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Dec 18 2013

I Get Mail – Moar Hate?

Okay so the hate mail count over actually pointing out racism in the game is at a whopping…

58 different pieces of hate mail.

The ultimate joke is this little article about racism in a game isn’t even seen that much. Today it’s blown up thanks to getting reddited but otherwise it’s negligible. Out of less than 700 hits I have received, 1/10 have generated a hate mail piece. Kudos!

But the discussions I have had with people have made me rather sad. I think this has uncovered a deeper problem in gaming and quite honestly it’s going to be a rather long time to get to the end of it.

It’s not the racists that currently bother me, it’s the people who think that the solution to racism is to keep  your head down and ignore them. Because racism has gone away by being ignored in every single other sport where we fought it?

It’s not just the racism it’s the greater culture of “ignore trolls”. But if a troll is willing to delve into the depths of racism with no care for what those words mean then the troll is by definition a racist because “I am using those words to get a rise out of people” is the reason for using those words.

And my question is “What is the difference between this troll and the racist?”. It looks like one, it quacks like one and it moves like one.

I have gotten so much hate mail that it’s not worth copying it out. It boils down to the usual “Fuck You Nigger Fag Bitch Cunt” variety although there is one special one that called me a Jew. Thanks I forgot that one! Surprised at there being no secret Muslim stuff.

So I kind of learnt a lesson here. No one’s going to do anything for people of colour with regards to racism. That we punish leaving games with greater ferocity than racism. And that gamers as a whole don’t think racism is that harmful and that simply screaming “nigger” is as bad as calling someone an idiot.

Which means that what we have here is a similar struggle to what women face in gaming. And one that’s probably going to be harder because while people can recognise sexism as a bad thing. People don’t seem to consider racism in the same way.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Jackie

    Isn’t the inconsistency of human beings puzzling?

    I’ve seen people engage in misogyny who don’t think it’s wrong at all, because that’s just how they think they are supposed to treat women, yet they understand that racism is wrong. Perhaps it’s just a matter of bigots assuming their pet bigotry is A-OK, while still being able to understand why other kinds of bigotry are not. Sad as that is, at least it’s a step toward decency. It isn’t much of a step, but it shows some ability to recognize the humanity of people they see as “others”. How they manage to compartmentalize their irrational hate, I don’t know. I’ve noticed that it is common for racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia and misogyny to go together. If someone is bigoted in one direction, it’s often safe to assume they’re bigoted in another. But, as we’ve both noted that isn’t always the case. It strikes me that bigots who are able to recognize that some bigotry is wrong but cannot see why their’s is wrong are a bit like people who believe in some woo. They may be able to tell you why say..chiropractic is nonsense, but then turn around and believe wholeheartedly in astrology. This is why social justice should get more attention than Big Feet and UFO’s in a supposedly skeptical community. At least someone else’s belief in astrology can’t do the harm to others that bigotry does. I’m not sure if it’s due to wishful thinking, some emotional investment or if their self-imagine is somehow bound up in their bigotry, but it’s clear that people can get very nasty when their pet bigotry is challenged. I really just don’t get it. Why? Why are these people so awful and so passionate about being awful? What could the pay off possibly be?
    Whatever it is, I’m sorry that you have to deal with these creepy racists, Avi.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    In the WoW guild I’m in, we have a code of honor that governs proper battle behavior, including that it’s dishonorable to attack someone more than 5 levels lower than you, to corpse-camp, teabag, etc. And I suggested to the clan leader that phobic, racist, or ableist slurs were also not honorable, and the rules got updated. Has it made a big difference? Maybe a tiny one. But I’ve noticed that when I tell someone, “hey, you’re acting uncool.” they may bluster about it until you’re out of earshot and usually they stop. If you publicly call out the worst offenders, all the bystanders listen and learn a great deal from the reaction – usually I’ve noticed that if you tell someone, “hey, that’s uncool” they’ll respond in a way that reinforces to everyone else EXACTLY how uncool they are.

    In principle someone who knows nothing about me, making a phobic or racist comment toward me, says absolutely nothing about me at all – since they know nothing about me, and have no way of knowing if I am actually whatever they are saying I am. I just interpret that as them demonstrating that they are stupid and unimaginative. The way to hurt someone’s feelings with language is to say something that’s untrue but that’s uncomfortably close enough to wound the target. Flailing around verbally like that is just ridiculous if you really analyze it. If someone wants to hurt me, they can tell me I don’t know how to tank well (which is nonsense, because I do) or they can tell me I don’t know how to RP worth a damn (heh) or whatever – for an insult to sting it must be at least grounded in reality enough to connect painfully.

    Someone on an LFR I was on threw some homophobic slurs and I stopped and started lecturing the guy with a variant of the above, explaining that the real issue was that they were inarticulate and lacked the creativity that would allow them to hurt someone’s feelings based on truth and fact, rather than just name-calling. If you’re gonna be an aggressive badass gamer, you need to be a little more skilled in the invective department than just potty-mouthing or phobing.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    Why are these people so awful and so passionate about being awful? What could the pay off possibly be?

    I think there are 2 things going on: one, they are concerned not to establish a precedent of being told what to do. After all, if you start listening to strangers and trying to consider their feelings and opinions, where does it stop? It’s a slippery slope, from there, to having to act like a decent human being. The other piece of it is that in order to change your behavior you have to acknowledge that your past behavior was wrong; that you were one of the baddies. So our old friend Cognitive Dissonance comes in – how could I be one of the baddies? I’m wonderful! As long as I can keep pushing the issue away then I never have to recognize that I was actually saying hurtful, nasty, wrong, things and I never have to acknowledge that I was being a bad person.

  4. 4
    closedmyaccount

    Why are these people so awful and so passionate about being awful? What could the pay off possibly be?

    Best question so far.
    The reason is something most adults have no more access to and no experience with : An incredibly low threshold for frustration. Kids talk so much shit because they don’t know how to handle frustration and know no other way to deal with it than to take it out on others.

    If you witness some kid getting wasted in game, who then starts screaming and screeching (racist) slurs all over the place, you know that kid doesn’t live out his racial prejudice but tries to stir shit to get rid of his uncontrollable aggressions. To call them racists is dumb, and to call them trolls is even dumber.

  5. 5
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    To call them racists is dumb, and to call them trolls is even dumber.

    Well maybe that’s because you’re reducing the situations where people are racist to just one single assertion of impetus: If you witness some kid getting wasted in game As if that behavior were always a one-off due to an inability to cope with rage and never exemplifying genuinely held beliefs (which is also irrelevant, since the base beliefs are that racist language can be used as a tool of abuse, disregarding how psychologically harmful it will be to minorities: that is indeed racism.)

    To call Schlumbumbi dumb: I think that’s warranted.

  6. 6
    smrnda

    So, someone frustrated in an online game decides to spew some misogynistic and racial slur and this says *nothing* about their actual propensity towards racism. Just some pent up frustration. I mean, when I slip and fall I might say Fuck or Shit but I have yet to spontaneously use a racial slur there, and as a programmer who works with lots of poorly written legacy code, I have cause to express frustration quite often.

    I noticed the guy a few posts up used the term ‘kids’ but plenty of gamers are not ‘kids’ in that they’re 18 or over or in some cases quite comfortably adults, which means that if you’re an adult, you should be able to handle frustration without the need for such outbursts and if you can’t, you should probably be getting therapy for that.

    The deal is that people are doing it because they can without much consequence. They couldn’t say that in a pub or risk becoming instantly unpopular. It’s a juvenile behavior, the desire to piss people off and think it is *cute* and *funny* and *humorous* to use racial slurs. It’s kind of how kids at a certain age just laugh at *vulgar words* but within a short time grow out of that stage – the vulgar words are part of humor later, but just saying fuck or shit is no longer the funniest thing ever.

    I’m suspecting ‘being an asshole’ is a goal of some people. It’s probably a mix of a power trip along with the desire to be seen as violating some social rule. The problem is, by violating social rules about not being openly bigoted it’s not really defying the status quo at all, which, in the end, it’s the joke of a bully laughing at picking on some kid smaller than him.

  7. 7
    shockna

    The reason is something most adults have no more access to and no experience with : An incredibly low threshold for frustration. Kids talk so much shit because they don’t know how to handle frustration and know no other way to deal with it than to take it out on others.

    Which falls apart quite quickly if you play just about any game that utilizes a headset for team play; the ones screaming racist slurs are, quite often, legal adults.

  8. 8
    Holms

    The reason is something most adults have no more access to and no experience with : An incredibly low threshold for frustration. Kids talk so much shit because they don’t know how to handle frustration and know no other way to deal with it than to take it out on others.

    I’ll agree that that works as an explanation for some of the outbursts we see in games, but not all. For example, it does not explain why people throw the slurs around while winning.

    A much larger (but still probably incomplete) explanation is the combination of anonymity, and audience, and a distance fromt the people being abused. There are no consequences, so they run amok to an extent that they certainly would not do if they were in the same room as the other people.

    Especially if those other people were black – I have a sneaking suspicion that the spineless cretins would be very cautious about dropping bombs around an actual black person.

    If you witness some kid getting wasted in game, who then starts screaming and screeching (racist) slurs all over the place, you know that kid doesn’t live out his racial prejudice but tries to stir shit to get rid of his uncontrollable aggressions. To call them racists is dumb, and to call them trolls is even dumber.

    The highlighted passages directly contradict one another. If a person is ‘[trying] to stir shit’, then it is perfectly reasonable to call him or her a troll, because that is what trolling is.

    Also, what the hell do you mean by ‘living out their racial prejudice’? Of course they don’t walk up to people of a different ethnicity and drop some racial slurs on them, most people are well aware that a real world confrontation carries the risk of real world consequences.

    Hence, doing it among their like-minded friends and anonymously on the internet: neither of those scenarios carry any consequence.

    Lastly, you still have not addressed the fact that, whether you think it is harmless or not, it happens to be against the game Terms Of Service and hence actionable regardless of the motivation.

  9. 9
    angharad

    I wonder if part of the attitude is ‘I can’t say these things to a black person, but there wouldn’t be any black people in my game, so I can say what I like’. But that doesn’t explain the doubling down upon confrontation.

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this in something that’s supposed to be fun and escapist for you…

  10. 10
    Wrath Panda

    If you witness some kid getting wasted in game, who then starts screaming and screeching (racist) slurs all over the place, you know that kid doesn’t live out his racial prejudice but tries to stir shit to get rid of his uncontrollable aggressions.

    Even if this were true (and I don’t agree with a single word of it), when did it become acceptable to spew this sort of hatred to vent pent up nerd rage? I can rage with the best of them, should I become suitably angered, but I don’t go beyond the industry standard of inserting an expletive every other word. My regular gaming wingman can get positively incandescent when he goes Hulk at a game, but again, aside from the occasional gendered insult (which I am slowly guiding him away from using; hey, we’re British, it’s taking time), any notion of using racist language etc is abhorrent.

    The problem as I see it is that not enough was done to stomp on this behaviour early enough and hence it is seen as acceptable. We all know that kids can be impressionable sorts and since the people they play with casually toss racism and misogeny around like confetti, they get the impression that it’s OK to do it too, or possibly even do it to fit in. Eventually, kids become meatsacks of hormone induced angst and rage which certainly won’t help them to take a step back and analyse their behaviour, should someone call them out on it. Obviously they will become adults eventually, but the problem is that by this time this behaviour is engrained into them as the norm.

    The community in general has become so desensitised to this kind of language that the people who use it probably don’t see it as any different from calling their pixellated nemesis an arsehole. This, as I see it, is a big problem and one that will take a lot of fixing.

  11. 11
    well

    The reason is something most adults have no more access to and no experience with : An incredibly low threshold for frustration. Kids talk so much shit because they don’t know how to handle frustration and know no other way to deal with it than to take it out on others.

    Why do adults do it too then? Unless people in their 20s aren’t quite adults there in your scheme, of course.

  12. 12
    Beaker

    “If you witness some kid getting wasted in game, who then starts screaming and screeching (racist) slurs all over the place, you know that kid doesn’t live out his racial prejudice but tries to stir shit to get rid of his uncontrollable aggressions. To call them racists is dumb, and to call them trolls is even dumber.”
    Others have already commented on the internal contradictions of what you wrote.

    Their is another point here, which is that while the person using racist slurs might not be racist, his or her actions are racist and should not be excused. Such behavior should have consequences, and therefore has to be called out and acted upon. It needs to be made socially unacceptable within games as much as it is outside of them.

    Secondly, while the person using racist slurs might not be a racist of the KKK / Neo-nazi variety, they definitely think it is okay to use someone’s race as a negative slur. Which is a racist attitude. So while they might not be overt racists, they have a covert racist attitude that most likely originates in a number of racist views and characteristics.

  13. 13
    Holms

    I wonder if part of the attitude is ‘I can’t say these things to a black person, but there wouldn’t be any black people in my game, so I can say what I like’. But that doesn’t explain the doubling down upon confrontation.

    In my experience not only in LoL but in online gaming in general, if someone confronts them and mentions that they are offended because they are black / gay / whatever, the response is more likely to be a quadruple down. Or something.

    If the the offending toolbag was initially throwing down some casual ‘oh man, that last boss is so gay lol’, it quickly erupts into something more like ‘OMGZ UR AN ACTUAL FAGGOT?? LOL YOU TAKE IT UP THE AZZ HAHA!2

    Some people just revel in punishment free antagonism.

  14. 14
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    58 different pieces of hate mail.

    Only 58? Guess you have to try harder and then you might get past your ton (100) here! ;-)

    Actually no, its pretty horrible and sad and you don’t deserve any hate mail in my view let alone any racist crap.

    (But since you get it you might as well laugh at it, maybe? Hard though it could be? Dunno.)

  15. 15
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Which means that what we have here is a similar struggle to what women face in gaming. And one that’s probably going to be harder because while people can recognise sexism as a bad thing. People don’t seem to consider racism in the same way.

    Odd. I would’ve thought it was more the other way around these days – more people recognising racism as obviously bad and not seeing sexism as quite that obviously wrong.

    But then I guess I’m priviledged and don’t come from a person of colour / non-white background.

  16. 16
    A. Noyd

    The idea that slur-spewing gamers aren’t really racist is so laughable to me as a former MMO player and hardcore raider. Nobody in any of my raiding guilds was a kid. Nobody was fully anonymous; at least some of the guild officers had everyone’s phone and real name in order to call them when contested mobs spawned. While they generally wouldn’t use the n-word in front of the black guild members (all one or two of ‘em), they would happily say all sorts of other shit. Like throwing around the world “towelhead” or taking about how nasty Indian girls are because their pussies stink of curry. Oh yeah, plenty of misogyny, too. And while it was all very casual, it sure as fuck wasn’t accidental. (Not that “accidental” racism is anything other than racism.)

    I wish I could go back in time and smack myself upside the head for not speaking out against it more. I probably just would have gotten kicked out of the guilds, though. Easier to boot the person complaining than tell everyone else to behave better. And, of course, the guild leaders were often among the most racist. To get away from the racism as a raider meant sticking with the third-rate or worse guilds whose other members sucked so bad at playing they still got their asses kicked by dungeons from the previous expansion. So yeah, rather than “kids talking shit,” racism (and every other prejudice you could want) was entrenched within the most elite levels of gameplay.

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