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

A Call to Arms for Decent Men

The following essay was submitted to us by Ernest Adams.  Ernest is a game design consultant, author, and self-described “freelance professor.” He has worked in the game industry since 1989 and has written a column for Gamasutra ever since it was founded over 14 years ago. They declined to run this piece in its current form, but we are happy to publish it for him. His web site is at www.designersnotebook.com.

Normally I write for everybody, but this month’s column is a call to arms, addressed to the reasonable, decent, but much too silent majority of male gamers and developers.

Guys, we have a problem. We are letting way too many boys get into adulthood without actually becoming men. We’re seeing more and more adult males around who are not men. They’re as old as men, but they have the mentality of nine-year-old boys. They’re causing a lot of trouble, both in general and for the game industry specifically. We need to deal with this.

Why us? Because it’s our job to see to it that a boy becomes a man, and we are failing.

When we were little boys we all went through a stage when we said we hated girls. Girls had “cooties.” They were silly and frilly and everything that a boy isn’t supposed to be. We got into this stage at about age seven, and we left it again at maybe 10 or 11.

Then puberty hit and, if we were straight, we actively wanted the company of girls. We wanted to “go with” them, date them, and eventually we wanted to fall in love and live with one, maybe for the rest of our lives. That’s the way heterosexual boys are supposed to mature, unless they become monks.

My point is, you’re supposed to leave that phase of hating girls behind. Straight or gay, you’re supposed to grow the hell up.

What might be temporarily tolerable in a boy when he’s nine is pretty damned ugly when he’s fifteen and it’s downright psychopathic when he’s twenty. Instead of maturing into a man’s role and a man’s responsibilities, a lot of boys are stuck at the phase of hating girls and women. The boys continue to treat them like diseased subhumans right through adolescence and into adulthood.

Men are more powerful than women: financially, politically, and physically. What distinguishes a real man from a boy is that a man takes responsibility for his actions and does not abuse this power. If you don’t treat women with courtesy and respect – if you’re still stuck in that “I hate girls” phase – then no matter what age you are, you are a boy and not entitled to the privileges of adulthood.

  • If you want to have some private little club for males only – like keeping women out of your favorite shooter games – you’re not a man, you’re an insecure little boy. A grown-up man has no problem being in the company of women. He knows he’s a man.
  • If you freak out when a girl or a woman beats you in a game, you’re not a man, you’re a nine-year-old boy. A man doesn’t need to beat a woman to know he’s a man. A man is strong enough to take defeat in a fair game from anybody and move on.
  • If your masculinity depends on some imaginary superiority over women, then you don’t actually have any. Manliness comes from within, and not at the expense of others.
  • And if you threaten or abuse women, verbally or physically, you are not a man. You’re a particularly nasty specimen of boy.

When this puerile mentality is combined with the physical strength and sexual aggressiveness of an older boy or an adult male, it goes beyond bad manners. It’s threatening and anti-social, and if those boys are permitted to congregate together and support each other, it becomes actively dangerous. Yes, even online.

Of course, I don’t mean all boys are like this. Most of them get out of the cootie phase quickly and grow up just fine. But far too many don’t. If we don’t do something about these permanent nine-year-olds pretty soon, they’re going to start having boys of their own who will be just as bad if not worse, and life will not be worth living. Life is already not worth living on Xbox Live Chat.

In addition to the harm they do to women – our mothers, our sisters, our daughters – these full -grown juveniles harm us, too. A boy who refuses to grow up has lousy social skills, a short attention span, and a poor attitude to work. Furthermore, all men – that’s you and me, bro – get the blame for their bad behavior. And we deserve it, because we’ve been sitting on our butts for too long. We let them be bullies online and get away with it.

Some of you might think it’s sexist that I’m dumping this problem on us men. It isn’t; it’s just pragmatic. Women can not solve this problem. A boy who hates girls and women simply isn’t going to pay attention to a woman’s opinion. The only people who can ensure that boys are taught, or if necessary forced, to grow up into men are other men.

Let’s be clear about something else. This is not a political issue. This is not a subject for debate, any more than whether your son is allowed to swear at his mother or molest his sister is a subject for debate. There is no “other point of view.” The real-world analogy is not to social issues but to violent crime. Muggers don’t get to have a point of view.

So how do we change things?

First, we need to serve as positive examples. With the very little boys, we need to guide them gently but firmly out of the cootie phase. To the impressionable teenagers, we must demonstrate how a man behaves and how he doesn’t. Be the change you want to see. Use your real name and your real picture online, to show that you are a man who stands behind his words. Of course, you can’t prove your name is real, but it doesn’t matter. If you consistently behave with integrity online, the message will get across.

Secondly, we men need to stand up for courtesy and decency online . We can’t just treat this as a problem for women (or blacks, or gays, or anybody else the juvenile bullies have in their sights). Tell them and their friends that their behavior is not acceptable, that real men don’t agree with them, that they are in the minority. Say these words into your headset: “I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a man, not a whiny, insecure little boy.” Don’t argue or engage with them. Never answer their questions or remarks, just repeat your disgust and disapproval. Assume the absolute moral superiority to which you are entitled over a bully or a criminal.

Finally, we need to put a stop to this behavior. It’s time for us to force the permanent nine-year-olds to grow up or get out of our games and forums. It’s not enough just to mute them. We need to build the infrastructure that precludes this kind of behavior entirely – Club Penguin has already done it for children – or failing that, we have to make the bullies pay a price for their behavior. Appealing to their better nature won’t work; bullies have none. We do not request, we do not debate, we demand and we punish.

I have some specific suggestions, from the least to the most extreme.

  • Mockery. In 1993 50 Ku Klux Klansmen marched through Austin, Texas. Five thousand anti-Klan protestors turned up to jeer at them. Best of all, several hundred lined the parade route and mooned the Klan in waves. The media ate it up, and the Klan looked ridiculous. The hurt that they wanted to cause was met not with anger but with derision.
  • The juvenile delinquents are just like the Klan: anonymous in their high-tech bedsheets, and threatening, but in fact, a minority. Let’s use our superior numbers and metaphorically moon the boys who can’t behave. They’re social inadequates, immature losers. Let’s tell them so, loud and clear, in front of their friends.
  • Shut them up. The right to speak in a public forum should be limited to those who don’t abuse it. James Portnow suggested this one in his Extra Credits video on harassment. Anyone who persistently abuses others gets automatically muted to all players. The only players who can hear them are those who choose to unmute them. Or another of James’ suggestions: New users don’t even get the right to talk. They have to earn it, and they keep it only so long as they behave themselves. This means a player can’t just create a new account to start spewing filth again if they’ve been auto-muted. Build these features into your games.
  • Take away their means. If you’re the father of a boy who behaves like this online, make it abundantly clear to him that it is unmanly and unacceptable, then deny him the opportunity to do it further. We don’t let nine-year-olds misuse tools to hurt other people. Take away his cell phone, his console and his computer. He can learn to behave like a man, or he can turn in his homework in longhand like a child.
  • Anonymity is a privilege, not a right. Anonymity is a double-edged sword. A limited number of people need it in certain circumstances: children, crime victims, whistleblowers, people discussing their medical conditions, political dissidents in repressive regimes. But those people normally don’t misuse their anonymity to abuse others; they’re protecting themselves from abuse.I think the default setting in all online forums that are not intended for people at risk should require real names. After a user has demonstrated that they are a grown-up, then offer them the privilege of using a pseudonym. And take it away forever if they misuse it. I haven’t used a nickname for years except in one place where all the readers know who I am anyway. Has it made me more careful about what I say? You bet. Is that a good thing? Damn right it is.
  • Impose punishments that are genuinely painful. This suggestion is extreme, but I feel it’s both viable and effective. To play subscription-based or pay-as-you-go (“free-to-play -but-not-really”) games, most players need to register a credit card with the game’s provider. Include a condition in the terms of service that entitles the provider to levy extra charges for bad behavior. Charge $5 for the first infraction and double it for each subsequent one. This isn’t all that unusual; if you smoke in a non-smoking hotel room, you are typically subject to a whopping extra charge for being a jerk.

Now I’m going to address some objections from the very juvenile delinquents I’ve been talking about – if any of them have read this far.

  • “What’s the big deal? It’s harmless banter. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the game.” To start with, it’s our game, not yours, and we get to decide what’s acceptable behavior. You meet our standards or you get out. Apart from that, nothing that is done with intent to cause hurt is harmless. The online abuse I have seen goes way beyond banter. Threats are not harmless, they are criminal acts.
  • “But this is part of gamer culture! It’s always been like this!” No, it is not. I’ve been gaming for over 40 years, and it has not always been like this. Yours is a nasty little subculture that arrived with anonymous online gaming, and we’re going to wipe it out.
  • “This is just political correctness.” Invoking “political correctness” is nothing but code for “I wanna be an asshole and get away with it.” I’ll give you a politically-incorrect response, if you like: fuck that. It’s time to man up. You don’t get to be an asshole and get away with it.
  • “You’re just being a White Knight and trying to suck up to women.” I don’t need to suck up to women, thanks; unlike you, I don’t have a problem with them, because I’m a grown man.
  • “Women are always getting special privileges.” Freedom from bullying is a right, not a privilege, and anyway, that’s bullshit. Males are the dominant sex in almost every single activity on the planet. The only areas that we do not rule are dirty, underpaid jobs like nursing and teaching. Do you want to swap? I didn’t think so.
  • “It’s hypocrisy. How come they get women-only clubs and we don’t get men-only clubs?” Because they’re set up for different reasons, that’s why. Male-only spaces are about excluding women from power, and making little boys whose balls evidently haven’t dropped feel special. Female-only spaces are about creating a place where they are safe from vermin.
  • “But there’s misandry too!” Oh, and that entitles you to be a running sore on the ass of the game community? Two wrongs don’t make a right.. I’ll worry about misandry when large numbers of male players are being hounded out of games with abuse and threats of violence. If a few women are bigoted against men, you only have to look in the mirror to find out why.
  • “Free speech!” The oldest and worst excuse for being a jerk there is. First, you have no right to free speech in privately-owned spaces. Zero. Our house, our rules. Second, with freedom comes the responsibility not to abuse it. People who won’t use their freedoms responsibly get them taken away. And if you don’t clean up your act, that will be you.

OK, back to the real men for a few final words.

This is not about “protecting women.” It’s about cleaning out the sewers that our games have become. This will not be easy and it will not be fun. Standing up to these little jerks will require the same courage from us that women like Anita Sarkeesian have already shown. We will become objects of hatred, ridicule, and contempt. Our manhood will be questioned. But if we remember who we are and stand strong together, we can beat them. In any case we won’t be threatened with sexual violence the way women are. We have it easier than they do.

It’s time to stand up. If you’re a writer, blogger, or forum moderator, please write your own piece spreading the message, or at least link to this one. I also encourage you to visit Gamers Against Bigotry, sign the pledge, and share it.

Use your heavy man’s hand in the online spaces where you go – and especially the ones you control – to demand courtesy and punish abuse. Don’t just mute them. Report them, block them, ban them, use every weapon you have. (They may try to report us in return. That won’t work. If you always behave with integrity, it will be clear who’s in the right.)

Let’s stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the women we love, and work with, and game with, and say, “We’re with you. And we’re going to win.”

What happened to our 1500 Pledges?

We got hacked earlier this evening, causing us to lose all of the pledges we gained since the last database backup (and thank the gaming gods I even had the wherewithal to make that backup).  Oh, and I suppose I should say we got hacked again.  See, this has been a daily battle for us.  Here’s the back story.

Before the site had officially launched, and through means I still don’t understand, word about GAB got to Wil Wheaton, who blogged about the pledge and “launched” us overnight, racking up the first few hundred pledges and thousands of visitors to the site.  I’ll refer to this as the point of no return, because GAB became a thing, whether the site was ready for it or not.

With the first 200 pledges, came a half dozen hackers finding different ways of exploiting the pledge.  For the past few weeks, this has continued, and the number of attempted and completed hacks has increased into the hundreds.  Attacks have ranged from the simple (making grotesque images pop up in the signatures page, as you see below) to the elegant (making it impossible for new pledgees to sign), but all of the attacks had a few things in common: they were expected, they were childish, and they were temporary and easy enough to fix.


This was the result of a hack on the signatures page.

But tonight that all changed.

I finally figured out how to code a preventative measure to all the exploits that had been happening, so I released an update the site and thought I was done swatting all the annoying mosquitos and would finally be able to focus my time more productively. I was wrong.

Apparently my fighting back by increasing the security provoked the hackers to up their game as well.  Within an hour came another attack on a new level, obliterating the core of the site by deleting the database holding all the pledges and dropping our score from 1500 to zero.  Very sad.

While I was able to recover some of the pledges thanks to an incomplete backup, any attempts I’ve made to restore the site have been met by repeated attacks and takedowns, effectively silencing me and the 1500 people who have signed the pledge.

I’m asking that instead of signing the pledge, folks take to indiegogo and support our project, giving us the ability to improve the site and fight back against these misguided children.  As a fan on Facebook said, “they need the IndieGoGo — they’re going to need the level of security you normally find at research corporations just to stay afloat with the savage attacks they’re going to receive.”

You can also show your support by sharing the image below.


We’re trying our hardest to get the pledge up and running as quickly as possible, but we appreciate your patience and support.  We’re not going to give up, or even be dissuaded by these attacks.  If anything, they have hardened our resolve: it’s more clear now than ever that this organization is needed.


Gamers Against Bigotry

The Mary Sue GAB Interview

We’re pleased to say that The Mary Sue, a site with the tagline “A Guide to Girl Geek Culture,” published an article about Gamers Against Bigotry.  The article focused on an interview with Sam about Gamers Against Bigotry, probing into the goals of the movement and the obstacles we’ll have to overcome.  It’s a great read if you’re looking to learn more about GAB.

Go read the full article here, but you can also sneak a peek at one of the question/answers below.

BC: The usual counter-argument on this issue is that asking people to refrain from using slurs equates to censorship, or that it somehow impedes their freedom of speech. What’s your take on that?

SK: This idea of “freedom of speech” is a bit of an urban legend that is perpetuated when it’s convenient. Would you be free to walk into a grocery store and start yelling “I love killing n*****s because the only good n***** is a dead n*****”? (That’s a direct quote from the last time I played Call of Duty.) Absolutely not. If you were lucky, you’d be escorted out by a manager (and not a torch-bearing mob). Then why is that okay to do in a gaming lobby?

Further, you’d be thrown out of that same grocery store just for constantly yelling (even if you were yelling “I LOVE BABY CARROTS! OH SWEET GOD I LOVE BABY CARROTS!”), because it ruins the grocery shopping experience for everyone else.

It’s not a matter of infringing on free speech as much as it is a matter of infringing on a gamer’s ability to play games without being subject to identity-based, bigoted, hate speech. The ultimate question I urge people to ask themselves is “How would not having bigoted language present in gaming be a bad thing?”

Big thanks to Becky Chambers for asking the tough questions and creating some great exposure for GAB!  Check out her other articles — they’re great.

Gamers Against Bigotry Action Plan

Gamers Against Bigotry Future Steps

A lot of people have asked (on forums and in emails) “What’s the plan for the future of the organization? Is it just a list of names?”

Above is a graphic we just posted on Facebook that highlights what the major steps are for the organization.  After you check it out, let us know what other steps you think we should consider in the comments below.

Why you should stop saying “rape” casually in games

I know this is going to be a hot-button for a lot of you, so I wanted to be sure I could lay it all out here before I pressed it.  If you agree that you should avoid identity-based bigotry in games, then you should also avoid using the word “rape” in a casual context.  Before you flip your angry troll switch to overdrive, read on.

This anonymous article about using rape in games at The Escapist written by a male rape survivor should be enough.  Read the whole thing (seriously, read it).  A few notable quotes are below.

“This isn’t about feminists being offended, this is about how the ill-use of sensitive topics can hurt people.”

“Part of that preventive maintenance is avoiding things, known as “triggers,” that might dig up the raw emotions of my abuse. If you want to know what that’s like, think of Bruce Banner in The Avengers, constantly looking over his shoulder for something that might make him lose his grip on himself.”

“Using the word “rape” in an online game is not some kind of longstanding tradition or a definitive part of the culture. I’ve been a gamer for well over two decades, and this term hasn’t been around more than a handful of years.”

If, after reading that, you’re still on the pro-rape bandwagon (Oh, sorry, does that sound ridiculous?  That’s because it is), I’ve got more.  As I was personally sorting through this, one of the questions that kept popping up in my mind was “games are all about violence, and rape is an act of violence, why should that be precluded when saying ‘I’m going to shoot you in your f*cking head’ is okay?”

I was having a hard time reconciling that particular issue, so I asked someone who knew more about the whole thing and could lend me some words to help.  Alex Duffy provided me with the following response, and I think it’s just plain fantastic.

The difference between rape and murder is that there is no murder culture. By that, I mean our society has fully accepted murder as absolutely horrible crime. It’s (almost always) fully investigated and afterwards there are pretty much no questions like “Were they asking for it?” “What were they wearing?” “Did they ACTUALLY not want to die?”. It’s always taken seriously. There is rarely victim blaming or objectification. Rape is a different story.

More than half of the instances of rape are NEVER reported. I’m not sure where you’re from, but the state of North Carolina didn’t even make domestic rape between married couples a crime until 1992. That’s appalling.

Because this is the culture, the line of what is right and wrong for some people is much fuzzier when it comes to sexual harassment (as it’s related to rape) than when it comes to physical threats (as it’s related to murder). It makes society unsafe for victims of sexual abuse and raises the bar for what is sexual harassment and what isn’t (wolf-whistling, cat calls, male gaze). It promotes the idea that women want this attention because she’s wearing make up, or a short skirt, or walking past a construction site, or complementing her boss. That if she gets drunk at a party she’s fair game, and if she passes out it’s even fairer.

I know it’s wrong, and I’m sure you do too as someone who would start a website like this, but how many kids don’t see it as it is: rape? Because “rape” has been trivialized and it starts with using it as a joke, sometimes even used in a positive way.

It doesn’t just have to be a women issue either. A good example to think about is all the prison rape jokes. So few people care about that, because they’re criminals regardless of their crime, that it’s generally considered acceptable. Guards look the other way and kids at home make fun of the idea.

A quote from the following article:

Rape culture is encouraging men to use the language of rape to establish dominance over one another (“I’ll make you my bitch”). Rape culture is making rape a ubiquitous part of male-exclusive bonding.Rape culture is ignoring the cavernous need for men’s prison reform in part because the threat of being raped in prison is considered an acceptable deterrent to committing crime, and the threat only works if actual men are actually being raped.

The article contains very good, realistic descriptions of what a rape culture is and how rape and sexual abuse is trivialized and promoted. It also references most of its examples: http://www.shakesville.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can’t easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.

^ That is the bottom line. It is everywhere and it’s such a joke that people don’t recognize what rape culture is.

tl;dr: Stop casually saying “rape.”  It’s a terrible thing to make light of.


Gamers Against Bigotry 

Wil Wheaton Tumblr Thread about GAB

A Tumblr thread started by Wil Wheaton (Yes, that Wil Wheaton — www.wilwheaton.tumblr.com) has generated over 800 reblogs (woot!), yet only about 200 visitors have come to the site via Tumblr, and of those 200 only 150 have signed the pledge (uhh?).  The popularity of the idea on Tumblr is awesome news, but highlights something we think we should point out…

Tumblr, listen up: when someone posts a link, you should probably click the link before reblogging the link.

Here is what Wil tumbld:

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, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

In other words, Don’t be a Dick.

Thanks for spreading the word, Wil!


Gamers Against Bigotry

“Attack the Blog” GAB Article

Chris Mason of Attack the Blog (www.attacktheblog.co.uk) published a great little write-up about GAB, which is posted below.  Check out the original article here, an be sure to share it with a friend or twenty.

Following is the article:

Sam Killermann over at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual has recently launched a great new site called Gamers Against Bigotry.

Gamers Against Bigotry Galaga

A helpful Metaphor

The idea is to promote a more inclusive gaming community: one which doesn’t resort to close-minded, offensive exchanges of bigoted insults; one which doesn’t push people away because of their race or gender; one which could well form the foundations for games to finally be taken seriously as an artistic medium, rather than dismissed as merely host to an infantile slurry of hate-mongering.

Now, before you get all worked up about the Politically Correct Brigade stealing all your fun, as if you’re part of one of Cameron’s anecdotes, think about it this way: if, in the heat of the moment, you feel the compulsion to unleash verbal fury upon your competitor, but the only thing that you can think of to pull them up on is where they were born, the colour of their skin, or what kind of fun-parts they might have, then it really isn’t worth the air it takes to say it; at the very least, you should try to be inventive with your rapport!

To help you on your way, here’s a short list of exciting new profanities you can try out (which are all suitable for humanitarians):

“Eat hot death, you cheese-jockey!”

“Where did you learn how to play, IKEA?”

“You’re so bad at this game, I’ll put a carp in your breakfast!”

“Curse your locational advantage, I am bested!”

“What is this?! Gears Of War, or Dodge Socks?!”

We all enjoy a good shout at the television (and maybe even a swear word or three) when we’re playing against other people online – by all means, curse, criticise, and otherwise smack-talk your opponents, but bigotry in the community can not be tolerated.

If any of you out there play online games, on any level, then please, go to Gamers Against Bigotry and sign the pledge, and share the link with as many people as possible. What’s more important, if you hear anybody using bigoted language, pull them up on it! You may find that you’re not the only person who objects.

If you have any issues or queries about this, please consult the FAF before commenting!

Frequently Assumed Falsehoods (FAF):

1) “It’s Political Correctness gone mad!”

No, it isn’t. That’s just a phrase bigots invented in an attempt to justify bigotry. What it is, is common human decency.

2) “Online gaming is the last place where it’s acceptable!”

Wrong again! Nazi Germany was the last place where it was considered “acceptable” to gas millions of Jews to death. That doesn’t mean it was acceptable.

3) “But it’s just a bit of harmless fun!”

Harmless fun is by definition, fun that doesn’t harm people. Bigotry does harm people, whether you intend it to or not.

4) “But it’s part of the culture!”

Witch burning was a part of our culture, until people came to their senses. Half the bigoted put-downs people use in online games are newborn in gaming years. It isn’t part of gaming culture, and never has been; it’s just unfounded hatred, masked by anonymity.

Huge thanks to Chris for the great shout-out.  If anyone else sees an article about GAB around the web, please let us know.  We’d love to feature it here.


Gamers Against Bigotry

Welcome to Gamers Against Bigotry

Hi there!  Gamers Against Bigotry is a new organization dedicated to — you guessed it — ending bigoted language in online (and offline) gaming.  The site is brand new, so it’s likely to have a few bugs (let us know if you find one), but the main function, the pledge, should be working just fine.  Check out the BETA Page for updates on changes and future plans.

If you believe that games would be more fun if you were able to chat and not have to worry about people constantly slinging slurs your way, sign the pledge and spread the word.  We have a lot of hope for this idea, and this is just the beginning.


Gamers Against Bigotry