Check your privilege. A term I have heard over and over. I’ve even been told myself to check my privilege even though I myself have not led the most privileged of lives.
Heck I even did a test online (Which I honestly don’t put much weight in to as privilege is determined more on your economy, country and social issues within a community and cannot be a broad spectrum, one glove fits all thing) and was told I’m very much not a privileged person.
That doesn’t however stop people from telling me to check it. The sad truth is this: I am a white Male Gamer which automatically places me in a specific demographic for many people. It also means I am often told I was more privileged than I truly was.
The gaming community is full of issues like this. Whether it’s through Gamer Gate, SJW’s or feminist movements. There is always a movement that is trying to raise awareness of a minority group or a group that is being negatively affected by certain elements within the gaming industry or even trying to protect a way of gaming that people now feel is threatened. These groups are by no means wrong and it is important to take note and help make things better. These movements are there for a reason. After all, the more that are involved and feel welcome in the scene, the better for everyone.
However, many of these groups have a very common theme: White male gamers (Or their development / industry lead counterparts). Whether it’s stating they hurt the industry or trying to protect them because someone feels threatened.
Now let’s first have a look at that. Is the problem white males in gaming? Well, to say no would be short sighted and seriously be the equivalent of a horse being led around by blinders. The gaming scene started with mostly white males. This is something that cannot be argued. It was predominantly white males as when the gaming industry started things like racism and segregation of various groups was still a very big thing. Back then woman were still seen as belonging in kitchens while pregnant. Blacks were seen as some form of inferior species (Seriously I still cannot wrap my head around how anyone could see it like that, but I can’t pretend it didn’t happen) and loving the same sex? Well that’s still hotly debated even today. Heck all of the things mentioned above sadly still happen to this very day in many circles of society.
This lead to white males having easier access to the equipment needed as the money required for gaming wasn’t something that underprivileged or segregated groups would easily be able to afford. Trying to gain access to a civil society that at large don’t accept you is an extremely difficult task. One where I can say I was privileged to a degree.
That doesn’t however mean that white males as a whole should be blamed. But arguing for the white male gamer is not what this is about. What this post is about, is stopping the labels.
You see there are many people who are at fault for having the inclusion dream of gaming not being reached. All walks of life get involved and all are at fault in some form or another. White male gamers often forget that they had access from much earlier on and so the industry kind of grew around that type of culture. Perhaps not with that sole intention, but hey that was the target group for the industry when it was established so it was designed for those people. So yes, white male gamers, the industry did really grow up with us in mind.
Woman groups often forget that many males didn’t grow up being taught that woman only belong in kitchens. Yet the male demographic is painted with a broad brush when it comes time to discuss issues of woman equality in gaming and the industry at large. Far too many feminist movements insist on stating the industry is unwilling to move and relinquish some control to woman. There are people out there that make this true but there are also those males who would love to see more woman in the industry.
Black groups have had the short end of the stick thanks to segregation, especially in South Africa, but many have forgotten that many of the 30 and under gaming crowd all grew up alongside all cultures in school and aren’t inherently racist. Yet terms such as whitelash exist and all whites are kind of caught in this. Yet as a white male gamer we also need to understand why this term even exists. Remember people of color have had a tough time in more than just the gaming scene. This fact cannot be ignored either. So some understanding is required.
I myself grew up fairly poor as well. While many of my friends were on Sega Megadrives and the like, I was still on my dad’s company 386 playing Dos Games. We got the Famicon system far later than most others who had already moved on and it wasn’t until I was in high school that I got my first gaming computer. But yes, I get that I was still lucky to even be able to get these items. Being in a white family allowed us not to be discriminated against and allowed my father access to jobs a little easier. However that is now becoming something I can’t say I have access to the same way or that my kids will have access to in the future. BEE and the likes have often had me at the short end of the stick with promotions in previous companies I worked at and have put me behind in my career a considerable amount of times.
Privilege goes about more than just the color of ones skin or your sex.
So where am I going with this? Well it all comes down to labeling. Whether it’s new terms being created for the purpose of bringing over a point or the single most annoying sentence “Check your privilege”, being thrown out there, labels are hurtful. They help no one and serve as a platform to get angry on and to discriminate against said labled group. Like BEE being unliked by the minority group in SA now, labels in gaming have the same kind of effect.
A recent article (well it was recent when I first started writing this) I read on Lazygamer (Darnit, now Critical Hit) made me especially upset, not because I don’t believe in resolving inequalities and the like in gaming, but because of the label it gives certain demographics. You see, while the article is in no way an attack on any group, it is about bringing to light and reminding folk that hey, these things have happened and it was mostly done by a specific group in the past. transgressions of what was done in the past also has been built in to the gaming community unintentionally and it calls for folk to look at themselves and make sure they are not perpetuating it. Which is a good thing. Racism is bad in any form. However it created a label and the label is what is bad. (Note, the writer has since written many other articles that I completely agree with which goes to show that even creating a label in your mind about someone is not the best idea)
The same way that the “Check your privilege” label is being used to even hit out at folk like myself who suffered borderline poverty in their life where my family was nearly without a roof (I was engaged at the time, had my wife to be, sister and dad living with me in a small 2 bedroom place with my mother staying in a separate part of the country, just so we could try make ends meat. My mother was staying with colleagues of my dad because to have 5 people in a 2 bedroom unit would have been impossible. Before that in school we were poor, living in a run down place that had me ridiculed at school. And I went to public school, not private). I was bullied for being in to computer games, being very, very skinny and was called derogatory terms like ‘fag’, ‘pussy’ and ‘squatter’ because of the state of our house and my body build. Yet I am a straight white male. I should, according to general feelings around all of this in the gaming community, have had a more privileged position. I didn’t. I am also not the only one with this kind of story. But why do so many say I have to check my priviledge? Well because of the labels. I fit the White Male Gamer Label after all. I am white. I am a gamer. I am male.
So back on track. I was absolutely shunned in school by my peers for being in to games. But guess what, I need to remember that white males are not the only ones that have suffered for a choice. Black people have suffered simply for being black so if they had computers or consoles they would have been ridiculed for being black and a nerd. Woman have suffered for daring to want to be independent and are called all sorts of things for wanting to be in gaming. LGBTQ people have suffered for their personal choices, religious people have suffered for their choices.
The point is everyone has a suffer story that they can relate to.
Yet, here I am in my 30’s being told to check my privilege. All because of a label.
So I shouldn’t let these terms affect me or react if they don’t apply to me I hear all the time too. But the fact is, regardless if I react or not, the label is out there doing harm. Like it or not, labels paint a demographic with a broad brush stroke. It doesn’t focus on the ones that are doing the wrongs but instead creates a specific image that kind of create the whole image of “X demographic is to blame for Y”. These labels are created and if you fit within the broad description of the label, whether it’s aimed at a woman who overzealously chases the feminist movement and hurts it instead of helping, or aimed at the angry person who seems to want to blame specific groups for their issues where there is no fault to be had etc; the labels cover everyone else along with those. Because the labels are ill-defined.
What’s even worse is that the ones not guilty of perpetuating segregation and hate for groups are trying to point out that these labels hurt, then along come the ones doing all the wrongs and try hide behind the same argument. They are usually the loudest and then just further emphasise the fact for others that they are the ones being spoken about and the cycle of labelling continues and intensifies. Then when someone dares to say that the label is unfair and affecting them bad they are told not to associate themselves or identify with the label then. But the general community will still lash out at you simply for fitting the description.
It doesn’t just hurt those that get caught in the label either. It hurts the ones who are trying to show why or how a certain ideology or built in process in the entire system is affecting them negatively or has caused their section of the gaming industry to grow slower. Why? Because the innocent ones caught in the label are less likely to listen because they feel attacked and so the hate cycle continues on a whole new level where it’s no longer about the issue but rather a playground fight of name calling.
So what is the solution? Well I think every single one of us who actually care about the industry (or other people in general) are of the same mindset: There is no easy solution.
But I do feel the easiest starting point is to do away with labels. It’s not whitelashing or checking your privilege or feminazis (Seriously who came up with that one? It’s terrible to label ANYONE as such a horrid part of human history. It’s not the same thing). It should rather be pointing out that a certain group is suffering or being treated unfairly and calling for the community at large to take note. Instead of singling out a certain group, address it to the whole community without pointing out a group of people as the perps. That way a pre-set mindset is not created that catch innocent people in the crossfire.
Don’t say it’s a white dominated field, rather state that it’s a colorless field with very few black people.
Don’t say it’s a male dominated field, rather state it’s missing a lot of females.
etc; but don’t go labeling it. Labels just get people’s backs up and makes them immediately defensive because they know they are going to be caught in the label regardless of their view points.
There are folk all over who react negatively because they feel attacked on all sides of the fences (And man there are a lot of fences to be had in the whole social status of people in the gaming scene). We need to stop labeling each other. We need to start accepting that certain people of our own race and gender have transgressed against others, we need to accept that just because some people of a gender or race transgressed against us that not all are the same either.
Open discussion around this is key. Honest acceptance is too. So is not labeling.
When you see open racism, sexism or any other form of unacceptable behaviour in the community it is your duty to report it and bring it to light. Online games make the reporting easy. It’s there to be used, so use it. If you sit idly by, then even if you are not part of the whole issue, you are not exactly doing anything to solve the issue.
But when you see attacks on others who are not really at fault for something it’s equally important to stand up and say enough.
Let’s stop the labels and come together as a community to tackle the issues. White, black, male, female, gay lesbian, Christian, Muslim, whatever you may be, stand up for your fellow gamers and don’t label them. Don’t create the platform for discrimination to happen from. Create the platform where solutions can come from.
And yes, even if there is a pre-conceived idea about you because of labels, you need to also step up and be a better person by not lashing back because of it and instead understand what it is, a cry for understanding. The label is bad, but reacting against the label simply because it’s going to have people view you wrong shouldn’t be a reason to sit and do nothing to help or to lash back.
All sides need to come together and work through this. It’s time we listened and it’s time we applied some conscious thought to how our labels we apply to others can do more harm than good.
This is Raptor Rants and I am a gamer. That is the only label I want associated to myself and the only label I will ever apply to you. (unless you aren’t a gamer in which case… hello fellow human being. I think you are rad too.)