Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Evil, -isms, and Role Playing Games

This ought to be a fun post, combining the discussion of the nature of evil, the nature of -isms (racism, sexism, ismism), and how one can see aspects of both while playing Dungeons and Dragons. I've been thinking about this for some time as things percolated through my toddler/baby/sickness addled brain.

First, we need to separate out the hate from the isms. One can be -ist without hating. A lot of it can just come from ignorance or an unquestioning adherence to traditional gender roles, for instance, in the case of sexism. One can act racist or sexist without having any feelings of hatred at all. Which perhaps is where some get the idea that they aren't racist because they don't hate people of other races or they aren't sexist because they genuinely do not hate women. This, ironically, is probably reinforced by the left-wing extremists who label every sexist a misogynist, or every racist a hater of whatever race is relevant - which is clearly absurd on its face and just makes any sane, rational person less likely to really listen to what is being said. (For example, it is sexist to think that only men should be firefighters - but you can have that opinion without actually having anything against women, certainly without any hatred. I suspect very few people actually hate an entire gender).

On the flip side of the coin, it is possible (however unlikely) that someone who actually hates women doesn't actually do anything sexist.

Now that that's out of the way, the real fun thought experiment begins. Perhaps it is even possible that people who do or say sexist things aren't actually sexist (or racist or whatever-ist) and those things were said for other motives entirely. I thought about this when the whole Michael Richards flap was on about his use of the n-word against hecklers. Maybe he is a racist, but I wondered, what if the hecklers had been different people - what language would he have used? Did it reflect a desire to hurt them by going for a vulnerable spot more than any racist motive? I mean, where there are racist words out there that are particularly hurtful to use, and your goal is to hurt, then those would be the words to use. One could argue that any use of those words, no matter how mad you are or how much you want to hurt someone as an individual (verbally) are racist - and there is a certain logic to that. I have been culturally conditioned to basically never use the n-word, no matter how mad I may be. On the other hand, not everyone is conditioned the same as me.

Back to Richards - if one is mad and wants to hurt someone verbally, one picks words that one thinks will hurt the most. When you know almost nothing about someone, the only words that you know for sure that can do that would be related to what you can physically see about them - their race, gender, body type, general appearance, etc. If the hecklers were fat and he made disparaging coments about their weight, is that because he hates fat people or has something against fat people, or is it because that's just the easiest jab one can make under the circumstances?

How does all of this tie into gaming? With a quote from a friend I played with for many years, call him Dirk. Another friend also played. This other friend, call him Jake. This was back in college. Jake made a rather "interesting" character - he was actually secretly a necromancer who liked to have "pets" (undead animated small animals) - you could say we all shared in a sick sense of humor. Of course, his alignment was also, to put it bluntly, evil. And he acted that way in terms of the offhand comments he would make, in character, while we played. Of course, Dirk had no idea about Jake's characters alignment. Which led to the great quote, after several sessions with this character. Dirk was complaining about some of the things Jake said or did in session (mostly on-the-side stuff, so not really disruptive - that's a whole 'nother thread about the best way to play a game in harmony). After Dirk complained, Jake responded by telling him about why his character did what he did - his alignment, and so on, and Dirk replied, "I didn't know he was evil, I just thought he was being an asshole!" And that quote has stuck with me ever since.

And so that sort of sums up my thoughts on evil and isms and gaming. Maybe sometimes when people do things that look like isms, they are just being an asshole - going for the obvious, vulnerable spots. Not that this excuses it, but it is an interesting thing to keep in mind. The reason this is important is because if you just label them as an 'ism' you are really missing the point - the problem in such cases isn't an -ism, it is being an asshole. Which means the solution isn't getting rid of -isms - assholes can always find another way to be an asshole - what is important is - try not to be an asshole, and don't put up with those who are!

Thus endeth my musing.


Tammy said...

"...try not to be an asshole, and don't put up with those who are!"

Perhaps, DBB, you have just summed up the meaning of life. :-)

Great post.

Michael said...

I would go so far to say that about 90% of people labeled as some kind of "ist" are just assholes. ( if you need further proof, go to your local golf course and sit in the bar for 30 minutes )

It takes so goddamn much time and energy to be an actual bigot. I mean, what with all the cross burning and cutting holes in sheets. Jeez, who has the time?

I also actively campaign against the term "the n-word".

The word is nigger.

It's a god-awful, appalling, ignorant word but pretending that it doesn't have those last five letters seems incredibly childish to me.

It's like we're all spelling out words so the imaginary children don't understand what we're saying. And the more we all go "ooooooh" and "ahhhhhhhhh", the more power we give it.

Tammy said...

Michael, you might find these posts (and the comments) interesting. Wish you'd been part of the debate!:


N-Word Revisited

jennifer said...

The nature of evil cannot be expexted. It can be in many ways.Some men just try to be on top of the world and torture women just because he is a man. People who do such things should be punished. The person we hate should not depend on gender.

wow gold

Anonymous said...

Anybody know where the World of Warcraft European servers are located? Someone said they are all in Britain but I am not sure. Would they have some in Germany, some in Finland etc?

I am trying to do a business plan for my own massive multiplayer game and was wonder how they spread out the resources.

WoW Europe Gold