Discourse: A Call for Civility

Hello, dear readers. While I tried to keep this post as concise and focused as possible, it might be considered a rant by some. Please know that my intent is not to be dismissive but rather to tackle something that I’ve thought about a great deal and feel the need to write about. The underlying point I try to make is that kindness and respect matter whether we’re talking about video games or otherwise interacting with the people around us.

Recently, there has been some kerfuffle on the internet. This, of course, is nothing new especially considering the topic revolves around video games.

On Wednesday, Kotaku published “Earthworm Jim’s Mean-Spirited Satire Doesn’t Hold Up,” written by Heather Alexandra. Some readers disagreed with Alexandra’s take on the game. For the record, I’m not saying her piece was the most critical bit of writing I’ve ever read (it was quite light on the details and critique), but neither were the comments lashing out at her, Kotaku, and the article.

One example of where this otherwise “normal” online exchange went south is this tweet from the creator of Earthworm Jim:

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While Doug TenNapel’s greater point may be that games should be taken in their context (I agree with this but that doesn’t mean any game is above critique), he resorts to misgendering Alexandra in several tweets. The irony is that TenNapel resorts to this in response to a piece that he seemingly doesn’t find critical.

If this kind of discourse is the norm, it shouldn’t be.

I am all for shaping video game commentary and journalism into more critical discourse, but that should not occur at the expense of people. It also shouldn’t be a guise for not talking about representation, diversity, politics, and even religion in the context of video games.

I get it. Some people think that misgendering is a non-issue. I understand how people could think this way, but I still disagree with them. However, you don’t have to agree with people to see their lives have value or to be respectful.

It might help you to understand my perspective if I give you some insight into one aspect of the lens I use to perceive the world.

In a very real way, words have power. I would not be dedicating the better part of my life to education and teaching if I believed otherwise. If you doubt this, crack open a history book. Go out and talk to people, face-to-face. Words are everywhere. If they didn’t have meaning billions of dollars would not be spent on advertising in the U.S. alone.

Words, language, are inescapably woven into our lives. Of course words have impact. The misgendering of one person encourages others to do the same. Disrespect gives further voice to those who would do more immediate harm. I have to take issue with that.

A beloved video game was the subject of an unflattering article and people, not just the game’s creator, turn to name calling? Is that as far as we’ve come as gamers? As people?

I know there are people who disagree with me in fundamental ways. But for those who care enough to engage in civil discussion (as many of you have on my blog), know this: dismissing something or someone out of sweeping generalizations only wins you points with the people who already share your mindset. I was taught to be a woman who respects others regardless of whether they are like me.

I can be snarky. I can be loud. I can be silly. And I’m positive I have offended people at times—it’s inevitable for all of us. But I try to always take responsibility for my words and for my actions. I don’t see it as a weakness to be considerate of others. I want to be a part of critical engagement. I want to write mindful pieces on video games and encourage my fellow gamers and bloggers to do the same while fostering communities where disagreement can occur respectfully.

Kindness is not a burden.

Author: Tabitha

I game. I teach. I write. Graduate student pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing. Interested in the use of video games in education, digital rhetoric, and literacy.

8 thoughts

  1. That is not someone who takes criticism well. Then again, I’ve noticed that to be something of a trend among both AAA and indie developers – especially as of late. I joked about it when I reviewed Uncharted 4, but after reading through some interviews with Naughty Dog’s writing staff, I wondered if it was a bit more on the nose than I thought when I originally typed that up.

    Anyway, my stance regarding this is that no work is truly above criticism – it doesn’t matter how many people insist otherwise. When you rise to that position, you need to accept the responsibility that comes with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve pretty much nailed the ad hominem attack. I point this out more often than I wish I did on the Internet. Invalidating a person really just invalidates your argument not theirs, but there’s this culture of the “take down,” where the attacker’s followers will see their invalidation as “OMG awesome” and “sick burn!” even when all it does is show them for a douche.

    If the creator wanted to argue the points Heather made, that’s what he should have done, but he instead chose to use his influence and prestige as a game creator to diminish her words to his fan base who’ll just rally behind him. It’s one of the things I detest most shoot the Internet, that appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this wonderful post! I feel like the misgendering of this writer as male implies that only males have the privilege and know-how to engage in video game conversations. I loved what you had to say about keeping people as part of the equation. It’s easier for people to treat people as non people online.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly kindness and civility are two things that are often missing from online discourse. Often things degenerate into mob mentality where no thought is given at all to the words being hurled around. I will say that for the most part, since returning here, my interactions in the WordPress community have been mostly kind and civil. We all have our off days but this community seems very well put together.

    Liked by 1 person

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