Harassment and Under-Representation in Gaming: How to Fix It

We over-complicate everything. The fix is simple, provided we're capable.

It's a common topic these days, especially around these parts.

The events: A recent disgusting incident featuring a so-called "journalist" and his deplorable conduct, multiple editorials calling out the game industry for being behind the times regarding diversity, and a general call to arms for social rightness and political correctness.

Granted, one could write entire books on each individual subject. It appears to be complicated and perhaps even impossible. Is there a solution?

"Ignore it, maybe it'll go away"

My grandmother used to say this whenever I was being annoying. I always laughed. Obviously, ignoring any of the aforementioned issues won't solve anything and in fact, will likely exacerbate said issues. After all, turning a blind eye to problems is what I like to call "ostrich syndrome" and there's no excuse for it. Ignoring the unfortunate realities of sexual harassment in the gaming industry and the under-representation of minorities and other groups won't help.

Then again, in looking back at my grandmother's unwitting words of wisdom...it actually worked. I mean, if she had practiced what she preached, it would've worked.

She never really ignored me; she just said that to make me - and others - laugh. Had she actually ignored me, though, it would've been quite effective. I would've invariably stopped doing whatever irritating thing I was doing. And I'd probably never do it again. I loved my grandmother; I wouldn't have been able to stand for her to ignore me.

The situation I tackle in this article isn't perfectly analogous. I don't mean that ignoring the harassed and under-represented will be good for them, but I do mean that if we shift our seriously skewed priorities, that "call to arms" simply wouldn't be necessary.

"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live my life for another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." -- John Galt, "Atlus Shrugged"

Here's your answer, at least in some form.

The role of the individual is being crushed by a society obsessed with "social responsibility." Such an obsession erodes personal responsibility; it eats away at the inherent capability of an individual. Yes, sexual harassment is a problem in the industry, primarily because it's a big boy's club and, incidentally, an immature boy's club. We have to admit that. Yes, many of our protagonists and primary characters are straight and white. It's starting to change and will continue to change, but I'm not interested in that.

I'm interested in achievement and accomplishment. I'm interested in people doing their jobs to the best of their ability. I'm interested in taking a vested interest in one's life and running with it, regardless of what other people say or think. You take what God (or nature, whatever you choose to believe) gave you, and you use it. You use it every day for the betterment of yourself, which will subsequently better all of humanity.

Individualism and the snowball effect

Women are being harassed by men with major insecurity issues. Maybe they weren't raised correctly, maybe they never learned how to respect women, maybe they're just plan asses. If they focused on the betterment of themselves each and every day, harassment would be unlikely. It wouldn't concern them. Why? Because they would see every individual as they see themselves: As fonts of untapped energy, ambition and capability. Doesn't matter if you're a woman; if you're good at what you do, you will be respected. If you're not, you're just not that intriguing. Either way, harassment is not in the vicinity.

Under-represented groups and parties? If a homosexual individual writes a great script for a video game, it should be picked up. If a minority transgender individual is one hell of an actor, he should be given great roles. If there's as much diversity in this country as people claim, and if they have all worked to better themselves - per their "moral obligation to be intelligent," as coined by professor John Erskine - they will succeed. In that world, achievement will be acknowledged and rewarded.

What you are and who you are is irrelevant. If you can't compete on the same level, it matters not what color your skin is, what God you worship, or how you prefer your waffles in the morning (all of it equally trivial). You just weren't good enough.

Yes, the rallying cry of, "but not everyone has the same chances and opportunities!" Oh, but they would in a world where the individual achieves, where the epitome of "social responsibility" is personal achievement.

Damnit...this isn't realistic, is it?

It should be but it isn't. Maybe I am wrong. The solution, despite being absurdly simple, can't possibly come to fruition. We just can't get out of our own way. We like the drama, don't we? We're far more interested in dealing with the surface problems; it's so much easier to say, "I'm offended" or "I'm not represented" or "I'm unfairly judged" and therefore, "I refuse to shut them all out and apply myself." The only perfectly self-confident, unconcerned, carefree, life-loving individual is the individual.

Galt had something else to say when he was forced to address the nation at gunpoint. He was told to tell the people he'd save them, because he was the only one left who could. And so, he looked out at people who had ceased to function, who looked to each other for help, who expected others to fix their own problems and said, correctly-

"Get the hell out of my way!"

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published Feb. 2nd 2014
  • Elizabeth T
    Featured Contributor
    This is an issue I have a tendency to soapbox, per se. I personally believe that it starts with our children. it's called "indoctrination". If there were a way to begin with teaching ALL children self-respect and self-love, THEN we could teach them respect for others, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. We also have to teach them Responsibility. Mainly they need to learn responsibility for their actions and the resulting repercussions, good or bad.

    The title of this article regarded Gaming. To be honest, during game PLAY, I see little of the rejection and bigotry seen in RL. There IS no difference in RL race, etc, because you can't always know it. There is still Bullying and "trolling", but there are those of us who speak out against it, then hit the "ignore" button. When a bully or troll is ignored online, they go away. Fast. There are other places they can go to start their "flame wars" and get the attention they need/crave, but those places are learning also. "Don't feed the Trolls", as the saying goes.

    I play WoW. I have been playing for 7 years and have been Guild "Mother" for nearly that long. I've had people come and go of all types. The ones that hit me the hardest are the kids who have few life skills in interpersonal relationships. I work with them, patiently, (sometimes toughly), and constantly, trying to get them to understand the concept of being responsible for oneself and ones actions. I might not always succeed in my efforts, but, I've planted a seed that may blossom later.

    Social Responsibility starts with us teaching our kids that they are worthwhile. It also starts with them not being rewarded for doing nothing. Not giving them a sense of entitlement regardless of their efforts. This "Everybody Gets a Prize" idea is wrong. It encourages those who can to not bother, and sometimes fosters unrealistic ideals for those who genuinely can't and never will be able to. We're not all meant to be able to do everything. Not everyone is meant to be a sports star. Not everyone is meant to be a musician. Not everyone is meant to be a writer, or an actor, or famous, or infamous, or even more than ordinary. Yes, we should be encouraged to be the best we can, but not given empty awards for nothing. What's the point in trying if you're going to get a trophy/prize/award anyway? And what's the point in trying or living up to your potential if you're held back because someone in the class is a little slower because they're "normal".

    Yes, there are a lot of "Drama Queens" aka "Divas", etc., in the world. There are also a lot of people who like to control situations, but don't like confrontation. And then there are the "Sheep". Those who would rather just go with the flow out of fear, laziness, ignorance, etc. In the small minority are those who speak out. In the even smaller minority, there are those who will actively speak out and then walk their talk. These are the ones who were taught responsibility for their actions and the repercussions from them. They were also taught self-love, self-respect and respect for their fellow creatures. That's where it all starts.

    Ayn Rand's works are immensely thought provoking. Also try Kurt Vonnegut.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Thanks for sharing your experiences Elizabeth. I know there's a pretty heated debate in education / youth sports surrounding the 'everyone wins' philosophy, and it's interesting to hear how you've encountered it's effects in your own guild.

    Do you find gaming creates a more accurate reward based environment?
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I 100% agree, Elizabeth. It starts with our children. Your paragraph about social responsibility captures much of Rand's philosophies. The "Everybody Gets a Prize" concept drives me nuts.

    I remember writing a piece for the papers attacking education, where I said precisely what you said. Essentially, the concept of "it's okay" being highly damaging to our kids. I was a substitute teacher for three months before I had to run away... I was told I couldn't raise my voice, that I couldn't tell a child to do anything (I could only "ask"), and I couldn't say someone was "right" or "wrong."

    I was appalled. Yes, we should all be encouraged to try our best. But telling everyone they can do anything is lying to them. These kids grow up and after years of being told that everything they do is okay, that there's no such thing as a "wrong answer," that they've never really "lost," and then they find out that...wait, life doesn't work that way. Would you blame them if they were a little bitter and apathetic after learning that?

    Of course, you realize that your definition of "social responsibility" and the current administration's definition are very, very different. ;) Oh, and Vonnegut is the man and always has been.
  • Elizabeth T
    Featured Contributor
    Hi, Amy :) I appreciate having the venue for expressing my opinion. I am honored you ask it.

    I began playing WoW because I was a Psychology Major and my Thesis was to be on Internet and Gaming Addiction. Due to circumstances I was never able to complete that degree, or write that paper. I still play WoW.

    To answer your question in a word, yes. But, it's an incomplete answer. I guess the best way to answer would be to provide some scenarios for examples. Keep in mind, though that my only long term MMORPG experience is World of Warcraft. I've read stories and been told by those who have played other online games, that it can be a very different experience; less rewarding, more challenging, more stressful, etc.

    To begin with, the premise that gaming is addicting is flawed. It assumes that all addicts are addicted to playing the game itself. This is untrue. What many, if not most, are addicted to is the community. We, as humanity, have broadened our world from the "village based' society that we have been accustomed to for millennia, to a global one. With jets that can fly us anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, or the internet that can transport us to visit with friends half a world away in moments, we've withdrawn in many ways into our comfort zones. That zone now being our living rooms, dens, basements, bedrooms, et cetera, where we might safely reach out to others without being judged for being too tall, too short, too fat,too skinny, too ugly, too beautiful, too young, too old, of color, of a different sexual orientation, being of a different religion, and so forth. In the gaming world, NO ONE judges you for ANY of that. The only thing you're 'judged' on is your skill in the game and your 'actions/words'. This is a reward system in and of itself. Detractors say, "You don't know the person you're gaming with. You haven't met them face to face." I couldn't disagree more. I know these people. I know their hearts. I may never see their faces, but I know more about them than their families and friends in real life, in many cases. Why? Because they don't have to face my (or anyone else's) rejection of who they really are based on a face to face societys' mores.

    Some of the kids I see in game start playing and almost immediately start asking other players for items or funds to get items that will help them play faster and/or better. Begging is discouraged by most players and is highly irritating, especially to those of us who started playing long before the game was "Nerfed" or dumbed down. ::chuckles:: you know, the "I walked uphill in the snow 5 miles every day just to get to school!" days of the game. My guild has a "No Begging" policy, within the guild and in public chat, or private chat. I abhor it as a laziness and sense of entitlement that these kids, (and no, it's not always the kids), think the funds for what they want should be theirs at the asking instead of learning patience and 'grinding the rep' or farming materials. They'd make more if they spent the time questing that they spend begging. Most people just tell them off once then put them on "ignore". If they're in my guild, they get a lecture. 2nd offense they get booted. Occasionally, I get a kid who I sense the potential in. If they stick around through my lectures and try to do better, eventually they become really good players and even better people. The key is making them aware of the repercussions for THEIR actions. "Your actions will cause me to have to take certain actions, because these are MY rules. If I don't abide by them, how can I expect anyone else to?"

    In the game, you only lose if you fail the quest. If you fail the quest, you go read up on it and find out why, or keep trying until you're good enough to complete it. Or, you ask for help. You form a team of one or more guild mates, or other players in the area, and you go back and win. You conquer, you get the prize. Best of all, you earned it. If you had help, everyone rejoices and congratulates each other on a job well done. But, YOU DON'T WIN IF YOU DO NOTHING. Or whine about how hard it is.

    Take raiding teams for example. There are raiding guilds famous throughout WoW world wide for their skill. They are what I jokingly refer to as "rabid raiders". But, it's what they do and they do it over and over until they win. They get so good they're invited to BlizzCon and play there for even bigger rewards. (yes, this is a very simplified version) Of course there are the exceptions. There was even a young man who became famous for an act of supreme stupidity during a raid.

    There is no "I" in Team, but there is in "Win" as someone once told me. Personally, without the team, without my guild and guildies, without the companionship and friends I've made in-game, I would have quit long ago. There may be an "I" in "Win", but there is no winning without the "Team". My clan, my "village". In- game we return to that age where we are a close community again. We are rewarded, not just with prizes for successfully competing a quest or dungeon, or raid, but with recognition for our efforts. WE are RECOGNIZED. WE are APPRECIATED. WE are VALUED. Regardless of who and what people see us as in Real Life.

    So, yes. Gaming does create a more accurate reward based environment. It only judges us on our capabilities, not on our appearances, and makes us walk our talk.
  • Elizabeth T
    Featured Contributor
    ::chuckles:: Oh, yes. I am very aware that the current administrations' definition and mine differ. Though perhaps not as much as you think. The whole "No Child Left Behind" was a Bush Administration creation. As are many of the problems now being dealt with by the current admin, tho not by any means all. As for my definition of social responsibility, I got it from growing up the hard way. I had to fight hard for a sense of identity, let alone the fact that I was (and still am) a very stubborn woman who had to learn responsibility for my actions the hard way. Thankfully, I learned it soon enough to teach it to my children.

    My husband was a Child Education and English Major before he also was forced to put a hold on his education. Now he works for a program that I believe is more rewarding for him, as he is in contact with youths who are recovering from addictions and has the opportunity to work with them and encourage them in their efforts. Most of them had apathetic parents who gave up trying to control them in a society that told them children should be allowed "freedom" to think for themselves. Children need guidelines. They need rules. They aren't born understanding self-discipline, they are taught it by being disciplined. They aren't born knowing self-restraint, they are taught it by being given rules and guidelines and being allowed to suffer the consequences of breaking them. They learn from their mistakes by being allowed to make mistakes and suffering the consequences, without being told what rotten little bastards they are for being human and children. Discipline without love is abuse. Love without discipline is also abuse. But, that's another subject.

    As for Kurt Vonnegut, indeed he is. I read Vonnegut as a young teenager, before I'd even heard of Ayn Rand. (I'm from a very small rural community). I still have those books. :)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I respect your "growing up the hard way;" it helped make you the person you are, with a solid sense of direction. I have a psychology degree, too, by the way. :)

    Apathetic parents are a big part of the problem. And I LOVE this- "Discipline without love is abuse. Love without discipline is also abuse." The country suffered from the first problem for a while, then we tried to fix it and - as usual - went too far, and now we've got the latter problem.

    Vonnegut and Rand aren't entirely dissimilar, although while Vonnegut is more obscure, Rand clearly laid an outline for what she believed would be a utopia on earth. It would certainly be my utopia. :)

    Nice to see other people out there who still understand the Aristotelian concept of balance; aka virtues vs. vices.
  • Elizabeth T
    Featured Contributor
    Thank you. :) I wish I had the degree, but I'm not dead yet, so there's still hope. ;)

    The largest problem is that sociologists, et al, want to lump it all into one great quantification. You can't. Children, like adults, are individuals. what works as discipline for one, won't work on another. In some ways I liken children to Quarks and Boojums. We just don't know enough yet to be making firm quantitative rules for raising them. Maybe in another millenia or two.

    Vonnegut was more widely read, I believe, simply because, like Shakespeare, he veiled his commentary within the story. To be honest, the concept of Utopia scares the heck out of me. I cannot conceive a world where a utopian society is a willing one. We are too individualistic to ever be completely Utopian. it is an ideal, and to be sought after, I believe, but like all dreams, be careful what you wish for. Rands' ideas and concept should be a goal, but I don't believe it would be, or should be possible. We humans are a young race and would die out of boredom quickly without the struggle to survive or achieve.

    The struggle for balance is ever ongoing. Without evil, we would never know good, without vice we would never know virtue. The scale tips one way, then the other, then balances evenly for awhile. The scales are eternal and balance is the goal. But, there must ALWAYS be... A Lich King. ;)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Oh, unless you're going for something in the psych world, a psych degree is, sadly, pretty useless. Not that I want to discourage you from getting it! :)

    As for the utopia concept, I do agree, but what's unique about Rand is that her utopia is all about individualism. It's about different people doing different things; simply, what they love to do. And they love to accomplish and progress; they wake up every day with a deeply entrenched respect for their work and for how it services humanity.

    The inherent differences in every individual make them unique in the first place. And it's not like a there won't still be problems; humanity is flawed to start with. The key is to understand that despite all our differences, there is one core that we all share: The burning desire to achieve on our own terms, which will in turn benefit everyone around us.

    There will always be that struggle for balance, no matter what. It's just that, in such a world, the struggle won't be anywhere near as difficult, and the answers are clearer. Well, at least, that's the idea. Nobody's been able to put it into practice (and nobody ever will), so I guess we'll never know. :)

    Me, I wouldn't be bored in the slightest if things were easier. ;)
  • Elizabeth T
    Featured Contributor
    It's been 30+ years since I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I remember yearning with all my heart to live in the world she proposed. But, to be honest, I wouldn't be who I am if I had. And I like who I am now. Warts and all. Still, to be that vocalist I could have been had I been born into such a society... The dream still haunts me, as does that book, at times.

    I think it's a mistake to consider humanity flawed. That's like telling a child s/he's a bad person because s/he makes mistakes. We're not flawed, we're young. Very young. We haven't yet grown out of our rebellious period. When we do, and if we manage to do it before we destroy ourselves like so many of our children do since we've stopped guiding them, then look out. There will be no limit to our successes and achievements. The Universe has no limits and awaits us.

    You think you wouldn't be bored, but ask any retiree about it. ;) My mother went back to full time work in her 70's, partly because they really needed her, and partly because she was bored out of her skull. She's 74 and probably won't quit again any time soon. She comes home exhausted, in pain, etc., but she feels alive again, and needed. Some of our guild members in the game are in their 60's and 70's, our eldest being 78 years old. Some work still, some are fully retired, all play to stay in touch with others of like mind.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I think those books will always haunt me. In fact, I've been striving toward being a Rand scholar for several years.

    You're absolutely right about the part about humanity being young. "Young" and "flawed" are just sort of synonymous in my head, though. We are our own worst enemies but if we can push past our weaknesses, there's no telling where we'll go.

    As for the part about not being bored when I'm older, I'll never make the mistake of assuming I'll feel the same way forever. Too old for that now (even though I'm only 35). No idea if I'd be bored in a utopian society, really. However, I do have difficulty seeing myself as bored when I wake up ever day, loving life and loving what I do, because I achieve and succeed on a daily basis, and I see the fruits of my labor everywhere I turn. Hard to imagine getting tired of that. :)

    Thank you again for commenting and sharing your thoughts and experiences! :)
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    That was a really interesting read. I wonder though, if I don't see that social responsibility is not the beast that you feel it is - that is, not just the monster that feeds the drama machine, but a means of finding a solution.

    How to switch "skewed perspectives" away from the larger picture to the self, if you don't know whether or not the situation around is "right" or not? Innate goodness won't tell you all of that, society does.

    Now the cry is about equal treatment in the workforce, when before it was about the harmony of every man and woman gifted with their rightful place in the domestic home. This change would never have come about without raising the global suffrage cry, and women would only be trying to "better" themselves by packing a neater-looking sandwich and taking better care of their children.

    Your idea about bettering the individual first will snowball into a betterment of society is a wonderful thought, and one I certainly believe should be practised by everyone... but I also think that it runs on the assumption that you are given a correct template to begin with. How would a white supremacist, for example, try to better themselves? I feel like in their own mind, they ARE being better, as much as they understand it - they are trying to protect themselves, their people, their race, their belief - and consider the rest casualties of war. What would teach them otherwise? Opening up to other societal opinions.

    EDIT: I also need to add that that is a gorgeous header image. I have been staring.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Stephanie. I said I wouldn't really get more involved in this, but just to answer your core question-

    Had we all lived the way humans were always supposed to live, by the ideals I illustrate here, the damaging issues of which you speak would never have arisen. There would be no white supremacists, for example. There wouldn't even be criminals. The individual who strives to achieve on a daily basis is not riddled with the personal problems of the biased, the ignorant and the hateful.

    If you're interested in learning more about individualism and Objectivism, I highly recommend the works of Ayn Rand ("Atlus Shrugged," "The Fountainhead," etc.).

    As for the image, I'm trying to recall its origin. I found it in a Google search when I typed in a vague search term, like "individual" or "happiness." The cool part is that it's a promotional image for graphic design (I think).
  • Milo Price
    Personally, I see questions of personal policy like this as similar to the prisoner's dilemma (http://www.prisoners-dilemma.com/ if you're not familiar with it). If you live in a world where everyone approaches things the same way, including you, then you know that the other person is always going to choose the same thing you do, so the dilemma becomes trivial--you should choose to cooperate/stay silent whether or not you care what happens to the other person. Your rewards are better if both people stay silent than if both people defect/confess. (See Douglas Hofstadter's idea of "superrationality": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superrationality)

    However, in the real world, you don't know this. More importantly, staying silent isn't especially likely to convince other people to cooperate/stay silent as well--if you're repeatedly staying silent and they're repeatedly defecting, they have no real reason to start staying silent too. Sure, always taking the route where you operate as though societal disadvantages weren't an issue is a good strategy if everyone has the same mindset. In a live-and-let-live world like that, like you said, there wouldn't be any such disadvantages to worry about. But what if that isn't the world you find yourself in?

    If you start out life in a disadvantaged group, then it's generally not going to help to not try and change the fact that your group is disadvantaged, *especially* if you're acting out of rationally-directed self-interest. I mean, I'm no Objectivist, I just don't see how it's supposed to help anything by acting like the world is already equal if you're part of a disadvantaged group, whether or not you're motivated by social responsibility.

    (I know you said you'd rather not get involved, and that's ok, just putting down my thoughts.)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    This piece isn't about staying silent. It's also not about acting like the world is equal. It's about an ideal.
  • Milo Price
    I guess I'm trying to say that it's an ideal with very limited apparent application to the real world. Deprioritizing feeling offended is one thing, but it's unclear what you're supposed to do if you're part of a group that's genuinely disadvantaged without much avenue to "shut them all out" in the context of not having some legal protections, for example. Maybe the piece could be more clear on what social complaints you consider legitimate, beyond the specific, fictional case of John Galt.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    It's only limited because we made it that way. And it's not unclear at all if you're "disadvantaged." If every disadvantaged individual applied themselves in a world where everyone else applied themselves as well, nobody would be disadvantaged to begin with.

    We're just unwilling to make the sort of drastic sacrifices necessary to do this.

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