Welcome to another day in which a games journalist dismisses the criticism of many gamers and misses the point completely. This article at IGN by Colin Moriarty shows exactly why gaming culture is what it is, and why it’s so difficult to make any real change.
Backstory: Borderlands 2 Lead Designer Hemingway refers to the game’s “easy mode” as the Girlfriend mode, which we covered. Many game critics erupted in upset over yet another example where women are stereotyped into byproducts of the gaming industry without the skill required to play games as they’re designed. Now, this IGN article has decided to counter the criticism and put us in our place. Us being anyone with a single fuck to give about sensitive language and inclusivity in games, that is.
Let me lay just a little bit of Feminism 101 on you (which also equates to “being a decent person 101″):
1. If you are not offended, it doesn’t mean what was said wasn’t offensive.
Here’s the thing, we all have different perspectives in life. I’m personally an able-bodied woman, and I recognize that privilege. I am not going to be personally offended by ableist terms, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know it’s wrong to say them. I still have empathy for the people whom I am potentially offending. I check my privilege when I speak, and make sure that I’m not being dismissive of concerns that are very real and very personal for people.
There is just about nothing in the world that is universally offensive to every person. That’s not how offense works. You don’t get a free pass to say whatever you want because you’re not personally affected by it.
Remember, Mr. Hemingway didn’t actually say anything offensive. People wanting to be offended are simply looking for anything to jump on, consequences for anyone and anything be damned.
Because Moriarty isn’t offended, that makes the phrase perfectly okay to say. Never mind the feelings of other people. And, it’s no surprise whatsoever that Moriarty is male, speaking up for the women (the “girlfriends”) who are stating that they’re personally offended by what Hemingway said. Don’t worry, ladies, this guy’s got it under control. We should all stop getting so hysterical over this tiny, minor injustice in the world that doesn’t mean a thing. Except that it does.
I think it’s even worse to understand that people are offended yet belittle and shit upon their feelings than it is to say the offensive slur in the first place.
2. You don’t have to be racist to say racist things. You don’t have to be sexist to say sexist phrases.
This is one of the most common dismissals that occurs. Sometimes it manifests as “I have a gay friend” and other times it’s “but, I’m not racist. I love black people!”
Someone who is a wonderful person can say offensive things, and they can offend people. Someone who isn’t racist can not only say incredibly racist things (perhaps without realizing it) but can also assist on a day-by-day basis with perpetuating the larger culture of racism that exists today. A person who has no personal issues with LGBT individuals can say things that other, disrespect, and shit upon gay people. You don’t have to be a terrible person to be uneducated about offensive language and therefore use it without realizing who you are hurting in the process. But when you DO end up hurting someone, that’s your opportunity to realize what you have done and own up to the mistake. The fact that so many are quick to blame the person for being offended instead of checking their own privilege is a major cultural problem that perpetuates all of the issues that exist with intersectionality.
3. Saying that you didn’t intend to offend someone does not erase the fact that you did.
Like above, if you claim to be a great person who isn’t sexist yet you use a sexist phrase, you better be prepared to apologize and learn from your mistake when you’re called on it. If you say “I’m not sexist and I didn’t mean that to be a sexist phrase” does not correct your mistake. It only hurts your argument if you continue to argue that what you said wasn’t meant to hurt people. The fact is, it did. Own up.
There are words, and there is intent behind them. In many cases, the intent doesn’t matter. You used the offensive phrase, and the damage was done. Educate yourself and don’t use offensive phrases, and you’ll find yourself being a much more decent human being.
Finally, I just want to comment on the last bit here:
So expect to hear a lot less from developers in the future because of episodes like this, and a lot more canned responses from PR as a result.
Excuse me while I pick my jaw up from the floor. If developers can’t speak about their games without offending people, I’d *rather* hear from PR. I know that as a game journalist in the competitive field of scooping other media for the story you are most interested in hearing something sensational that will get you web hits. But I’d rather just hear about the games and the features in a way that doesn’t make me feel like an outsider. Never in my life did I think I’d hear the argument “if we call someone out for being offensive, we’re going to hear a lot less from them.” Shame on us for being critical of what a representative of a company has to say. Shame on us for being so sensitive and trying to pick fights.
Thank goodness this IGN piece says “Opinion” right in the title, because I’m going to set it aside and call it one person’s very privileged and dismissing viewpoint.