There’s a concept that gamers seem to “get” to varying degrees – the idea that real life is more important than game life. Sometimes this refers to situations where someone needs to leave a game abruptly – a child needs to be put to bed, the dog needs to be let out. Sometimes this refers to a more broad situation – a player can’t be there for a group activity because of work or another prior obligation. For myself right now, it’s pretty vital as I try to balance the idea that this blog was “supposed” to primarily be about gaming with the fact that I have other interests, and other things going on in my life.
At the same time, there can be a lot of (sometimes only subtly spoken) pressure in gaming circles to be always-on. Passive aggressive or blatant digs at games “catering to casuals” who don’t put in “enough time.” The ongoing arguments over who gets to be a “real gamer,” who has the right to opinions about gaming. I’m certainly not immune to it. With this blog itself, I feel a sense that if I write about something other than games and gaming I’m doing it wrong, or showing that I’m not actually much of a gamer; even knowing that’s not true. Gaming is important to me – and so are other aspects of my life.
I think the failure to hold real life above gaming is probably most hurtful where it relates to how people treat each other, though. I’m talking about how we sometimes treat folks related to gaming by way of the industry or media, but also other players and mods. (Yep, mods and GMs are people too, last I checked.) Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there’s a tendancy to treat friends like people (“No worries dude, go take care of your kid!”) and people we don’t like as NPCs or purposeful antagonists. We seem more willing to assume the worst of them, more willing to take out our anger on them.
I suppose that’s not unique to gaming. The guy who cut us off in traffic is clearly a jerk, but if our friend does the same thing it’s because they’re running late to work, you know? If we lose our temper it’s just that we’re having a bad day, our anxiety was really bad for a moment, but we’re really a great person! That other guy though? He’s obviously just a stupid jerk.
To be clear, if someone is being actively abusive towards other people I’m not going to be the one saying it’s somehow awful to call them out on that behavior. And I find it really sketchy when someone says something awful, gets pushback, and then complains that the pushback was unfair. It seems like you can’t even have a conversation about just not-being-a-jerk without some folks wanting to argue the loopholes sometimes. Related, micro-aggressions are a thing and yep, it is totally possible to say something that accidentally hurts someone else – the answer isn’t “It sounded fine to me, therefore you’re wrong.”
But the way people treat each other sometimes…sometimes I just run out of words. The person who rage quit your group is maybe super rude, but probably not on a one-person mission to destroy your night. The one over there talking about inclusion in gaming is probably not a real life version of Kefka trying to take over the world. The mod that just kicked you is probably doing their job to the best of their ability. And if you’ve said something that came off sexist or racist or otherwise horrible…yeah, someone is probably going to call that out and it’s not part of a maniacal conspiracy to censor all free thought.
Little bit short tonight and a bit off-the-cuff since, related, I have some offline ducks I need to get in a row. But it sometimes feels like I live in this strange world where some of the gamers I know want it both ways: that they have the right to say anything they like without pushback, but saying things they don’t agree with about games and gaming is a horrible offense.
My own solution? If I say that I try to treat people as real people, that might sound flippant. But I’ve lived enough of my life to know that a large chunk of time, taking a few moments to picture whoever is annoying me as a complete human being saves me from a whole lot of crappy behavior. Listening also helps. The idea that I’m not always right or seeing things fairly myself. That I might be wrong. Being very aware of how differently I’d treat this person if I knew them vs. being a stranger. Knowing that there are situations where yes, my privilege and life experience cause me not to see that I’ve said something hurtful. And remembering that just because someone has upset me, it doesn’t always follow that I need to get them back. Sometimes just walking away is better for everyone, including myself.