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One of the less enjoyable parts of being on the internet is dealing with other people. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are lovely—Matt McFarland and the fine folks of Growling Door, Alyssa and the Fünhaver crew, Avery McDonaldo, and many others that I’m forgetting.
But of the seven billion people in the world, a lot of them are arseholes.
I’m going to focus on games, but the point about defending the status quo being implicitly political applies to the real world too. It’s just that this site is for my own elfgames work; people get enough about Scottish independence by [following me on twitter].
One thing that crops up more and more around that tendency to be an arsehole is a curious blind-spot around how things are compared to how they could be. Take, for example, the ongoing issues of female representation in games. To the arseholes, anyone arguing for a change is “being political” or “wasting time with political correctness” or “putting issues ahead of game design”. In other words, daring to say that the way things are isn’t just peachy keen is a political act.
And they’re right. It is a political act. Pretty much any call for systemic change is a political act, be that around the representation of women in games, the frankly disgusting treatment of LGBTQ people in games, or the employment of toxic individuals in the design of the world’s biggest RPG. The principle also applies to topics that are obviously political in the real world, such as Scottish independence or gay marriage. One side, the one that wants to change things, gets attacked as being “political” just for mentioning that things could be different. The other side, that is fine with how things are, aren’t “political” unlesss they’re actively campaigning.
This is, oh, what’s the phrase? Total and utter fucking bullshit.
If expressing a desire for the world to change is a political act, then saying that the world is fine just as it is is also a political act. You can support one change, you can be against it, or you can say “meh, doesn’t bother me”. The third option implicitly accepts that the status quo is fine. Some people actively campaign for the status quo. Far more campaign passively, by vocally claiming to not give a shit.
If you think the status quo is fine, you’re outright stating that the current level of bigotry—in games and in the real world—is fine:
- That it’s fine for many states in the USA to not allow gay people to marry.
- That it’s fine for many countries to ban homosexuality outright, in many cases torturing or even executing people for their “crime”.
- That it’s fine for employers to promise attractive women as a “perk” of a job.
- That it’s fine to have a world where women, people of color, bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and non-binary/genderqueer people only exist as stereotypes at best.
- That giving people who are not cisgendered heterosexual white males a chance to see themselves represented in media as individuals is not necessary.
While I can’t do much more than campaign on the broader social issues, and donate to groups advocating for the causes that I believe in, gaming is a small space and I happen to have a voice in it.
If you think any of the above is fine? GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HOBBY.
Stew Wilson is a writer, game designer, computational demonologist, and mathematician.
This blog covers his professional writing and game design work.
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