Last few weeks have been quite revealing and shed light on some problems in the gamer society. Has the empowerment of social media magnified these problems or have they always been there? Are we a diverse community or divided?
I think it’s fair to say that the last few weeks have been quite interesting. There have been two incidents where roleplayers and fans have been divided, where perhaps all too many people have been a little too eager in revealing their true colours, in my opinion.
However, this has a left me wondering if perhaps these problems have always existed or if the empowerment we feel as users of social media, where we suddenly have access to hundreds, even thousands of people, where we can broadcast our opinions, has made us blind or ignorant of the responsibility this empowerment comes with? More on that later.
Of dogs and wolves
Few days ago a former fan of White Wolf posted a rather outspoken article about the new edition of Vampire the Masquerade, which should be published soon. In this article, which is now unavailable since the blog, DogwithDice.com, has been taken down, the author wrote in length about how he felt that White Wolf are catering to alt-right groups and fascists, both through their games and by signing on a couple of game designers that, according to the author, have a rather nefarious reputation.
I read the article and, to be honest, found it a little too wordy, so to speak. It was obvious that the author was upset and had much to say. Despite all that, once you had filtered out all the resentment and anger, the article poised some serious questions, that White Wolf, obviously, felt needed to address and did with a rather hasty and in my opinion naive status update on their Facebook page.
Needless to say many fans felt the need to express their opinions, and browsing through the comment sections of Reddit, White Wolf’s Facebook page, the forums at Onyx Path webpage and just about everywhere where White Wolf’s roleplaying games are discussed, revealed some of the best that the Internet has to offer, but also some of the worst, unfortunately.
As I mentioned earlier, I think that the article poised some serious questions, e.g. why the first rpg publishing company to remove male pronouns and somewhat a leader in matters of gender equality, would hire a game designer that has the reputation that Zak Smith has?
“Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, —
fair fame of one who has earned.”
Reputation is a double edged sword, you see, and a razor sharp one I might add. The more you seek it, the more it can hurt you. I don’t now Zak Smith and I have no means to see if everything that has been written about the man, both good and bad, is true or false. But, whether you’re a fan of the man or not, I think that the question is fair, if his reputation, that is the bad part of it, will hurt White Wolf, but I believe only time will tell how this plays out for them.
Much as White Wolf’s initial online response was as it seems badly planned, I think that some of their next steps have been much better, they’ve added a Code of Conduct to their Facebook page and I hope that they have at least taken some of the points the author made to heart. As we say in Iceland: Batnandi manni er best að lifa… or you learn as long as you life.
The death of a character
The next incident is somewhat less political, but seemed to leave just as many people in uproar, distress and even quite angry. I’m speaking about the unfortunate death of one of the characters in the super successful online TV-shows Critical Role (I will not mention which one, if there’s someone out there that hasn’t seen the episode in question).
According to Matt Mercer’s Twitter account he has received a lot of hate because of this, and to be honest, I don’t understand why. I can, however, understand that people feel attached to the characters and feel sad seeing one of them die. But isn’t that a part of a good narrative and a good roleplaying game? The threat of death is always there, that thing which makes the adventuring part dangerous.
However, spreading anger and hate is something that I can’t understand. Mercer has, in my opinion, through his work as game master and advocate for D&D and roleplaying come across as a reasonable, intelligent, empathic and kind person. In fact, we know him for what he loves and that’s the best reputation anyone can have. This is something I try to teach my kids everyday, to treat other with respect and kindness and be known for what they love.
Don’t be a jerk
There’s a metal festival in Iceland called Eistnaflug. Ever since it was first held it has had the same motto, something that every attendee hears over and over again at the festival. Don’t be a jerk. Initially this was to make sure that the festival was free of any kind of violence, and that anyone would feel safe and welcome at the festival.
I feel that this should be integrated into everything we do, and especially when we’re using social media. Much as I like social media and being able to publish my opinions, something I’ve done for almost 15 years, I’ve also made some great errors along the way. I’ve posted things that I deeply regret, where I behaved like a jerk, without any regard for the feelings of those I was either speaking to or about.
Having children tends to give you a different view on things, and I think that perhaps what had the biggest effect on how I viewed my own behaviour was when my kids started asking me when they could have access to social media. Having to look myself in the mirror and ask whether I would like to have them reading things I had posted years ago was hard.
A diverse community
These two examples are neither the first nor the last ones where we, as roleplayers, are divided, either by political believes, approach to fandom or anything else. We are a diverse group. We are divided by religion, borders, colour of our skin, our sexual orientation, gender, language, gaming preferences, whether we are snowflakes and that’s just to name a few.
I think that we should focus more on what brings us together, namely our love for roleplaying games and enjoying shared storytelling. I believe that it is more important to focus on and teach young people this than to point out what sets us apart.
These two incidents reveal how easy it is to set us, the gaming community, apart, to polarize and divide us. How few loud voices can have a huge impact.
But the fact is, and this is a wonderful fact, this vocal impactful group is a minority. Most of roleplayers I know love roleplaying and let any diversity aside by the table, are wonderful human beings and not at all any kind of jerks. People who don’t need any other Code of Conduct than to not be a jerk and treat other people with respect.
And that’s the kind of people I hope my kids will turn out to be and that they will enjoy playing roleplaying games with. In fact, that’s the kind of person I strife to be.