I’ve been playing video games online for over a decade. I play a lot of Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) where I get to run around a fantasy world, set various creatures on fire with my mage, chat with my friends who live states away, and blow off steam. It’s an important de-stressing tool in my life.
But sometimes the game actually causes stress. The main chat channel — occupied by hundreds or thousands of people at a time — can be filled with the most vile, ignorant, infuriating language I’ve seen in our society. Also, when I group up with random players to complete quests they can range from super polite to so offensive that they’re triggering.
The hardest time to play the game was when I was first learning my kyriarchy-smashing ways and felt the need to speak up once in a while when hearing these various insults: “stop being a vagina”, “I raped that player in battle” (meaning they dueled the player and kicked their ass), and every possible slur known to humanity. As a result of me speaking up, I’ve had these slurs and insults hurled at me, along with one time being threatened with actual rape. (The threat was pretty absurd though, since the person knew nothing about me in real life, including my gender.)
Still, there have been times when I sat at my computer shaking with frustration, rage, or fear of verbal retaliation, adrenaline pumping through me as I tried to out-argue or out-insult some offensive jackass. I considered not playing anymore.
And then this happened: I was with my friends and we got a few random players to help us kill a dragon. On the way there, a player cracked a joke about all Muslims being terrorists. I told him to leave the racist crap at home. He then proceeded to ask me if I was Muslim, tell me it was just a joke, and then throughout the dragon fight accused me of letting him die because I had a grudge. My friends didn’t weigh in on the matter at all. I felt horrible. I felt so frustrated.
And then, afterwards, in our private chat channel, a friend thanked me for speaking up. And slowly more and more of the people I hang out with thanked me for speaking up and not letting a horrible comment like that slide. They said they wished they had the guts to tell off people more in game.
And this sparked an idea. I told them that in game was the perfect place to practice telling people off, since the ways that another player can harass you in game are somewhat limited. (You can “ignore” them so that you never see another word they type in game anywhere.) I told them that I really wanted them to support me while I was telling the person their joke was inappropriate.
I realized then that this game was the perfect place to thicken my kyriarchy-smashing skin. If I could learn to start speaking up to people supporting -isms in game, then this could also help me learn how to speak up in non virtual spaces (like yelling back at people who cat call me–which I still don’t have the guts to do.)
So I started speaking up even more. I picked my battles, I got my friends to help me point to someone why they’re being offensive, and I honed my ability to explain to people that when they say “stop being such a woman” they are using my identity as an insult, which it’s not. (I’ve gotten a handful of people to apologize and even admit that it’s offensive.) I’ve also gotten better at shaming people who throw around slurs, without using slurs myself. (This is really, really hard and it normally means insinuating that they have the maturity level of a ten year old.)
Some days I still see something wretched being said in the main chat channel, but I now have a healthy list of players being ignored. Some days I get so frustrated by the crap I see other players do, but I can use those moments to talk to my friends in game about it, and they usually have similar stories to tell. We use each other as a support system now to deal with the BS we see in game.
And last month, when I was on the subway, I saw this guy harassing a group of women. When he got off at his stop and wished us all farewell, without thinking I yelled at him to go fuck himself. I turned to one of the women who he was harassing, and she was smiling this deliciously cathartic grin. We spent the rest of the ride talking about how annoying he was.
It felt good. Really good. I had never done anything like that before.
I like to think I was channeling my inner kyriarchy-smashing mage.
~ Written by LogosKaiEros. She writes the blog Essesntialize This.
[See wasn’t this awesome? As a self-proclaimed NonPlayerOfVideoGames, I would have never been able to write this or even think that this could be a kyrarchial-smashing ground. This is why we need guest posters so that this blog doesn’t become a cesspool of everything that ends at my nose. This is also a not-so-subtle reminder that we have an open guest-posting policy here. Any suggestions for future posts are also welcome]