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Monday, July 30, 2012

Gaming and Gender Issues

I recently started playing a new MMORPG called Crystal Saga. The game mechanics are complicated, the environments are beautiful and it enables competitive and cooperative play. Sounds great, right? I was playing the game the other day when an important topic came up that instantly attracted my attention.

There was a lively discussion brewing in world chat about vanquishing bosses and lesser players. One player, whom I shall refer to as Player X in this post, contended that using the term, “rape” in the context of defeating bosses and lesser/unskilled players was harmless and when used in gaming context, a perfectly acceptable term.

Some players immediately piled on Player X, decrying his use of the term as offensive and trivializing a traumatizing event that has impacted many lives. Some players hurled insults at Player X over his continued insistence that the term was acceptable. Other players attempted to compromise; they attempted to suggest alternate forms of expression that were less charged, and alternate forms of expressing the satisfaction that comes with defeating the impossible boss that has excoriated you the other million times you have tried to go against it.

I watched as the debate unfolded, seeing it become organized along gender lines. Males tended to agree with Player X, and said female gamers were being overly sensitive and narrow-minded. Female players asserted that while everyone has a right to free speech, Player X was simply being asked to find a different way of expressing himself without offending. Player X refused this request, and continued to state he was fine with the term and would continue to use it.

Player X was then muted and ignored by many of the female, higher-level gamers of the group, and the debate ended. Everyone began to get back to the business of leveling up characters and fighting through dungeons. Everyone except me.

I began to think about Player X's actions and the reactions to his actions. Being a rape survivor myself, I thought about what his usage of the term in such an offhand manner meant to me. For me, it's not about whether or not I thought his usage of the term was appropriate or flippant; it's about the fact that this word does not define me, and his casual usage of it does not make me any less of a survivor or any less of a person.

If someone chooses to make an asshat of themselves, we have the option of trying to persuade them to see an alternate option, or we have the option to excise their malignancy from our midst through the use of mute buttons and ignore features. It all boils down to what option works better for us as individuals.

As for me, I'm glad I was in a position to see this debate unfold. Female gamers are often a marginalized minority in the gaming community, so this was an especially significant moment to me. We have struggled to be let into this boy's club, but we will not be denied. We are here. And, we're not leaving.

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