There are all sorts of men you’ll meet while playing video games. We all recognize the bullies, creepers, “nice guys,” trolls, and oh so many more. While these types of gamers are not uniquely male, the lion’s share of them are. Now, I’m going to be honest with you: I am someone who does not like chatting with random people when I’m playing games. Whether that’s something innate in my personality or a dislike that I’ve developed from playing games that allowed for player interaction, I’ll never know. Player interaction isn’t what I’d like to talk about today, though. That deserves an article all of its own and more voices than mine to add to the chorus.
Instead, a recent twitter interaction had me thinking about just how deeply ingrained our social training can be. I had retweeted something from Anita Sarkeesian and was contacted afterward by a puppet account going through to contact a bunch of women who followed Anita. He had been blocked (unfairly, in his mind) by Anita’s Twitter account, but his interactions painted a very clear picture as to why he should have been blocked.
In itself, it doesn’t seem that forbidding. He had been linking women to a video that made light of alleged rapes where the YouTuber would make sarcastic finger quotes while talking about it. The YouTuber also downplayed the harassment that women in gaming face because he didn’t experience it. The video alone sent an uncomfortable message to any woman who might be watching it.
The puppet account eventually revealed that the owner of it was a brony (male fan of My Little Pony) and he thought that the harassment of bronies was equal to that of the harassment of women. Despite my misgivings, I felt like we had a productive conversation and went to bed feeling exhausted, but satisfied. I didn’t think much of it until he messaged me again to ask for my opinions on a video. It was the first time I’d gone back to his Twitter since we’d had that debate, and when I looked at it, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.
It was strewn with videos that talked about “toxic feminism,” “Anita Sarkeesian Lies Again,” and the “25 invisible Benefits of being Anita Sarkeesian.” This was not someone I could talk to, and even if I tried, he wouldn’t listen to my feelings on any matter. There are people who aren’t worth your time or your arguments. They are talking to you in order to get validation for their own views rather than learn something about someone else’s.
Looking back at his conversation with me, there are little signs that I should have noticed throughout our debate. If you see these signs in someone you’re trying to talk to, then be aware that you’re unlikely to change their mind.
In general, this person talks about their persecution, perceived problems, anger issues, and the like. These things are not inherently problematic. It’s when they are used to excuse the person’s behavior or to negate your own feelings on a subject that you should be on guard. Especially anger issues. As someone who has those types of issues, I can without any doubt say that it is the responsibility of the person with those problems to control themselves. Losing control and then blaming the other person is not acceptable.
These kind of threats can be hard to see simply because they are so subtle. If they claim that they’ll be against you if you don’t say the right thing, or let you know about how hard they’re working to not be angry, then they aren’t worth your time. Be aware because these types of statements are made to generate the feeling that you’re in the wrong and you’re the one who’s overacting.
Whenever someone says that it’s okay that they say/do something because they know someone else who’s okay with it, my eyes just want to roll out of my head. If they try doing this, it’s an attempt (subconscious or not) to invalidate your feelings. If they know other people who are okay with their antics and include an apology along those lines to show that they understand you’re not comfortable with said antics … Fine. People make mistakes. Just throwing out there that someone you’re associated with is okay with it and not doing anything to address complaints means they’re ignoring and invalidating your own feelings on the matter.
I hate this. I’m not going to be coy about this idea—I hate it when people do things to “test” each other. Whether it’s a claim by someone who is trying to backpedal furiously away from an argument that is going sour or someone is trying to bait another person, it’s childish and unacceptable. I am not here to be tested and I am not here to meet your standards. Neither is anyone else. If someone has to test you in order to see what you’re doing, they’re not treating you like you’re a person. At best, you’re this weird kind of social experiment. Don’t let someone make you into that. You’re not going to be able to change their mind and after a certain point, you have to decide when you’re going to step back.
People who use these tactics usually aren’t there to have an open and honest debate. They’re not there to listen to what you’re saying and even if they seem like it, they’re not really taking it in. Worst of all, these people will leave you feeling like you’re the one who’s being hyperbolic and unreasonable all the while using toxic arguments.
As much as we want to fight for ourselves and our medium, I’ve learned that there are times when you just have to give up. It’s not waving the white flag, or it shouldn’t be seen that way. Instead, I think of letting go like this as avoiding an obstacle that can’t be moved. If you bang into an invisible wall while playing video games, you’re not going to keep running into it in the hopes that you’ll be able to get through it, right? Same deal applies here. Find another way around or just go in another direction entirely.