Engaging the Enemy: Discourse about Gaming

I was thinking of writing a piece about Medal of Honour, what I thought of the controversy, and so on. It’s brilliant insight, moving and inspiring – makes angels weep. But I canned it.

Rather, it occurred to me that this really is same old, same old. We have had these discussions whenever a controversial games comes out, and usually the arguments break down the same way. They are so much the same that I think there are some general “rules of engagement” that we should know and understand before mucking it up with people who think gaming and gamers are the work of EVIL or just other gamers who may have a difference of opinion.

1. Cut Down on the Rhetoric. She says all the while acknowledging that the previous paragraph is full of it (sly wink). The gamer stereotype is that we are all 14-year-old LOSERS who live in Mom’s basement. If we are the ones who can argue critically, and intelligently we will have won half the battle. So this means not attacking the person making the claims, but the claims themselves. Don’t be  alarmist, be realistic and balanced, even if, especially if, the other guy isn’t.

2. Acknowledge that there are still issues in gaming. No medium is perfect. It’s okay to be less defensive and acknowledge that there are some issues that we, as gamers, still face. Some of these issues are not easy to rectify overnight and if we sweep them under the rug, then we actually look ill-informed, or maybe even a bit Polyannaish (Oh everything is FINE here…) Coming across as balanced is the mature thing to do.

3. Make sure you are actually arguing against a point or a person that you can “pinpoint”. Okay… I am sure if you look at previous blog posts, you will find places where I don’t do this. I try to avoid it, but I’m not perfect. If you are just arguing that everybody says “this” without any evidence to show that everyone does think that way, no one can actually debate with you. No one can engage, and it weakens the debate.

4. Avoid the strawman argument. Ug. This one bothers me. It’s when you do one of two things. Either a) take the most ridiculous “point” on the opposition, exaggerate it, shoot it down and then say “HA! see! the whole argument is stupid.” or b) like point #3, you argue against no one or an opinion that you make up and thus, are able to shoot it down easily. Just be aware and don’t do this.

5. Enjoy the Debate. We live in a much different time than when movies, television, books and other new forms of media came into being. Today we have the 24 hour news cycle that must be fed. We have social media meaning that everyone can, and will, engage and give their opinion regarding everything and anything.

These are positives. People have different opinions. Be open to learning. Hell, be open to the fact that yo may not be right. This is how we grow as people. If you aren’t having fun, or you aren’t learning, it’s time to shut down the computer.

6. If you think that the other person is an idiot: stop, and acknowledge that they probably aren’t as stupid as you think they are. Look, you aren’t that smart, I’m not that smart. We are both average. Most people we meet are average. People we argue against are of average intelligence: that’s kind of how average works. If you go into a debate believing that the other person is stupid, you will argue “down.”  Instead, argue “up.” If you have to, pretend that the other person is just as intelligent as you, and then make your argument better, rather than dumbing it down, or being condescending. 

7. When talking the big “isms” check your privilege.  Privilege is something given to you by society that you don’t really earn. If you are born to affluent parents, you get certain privileges. I am a fairly pretty white girl: I don’t have a hard time getting a cab. So when the debate turns to racism, I make an effort to watch myself. I have never been the target of racism (that I know of) and so I have to be more aware of what people who have been the target of racism are saying in the debate.

So if you are going to argue against the “isms” (sexism, racism etc.) just make sure that you acknowledge if you have or haven’t been the target.

8. Be educated on your Terms. Know what you are talking about. For instance: I can’t censor anybody or any thing. I am just some chick with a blog. Only the government can censor. I *can* (if I so choose) use my free speech and call for the censorship or boycott of something. That something can in turn can call for my censorship and for people to boycott me. And around and around it goes. Point is this: individuals can’t censor, only governments can. Having these terms in order will make your debate better.

Sometimes, especially when the debate turns into a legal issue, there are more factors in play than we can acknowledge. If the answer seems easy, and it still isn’t fixed, it probably isn’t as easy as a fix as you think it is.

9. When in Doubt: Don’t be a Dick. Break out those rules we learned in Kindergarten. Do I have to expand? 

So:what rule am I missing to make this an even 10? Are there any boards that are better or worse at having interesting and civil debates? Gaming boards are (sometimes) not known for polite discourse: when have you seen things go off the rails?

One positive I can think of was in my old community. I was asked by one member to explain why and how a thread went off the rails as badly as it did. I ended up translating the discourse so that both parties could understand what the other person heard or understood as the debate continued. I was happy that one party saw that he didn’t understand, and asked for help from “the outside” to gain understanding.

The bad debates, for me, are always the ones where people just trash the other side without acknowledging that there may be something there, or that they may be missing a piece of the puzzle. Seen lots of that! 

But what about you? Let the flame wars begin!

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Comments

  • niteowl  On September 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    “4. Avoid the strawman argument.”…..Hmmm, yeah let’s exclude others from the debate. Really??? We should fear agrarian chafe? I suppose next we should just assume farmers themselves unworthy of expressing opinions. Yes, of course, big-city girl has all the answers. While the rest of your column may have made some good points, your obvious bias against all things rural invalidates it and reeks of the typical urbanism we’re all so used to.

    Other than that, miss your blog on 2oldplay. Play some Magic some time.

    • yellingatpixels  On September 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

      Straw, hay, various grasses… They can all go to hell.

      This comment made my day.

  • Maxxie  On September 14, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Another well written article.

    I personally would like to add for your rules consideration that we all should avoid what I term the “One is Many” argument. It sounds a lot like this (variations provided to illustrate):

    “Hey Pixel Yeller! Did I tell you that I heard/ read/ concluded that this one

    played that game called

    and after she / he / it

    ?

    Thus this game poses a threat to

    of all mankind! This game should not be sold or made especially to children.”

    I understand that the underpinnings of this argument are about a fear of affect to impressionable minds or the repercussions of the influence of certain repetitive imagery and such. I believe there is a cogent and valid argument for these concerns too, but often it is *not* the argument offered. Instead impressions are stated as fact without proof or a solid case for faith supported conclusion.

    I’d like if we can agree that if we are going to go this route we back it up with faith or facts beyond the one example heard of to support the argument.

    Thanks for posting! Hope you and family are well.

    M-

  • Maxxie  On September 14, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Another well written article.

    I personally would like to add for your rules consideration that we all should avoid what I term the “One is Many” argument. It sounds a lot like this (variations provided to illustrate):

    “Hey Pixel Yeller! Did I tell you that I heard/ read/ concluded that this one

    [person /kid /guy-I-knew /seemingly-well-adjusted-individual /space alien]

    played that game called [insert controversial game name here ]

    and after she / he / it

    [ went crazy /hated their parents /became a murderous criminal/ dumped me
    /started listening to death metal, country and rap /bought an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator ]?

    Thus this game poses a threat to

    [ the moral fiber/ safety / cute furry animals /survival /sanity/ ice cream /planet ]

    of all mankind! This game should not be sold or made especially to children.”

    I understand that the underpinnings of this argument are about a fear of affect to impressionable minds or the repercussions of the influence of certain repetitive imagery and such. I believe there is a cogent and valid argument for these concerns too, but often it is *not* the argument offered. Instead impressions are stated as fact without proof or a solid case for faith supported conclusion.

    I’d like if we can agree that if we are going to go this route we back it up with faith or facts beyond the one example heard of to support the argument.

    Thanks for posting! Hope you and family are well.

    M-

  • 2Belts  On September 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I think it’s also important to recognize when the other party isn’t interested in a debate. When it comes to gaming a not insignificant number of people/pundits/etc. have already made up their minds and it’s better to strategically retreat rather than risk your sanity among other things in a Pyrrhic victory.

    Also any debate/argument conducted over the internet is best done drunk.

  • JLJ  On September 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Nice post. Your reasoning on #7 really resonated with me. And I love the name of your blog.

    • yellingatpixels  On September 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm

      thank you very much!
      You mentioned that #7 resonated with you. Do you find that gamers don’t really “get” this concept?

  • JLJ  On September 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Do they get privilege? My own experience tells me that many gamers acknowledge their privilege but have a hard time grasping all the implications associated with it. So many times people are unable to look at the marginalized perspective when they are dominant. The reverse also raises many problems. But that is a whole series of blogs in itself.

  • Tim B.  On September 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I fall for #6 all the time. I put in my two cents assuming the other person in the argument is a total douche bag only to get smoked with someone clearly smarter than I. I stay away from #7; not good times!

Trackbacks

  • By Dickwolves and False Equivalency « Yelling at Pixels on February 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    […] I think by the tone of this blog, you may get where I stand on this issue. However, I have been trying to figure out the other side’s argument. I gotta practise what I preach. […]

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