Welcome back to Hypetrain!
Next stop: hype.
Some of you might not remember Hypetrain. Back when I had more time on my hands, this was the apparatus by which I delivered gaming news to your greedy hands. The gimmick is that I hate gaming news, being that it tends to be little more than soulless sycophantic game advertizing wearing a thin journalistic disguise. So, I would either mock the entire premise or find slightly more obscure stories which I found more interesting than, say, Diablo 3.*
Well, guess what! I have time again. The Hypetrain is screaming through the fucking station, and it’s not stopping. It’s giving you the middle finger. That’s because this week (or so), the stories are interesting. I’m sure you will find them interesting, mister gamer.
This week’s topic: how gamers are bad people!
You are probably racist, demographically speaking**
John Scalzi wrote an article. First, he posted it on his blog. Then, Kotaku picked it up. It’s about how being a white, straight male is pretty much life’s easy mode. The article’s entire length is spent exploring that analogy, milking it for every little implication.
In summary: The world and its inhabitants are more forgiving toward a white straight male. Yes, white straight males can fail, or get dealt a bad hand, but they’re still on the easiest setting. Things will still be generally more favorable for them. The game is not more fun on higher settings. Nor can it be replayed. Also, no one actually got to select their difficulty setting in the first place. The easier difficulty, and the benefits it comes with, are known to rational people as “privilege.” It’s a good idea to be aware of one’s privilege. If one isn’t aware of one’s privilege, one is probably suffering from internalized prejudice.
My first reaction to this article was “aw, come on.” I didn’t have any quarrel with its content, but it seemed a little babyish. Surely no one really needed their hand held so far and so tight? Surely the mere title delivered the entire message?
Then I read the comments. Particularly, the ones posted on Kotaku.
“I wouldn’t really want to be black because there’s a mentality that seems really prevalent in black culture–this frustrating mentality of victimization.” – DocSeuss
“One thing I’d like to point out. If white dudes have it so easy, and all the minorities know it and expect more out of white people than they do out of their fellow minorities, then would that not cancel out any ‘advantage’ or ‘privilege’ SWM’s have?” – Kezelian
Oh my god. Why are so many gamers so bad at this?
Guys. Yes, this is important to talk about. No, pretty women do not have it better than you. No, affirmative action is not “reverse racism.” No, reverse racism is not a thing. Yes, we do have to discuss this.
It’s not my job, nor is it my place, to write an article which sets straight everyone’s views on race, but try this: it’s useful to think about prejudice and privilege as institutions and systems through which power is expressed, not as internal attitudes and actions which hurt peoples’ feelings. Just, try to think about that, okay? The lesbian who spends a lot of time railing against men for having privilege isn’t a “feminazi man-hating bitch.” She’s just got a case of righteous indignation. She’s not in the position of power, she’s not as privileged as a straight white male.
I know, I know. Scalzi does rightly point out in the latter of his follow-up posts that these comments don’t represent the majority of the article’s readers, just the most vocal among them. Lots more people probably shared my reaction, or had other sane reactions. I just get nervous about these things, because gamers have historically been proud of their gross, sweaty, insular culture, and this is something I think needs to change.
A storm approaches, let the gates sit open, let the rain pour in
Nadeo, designers of the excellent Trackmania franchise, are branching out into the world of arena shooters. Shootmania: Storm (see trailer below) boasts an ease-of-use map editor which will allow players to design not only level layouts, but entire game modes through the use of an in-engine scripting language. Robust video tools for machinima and frag videos are a bonus.
What’s that? I’m doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t, and singing praise for some upcoming game? Yeah. I am. That’s because this game is potentially important, so sit back down.
As this PC Gamer article lays out, this game is interesting only partly because of its embedded creative suite. What’s most significant about Shootmania is what it’s reaching for in terms of demographics. The foundational design goal of the game is to be a good spectator event, and for those spectators to potentially include non-gamers and casual gamers.
Up until now, competitive games have been esoteric, to say the least. Quake is good to watch if you understand the dynamics of map control, the properties of every weapon, and the layout of every map. Starcraft 2 is good to watch if you understand why marines are good against void rays. Shootmania is built to be good to watch for anyone: there’s only one weapon which fires highly visible projectiles, the health system is simple and effective, there is no graphic violence.
Assuming Nadeo can design tight and satisfying competitive gameplay around these constraints, and simultaneously attract the casual spectator audience and a hardcore playerbase, then I want to urge gamers to take this one seriously. It would be a shame to scorn the game for its open attitude toward those outside our inner circle. This isn’t pandering, this is forward-thinking. Gaming will need to overcome its image problem one of these days.
Responding to the people Shootmania hopes to attract with scorn, just because they don’t like to play stupid games on computers, would seal our fate as an island culture. And that outcome looks all too predictable from here.
* I also tend to put these out after the stories are a little out-of-date, so please don’t read any other gaming news sites.
** I would be overjoyed if T3′s readers could prove me wrong on this one.