don't believe me? Browse the Steam Greenlight forums and look at some of the more terrible games, and find the developers that are deleting negative feedback. Gamers revolt against censorship.

The use of these insults has nothing do with whatever characteristics someone might have. Yes, Mainstream Media, and everyone who gets their information from the MSM, I am a transgender lesbian and proud member of the gaming community. These people you call hostile, homophobic, racist, and sexist have more respect, tolerance, and acceptance for me than any other community in the world, and they prove that because every individual is fair game to be called every insult in the book, regardless of their gender, race, orientation, or religion—it doesn't get more "equal treatment" than that.

The gaming community is remarkable. You just have to take the time to understand it.

Note from the author: The use of "gamers" in is not meant as every single person who plays videogames. Instead, it implies that "gamer" refers to "gamers who use the slurs." In order to avoid the article being monotonous and repetitive by constantly saying "Gamers who use these slurs..." each time I had to reference gamers, I opted to use an ellipsis and omit the qualifier. The qualifier, however, is still implied, because the article is not talking about gamers who don't use these slurs, and at best applies to the gamers who do.

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I sincerely agree with everything you say in this article. Gamers are demonised in pretty much the same way rockers were back when those who demonises gamers now were young (ironic, isn't it? The true beauty of the idiocy of man... Repeating the same misstakes again and again...). It's new, it's something they were never part of, and they hear all of these terrible things about it without hearing any of the good stuff (which there are PLENTY of!). Overall, I have found the average gamer to be way nicer and, especially, more open minded in general than the average person in general. Of course there are psychic vampires out there, just like in the "normal" world, who enjoys nothing more than making others suffer because they themselves feel bad. But that is a minority (if a loud one), just like in real life.

The biggest problem which lets this illusion of the gaming community still being seen like this though is that it is one of few mediums where fools like these are actually given a giant megaphone to yell out all of their bull**** in as in other forms of media and entertainment those are never allowed to be heard (and if they are people are quick to put a stop to it) while in gaming its quite impossible not to hear them. I do not want censorship though, but I would sincerely like the rest of the world who are quick to judge the gaming community to read up on the subject before speaking about it. Both the good and the bad parts about it (well, no need telling them to read on about the later, is it? -,-').

Then that I think that the language is sometimes way harsher than I wish it was is another thing... I am not a big fan of bad words. Smilie But I know that more often than not there is no ill intend behind those words, so why waste energy into it? And the opposite of censoring things puts me off even more, so it's just to live with it! Smilie As long as no one is actually hostile towards one another there is no damage. Smilie

The difference between illusion and reality is vague to the one who suffers from the former and questionable for the one suffering form the later.

Thanks. Smilie

When I linked to this article from my website, I took care to point out that I'm simply explaining, as I understand it at least, why this stuff occurs, and that "explaining" and "approving" aren't the same thing. I wish I'd added something to that effect to the original article, but here in the comments is just as good.

The words themselves can suck, but I'm with you: the main problem is that the words are often hatred compressed into a linguistic form. But if someone throws such a slur at me, and then turns around and throws it at nine other people, I feel like I would be the one in the wrong to say "No, that offends me--you can't call me that." Personally, I don't care, except that...

It's pretty lazy, I think. It's easy to try for a shock value insult with a racial slur, but I'd like to return to the authors of the 18th and 19th centuries--they knew how to throw insults. Thomas Paine's insults at Edmund Burke are staggering, and way more effective than if he'd just called him a tory--or whatever the 18th century equivalent of a modern slur would have been. But it's definitely easy to just fall back onto a handful of slurs for an insult, and I'd rather hear creative ones thrown around, personally. Smilie

If we're going to insult people, I mean, but I'm really not a fan of that--and some sects within the gaming community are toxic, but it's not against anyone of a certain orientation, gender, or religion--it's against new players.

That makes me really think, though... Isn't "noob" a slur, then, for people who are new to something? I've never thought of it that way, but I guess it is. Hm. That kinda forces me to rethink some things. o.O

Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?

Noob is (or was at least to begin with) certainly a negative slur. I remember back when the term was relatively new it was almost only toxic people who used the term. Overtime though, it started to lose that edge and started to be the most common way to refer to new/bad people to. Before that, however, people in general (i.e. people who didn't try to be mean) often used the more soft sounding "newbie", which noob is a slur from, as a term for new players rather than the harder and more rough sounding "noob". You could pretty much determinate which players were "good folks" or "bro-gamers" based almost solely on if they used noob or newbie at that point in time. Smilie Very convenient if I say so myself. Smilie

Nowadays though, it doesn't really matter as the word has lost all edge and is used by basically anyone to refer to new players or someone who "can't play". I do certainly agree with you on the insults part though. Those insults were by far superior to those used by most people nowadays... But I sincerely doubt they were used by the average person back then.

The difference between illusion and reality is vague to the one who suffers from the former and questionable for the one suffering form the later.

Congruts for a well-written article.
However... gamers are nothing more than a bunch of different individuals, not a group of similar people.
There are homophobes, fascists, bullies, jerks, trolls, morons, sexists, etc, amongst us just like in any other demographic and at very large numbers. Yes, statistically gamers tend to be less homophobic, but they also tend to be some of the worst kind of bullies and misogynistic people this side of the solar system... at least a large part of our community. Should we all be demonised because of them? Of course not, but thats not up to us. The burden of proof is never on the hands of the one accused but on the hands of the accuser.

At least that is what my lawyer told me to say...

Can't a fella drink in peace?

That's certainly true in a court of law, but non-judicial society has routinely shown that the accusation is often enough to confirm guilt--as Bill Cosby, O.J., and Paula Deen have learned. I have no idea if any of these people are guilty of what they're accused of, but neither does the average person. That didn't stop society from rejecting Paula Deen in major ways, tearing her empire down to virtually nothing overnight, simply because she was accused of being racist. The media reported it and, as is so often the case, the masses took it at face value, and almost no one bothered to look into it.

Martin Shkreli is facing the same thing right now. Despite that his company actually gave the drug in question at no cost to any patient who didn't have medical insurance--thereby insuring that the costs were always paid by insurance companies rather than individuals, which is still messed up, don't get me wrong--and despite the fact that the primary issue here is that there was no generic form available, that the medicine was outdated and largely obsolete and wasn't being denied to anyone, he is presently the most hated man in the United States. No one cares about any of this. They just hear "He jacked up the price of a drug 3500%," and that's all they want to know--he immediately becomes a villain, and no one cares whether it's true or not, or whether it's being painted by the media in any way that actually resembles what happened.

Gamers aren't a homogenized group, for sure, but when treated as one the only recourse is to reply, "No, we're not," because it's just a much stronger argument than "Well, I'm not, but some may be." It's like I told a friend of mine recently about feminism: feminism isn't something that came out of nowhere; feminism is a response to misogyny. Similarly, this "gamerism" so to speak didn't come out of nowhere, but is a response to having already been placed into a uniform group by an entity that then disparaged that group. Society shouldn't divide itself along any lines, for sure, but majorities of all flavors have a long, long history of sectioning off the minority and saying "This and that are true of that group, and they are bad because of it." At some point, the accused is required to dispute the allegation. Not in a court of law, but society at large has never cared much what the courts had to say, something O.J. can attest to for sure. Smilie

But thank you--I meant to say that at the beginning and got sidetracked. And I do agree with you, in theory--it just seems to me that the Mob Justice that society seems to love so much doesn't really care, as long as they have a villain to hate / look down on.

( Edited 07.02.2016 03:06 by Anema86 )

Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?

Brava, on a fantastic article!

I think that part of the reason why I never get swept up into the vitriol that surrounds gamers is that I legitimately don't care what other people think of me, what I have to say, or my actions - ...sociopathy's funny, like that.

When I read articles written by women talking about how games and gamers are all sexist, anti-woman, anti-gay, and blah, blah, blah, I can't help but think to myself, "Funny, but MOST of my favorite video game protagonists are women."

We hear "horrible" statistics about how few women work in the video games industry (usually paired with an article about how "horrible" it is to work, as a woman, in the video games industry), and are expected to ask ourselves, "Why aren't more women 'allowed' in the video games industry?!"  More often, I find myself asking, "You've just told them that they're not welcome, face discrimination, sexual harassment, and innumerable glass ceilings, and you have the gall to ask why there aren't more women in the industry?  Who would want to work in that environment???"

As a gay male, I never find myself offended by other gamers, largely because I'm a grown adult and am capable of rational thought - if I don't like what I hear from someone, I just stop talking to them.  I have a thick skin, unlike, apparently, many big name women in the games industry who call it "sexism" when their subpar games receive the reviews they deserve, rather than realizing, "Hey!  I made a subpar game!  I should probably get better at making games!"

I find that, without fail, gamers are a generally more accepting lot of things that are odd, even with the added presence of the Bro Gamers.  When people complain that they're not welcome in the gamer world, invariably, they're really complaining that nobody wants to listen to them whine all the time.

The gaming community is remarkable. You just have to take the time to understand it.

It is a massive one, and growing - but not all gamers are the same, and think the same. There are arseholes out there, no matter what, but I do understand how it seems that the gaming community - by and large - is a tolerant and opened mind one. I'm glad you've taken the time to defend the reputation for the community, most of whom are good people.

However, I think by lumping gamers into a similar group of people with similar charactistics it, in ways, is doing what the mainstream media is doing - making assumptions about what a "gamer" is.

Gamers aren't a selective bunch of people who all think the same, dress the same and who all have the same ideals - so there will be people out there who have certain beliefs, who are against certain people. 

"Gamers are not anti-homosexuality, racist, or anti-transgender" 

'm sorry, but there are thousands of assholes and narrow minded people out there who happen to play games, because anyone can play games, anyone can be part of the community - that's the thing. I would agree that most people in the community who I've met/spoken to are open-minded, accepting people, but I have met a lot of gamers who have these beliefs, who are closed minded.

I've watched a few, very popular, YouTubers who are incredibly racist, like super-racist, and use slurs against homosexual people and it's disappointing that they resort to this. Why give them the right to use these slurs in that way, just because they're not anti-homosexual, or not racist? "Omg that character looks like a chinese man LOL" - "oh but I'm not racist, so that's fine, I love Chinese people". That, to me, just sounds wrong.

I'm not against friendly banter, and having a laugh with your mates when playing games - but there just are some things we just shouldn't say! 

When a gamer shouts what we'd normally think of as a homophobic slur, they're not doing it because they hate homosexuals.

That maybe the case, but that's just not on - shouting out things like "that's so gay" or "This game is shit, so gay" is just pointless, derogatory and imo backwards thinking. People are going a little bit overboard with being politically correct, imo, but there are just certain words that shouldn't be used in a negative way, and thrown around like that.

I don't like when anyone says "I'm ____ so it gives me the right to say these things" - a slur is a slur regardless of who says it, and who's it being aimed at, there shouldn't be exceptions.

I hate mainstream reports saying "gamers are people sitting in caves in their parents' basement" - some may well be, but the community is so diverse - we've got the hardcores, playing 24/7 and going to events, we've got those who play seriously but don't invest as much time, we've got the casuals - even this is generalising a bit. 

There just isn't a defined mould that gamers fit into - it's become so accepted within society that it's as big as watching films, reading books. 

We've deviated a bit towards women in gaming - it's a tricky subject, especially when it comes to things like awards in particular (this applies to race too, in other media like films). If there are 5 nominations, say for top game designer, and 5 are white men - people would complain.

But it devalues the award, because - what if - these were the 5 best candidates this time round? If there were 2 white guys, a white woman, a black guy nominated, for example, people would say "that's great, it's showing more diversity" - but for the woman and the black guy, it's devaluing their work - because it's almost saying that they were only included to be "more diverse", to fill a quota.

Really it should be based on the quality of their work, and nothing else. Here are 5 candidates, here are their contributions to the industry, here's our winner. Sometimes we'd get 5 similar people, other years you may get a mix - but it's just about the work, that's it. 

If I got a job, got an award etc - I wouldn't want to have earned it just to fill a quota - it isn't good for anyone involved.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Jb, I definitely agree, and one of my essays that V2: The Voluntary Voice chose between was called "We Are Individuals." It was a Liberty/Anarchy/Voluntaryist thing and was fixated on the idea of how destructive it is to apportion rights to groups rather than individuals, but the premise is still the same: treating people as groups rather than as individuals is bad.

But I still contend that, at the very least, a knee-jerk reaction of "No, we're not" is acceptable. Realistically, though, MLK Jr. never intended to help black Americans; he sought to make it so that skin color was irrelevant and not factored in at all, which had the side-effect of helping those who were oppressed because of their skin color. He sought to erase the "Us and Them" mentality altogether, rather than helping "us" against "them." In the long run, it definitely has to be the case that an individual is an individual, regardless of their preferences and hobbies, and I made that argument recently about feminism, that it's no longer constructive because it's adopted the mindset that "us and them" is okay, but "we" need more and "they" need less, instead of achieving the same thing by erasing the distinction altogether.

I saw an ad on Facebook the other day that was so appalling I had to take a screenshot of it. It read "Are you a lesbian? Click here to qualify for $5600 in government grants for college!" My response to that is much as yours would be, going off what you said: No. These things either factor into the discussion, or they do not. In regard to that ad, being a lesbian is either something that should factor into college admission and grants, or it shouldn't be--this mentality that such things can only be factored in when it benefits an individual who is part of a minority is wrong. If someone wants to receive a free grant for college just for being a lesbian, then she needs to be prepared to have an employer tell her that they won't hire her because she's a lesbian; it's a factor or it isn't, and it has to go both ways.

So I wholeheartedly agree, really, I just think that we weren't the ones who placed gamers into a homogenized group and then ascribed negative traits to that group and that before we can acknowledge that yes, we have members of the community who have "negative" characteristics just as any other community does, the assertion itself must first be rebutted. And the fact is that slurs are statistically more frequently used in gaming sessions than in wider society, so I can't take the angle that the media is incorrect about the slurs being used; the best I can do is explain why one is far more likely to hear such slurs than anywhere else, and I think it stems from a widespread repulsion of censorship. I'm not excusing that such words are used by any means, and there are certainly more effective ways to combat absurd degrees of political correctness and censorship. In the end, the idea that an individual who plays video games is any different from an individual who doesn't certainly has to be disputed. I just don't think the conversation has reached that point yet.

( Edited 07.02.2016 17:03 by Anema86 )

Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?
Guest 07.02.2016#9

Its not the words, its their use and the emotion behind them. I like many when i'm with my friends will use the term gay to mean naff. Or negro to mean chum. Would i ever insult someone for being gay or black. No because thats retarded. Would i ever call someone with learning difficulties a retard. No because thats all kinds of special. Overly PC folks annoy me because they're focusing on the words, which they're applying the emotion to, that isn't the issue. Its when they're used in a hateful or damaging way. As for the artical, saying gamers think this or that. Is the same as saying movie watchers think this or that. Its a bit of a generalisation.

Well done article, though I disagree with some of its points (none of the gamers I know personally would even consider throwing out the insults seen online).

Years ago I was firmly in the hard Christian Right wing. I'm sure you know what I mean. Sex before marriage is wrong, homosexuality is wrong, divorce is wrong, and so-on. Even when I started playing games this held true as I avoided the titles with morally objectionable content entirely. Sure, on RARE occasion something slipped past (I don't think anyone would claim Tales of Symphonia is pro-Christian), but I kept to the straight and narrow. Then I started playing WoW and found a guild run by a lesbian. She was a good GM and a likable person but had been through a rough time in her life with her ex hounding her and and so-forth. It made me start to... not 'question' but more of 'accept'. I realized that homosexuals weren't some demon-possessed deviants but people. If God really believed that was worth sending people to Hell over, well, that's his business and not mine. One of my close friends is an unabashed slut who used sex as an outlet against all the abuse she received from her parents. We met over a Fire Emblem forum and, when we met, she was near suicidal. I stay by her and probably saved her life by being her friend. I still firmly believe that what she does is very unhealthy for her but, once again, it's far more important that she's living a happy and good life than it is that I be judgmental and condemning of her. I wish she'd stop but I can't do anything about it. When I entered in I firmly believed that the west was 100% correct but dealing with Japanese culture on a regular basis made me interested in learning about other places and I learned about other cultures and ways of thinking. While I'm still western in my thoughts I've come to understand most of the other ways of life and respect them.

Gaming on a social level is an interactive medium. It's the only thing where playing with a person from Japan is only a matter of language barrier, where any country and mindset can produce something and have it be easy to understand despite coming from an entirely different culture, where the only thing that matters is how badly you can thrash someone in the ring. People who don't realize that are little more than the same bullies as before using PC as their new shield instead of being king of the playground.

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