HIGH SCORE 000005525PLEDGES

The Pledge:

As a gamer, I realize I contribute to an incredibly diverse social network of gamers around the world, and that my actions have the ability to impact others. In effort to make a positive impact, and to create a community that is welcoming to all, I pledge to not use bigoted language while gaming, online and otherwise.

Bigoted language includes, but is not limited to, slurs based on race? (e.g, "chink," "nigger," "wetback"), ethnicity? (e.g., "kyke," "polock"), gender? (e.g., "cunt," "bitch," "tranny"), religion? (e.g., "dirty jew," "papist"), sexual orientation? (e.g., "gay," "fag[got]," "dyke"), and disability? (e.g., "retard[ed]").

Read more about the pledge, including what is and isn't included, and the overall purpose here.

Read why you shouldn't use the word "rape" casually here.

Sign the Pledge

Reflecting on Race & Racism in Gaming

This past week we focused our Facebook and Twitter discussions on race and racism in gaming. In my opinion, it was the best weekly theme discussion we’ve had yet. I wanted to take a moment to look back at the week, highlight some outstanding moments, and provide a bit of a reflection from my perspective.

Edit: one quick thing I forgot to confess. I’m White (see, that’s me over on the right — with the shiny white forehead and cheeks). I’m pointing this out in response to a confusing email I just received, and as an effort of transparency (you know, in addition to the giant photo). Okay. Carry on.

The Pigeon-holing of POC in Games

We started the week out by asking people to name a character in a game who was a person of color (POC), then describing a dominant physical trait and personality trait that this character embodies. We wanted to see if the examples people brought up would reinforce a pervasive idea that the majority of POC characters in games are often little more than one-dimensional stereotypes.

Instead, many great examples of layered and supportive portrayals of POC characters were brought up. From Luis in resident evil, described as “resilient, and a good friend,” to Steve Cortez from Mass Effect 3, who was described as “smart, good mechanic, funny, logical and sensitive” and “(is also gay).” Cortez is an anti-stereotype on many levels.

The example that stuck out to me the most was Sazh Katzroy, a playable character from FFVIII. Railenthe Zeal was the first person to comment on the post with Sazh as an example, and described him as “handles ludicrous situations very well, and can (occasionally) kick ass.” The reason Sazh stuck out to me so much is because on the surface level he’s a stereotype (stylish black man with a huge afro and well maintained goatee), but once you get to know him you feel terrible for making that snap judgment. In actuality, he’s a widower who lost his wife and is dedicating his life to saving his son. Super supportive dad. And as a Synergist, super supportive party member. Awesome (not sarcastic).

All this goes to say that while there are certainly plenty of pigeon-holed POC characters in games that aren’t doing much for making games welcoming to people of color (like our leading man up top), there are also several examples of where developers did a great job. So kudos to them.

But that leads us to our next thread, the one that really gets at the root of the issues with race and racism in gaming: the fact that most games are all about White people; and that bringing this up tends to bother White people.

is this bothering you?

The Racial Variant of the Bechdel Test

If you’re unaware, the Bechdel Test is a fun [not really] way to measure the significance of women in particular films. It’s really simple and asks just three questions (modified for our uses):

1. It has to have at least two [named] women people of color in it.

2. Who talk to each other.

3. About something besides a man White person (or the protagonist).

We asked our Facebook community to supply us with a list of games that passed our racial variant of the Bechdel Test and the results were… underwhelming.

Here’s a great quote from Amanda Cales:

“Wow. Only ones I could think of off the top of my head (and Steam library) are Sleeping Dogs and the Fallout and/or Skyrim series…the last two being a bit sketchy since I don’t think they talk to each other very often. (If at all.)

It also took me about ten minutes of full on, glassy-eyed pondering to come up with even that. And I’ve been playing video games since I was 5.”

A lot of games mentioned passed two of three. Well, so do a lot of films. But the point of this test is to determine if POC have a significant role in a game, not just to determine if they exist there or not. The biggest issue was the games folks could think of that did pass the test.

Sleeping Dogs, GTA San Andreas, and Saints Row were the leading suggestions. If you’re unfamiliar, and don’t know why this is problematic, allow me to help: they are all about organized and violent crime. Yep. The main games folks could think of that absolutely passed the tests of having significant roles for people of color were games in which the significant characters were violent criminals. Awesome (very sarcastic).

Oh, and Prototype 2 was also mentioned. I haven’t played that game (honestly, didn’t know it came out), but from what I understand the main playable character is Black and his sidekick is Hispanic. So there’s that.

mass-effect-3-wrex

Single-Characteristic Alien Races

Next we moved the discussion from race (as in Black and White) to race (as in human race and aliens). Eric, our Social Media Manager, posed the following question in in a Facebook post:

“So we’ve established that alien races in sci-fi and fantasy break bias tests, but there’s another issue specific to them. Single-characteristic races.

Star Trek most famously did this to subtly open discussion about our differences. The question: Do we even need to do this any more, or is projecting a single characteristic on a race of fictional people just another way of strengthening stereotypes, and keeping us from really exploring what it means to be human?”

This is something that has always irked me as a Star Wars fan, considering how little there is to know about inhabitants of the different systems beyond one or two dominant traits. What do they do on Kashyyyk when they’re not fighting for emancipation from slavery? Or, as Brad Johnson put it, “I’m still at a loss when I think of what people in Star Wars do for fun.” (besides Pod Racing OF COURSEGames are often similarly lacking in providing depth to characters from alien races.

The majority of the discussion on the Facebook page seemed to echo the idea that we’re past the point of needing one-dimensional alien races as a metaphor to begin discussing racial and ethnic differences on Earth — you know, with humans. Further, Seth Brodbeck brought up a concern with this idea that is particularly poignant:

“The problem with single characteristic species is that Humanity (often represented by white heterosexual cisgender males) tends to get elevated by that approach. Since Humanity already displays a variety of characteristics, unlike the species being contacted, the intended lesson about the benefits of cultural exchange gets undermined. It ends up appearing that they have more to learn from us than us from them. Which becomes terribly presumptuous once you follow the analogy back to human ethnic/cultural relations.”

Well put. And a great thing for anyone to keep in mind as they consider using interactions with alien races as a means to increase a player’s multicultural sensitivity.

A Study: Racism against Black Gamers on Xbox Live

racist-on-xbox-liveWhile anyone who has ever played for more than five minutes on Xbox Live doesn’t need science to tell them there’s rampant racism, it’s helpful (and depressing) to have some good sturdy science to back up our anecdotal experience.

Enter Deviant bodies, stigmatized identities, and racist acts: examining the experiences of African-American gamers in Xbox Liveexactly the kind of science I’m talking about. The link will get you to a downloadable .PDF of the study if you’d like to read it yourself (always recommended).

If you’re more of the TL;DR type, here’s the run-down as we shared in on Facebook:

Racism that used to be evident in our culture bled into online spaces, where it became normalized because of its sheer volume, its ability to escalate, and inability of the abusers to realize they were actually being racist. Black gamers faced racial slurs daily. DAILY.

Daily.

Again, this probably isn’t a surprise if you’ve ever traipsed into those waters, but it shouldn’t make it any less distressing. It should be distressing, not just “not surprising.” We should be distressed by this. BE DISTRESSED! And do something about it.

The first and most perfect in its simplicity comment to that post on Facebook sums up why Gamers Against Bigotry exists: “Reason #1 I don’t play online games.” Sorry to hear that, Sean, but you’re not alone.

A few closing thoughts, and a brief response to shouts of “reverse racism”

It’s clear that racism is an issue in gaming, both in an overt, aggressive way (via the prevalence of race-based slurs), but also in a passive, marginalizing way (via the exclusion of significant POC characters in most games). But it’s also clear that games have come a long way in a short time and that a few developers/studios in particular have gone to great measures to create multi-dimensional, positive versions of POC characters in their games. This is progress. Progress is good…

inigo-montoyaUnless you’re one of those people yelling “reverse racism!”

“Reverse racism” isn’t a thing. Well, it’s a thing, but it’s not the thing you think it is. For one, reverse racism isn’t “racism against White people.” That’s just called racism. But having that perspective is an awesome way of indicating your racial privilege — to think that any racism against your race is somehow backwards. Touché.

Reverse racism is meant to describe possessing racist beliefs against one’s own race (e.g., a White person who holds prejudice or discriminates against White people). But that’s also not what we’re ever talking about here. What we’re talking about here is diminishing all forms of racism.

We have a long way to go before people of color can feel as welcome in gaming as White people currently do, and it appears we’re moving in that direction, which is great. But I want to reassure White people everywhere that this does not have to mean we won’t feel welcome. We can de-marginalize one group without marginalizing another; we can stop perpetuating racism against people of color without inviting racism against White people; we can lift one group up without tearing another down.

So let’s do that.

Finally, on a personal note, I wanted to say that I really appreciated reading all of the comments and discussions this week. As always, I’ve learned a ton from all of you, which will allow me to do my job better. So thank you for being involved. I look forward to learning something new this week!

GLHF,

Sam Killermann
Founder & Director of Gamers Against Bigotry
Organizer of Kashyyyk Bingo Night
Reverse Racism Reversal Reverser

The First 3,000 Gamers Against Bigotry [INFOGRAPHIC]

This is a big step for us, folks. The site is solid, the staff is in the double digits and growing weekly, and we just passed the 3,000th person to sign the pledge. Check out the graphic below for a demographic breakdown of our first 3,000 pledges, and share it in celebration! Huzzah!

First 3000 Gamers Against Bigotry -- 3000 Awesome People

One note worth noting: these demographics do not take into account the pledges lost due to hacking/shenanigans, but should still be fairly representative

A critical look at the internet’s response to “Tropes vs. Women” Episode 1

I must admit that Tropes vs. Women in Video Games (if you haven’t watched it, click the link to do so) slipped right under my radar until the completed first part came crashing onto the internet, quickly followed by a hellish storm of disapproval from Anita Sarkeesian’s critics. People have taken to the internet in droves to throw their hat into the ring and although the ring is already brimming with hats, I’m going to casually discard mine into the pile as well. I’m not here to defend Sarkeesian; I am simply hoping to illustrate what exactly sparked this cry of damnation towards her and why I find the backlash itself to exemplify the more disturbing traits that exist within the gaming community.

In my effort to understand exactly how the first episode was received I took to the internet, YouTube in particular, and did some trawling before instantly falling into a state of unrelenting depression – I cannot help but despair at some of the replies to Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, many of which are not so much a criticism of the video, but simply a personal attack against Sarkeesian and are founded primarily in a personal dislike of her. While I can understand that it is possible to simply dislike someone, and such animosity may have an adverse effect on how you view their work, it is where this hostility comes from that I find most disturbing.

Tropes vs. Women in Video GamesThe rhetoric used to criticise Sarkeesian is predominantly derived from the language of Men’s Rights Activists and, instead of addressing the issue, merely highlights the “inequalities” that men have to endure. Such pomposity includes suggestions that feminism is unfairly skewed in favour of women, that it overlooks societal injustices towards men such as domestic abuse, alimony, and the depiction of men in video games as biceps on legs. What it fails to understand, however, is that a few of the primary concerns of feminism are ending the objectification of women, combating inequality in the workplace, and countering the suggestions that if a woman is raped, it is her fault.

Damsels in Distress

Flashback to the Kickstarter Campaign

The moment Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter began gaining some real traction the internet lit up with vitriolic reactionaries who declared she was going to spend the excess cash on ‘shopping sprees’. From the outset, Sarkeesian had been berated merely for gaining support – the goal was set at $6,000 but because she was able to raise $160,000 people took it as a vindication to accuse her of scamming her supporters and attack her personally for the success of the Kickstarter.

Rather than believing that Sarkessian’s series could perhaps be a worthwhile addition to the debate surrounding the portrayal of women in video games, they decided the money would be used to fund some sort of high-flying lifestyle. The overwhelming support for the series on Kickstarter has unlocked the true potential of the ‘systemic and big picture perspective’ (allowing for a greater number of episodes) but has been largely ignored in order to focus on what the first video has to say, rather than what questions Sarkeesian could address at a later date.

Damsels in Distress

Enter “Damsels in Distress Pt. 1”

Even before Sarkeesian was able to bring her project to life, she was being accused of seeking controversy for the sake of gaining attention and was berated for her intentions to ascend discussion into a more academic environment. When the first episode of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games was released, a worrying amount of responses failed to even understand the fundamentals of Sarkeesian’s argument and believe that merely presenting the player with female protagonist is enough to completely counter the trope of Damsel in Distress.

What they have not realised is that Sarkeesian never once accused the video game industry of possessing an inability to establish a female protagonist or positive female character but that the image of women which is presented to the gaming audience is an overwhelmingly a negative one that draws heavily from stereotypes or places the female characters as an object belonging to the male.

The main issue with the criticism surrounding Sarkeesian’s work is that many of her critics think in absolute terms, rather than accounting for mitigating and aggravating factors. From what I’ve seen, many have disregarded the fact that she is approaching the topic from a ‘systemic, big picture perspective’ and that the series is, in fact, a series, one that will grow and expand on themes as it progresses; that this first episode is not the sole element of her analysis and that other aspects will be addressed in future episodes seems to be lost on many people.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the first instalment is how comments have been disabled on the video. YouTube contributor TheAmazingAtheist wrote that ‘You [Sarkeesian] are putting forth a particular ideological stance. Your unwillingness to allow that stance to be challenged undermines the legitimacy of your claims because it sends the signal to everyone who lands on your page that your ideas cannot hold up under scrutiny.’

Although TheAmazingAtheist admitted to not having any major qualms with the video itself aside from that, it doesn’t detract from the main problem with the statement in the first place: the meaningless focus on disabled YouTube comments. This focus has led to the suggestion that Sarkeesian is now, somehow, a Damsel in Distress herself which is a point I am unable to even understand the logic of. It does, however, galvanise the fact that Sarkeesian’s video has been largely misunderstood by a predominantly white, male, heterosexual audience.

Yes, Sarkeesian’s decision to block comments on the YouTube is a popular matter of contention amongst her critics who have declared that in doing so, she is stifling discussion on the matter. However, let’s face it, YouTube is hardly a haven for enlightened intellectual discussion and, like many other websites, the anonymity it provides often results in disinhibited behaviour which can quickly devolve into abusive threats of physical violence. Whether or not blocking comments was the right decision is ultimately unknowable. But the fact remains that the portrayal of women in video games deserves a greater consideration than allowed by 500 characters in a YouTube comment and, hopefully, Sarkeesian’s decision will lead to a more serious and articulate discussion in the long run.

Another popular criticism of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is how Sarkeesian argues that there exist no positive female role models in games (something she never argues) and completely fails to realise that she is merely addressing the trope itself and how damaging it is to the perception of women as objects. The video itself looks at how, in the past, women have been portrayed as helpless beings that exist solely to be saved by men who, through the course of their quest, exhibit “superior” traits of chivalry, prowess and virtue. She also alludes to how in numerous games, the male characters find themselves to be incapacitated in much the same way their damsel is but to them, it is merely a challenge to be overcome whereas for women, being captured is the essence of their being.

However, by addressing this trope, Sarkeesian has been vilified for overlooking games such as Super Princess Peach, and Metroid, wherein the female character is the hero. The premise for Super Princess Peach strikes me as a parody on the established formula which is played for laughs and the omission of Samus Aran was intentional so that it could be properly analysed in a later episode that deals with positive female characters. Again, this illustrates how many of the more sardonic critics have simply misunderstood the purpose of series.

The extensive misinterpretation of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games appears to stem from a belief that because Sarkeesian is a woman, she is somehow attempting to degenerate video games.

Damsels in Distress

Final Thoughts

As Jim Sterling argued in Jimquisition: Anita Sarkeesian – The Monster Gamers Created, gaming is considered a ‘safe male space’ and that gamers are upset that those ‘feminists are ruining everything’. He asks us: what exactly it is that feminism is going to ruin about video games?

His answer is, essentially, that nothing will be ruined by approaching the question of gender roles and the portrayal of women in video games and that the vile responses to Sarkeesian and her work have invalidated the debate; a point which has been unintentionally furthered by those arguing that because this is the internet, you really shouldn’t expect anything else. I’m sure that while we can all agree that this sort of vitriolic response has come of no shock to any of us, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

As Sarkeesian herself suggested, “It is both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” There exists a certain degree of dogma within the gaming community which is unwilling to accept this simple point made my Sarkeesian. The attacks on her, more often than not, stem from her gender and perceived desire to ‘ruin’ video games for the male consumer; this is the most substantial barrier between those who enjoy the medium and its ability to evolve into something beyond basic entertainment and therefore tackle social issues such as gender inequality.

Although the first video isn’t perfect, it is still the most valuable and academic addition to this debate – not once does it attempt to force any ideals on the viewer, choosing instead to highlight the issues and allow us to think for ourselves. Sadly, raising awareness of this sort is a difficult task and no matter the approach, the mere fact that gender issues are being addressed appears to be enough to create a vacuum of bigotry and hollow arguments with no basis other than virile hatred for basic concepts, a vacuum into which also reasoned debate and analysis is lost.

 

New Website, Same Mission

Hey folks,

If you’ve been to the site before, you’re likely a bit shocked by this visit.  Maybe it went something like: window.onload = function() {alert(‘WHAA?!’)}.

Ha, that’s a javascript joke for you. You’re welcome.

Anyhoo. More than just a cosmetic facelift, the entire site was rebuilt from the ground up, line-for-line, script-for-script. The new site will better accommodate our expanding organization and efforts, and is also much more secure, mobile-friendly, and fast.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we launched the new site a bit preemptively. Think of it this way: the new site is cookies that were supposed to bake for 14 minutes, but were taken out at 10. They’re still delicious, but prone to making a mess if you’re not careful with them. And also delicious.

So, our request to you: if you spot a bug in our cookie (gross), or something isn’t working right in your particular oven (browser), please let us know. Facebook is great, Twitter is better, but you can always email if that sort of thing is your thing (like sugar cookies).

We’ll be working hard on our end to build out the few remaining components of the site and getting all these cookies okay this metaphor is over.

Thanks thanks thanks!

GLHF,

Gamers Against Bigotry

P.S. If you’re new to the site and would like to be able to do a before and after comparison, here’s a Wayback Machine impression of the old site: http://web.archive.org/web/20130120052342/http://gamersagainstbigotry.org/

Galaga-Gamers-Against-Bigotry

 Known issues:

Here is a list of things folks have already brought to our attention and we’re working on:

  • Signatures table not sorting properly

Reflecting on “Fake Geek Girls”

A look back on the theme of the week by Gamers Against Bigotry’s Founder & Director, Sam Killermann

We just wrapped up a week of discussing the fabled “Fake Geek Girl” — the third thus far of our weekly themes that are going better than we could have anticipated. I want to take a moment to reflect on the week, focusing on some articles we shared and some of my favorite responses from you.

Several years ago a dear friend of mine, an anything-but-fake geek girl, shared an experience with me that is fuel for a lot of my sentiments on this subject. She told me of her experience trying to buy comics as a young girl. This was not an isolated instance, mind you, but “experience” (singular) is the best way to describe it because every iteration played out in a near-scripted fashion.

“Why are you here?”

“You don’t like Green Lantern.”

“Are you buying those for your boyfriend?”

“If you’re looking for attention, you’re in the wrong place. Go back to cheerleading.”

This was over ten years ago. Long before this fake geek girl existed, its roots were already planted in our community. And it has since blossomed into one ugly, stinky, and surprisingly loud flower. Probably the loudest flower around, to be honest.

Why is it a thing?

We started the week off by asking you why you think the “Fake Geek Girl” thing is even a thing. We got a lot of solid answers, but one stood out:

The “fake geek girl” is a scarecrow put up for the purposes of separating the in-group from the out-group. Anytime an established subculture starts to get major buy-in from the “mainstream” or broader culture, you get longtime subcultural participantswho’s reaction is not “Great! More people are getting into what I’m into!” but rather “Oh no! People are liking the things I like for the *wrong reasons*.” They then seek to draw a line between the “real” members and those who are just jumping on the bandwagon because it’s trending.

In the case of geek subculture, it’s been so heavily identified with a certain brand of masculinity and masculine pursuits, that women trying to join in those pursuits make convenient targets as those who don’t “fit in.” On top of that, geekdom being a “boy’s club” has lots of benefits for men, such as getting to see sexy, barely-clothed women everywhere, that might go away if women are accepted as full participants.

Yep. Nailed it. Seth, you win 1,000 internets for that response.

But maybe there’s an ulterior motive.

We shared a fantastically humorous and all-around spot on critique of the whole issue. You can watch it below.

If you’re not up to watching the entire video, here’s the message in a blockquote:

Maybe there is no fake geek girl. Maybe it’s just a product of the deeply-rooted sexism in geek culture. Maybe she’s just a manifestation of the insecurities about the opposite sex. I mean, why else on God’s green Earth would anyone pretend to read Aqua Man comics?

But seriously. Why? WHY?! TELL ME, YOU FOOLS!

So what’s the reason for the reason?

Seth’s quote above does a great job of providing a reason for why the “Fake Geek Girl” thing is a thing, but what’s the reason for that reason. I mean, why are we so concerned about outsiders sneaking into our insideness?

This article, “Fear of the Unknown is Still Dividing the Planet: It’s Time to Let Others Just Be,” is a decent place to start looking for the reason’s reason. The idea of a person who is a girl who is a geek (particularly a pretty one ohmagosh) is certainly unknown to a lot of young guys. Hell, I could have left it at “a girl” and that sentence works.

replace-fear-of-unknown-with-curiosity-small

The author does a great job discussing the idea of being afraid of the unknown, but also provides a thoughtful explanation for this sentiment:

Negative reactions to the unknown instills a sense of weakness in our character, specifically a lack of strength in our own convictions. When people have the need to strongly chastise others for their opinions and information they present, it shows a genuine deficit of attributes related to confidence about our own belief systems, morals and values.

Are the people yelling the loudest about “Fake Geek Girls” perhaps hinting at some personal insecurities they don’t know how else to cope with? Are we, as a community, predisposed to insecurities, particularly those of a social or interpersonal nature? Is every instance of geeks challenging and dismissing other geeks’ geekness really just people knocking other people down to make themselves seem taller? Am I done writing in rhetorical question form?

Yes.

What’s a real geek girl look like?

Coincidentally, Other Sam (as I refer to him in my head, and now, in blog posts), has been cooking up a photo campaign that we’re all really excited about, and had particular relevance given the theme of this week. More on the campaign later, but for now I am just excited to reshare this fantastic photo of gamer he made.

take-the-pledge-1-small

 

How great is that? That’s a real person, who happens to be a gamer, who happens to be a woman. But a person, first and foremost.

The photo has been hands down the most popular thing we’ve ever shared on Facebook (or Twitter, for that matter). Keep making it awesome, folks. If it makes its way to over 25,000 people, James, our Director of PR, has to buy me champagne. And I, like any other respectable adult, love bubbles. So let’s make that happen.

And then we learned our President might be a “Fake Geek Girl”

The Mary Sue published an article that came at the whole “Jedi Mind Meld” #nerdgate gaffe from a different angle. They made the suggestion that Obama might actually be a “Fake Geek Girl.” At least, based on the criteria that the only geeks we test and pass/fail (and who fail) are Fake Geek Girls, and we definitely have tested and failed Obama for his misquote.

We appreciated it. Heck, really, we just appreciate the Mary Sue.

Also, we learned that we should probably stop sharing Presidentially-satired things on the Facebook page. So far, we’re 0 for 2 in the “not upsetting a good portion of our community” department. We apologize for that. We’ll be better. Make it so, we will.

So, do “Fake Geek Girls” exist?

It depends.

The whole “Fake Geek Girl” thing is a rooted in the idea that there are girls who are exploiting geek guys for attention by pretending to be geeks. Do I believe those girls exist?

No, I don’t. I’m sorry. I just don’t.

Why? Because why would a girl who isn’t into video games play video games? Why would a girl who isn’t into comics read them? Why would a girl who isn’t a geek spend countless hours creating a costume, attending a con, and wearing that costume and playing that character throughout the entire effing con? 

Because she’s so desperate for your attention? Sorry to type-kick you in your mind-shins, but I don’t think you’re worth that much effort. I’d be willing to bet that same girl could put forth WAY less effort to get JUST as much attention in about a THOUSAND other realms, all of which she’d probably hate doing way less.

It simply doesn’t compute.

Are there geeks who happen to be girls who happen to seek guys’ attention? Absolutely. But they’re not fake geek girls. They’re geek girls who want geek guys’ attention. A lot of geek guys do the same thing. But it’s a problem when geek girls do it because…?

Oh, that’s right: the whole sexist, borderline misogynistic, our-culture-not-yours, boys club, afraid of the unknown aspect of our culture. That’s why it’s a problem.

Moving forward.

The main takeaway from this entire week can be perfectly summed up in my favorite Facebook comment of the week. This one, posted in response to our original question about why the “Fake Geek Girl” issue exists by Bill Door, is just perfect:

“Fake” geek girls? It’s bollocks. If you’re a geek then it’s first and foremost about what’s between your ears, not what’s between your legs.

If you’re going to criticize a person for not being geek enough for you or your group/clan/con/party/table, fine. I don’t agree with you questioning that person, because I think we’d all be better off if we invited people to learn more instead of chastising them for not knowing enough, but fine. But question what’s between their ears, not what’s between their legs.

That’s all for now.

Looking forward to the weeks to come.

GLHF,

Sam Killermann
Founder & Director of Gamers Against Bigotry
Third-Degree Jedi Mind Meld Master
Fake Geek Girl Non-Believer

 

Fighting Abusive Behavior Online – A HOW-TO

A script to help fight offensive and abusive behavior online by Shawn Kerr, Resident Anthropologist

Our lives are filled with scripted behaviors and interactions. We all perform scripts on a daily basis whether we’re aware of it or not. The way we address our bosses as opposed to our friends is a script we use on a weekly basis. Waiters and waitresses have a set script they use everyday when they tell us about the specials. Sales reps have an extremely specific script that they use which is proven to generate the greatest number of sales.

We script our lives out in this way because we want to make generally chaotic and risky interactions somewhat predictable. We want to achieve a desired outcome from a social interaction. By having scripts ready for situations, such as job interviews and work presentations, we can make the odds in any given situation favor us.

For gamers who are dedicated to creating safe spaces online it’s important to have a script that deals with abusive players online. When people are being offensive or abusive with their language during online game play we should have a set of responses and actions ready. This way we can at least attempt to achieve a somewhat desired outcome.

Some people already have a script that they follow. They figure out who the offender is and mute them. This removes the muter from the offensive behavior and makes the space safer for them. However, this doesn’t create a safer space for others.

As a gamer who has taken a staunch and unwavering stance against offensive and abusive behavior online I recognize that I have to do more than just mute people who are being offensive. Gamers who are offensive and abusive online should be stopped – something that Microsoft has made a strong commitment to as well. So it should be our job to not only make the space safe for ourselves, but for others as well.

To do this we have to change our typical script of merely muting offensive and abusive online gamers. We have to actively attempt to stop them and hold them accountable for their actions. There are just a few things that we can do to work towards this goal.

Situation Assessment

Before beginning any script we have to recognize the conditions that are necessary to enable a script. That is, recognize when we would want to and when we don’t want to use the script outlined below. Before any match begins, while still in the lobby, recognize the chances of someone being highly offensive. It’s risk assessment.

There are a couple of factors that I look at before every match begins. I look at the number of people on microphones – the greater the number of people on microphones the greater the chance of someone being verbally abusive. I also look at usernames/Gamertags/PSN IDs/etc. If I find something offensive I report it. If I find something that’s borderline I make a mental note before game play begins.

This prepares me for offensive and abusive language during online play as well as sets me up for later use of my script. Just because we aren’t surprised by offensive and abusive language online doesn’t mean we are prepared for it.

Step 1: Be Vocal in Opposition

Being vocal simply means asking the person to stop using the language they are using: “Could you please not use that word?” or “I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak that way.” Being vocal shows the offender that there is at least one person who disagrees with the language being used.

The more people who start becoming vocal online about abusive language the more prominent we become in the community. In being vocal it’s also important we don’t attempt to abuse the abuser. That is probably hardest for me – jumping down the abusers throat and viscerally shredding them is something that I would greatly enjoy. However, it’s important not to do so because it doesn’t positively work towards a better outcome.

In this case the ends don’t justify the means. The point is to create a safer space, and any sort of slur-laden, abusive language – even when aimed at an abuser – isn’t going to help in achieving this goal.

If the abuser apologizes and stops using offensive or abusive language then this is where you stop – Mission Accomplished! However, more than likely this isn’t the end.

Step 2: Stay Calm

Staying calm is important. After being vocal you will more than likely come under fire for voicing your opposition. Those who use offensive language are surprisingly defensive about their choice and right to use offensive language in online gaming (even if it does violate the terms & conditions they agreed to). When coming under assault it’s important not to shut down or to become defensive yourself, but stay calm and just stick to your script. Don’t argue or defend yourself – if the person continues their verbal barrage just stop talking.

Another reason to stay calm is that you are representing all people who are opposed to verbal abuse online. As online gaming currently exists it is not terribly common to hear people actually voice opposition to harassing behavior online. As such, when you are vocal in your opposition to such behavior you are a representation of all people who share this same mindset whether you want to be or not.

When you act vocally in opposition to abusive behavior people are going to make judgments about all people who are staunchly against said behavior. As such it’s important to represent ourselves as positive and non-offensive so that people will not judge all of us as though we were just as bad as those who we are asking to stop using abusive language.

Step 3: Report

As mentioned above, invariably people are going to continue their abusive and harassing behavior. At this point it’s important to report them and let the system do its work. Figure out who is using the offensive language and report them/file a complaint about the offensive or abusive language that they use online.

Step 4: Engage Others

Lastly, after you have reported someone you can encourage others to report the offender to the system. If you can get enough support behind you there is a possibility of getting a temporary ban rather quickly. Engaging others can be difficult, but in doing so you make your opposition even more vocal. As well you may motivate someone who previously wouldn’t have reported abusive behavior to report it.

A Few Considerations About the Script

I would like to note that offensive behavior is relative. What one person views as offensive another may not. In this fact we must understand that not everyone is going to report the same things. However, it should be generally agreed upon that slurs and bigoted language, no matter what form it takes, should be stopped and reported. In agreeing upon this we have a focal point upon which all people can take action against. While you might not think “fuck stick” is offensive enough to report we can all agree that “faggot” is.

As well it should be recognized that this script is not for everyone. I wish I could say that it was for everyone. However, if someone is uncomfortable with confrontation or the possibility of backlash then this could be dangerous. As I make clear above, by being vocal in opposition to abusive and harassing language online we make ourselves a target. Sticking to a script makes it easier, but doesn’t necessarily make it easy. When you ask someone to stop using the word “homo” and they start calling you a “queer” and a “faggot” incessantly it can be quite difficult. So for those of you who are committed to this type of cause, but aren’t comfortable with voicing your opposition, just skip straight to reporting the behavior. Your personal safety and well-being comes first.

Closing Thoughts

This script is extremely simple and actively works towards creating a safer space for all people who are playing video games online. It’s important because those who oppose abusive language online are perceived as a small minority. In not being vocal about it our presence is minimized. I believe that if we are vocal enough we can actively change the atmosphere of online gaming, but only if we are vocal.

This script works towards creating a somewhat predictable result from a chaotic environment. By using a script like this we are actively shaping the situation in our favor. We are taking steps towards a safer environment in a controlled and directed way. Without the script things can easily go awry and end poorly. Will this script always work in the desired way? No. But at least it increases our chances.

48-Hour Gamerunning Marathon GAB Benefit

It’s a fantastic day when I receive positive email, and it was extra fantastic to hear about the 48-Hour Gamerunning Marathon by the United Gamers Coalition that’ll be livecast on Twitch.tv this weekend, starting at noon on Friday, with all proceeds going to Gamers Against Bigotry.

Some members of the GAB team (including founder Sam Killermann) will be skyping in to chat about the event and our org sporadically throughout the event.  Follow us on Twitter to get updates on when those times will be.

Check out the flyer below for more details, and be sure to tune in.

U.G.C. 2012 Flyer

Huge thanks to Adam Agro, RedSouthCity, and the United Gamers Coalition for putting this event together!

glhf,

Gamers Against Bigotry

Dear Would-Be Hackers, please read this first.

Hello!

I want to take a moment to try and encourage you not to hack or deface this site.  I know this is a lofty request, so I am going to approach it from a few angles.

Appeal to your humanity (version 1):

A lot of people have put a piece of themselves into this site.  Whether it’s the thousands of people who have signed the pledge, or the much smaller number of us who are working behind the scenes to keep it running.  This matters to us.  It’s precious.  But more than anything else, we are all united here because we’re trying to be better people to other people, specifically the gaming minority.

When you deface the site, it’s like you’re defacing each one of us.  Some of us like our faces.  When you hack the database and delete signatures, you’re taking away the voice of thousands of people.  All of us like our voices.

Appeal to your humanity (version 2):

Imagine you made a huge house of cards that you spent hours and hours making and you were super proud of it and you showed your friends and they were all like “ooo! pretty!” and then they added their own cards to make it bigger and then some jerk came up and started flinging shit — literally, pooping and throwing it — at the tower.

Don’t shit on our house, please.

Appeal to your logic (version 1):

What if — and just take a leap of faith with me for a second — instead of hacking the site, you sent us an email instead?  You’re probably opposed to what you think we’re doing here, so why not specifically voice your concern?  You’re likely part of our community, in one way or another, so why not state your case and see what we do about it first?  Only one person has done that so far, and you might be surprised by what happened.

We’re here for all gamers.

Appeal to your logic (version 2):

Take a look at the evidence, and you’ll realize that in the long run hacking/defacing the site doesn’t help your cause, assuming your cause is to stop ours.  Sure, it’s set us back a bit, and it’s annoying, but in the biggest picture of all you’re drawing more attention to something you’re trying to silence.  Life doesn’t work that way.  The only way it would work is if we gave up.

We’re not going to give up.

Anything I’m missing?

I could beg, explain this doesn’t have to be an Us VS You situation, beg, or even consider begging (please please please don’t hack the site!).  If you’ve gotten this far and the thought in your mind is still something like GAB IS BAD MUST DESTROY GAB, odds are I can’t convince you otherwise.  But maybe someone in the comments can.  Read through those, converse, and see what happens.

Or, I suppose, you could just hack the site.  But please don’t.

glhf,

Gamers Against Bigotry

Response to an email: Why it’s worth talking to non-supporters about GAB

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.

SAM:

Hey Anthony,

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.

sK

ANTHONY: 

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!