Stem the Hatred

Stop the cycle of online sexism, racism, homophobia, and hatred.

Well, it turned out that the claims that people would be issued lifetime bans for making sexist remarks in Halo 4 were greatly exaggerated. Microsoft has said that there haven’t been any changes to how they police Xbox Live, so my great hope that many of the world’s idiots would cry out with one last hateful message and be silenced has fallen apart. It looks like the online world is still the same dark place it has always been.

I imagine all of the people that cry out ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘that’s just how things are in the video game world’ are all thrilled. No one likes to be told that they’re wrong, or hate-spewing, or an idiot, and these guys seem to take it to the extreme. The very idea that people can and should conduct themselves a little better around strangers and friends alike seems foreign to them; like they’re being asked to cut off their genitals with a soup can lid. The outrage that comes up whenever anyone even implies that the racist, homophobic, and sexist talk should be stopped is unbelievable for anyone that has any hope for humanity’s future. Put bluntly, you guys have no leg to stand on.

Trying to argue that people need to conduct ourselves better online is like smashing my face into a brick wall, so I’ll put it to you with a scenario instead. One I may be wrongly assuming is common among gamers. I was picked on and bullied through most of my school life. I was small, lousy at sports, and didn’t have many friends, so it made me a very easy target for these people. Every few years the bullies themselves would change, but the bullying itself never ended. These guys made fun of me for everything they could think of, and nothing was off limits. As time passed and I got older, the bullies just found new and exciting ways to make me feel small and worthless.

That was especially great in high school when I found out that my two current bullies’s last names both started with letters that were close to my own. That made the alphabetical seating a real treat, I’ll tell you that. Rather than draw more attention to it by asking the teacher to move me, I just choked those years down. Really, what was the teacher going to do besides have a stern talk with the guys? Suspend them for a bit, maybe? If you’ve ever been picked on in your life, you know exactly how much worse things are going to get as soon as these guys get back to school or if I ran into them outside of it. There are these safeguards in place to make people, the unbullied, feel good about themselves; doing just enough to make them sleep soundly at night even though nothing has stopped and nothing has changed. Have all of the anti-bullying rallies you want, but you aren’t making anything easier for the kids facing it every day.

Now, you guys, the ones who use hateful language online, I want you to really internalize something. You are BULLIES. You are the exact same people who picked on me all through school because I wasn’t good at sports or didn’t wear the right clothes. Trying to hide behind freedom of speech or saying that this is just how the culture operates doesn’t change the facts about who you are and what you’re doing.

How would you have taken it if the people who picked on you while growing up had claimed that it was their right as a citizen to pick on you and make you afraid to go to school every day? Imagine if they had claimed that being picked on was just a part of everyday life at your school or workplace, and if you couldn’t take it then you should just leave. Is this something you can take seriously? Can you tell yourself that making those claims make sense for any reasonable human being?

Don’t try to tell me that this is different because gaming is an arena that people willingly enter into, either. No one willingly sets themselves up to be picked on. The only thing they came to games for was to have fun; something that you’re going out of your way to ruin because, just like any other bully, it makes you feel good to hurt someone weaker than you. You enjoy the rush you get from making someone angry or reducing them to tears. Don’t you dare get up on a soap box and try to defend your behavior by calling it a right in any way, shape, or form. You didn’t start spewing hatred because it was the right thing to do, but because it makes you feel like a big, powerful man. That’s it, that’s all there is to it.

If this is something you need to have fun while playing a game online, you need to do some serious reflecting on what it is that you like about it. You need to do some self-examination on why you enjoy someone else’s misery, and you need to do it right now. Are you comfortable with the fact that you not only like hurting people, but get angry at the idea that someone would challenge your right to do it? Do you really like the fact that you’ve become one of the bullies who gave you a hard time while growing up?

And telling people that they’re the ones who should grow a thicker skin if they want to play online? That’s the clincher that ties all of this together. Whether they meant to help or not, the systems in place in schools never protected me from bullies were all essentially telling me that. They promised me help, but were incapable of doing anything that was even remotely useful. They essentially told me that I was all on my own and would just have to get tougher if I wanted to finish those awful twelve years of my life. Your life is miserable, but too bad for you because that’s just the luck you have. No one with any power is going to help you, so you’d better just deal with it. Kill yourself if you feel like you’ve got to and we’ll do something then, but don’t expect anyone to do more than pat you on the back and say “There, there” as long as you’re alive. Getting tougher is your only alternative.

So, screw any of you that say that the people who don’t like your insults should just grow a tougher skin. I heard enough of that from the people that never cared to or couldn’t help me when I was growing up. No one needs to grow a tougher skin, you just need to stop spewing hateful talk when you play a game. Again, if you don’t you’re just another bully in a long line of people who’ve been giving innocent people a hard time over nothing. If you’ve ever been bullied yourself, you really need to think about this, and if you haven’t, try to actually consider what you’re becoming.

Freedom of speech and supposed ‘game culture’ doesn’t have a thing to do with it. Like I said, it’s the same thing it’s always been: petty men using hateful speech to hurt other people. If you’ve had it done to you and you feel that justifies you in doing it to others, remember what it felt like for you to be on the receiving end. Think long and hard on what it feels like to have someone go out of their way to make you miserable for no reason at all. Can you recall that fear, that dread that filled you every single night when you knew the new day was coming? Can you remember your heartbeat racing as you walked into the building, knowing that somewhere in the next eight hours someone was going to try to ruin your day to make his day better? To know that someone in there drew delight from your suffering? Do you really want to be a part of that cycle, pushing bullying onto a new generation because you were bullied yourself?

This is NOT different. This is NOT a part of gaming culture. This is NOT something that is protected by freedom of speech. This is petty, hate-filled people hurting other people because they can. As long as there are no meaningful consequences for their actions, they will not stop. This is why I went from being saddened to completely enraged at the fact that Microsoft wasn’t willing to back the bans for making sexist comments in Halo 4. Anyone making them is a bully, and if it takes a lifetime ban to get someone to realize what they’ve allowed themselves to become then so be it. If it makes that person into a better human being in the long run then I would gladly buy them a year of Xbox Live out of my own pocket. At worst, it would cull the bullies that plagued most of the game’s players and developers all of their lives, and that’s something I believe is completely worth it.

Your excuses are not viable. Look at yourself through the lens of your younger and more vulnerable self. Think of how you were before the bullying started, and think of what it would feel like to have someone like your current self-start talking hateful trash at you in a game. Try to think of what that would feel like, how it would make you hate the games and culture you’ve come to love. Think about that the next time you’re about to shoot your mouth off at someone you don’t even know.

Fight the bullies of your past by being better than them. Stop the cycle of hatred. At minimum, stop dragging your filth into my games. If you really think this stuff is owed to you, then you aren’t wanted here.

Images courtesy of whatculture.com, gamersagainstbigotry.org (Go sign their petition to end online hatred if you feel the same as I do)

Joel Couture
Joel Couture
Joel Couture

MASH Veteran

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

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