An Important ConfessionJune 24, 2008
I hate to break from the usual mission statement of WAAAGH! — and rest assured, it will be back to normal soon enough — but sometimes an issue grips your heart and refuses to let go until you’ve spoken out about it.
My friends, my heart is gripped with racism. I’m a racist. And I need to clear the air about it today.
Well… not really. You see, I’m being trained to be a racist by the very video games I play. I’m not talking human racism, with its petty concern for skin pigmentation, but fantasy racism — orcs vs. elves, humans vs. goblins, dragons vs. hello kitty. Alliance vs. Horde. Villains vs. Heroes. Albion vs. Hibernia vs. Midgard. Order vs. Destruction.
It’s in the paradigms of these so-called “innocent” online role-playing games that the sinister foundations of racism are being laid in the hearts of all who play. We are indoctrinated into a faction, slowly growing to identify with that race or side to the exclusion of all others. Sure, at the character creation screen we’re all ambivalent about the sides when we choose — but take a hard look at an end-game player, who is so far gone into the roots of racism that he or she could not fathom ever rolling a character on the “other side”.
We are given reason upon reason to hate those not like us, told that they hate us just as much, and once our mouths are properly full of froth, are set loose on a battlefield like trained dogs in a murder pit. We foster prejudices, reinforce stereotypes, /spit on those who annoy us, and desecrate the corpses of our sworn enemies. The civility that we’ve spent years and years building up in our lives is stripped away within months, tolerance given in to sheer loathing.
Even worse, we celebrate our racism. We wear t-shirts and caps and boast signature banners proudly declaring ourselves as part of the superior race. We get into heated discussions in real life with other players who dared to be different than ourselves. We adapt our race’s customs and phrases into our daily vocabulary, without a thought if they are offensive to others not like us.
We are partially to blame: while we had the choice of a race, we did not choose the same out of a sense of unity, but deliberately set ourselves apart in anticipation of conflict. Are we proud and mighty warriors, or petty, cowardly racists?
The game designers share even more blame: they deliberately created a game world to foster these racist attitudes. Without them, they reason, there would be no great conflict. No great conflict, no great game. Our desire to win and achieve and succeed wasn’t enough — we had to be given a reason to hate others trying to do the same thing.
I’m a racist, I guess. Good thing it’s only a game, right?
[Because I feel I have to clarify — this article was done more or less tongue-in-cheek. I’m not seriously suggesting that in game racial hatred/identification is anything like real-world racism, but there are some interesting parallels… and it gives me pause when I look at these games in that way.]