Refining the analogy in Scalzi’s “Lowest Difficulty Setting”: The Experience Privilege

I’m still crazy busy with work, pulling week after week of overnights, but I happened to have a night off last night (shock horror!) and could finally sit down to write. So, I know you folks would completely understand that I would have to talk about this post as soon as possible, didn’t you? I talk quite a bit about both video games and privilege, so this is my particular bailiwick.

John Scalzi apparently pissed off a lot of straight white males (not to mention the cis-gendered!) by pointing out that, despite their individual lots in life, they are in fact playing on life’s easiest difficulty setting — the playing field is significantly tilted in their direction regardless of how well off they, individually, are.

The analogy is a relatively good one, but the major flaw with analogies is that if they are not perfect, some asshat will come along and point out how the analogy differs, until you are left with building an “analogy” that is essentially the whole situation described in exacting detail. At which point, you are not making an analogy at all, and these same asshats would nitpick at details they don’t feel are true regardless of the preponderance of evidence that they are.

So, for you video gamers, I’d like to sharpen up this analogy somewhat, but not to the point where it is an exact analogue — I’m sure there’s still room for improvement.

Instead of a World of Warcraft style game, with a first-person shooter style four-point sliding scale of difficulty, let’s use a deeper, more fully-realized world, like that of the Elder Scrolls. One where the difficulty setting is actually fixed for everyone, because everyone faces the same laws of physics. The difficulty is thus entirely contained within the confluence of your birth circumstances and where you happen to be adventuring.
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