How can so much abuse happen within the gaming community even as we know so many good people? We all like to think that bigots and trolls are a loud minority, but what can we say about that silent majority? Are they not facilitators and complicit in the abuse due to their silence? Men are especially silent on these matters and that makes matters worse sense men tend to dole out the most abuse. Men have to do more to break the silence.
I’d say it’s been 50/50 split between men being decent human beings to indecent (*). But of the good half, I’d say the majority are silent bystanders. I’ve seen them defend their silence with terrible excuses while a fellow gamer is attacked in some way. The problem is two-fold then: it’s the abusers and then it’s those who silently allow it to happen. Our complicity through silence is a huge problem.
To have a better community requires us to be better men.
A Few Good Online Gamers
There are a lot of good men within the gaming community. The friends I play with at home or that I meet up with throughout the week for kicks are generally good guys. I don’t know a ton of male bloggers personally, but for those I’ve become acquainted with we get to know each other through games, comment sections, forums, and even voice chat on game servers. I consider them friends, but I wouldn’t say I knew them. I’m sure they think the same of me. The truth is I’ve been a silent bystander before. That’s how I know there’s not really any good reason for it; it is defacto support of the wrongs you witness.
Everyone knows that most people are different on the internet than in real life. Anonymity allows us to connect in more personal ways than we otherwise would — at a safe distance. Everyone also knows that the opposite is true as well. Anonymity brings out the absolute worst in many people.
Men on the internet can be predatory, because I’ve seen us do it at parties, at bars, in the night, on corners, on the job. I think this behavior happens 1000 fold on the internet. The bigotry is also constantly on display as well on voice chat, comment threads, “jokes” and everywhere else. Anonymity doesn’t have to mean no consequences, but in today’s environment it does. And that leaves a lot of room for predatory and hateful behavior.
How many of us have intervened for that drunken woman at the bar/party? How about that bully on Ventrilo? How about during a round of DOTA 2? I’m sure some of us have, but here’s the point: most of the time, we just let things happen without intervening at all. It may not be us who commits the crime, but it’s just as bad to standby while bad things happen. Silent men are no better than the perpetrators. Both acts are harmful.
In the gaming community, bigotry is a massive problem, but silence is an even greater one. I’ll take overt bigots over silent Good Guys any day, because the latter is a betrayal and is the means to suppress problems. Bigotry in all it’s forms is heinous, but the silence that permits it is an unspeakable evil. Bigotry, even the subtle kind, isn’t genetic. Plenty of men in the community do the right thing everyday and they are from the same general cultural circumstance as the bad ones. Silence is complicity.
That complicity is what allows the gaming community to descend into an ugly, unsafe, toxic state. It’s not the bigots, bullies and predators. It’s those of us who do nothing while the baddies do their worst.
I wanted to write this to implore and encourage other gamers who are silent bystanders to break the silence. I want to raise the percentage of gamers who intervene loudly and reliably. But how do we do it? What do you say or do to break that silence?
Foremost, don’t go along to get along. Let this be your rallying point. You don’t have to be belligerent or unpleasant in order to break your silence, and I know some may have that fear of confrontation. All that’s needed is for you to NOT be silent, whether it’s while you’re gaming, at a convention or just hanging out on a forum. Here’s some things to be avoid.
- Don’t ignore it. And don’t advise others to ignore it either. If someone you’re playing with is being a bigot, politely point it out to them. It’s not about winning or policing people. It’s about breaking your silence when you see something wrong happening.
- Don’t call the victim sensitive. This is a cop out for your lack of will/courage to attack the real problem: the perpetrator. The problem isn’t the person being attacked, it’s the fact that they are being attacked.
- Don’t make excuses. It doesn’t matter how common a bigoted joke is. It certainly doesn’t matter that the perpetrator is angry and is “blowing off steam”. These are all excuses to evade the fact that something wrong just happened and you did NOTHING.
In every case, these things attempt to focus on everything except the abuser and that’s wrong no matter what. On the other hand, here’s some things that might be cool to do:
- Confront the perpetrator. That’s the first and most important step. “Hey, that’s not cool” or “Hey, knock it off” are great starters. Again, it’s not about engaging in a fierce debate. It’s about refusing to allow bad things to continue unchallenged. They might ignore you, but that’s their perrogative; focus on YOUR part and refuse to be ignored. If this can turn into a civil discussion about it, welcome it.
- Support the victim unconditionally. It’s about letting them know that the act is categorically wrong and that your support is based on that fact alone, without condition. I think it’s tempting to say/think things like “As long as <insert condition>…” or otherwise putting limitations on your objection. Don’t. If it’s wrong, confront the crime/criminal. Resist all urges to do otherwise.
- Speak out. This is slightly different than confronting a person. To speak out is to independently call attention to an issue. It’s to call for a conversation about that issue, spread awareness or share information that could help solve the problem.
When all the talk and action is done, one of the most important things you can do is listen. Learn about the problem. Learn it’s history. This is the single greatest contribution you can make to community improvement: gradually understanding the problem and caring about the people directly affected by it. After all, a better community is about fostering better people and that starts with you.
Just first, please, stop being silent.
(*) = Edit for clarity: This refers ONLY to my personal experience and that part of the sentence was accidentally edited out of the original article. This is clearly not a factual statistic, but description of personal experience. Apologies for the mistake.
Scree Tags: #breakthesilence #gamerculture