One of the most bizarre things about gamer culture is the casual tolerance of open harassment in games. The idea that it is just part of the game, that people should just grow a thicker skin or fight back themselves. Not only is tolerating this ignoring basic civility; it make no sense for self-identifying gamers to take the approach. Those that identify as the hardcore, as the gaming coinsurers should be the ones most opposed to it. As discerning consumers, this attitude makes no sense.
Let begin by looking at the C-rate reality TV show that inspired my title, Spike TV’s Bar Rescue. Now a frequent problem in bars is women being harassed. Now do you think the bar consultants’ answer to this is to pat the owners on the back and tell them how thin-skinned their customers are and start some sort of “grow a thick skin campaign”? No, that would be ridiculous. Bars like that repeal customers of both genders. Women don’t want to go to these type of bars for obvious reasons. Then the men won’t go because most heterosexual men don’t want to go to a bar with no women. This leaves us with either a closed bar or a bar frequented only by a small clique of creeps and other undesirables. Great bars don’t have this attitude, even if they don’t give a damn about decency they at least understand business and know that a female customer is just as entailed to a fun time as a male one. Good bars don’t allow harassment of their patrons. Bar connoisseur do not go to bars that have “grown a thick skin” as an entry requirement. Why should games have this requirement?
Do any other industries do this?
Restaurants ask people who disturbing the diners around them to quiet down, not ask those being disturbed to grow thicker skin.
Theaters kick people out who disturb others viewing experience, not ask people to grow a thicker skin.
Being too loud in a library you get kicked out, thin-skinned readers or not.
…and none of those examples are even cases of deliberate harassment, yet no one is pulling the stopping being so thin skinned card here.
There is no other product or service where those who consider themselves connoisseurs openly tolerate harassment. The exact opposite connoisseur would be some of the least tolerant of this carp, connoisseur appreciate the value of their money and a service that allows you to be harassed is not a service worth their money. In no other industry do its loudest defenders consider this a feature and not a problem. In no other industry do we tell paying customers to grow a thick skin when other patrons harass them. In no other industry are people seriously expected to pay only to put up with other people’s harassment. Harassment may be a problem in these industries but we don’t see people openly telling people to “grow thick skin” and expecting them to pay to be part of that experience.
Seriously, just imagine if we applied this attitude elsewhere:
Restaurant: Come eat here we openly tolerate harassment.
Museums: come appreciate the fine art and grow a thick skin because we openly let people bother you. Just part of the art world right?
Walmart: If people bother you while you shop remember it your thin-skinned problem.
Library: Come here we let you read while being distracted and bothered, unlike those other libraries that want you to enjoy it in peace.
This exception is absurd people do not pay to put themselves in a situation where other people will harness them. Just like in the above example, the majority will simply move on to something else. I want to stop to stop for a moment and note something. Why did I decide to make this post the way I did. Why of all the comparisons I could make did I make a comparison to bars? Because games are many things: a budding art, a form of entertainment, but they are also a product, and a service. They are most especially a service in the context of the multiplayer environment. No other product or service could get always with this attitude as I said before in no other product or service could harassment by other patrons be considered a feature; in no other service would a paying customer be asked to deal with other patrons harassment. A bar would get terrible yelp reviews if it told patrons being harassed being by other to get a thick-skinned. I see no reasons to treat games differently.
Which brings to the issue of games and respect, game have an image problem and this type of tolerance for harassment not only feeds that image problem it makes that image problem a reality. Just like the bar example above, most people aren’t going to stay where they’re harassed they are going to go someplace else and leave the undesirables to their holes. This is what we let gamer culture become when we tolerate harassment a pit of undesirables. It hard to fight the stereotype of gamers being immature basement dwellers and man-children, if we allow what is in essence a self-selection system for basement dwellers and man-children. Games and gamer culture is so much more than a just a virtual “creep bar”; we can be the avant-garde of artistic expression and entertainment but to reach this potential we need to have the guts to tell creeps and harassers they aren’t welcome in this establishment.
P.S. After a long hiatus after initially opening this blog I’m happy to say I should be able to be updating this at least once a week (hopefully two) for the immediate future. Preview of upcoming post: Scarlet Blade: The Junk Food of Games and Sexuality; the MMO as a sex pluralist/positive space and more.