I may be about to commit a BBB mistake here, but I’m just a bit incensed and, to be honest, out of gaming topics to write on since I’ve been busy with work stuff and not playing as much. Regardless, I’m just tired of seeing the wrong kind of response to poor judgment from people who supposedly wish to put forth a cause.
Years ago, I wrote an indirect open letter to Gevlon about how he handled his blog. Of course, the idea itself was ludicrous; his blog drew (and I assume still draws, though I don’t read it any more because he moved away from WoW) many exponents more viewers than mine; I was still a start-up at the time, and, besides, he knew what his audience wanted. Still, he was kind enough to take the time to respond, and do so in a polite and intellectual way.
My point back then was that delivery of your message was as important as the content of your message; in fact, it may even be more important, because poor delivery can completely ruin the content, but great content often isn’t enough to overcome poor delivery. It’s the now age-old idea that the media is the message.
Thanks to ubiquitous celebrity filming and large-audience instant communication platforms (like Twitter), we have more and more opportunities to reply in knee-jerk reactions to everything that happens. Today, I see a large group of people jumping all over Martin Freeman because of the incredibly stupid and in-poor-taste joke he made. However, here’s the thing: we all make bad jokes. Everyone. If someone recorded my buddy and I on vent when we’re playing games, I think people who read my blog would be shocked. I do scold my buddy for making rape jokes. In fact, it’s become a bit of a running commentary that I’ll make a joke in poor taste and he’ll reply, “Oh, so you draw the line at rape but not (whatever joke I just made). Part of it comes from the idea of closed groups; that our small circles of friends trust one another enough to know that comments in poor taste will be taken for what they are: bad jokes.
My private persona and my public one aren’t the same, and I daresay that celebrities aren’t, either; we just don’t have cameras in our face when we commit a social gaffe. Additionally, our now instant and large-audience communication tools make it very easy to drive ourselves and like-minded people into a frenzy over what was, at its heart, a bad joke in poor taste. And even he realized it, but he responded with a comic’s defensiveness instead of a celebrity’s social savvy. That’s something worth discussing, that when he knew he’d said something wrong, he pushed further instead of withdrawing the comment. But that’s not the sort of response I’ve seen.
What bothers me then is not the completely warranted unhappiness towards those jokes, but the way that unhappiness is communicated. I’ve seen a lot of tweets today that were also in very poor taste, that generalized groups of people rather than discussing the actual topic at hand: Martin Freeman made an inappropriate joke and then made it worse instead of backing off. I see the same sort of response with the new PAX Diversity Lounges. Yes, it’s a stupid idea, and if they continue to go forward with it, it will likely cause the exact opposite effect than it’s intended; I’ve seen a lot of people write on that point already: opposite of what they intended.
Well for goodness sake, at least their intentions are good. When you respond with acidic criticism instead of helpful suggestions, it’s likely to draw the same kind of response as we saw from Martin Freeman. I fully support the thought that it’s a stupid idea, but rather than nastily attack them for trying to respond positively to criticisms and being ignorant about how to do it, perhaps instead we should try to help them understand how to do it.
What bothers me is the glee with which people attack this poorly-conceived attempt; it seems like it’s confirming something everyone already thinks they know about PAX. Well I’ll tell you this, I’ve been to 3 of the 4 Boston PAX’s with my wife in attendance. She’s gone off and done things on her own, a solo woman out on the game floors. She’s never once had a bad experience. Not once. Hell, she yelled at Gabe once at an impromptu panel about not using female characters in his D&D campaign – yelled at him. And he responded that he didn’t feel comfortable because he didn’t think he knew how to roleplay a woman in a realistic way. Then, the two of them had a dialogue about it. Gabe acknolwedged his ignorance and my wife, instead of criticizing him for it, provided helpful feedback. Later that same conference, Jerry saw her on the tabletop gaming floor and asked her about her ideas. My buddy and I were of course over-awed (and my wife, who never introduces anybody to anyone else, didn’t introduce us). So both Gabe and Jerry spoke to her about incorporating women into their games. Who knows whether or not he took it, but regardless, everyone left those exchanges better than they’d entered them.
However, on Twitter and elsewhere, I see a lot of people publicly grooming themselves and self-aggrandizing as if all their nasty criticism has finally been vindicated because again PA has done something that shows their ignorance. Why not take this opportunity and, instead of preening one’s own feathers, offer thanks for the attempt but some suggestions on what might be a better idea? Why not come off the attack – an attack that often shows a level of hypocrisy towards an inclusive environment – and instead offer a helping hand? Does showing compassion to someone whose ideas you’ve spoken out against show weakness? No, quite the opposite. It takes a big person to help pick your enemy up out of the rubble at the end of the battle and try to help them rehabilitate, which supposedly is everyone’s goal: a better world, not a better chance to humiliate those you dislike.
Consider how it would help your own public identity to be seen helping to rehabilitate a repeat offender? I’ve already seen it when my buddy, not having a thought in his head about how female gamers might be treated, started calling people out in LoL for using the term “rape” to describe a gank after I took him to a panel of female gamers talking about their experience at PAX last year. He changed thanks to that panel, started being more thoughtful, and began to try to change others. That should be the goal. Think about whether or not your public communications are designed to further that goal or to exclude people whose ideas you disagree with.
Stubborn (trying to offer a helping hand to those who don’t know how)
P.S. This isn’t intended to call out any one person on Twitter or elsewhere but instead just to make a point about how our behavior helps our causes or inadvertently hurts them.
P.P.S. I told you I was bad at tags! #Twitter #PAX #Tolerance