Editorial: Breaking Gamer Stereotypes

Lusipurr does not let us use contractions in our posts.

Apparently it offends his sense of style, which is odd. As an English major, he should know that liberal use of the apostrophe defines classic works of English literature. Also, look at Robert Burns. Dude is a certified “have-to-read-in-English class” poet, and he gets to go around saying things like “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,” just for talking to a mouse he found “cowering” outside his Scottish hovel one day. Also, “hovel” apparently originally meant a vent for smoke or a shed for animals. Look it up! It is exactly the sort of place where Scots would live.

A sleekit tim'rous beastie
This is what a sleekit beastie may look like.

But for some reason he lets me use the word “druthers.” The etymology of this word says it is a contraction. Why does Da Boss let me get away with such profligate prolix promiscuity with his beloved English language?

I think under that gruff exterior that sends gushy tweets about his main squeeze, he is really just a softie. And let us think about that: he is a kind-hearted soul that gives a band of rogues, miscreants, fart app aficionados and lost Canadians a place to come every week to bitch about video games and attempt to drive poor Oliver and Ethan to madness. Seriously, guys, way to hang in there through the podcast abuse that gets flung out. You go, girls.

When I first met Lusi, it was on the Wild, Wild West of the Internet. For those of my readers who are too young to remember what the Internet was like before Facebook and Youtube civilized it, there was this dark and unholy place known as Livejournal, which was how ugly girls shared topless pictures with whiny poetry-writing wuss-men before Myspace streamlined the process.

Lusi and I would banter carelessly back and forth on philosophy forums, debating the relative merits of Roman Catholic dogma, British empiricism and that stylish übermensch Immanuel Kant. Then one day he had the perhaps-insane idea to ask me to write a column on video games after I bitched about how lame Aion‘s closed beta was.

But before that, I had no idea that he would have been a gamer; he seemed to me to be the type that might avoid video games as gauche. I mean, I knew that I liked them, sure, but I eat chili and cook meat with fire outside, as my Viking ancestors did in the days when we were conquering his ancestors. I lack refinement and polish; for Heaven’s sake, I drink iced tea that is supersaturated with sugar, like some sort of barbarian.

Which said a lot about my views about who played video games, and about the general state of games. Well-known MMO blogging site Massively.com recently linked to a story about gamers bucking the stereotype, which nicely dovetailed with a few things I have been ruminating over in the wake of the apparent end of the “Dickwolf Debacle”. For those just joining us (and who missed my epic stomping fit back in August) the linked blog has a good timeline of exactly what a dickwolf is and why we are debacling over it. I suppose I am really miffed that we did not get included on the timeline, so hopefully a trackback link will get us noticed.

I suppose online poker counts as a game...

There is no question that the Debacle exposed a lot of bad stereotypes on both sides of the argument. After all, even though I am squarely in the “Gabe and Tycho reacted in absolutely the wrong way to a fan’s reaction to the comic” camp, threats of violence against Gabe’s wife and kids is not only wrong, it is criminal and I hope that someone spends some time in jail over it. It makes me embarrassed for my “side,” because that is just plain idiotic.

On the other hand, let us not forget that the other side created twitter accounts like “teamrape,” allied themselves with the thoroughly detestable “men’s rights activism” movement, and in general acted like a bunch of privileged, misogynist dudebros, which is an unfortunate stereotype about gamers.

To tie these two themes together, I realized that my own views on gaming were based on a bit of self-loathing. Despite the über-confident approach I spin out all the time (a side effect of my education) I am often unsure of myself, down on myself, and my own worst critic. Because I am sort of a socially awkward kind of guy, I bought in to the “loner male not good with people who lacks cultural refinement” because I thought/think that describes/described me. And that was when I realized that stereotypes about gamers are bad and we should actively work to dispel them.

Except it does not help when gamers reinforce those stereotypes like they did in the Debacle… except that now that I reread the timeline, I find I was too negative. For every “Dick Wolvington” or “teamrape,” there were progressive, feminist, liberal and leftist bloggers out there discussing it… and not all of them took the side of the somewhat-reactionary and overly-snarky Shakesville.


Do not get me wrong; I read Shakesville from time-to-time and enjoy it, but it is not the sort of site I would send someone to for an introductory education to feminist critical theory. I like Melissa’s snark, but she (unapologetically, I believe) writes in an abrasive manner and can be a little dismissive and derailing herself. Oh well, no one is perfect.

I thought Courtney Stanton’s response was the best: the answer to speech one does not like is never to call for a cessation of the speech, but to engage in free speech oneself. That people who ostensibly supported Gabe and Tycho’s freedom of expression tried to shut her down by demanding that she prove she was a rape survivor shows just how interested they were in actual free exchange and discussion of ideas.

The problem was never the comic itself; the original Shakesville reaction to it was not an unjustified reaction. The strip is triggering, but no one has a duty to avoid discussing triggering things, just to label them (if one is being polite about it). But I am not sure that Penny-Arcade owes its fans a triggering label; hell, they may not have even known the term before, and it would be unfair of us to impose upon them some sort of requirement that they devote their free time to reading social theory journals.


But their reaction to a fan (not a critic) and her understandably negative reaction to a comic that contained a superfluous rape reference was where it all went wrong; instead of just saying, “Hey, sorry you got offended reading our comic, we did not mean to upset you, because the point of the joke was actually to make fun of arbitrary moral actions in MMOs…” Gabe and Tycho acted upset that anyone would dare criticize them in this fashion and made light of very important and very real social theory regarding rape and rape culture. I am not saying that they needed to agree with all of that fancy academic theory, but they should not have been so dismissive of it and encouraged the misogynist tripe on Twitter and elsewhere.

And I am really upset it ended up like it did, but feel like I needed to comment on it to try and pull something positive out of how bad it all ended up. I think that stereotypes people have about gamers and gaming culture need to evaporate, and for better or worse, people like Gabe and Tycho are major cultural trendsetters for gamers. It would have been nice to see them push the gaming community in a more progressive, socially-conscious direction, but I suppose that is not their primary purpose or duty.

But it can be mine.

Law and Order thinks gamers look like this
Oddly enough, this image is courtesy of an actual Dick Wolf.

I am a gamer. I play video games. I sometimes forego going to social events with people I know “in real life” to stay home and play video games with people I only know over the Internet… and I do not find anything wrong with that. I am sociable; I smile and laugh when I am out with people. I have a great marriage. I have a great job, two degrees, and I am not above whipping out my iPhone at lunch for a quick round of Angry Birds. I am an academic and a feminist. I believe in social justice. But I also like Mountain Dew (well, the Diet variety, but still) and am not above ordering delivery pizza for dinner. I have rolled my fair share of polygonal dice while attacking the darkness. If someone told me they had a plus two broadsword, I would know what they meant. I actually took a course on the linguistics of Middle Earth and analyzed poems written in a fake language. I live a balanced and healthy life while being a huge freaking dork, and I love that about myself. And I pledge to try and show the world a positive face for the gaming subculture, a subculture I believe can be inclusive and tolerant and positive.


  1. I thought I would hate it too. But now I can’t drink HFCS cokes. They’re all too sweet. Real sugar Dr. Pepper on the other hand is proof of Odin’s benevolence.

  2. Haven’t tried DP with real sugar, but Diet Dr. Pepper is my favorite diet drink.

    That, or Fresca. And not just plain Fresca, they have a lot of awesome flavors of Fresca.

  3. To actually comment on the post, I’m going to largely agree with Lane. Both sides of this “controversy” have done some wrong things, but in general I find Shakesville and especially McEwan to have been far too reactionary to the whole thing. But I’ve gone on and on about it before, and I really just want to let this whole dickwolves discussion die out.

  4. Dickwolves will never die out, Melissa McEwan will ressurect the topic whenever she needs the Internet hits, so that she can bristle with indignant rage.

    Gage and Tycho have of course acted impeccably throughout, and treated their naysayers with about as much respect as they deserve. It’s all very well to say that they should have provided a more respectful response to these absolutely ridiculous accusations, but I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation when their moron accusers are drowning out all reasonable dialogue with their panic whistles.

    How do you maintain a respectful tone when your critics are accusing you of being Hitler? Why would you not make light of them? And why wouldn’t you make light of a social theory if you thought it was a nonsense. Just how tenuous is that social theory that it cannot withstand one such buffet.

    Once again this is the case of select feminists trying to invoke minority exceptionslism where ZOMG you can’t make fun of us, we’re special.

    Mountain Dew is lost on such people.

  5. @Lusipurr What is a soft drink? A miserable little pile of FLAVOR!

    But enough talk! LET’S DRINK!

  6. Carbonated from the crystalline spring waters of the mountain Jew.

  7. Well, I have to give “men’s rights activism” guys some credit… how is alimony and child support supposed to mesh with equity among the sexes?

    Marry a rich dude, you get to enjoy his shit. Divorce a rich dude, and it would be wrong for you not to continue to get to enjoy his shit? How, exactly, is that supposed to make sense? If women are property to be kept in the home and unable to do things like work and have careers because…anyone other than the extraordinarily wealthy can dream of such a situation, then…sure that makes sense. In the real world where the average woman’s not paid that much less than the average man giving most or all of the guy’s discretionary income to his no longer significant other doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (And the handful of lecherous manwhores leeching off productive, successful women aren’t a counterargument.)

    And how about child support? We live in a society where an unwanted pregnancy is not a definite financial burden for the next 18 years. If a woman chooses to have sex with some man whom she has no comitted relationship with why should she expect financial support from him? I have no idea what the average abortion costs compared to 18 years of child support, but I know it’s an assload less. I don’t know how the adoption circuit rolls, but it’s also definitely less pricey.

    How about we modernize our shit and get somewhere close to the 1960s? The more recent fifty years we can figure out in greater detail later. It just seems kind of retarded to declare “Women are not animals!!!” and then simultaneously declare “Women are hapless, stupid animals without guidance by men.”

  8. I see nothing wrong with Men’s rights activism, just another feminist double standard.

  9. This issue with men’s rights activism is that generally speaking, there is a massive gender disparity in our culture that favors men. Frankly, I’m not familiar enough with feminist theory to argue this, though. Hopefully Lane is around, as I get the impression that he is one far more versed in it than I am.

  10. I don’t buy that, there are plenty of systemic advantages for women built in for women, particularly in the legal sphere. Issues such as child custody, child support, alimony and DV typically favor women over men.

    I remember when men’s rights activism convinced our old PM to change child custody laws to put fathers on equal footing with mothers, that was a good thing for both fathers and children.

    The level of positive discrimination in Australia is just absurd, and this is not at all helped by the current Labor government.

  11. Saying that an MRA group is equivalent in any way to the feminist movement is like equating the KKK and the NAACP.

    I am not all that familiar with Britain or Australia and how their laws work, but in the United States, the family law system (as screwed up as it is) no longer favors custody, alimony, etc., and everything to women. I’ve actually prosecuted DV cases, and while it is true that there are greater numbers of male violence against females in the DV setting, it is by no means all that great of a difference. I’ve prosecuted cases where there are male victims and female perpetrators. I’ve prosecuted cases where both the victim and the aggressor were male, and the same is true of two-female relationships.

    But that’s all beside the point: child support and alimony can and are assessed against women to support men (though many modern jurisdictions in the US do not have a form of alimony if they are community property states). Child custody asks “what is in the best interests of the child,” not as to what gender the partner is.

    Despite all of this, women still make less, on average, compared to men. Rape victims (both men and women) are still subjected to disbelief or victim blaming if they have the courage to report an attack, because society tends to favor rapists. The laws, culture and structure of Western and industrial nations still reflect a patriarchal bias. One that is slowly evaporating as the “old guard” dies off, and younger, more egalitarian-minded folks take over. The “feminism” that many MRAs get all huffy about is the radical feminism of the 1970s, a response to the patriarchy of the 1960s. Here in 2011, things are much different, both on the feminist side and the other side. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a young feminist that would agree that laws favoring child custody, child support, divorce, etc., in favor of women were good laws.

    I liked Tycho’s response to this the best:

    “I’ve received an incredible education during the ordeal, and been exposed to an amazing range of thought, from so-called “radical feminism” to a wholly opposed, Lewis Carroll, through-the-looking-glass mode of thinking called Men’s Rights Activism. It’s my default position to figure out what is wrong with me so that I can make peace, and the web has been very good to me in this regard. ”

    That was the proper attitude to take, and I am happy that some people had a fruitful and productive conversation with him about this, and that hopefully everyone was allowed to grow as people.

    That’s what bothered me so much about the initial response and reactions like Shakesville’s. No one learned anything; it was just two camps patting themselves on the back and lobbing pointless insults at the other side.

    Gaming culture has a lot of misogyny within it; some people (quite wrongly) view this as intrinsic within the culture, and lump all gamers together into what amount to a terrible, horrible, wounding stereotype. But, and this has really revealed this facet of gaming culture to me, there are lots of gamers who don’t fit that mold that are speaking up. They run blogs and websites and speak their minds, and that’s super-awesome and great, and if nothing else, things like the Debacle timeline have highlighted that, and I hope we can all grow together, as people.

    And that’s all I’m going to say on this subject. Men, women, gay, straight, black, white, Martian, Alpha Centaurian, we’re all in this together and we’ve got to figure out some way to get along.

  12. Comparing men’s rights to the KKK is a wonderful way to start a dialogue! :D

    – I’m not at all surprised that Women earn less on average than men, they tend to be more likely to let down the sisterhood by dropping out of their professions for a time following the birth of a child. This is lost time in terms of career advancement and is also bound to drag down average female wages, yet there is nothing malign in this.

    Then you just have differences in gender assertiveness. A recent Australian study revealed that men were more likely to demand promotions from their superiors, and were more inclined to lay their job on the line when doing so. Risk big, win big. The opportunities in life are rarely just going to fall in your lap, men make it happen.

    Ultimately, many successful women will tell you that there aren’t really too many dead ends to check ambition, women just have to be willing to give up as much as their male counterparts in terms of family life, fewer are, and this drags down the average.

    Honestly, I’m sure there are still systemic barriers to women in some professions, and this no doubt factors into the average disparity between pay, but to demand an equal average income between sexes as the gold standard is just a nonsense because the different sexes make different life choices based on their differing priorities, or to put it another way; one sex is more inclined to have their cake, while the other is more inclined to eat it.

    To illustrate this with an extreme example; are you shocked and appalled that military command positions are dominated by men? Of course not, disparities in some fields are organic, and should not be distorted through positive discrimination appointment practices.

    I’m a supporter of meritocracy, equal work and equal credentials should beget equal pay. Where this is not the case, then impediments must be removed. But this does not necessarily mean that yearly wage averages between the sexes must be equal, merit should be blind to life choices.

    – As for the whole Feminist thing, I can only conclude that they do not wish for equality. I am inclined to judge a movement by its leadership, and when the vast bulk of of Feminist ideologues advocate pro-female inequality, and rank and file Feminists either support or refrain from rebuking them for their misandry, then I can only conclude that Feminism is a discriminatory movement.

    I’m sure there are probably plenty of pleasant, equality loving people who identify themselves as Feminists, yet it is my contention that they have not thought hard enough on what their movement actually stands for.

  13. I’d like to point out something I thought was odd.

    Feminists argue that even the word rape in a non rape joke in a comic will still lessen the word and indirectly cause rapes.

    Feminists proceed to throw the word rape and rape apologist at anyone with a different opinion, and expand the term to cover things completely unrepresentative of what we know as rape, things that don’t even demean women.

    Example, a woman who has consensual sex then regrets it at a later date, (example: it made things weird between them) is considered rape by many feminists, the study that concluded that 1/4 women will be raped which is frequently quoted by feminists, and by law in several states.

    I could argue that this and the feminist abuse of the term rape does more to promote indifference towards rape than any comedian. I’m sure there are feminists who don’t use the word rape as a sword and shield against any criticism but they clearly seem to be a minority among the whole.

    Now I’d like to go out on a limb here and say that the contemporary feminist movement has drifted far far away from their intended purpose of womans rights and towards an intolerant march to censor every form of media including the entirety of the porn industry. This is reminiscent of how the black panthers drifted from black empowerment to simple hate mongering towards every other culture and ethnicity, especially jews.

    In the words of George Carlin, “I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.”

  14. Not wearing a condom in Sweden also counts as rape, evidently.

    You can’t really blame any jury for initially adopting a skeptical position in cases which do not reflect the violent rape stereotype, and for requiring evidence from the accuser. The term rape has become nebulous to the point of meaninglessness.

    -Porn is actually a funny topic for feminism, some ideologues are pro porn for its ability to liberate or whatever (ROFL), while other ideologues are anti porn … Though obviously the former is the minority view on the issue.

  15. @ThinkoftheChildren

    On omitting the hyperbole that colored some of your other posts. It is much easier to understand your viewpoint and rationale without having to mentally edit those out. (Well thought out, and well written, even if I don’t hold entirely the same view)