Despite all the backlash that GAB has inspired, I hadn’t really seen any negative emails in my inbox. Facebook, Twitter, and Forums, however, are another story, but nobody who opposed GAB had actually taken the time to write me an email and explain why. Until Anthony.
Following is the unedited email conversation between Anthony, someone who previously opposed Gamers Against Bigotry, and Sam Killermann, the person who created it. It’s a long email exchange, but it’s an example of how conversation on the internet can play out, if people on both ends actually want to converse.
ANTHONY: (first email, with the subject “against free speech?”)
Now im not going to abuse you or anything, but i do heartily disagree with your groups mission statement.
I understand that places like xbox live are filled with idiots spewing hate every time they get rolled by other players, but I’ve noticed in my many years of gaming that bad games as a whole tend to have crappy communities, and crappy communities have behavior like this, and as such you should simply find a better game in most cases. Does it suck when you have hate hurled at you over the internet? yea of course, and i rarely do it myself, but when i do insult other players, i like to think im much more….clever about it, and try for a communal laugh from all the players by making a joke at the players expense instead of just spewing nerdrage. I’m a pc gamer and I’ve been on servers which ban any and all swear words before, and absolutely hated it, as using swear words in these games is a useful tool to shorten my sentences and get the message across, whatever it may be, as efficiently as possible.
Now your ultimate goal seems to be asking for devs of games to restrict communications and completely prevent people from being able to say hurtful bigoted things at each other completely, for starters this is a complete infringement of everyone’s innate freedom of speech (the freedom of speech to be a dick is very much an important aspect of freedom of speech, why do you think nobody has shut down those awful people at westboro baptist church? right or wrong, you cant cherry pick the things people can say and where, it doesn’t work like that, its either nothings sacred or everything is, simple), its also an incredibly hard thing to do, you cant input scan frequencies into voice chat in games searching for offensive words, that’s not how it works, a simple mute button, which most games with voice chat already have, is the only plausible solution for offensive behavior. Even a ticker that monitors numbers of mutes is open to mass abuse, I’ve heard horror stories of innocents who got banned from games with this simply because a bunch of bad players with forum buddies teamed up on them.
Now the whole notion of being offended is a rather complex issue, i take the stance that there’ll always be mean people or people who simply dont like you trying to put you down at some point in life, and a part of life is learning to deal in a sensible way with what pisses you off and angers you. I find myself offended by many things, every-time i turn on mtv, every-time i watch the after news shows with my folks that are filled with miss-information and bullshit, every time i hear someone try to get me to vote liberals (aussie here, liberals are actually the rich corporate party in my country), every time someone talks about twilight like its actually a good series, every time i hear miss-information about vaccines, being offended by something is completely unique to an individual, we are all pissed off by different things and the only way to stop people being offended is by duct-taping everyone’s mouths forevermore frankly. Many times i’ve gotten into arguments with americans on the internet and when they discover im aussie often a moronic joke about dingos or being a convict is hurled my way, do i get butthurt? nope, its just how ignorant americans talk when they dont know anything about other countries other than silly insults other ignorant people said, its also how someone reacts when they’ve been beaten intellectually aswell, ad hominems are EVERYWHERE in this day and age, real, even tempered and fair debate is hard to find.
It’s better to be the bigger man/woman and rise above these insults than have a fit and demand everyone change to suit your sensibilities, or start a petition to stop people being mean to each other. It would be nice for people to stop insulting each other on bad games on xbox live, but i doubt those people will ever even see your website, and wouldn’t care if they did, self-centered and immature people are like that. It’s a harsh world out there, and its never going to be anything else at this rate, so we all need to simply toughen up a bit so we can deal with all the real issues plaguing mankind, not offensive words on internet games, sticks and stones mate, thanks for reading.
Thanks for the email. Seriously. Believe it or not, you’re actually the first (first, no exaggeration) person to email me like this. All of the other negative stuff about the org I’ve had to read second-, third-, or fourth-hand on the internet. So I appreciate you taking the time, and I want to honor that by giving you my time in return.
I am having a hard time determining if you do or don’t get what we’re all about, because every few sentences my guess changed back and forth, so I’ll sum it up just in case: we aren’t concerned with people swearing, being mean to each other, talking shit, or even “spewing hate,” to be honest. Look up the word “bigotry” and you’ll know exactly what we’re about. I chose that word very, very intentionally. Bigotry is a quite particular brand of hate.
This isn’t about what offends me, as an individual, nor is it about a few people getting offended who “should toughen up their skin.” It’s about a concern that the way we treat each other online and in games is abhorrent, and would never fly in real life. And yes, games should absolutely be an escape from real life. You can do things in games you could never do in real life — kill people, conjure spells, back-flip a tank, whatever — because you’re interacting with a fictionalized world where the rules are different. But what people seem to forget in multiplayer games is that while the world is fictional, the characters are being manipulated by people who are very, very real.
The sticks and stones, tough skin, etc., arguments are ignorant to what’s actually happening. It’s not as cut and dry as that. Perhaps you don’t internalize the digs people make at the expense of your various identities, but many people aren’t that lucky. And you’re right: the world can be shitty and brutal. So when those people who internalize all that stuff (because that’s their nature, just like it’s yours not to) get home and want to escape from all that shitty/brutal-ness, they turn on their PC/platform and I hope you can imagine how much deeper it cuts when even there, in a fictional world, in a game, they can’t get away from it all.
In the US alone it’s estimated that roughly 8 gay youth (age 12 – 18) kill themselves each day. That doesn’t concern you? That’s not a real issue plaguing mankind? Who needs to be the bigger man/woman there? All of the people in those kids’ lives verbally abusing them until they feel so worthless they would be better off dead than alive, or the kid experiencing all that hate? That’s the same brand of hate (the bigoted brand) that we normalize and joke about every day in real life, and riff on and use to intentionally provoke people in games.
Finally, I’ll wrap up on the thing you led with: the free speech concern. Could you, right now, walk into a grocery store and start yelling, repeatedly, “I LOVE KILLING N*****S BECAUSE THE ONLY GOOD N****R IS A DEAD N****R”? Technically, you could try to do it (you have that freedom), but pragmatically, you can’t. You’d get thrown out of the store, at the very least. Why? Because a grocery store is a place where people shop for groceries, it’s not a platform for your racist diatribes. Does that bother you, that you can’t do that in a grocery store? I doubt it. So why can someone do that in a game? (and yes, that’s a direct quote from one of the last times I played CoD)
You said it yourself: it’d be nice if we were able to change things to have people be more decent to one another. I agree. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Thanks again for being civil, and even replying to be honest, sorry i didn’t grasp your real goals when i read it, i must have glossed over certain parts, disregard my dev related comments. I tend to get into debates with people with agendas on the internet on a fairly regular basis, don’t ask me why lol, and all of them boiled down to me being spammed with fallacious dogma from a small army of fundamentalists while my arguments are miss-interpreted or ignored in favour of ad hominems, so this is a wonderful change of pace for me.
I quite liked reading your response, and i think it would do your petition a lot of good if you posted some of your reply on the page itself, as your mission statement was a bit vague, hence me missing the point lol. I find myself agreeing with most of what you said aswell, i sadly wont be donating to your cause because as a new home-owner I’m constantly low on cash, and ill likely sign it when you can get the hackers from ruining the petition again.
I’m always sad to hear about suicides, I’ve had relatives do that recently, and its always always tragic. Many parts of america seem to be an awful place to grow up these days and I’m sadly never surprised to see another school/uni/public shootings, suicides going hand in hand with such things, the various cultures of many parts of america (especially with those psycho bible bashers that even the vatican disagrees with) seems to cause alot of strife for young people of every alignment growing up that dont quite fit in with the rest of the kids, resulting in all sorts of problems for everyone, this definitely extends to videogame interactions aswell. Not that other countries are anything like perfect, but the culture that spawns these incidents seems to be more prevalent in american society.
Kids minds are fragile and easily influenced, and because of that I’ve always firmly believed in strict monitoring of age brackets for multiplayer games, as 10 year old jimmy simply shouldn’t be on call of duty voice chat, its simply asking for trouble, and i guarantee you he’ll revel in his first moment of verbal freedom with no consequences by saying the worst things his mind can think of, a bad habit to form no? As a kid i had consoles and games alright, but no internet, i got friends over for group play, still do occasionally, and that’s frankly the way things should be, no online games with strong social aspects period until you’re at least 16 in my opinion, this alone would do alot of good for online communities everywhere don’t you think? or at age 24 is my opinions too old and dated? haha all i know is it did wonders for my online behavior, i never picked up the bad online habits this generation seems to be having, having a decent vocabulary for starters.
I find myself agreeing with your freedom of speech response aswell. I agree, it is on the onus of the player, not the dev companies, to watch their own conduct. But there still needs to be some online outlet where you can speak your mind, whatever it may be, without being censored i believe, but that’s a problem for other people to solve i suppose.
Thanks for the great response and have a great day! Good luck with everything!
Anthony gave his permission to share the email conversation. Thanks again for the thoughtful dialogue!