Blog Post #4: That Awkward Moment When You Realize You’re Playing on a Low Difficulty Setting

There are so many possible topics of response, but I want to focus mine very narrowly on the rationalization of oppression that is well articulated in both Nakamura and Salvo’s papers (and perhaps a questioning of where the onus of responsibility lies). While I can’t say I was aware, before reading those artciles, of the vitriolic, sexist environment that so many female gamers/members of gamer culture have to endure (which takes us right back to discussions of privilege), I was familiar with the ridiculous dialogue around its rationalization. Gamer “concern” for the decline of AAA games, the “threats” women pose to the gamer culture as it views itself, criticism about videogames and their importance “as an art form” all sound exasperatingly similar to concerns about universal healthcare leading to a decline in medical quality, the “threat” of lazy people living off hardworking Americans, etc. How anyone can make such arguments with a straight face is incomprehensible – it’s a lot like arguing that the introduction of family cars and minivans inevitably leads to the decline of, via loss of interest for, F1 race cars (and then blaming it on people who drive minivans and/or refusing to believe that someone can drive both).


To clarify, I’m not grouping minivans and women together. I’m pointing out that in both cases they are completely separate, independent market opportunities for producers – and that even when they’re not separate, they’re still independent. So why do we see so many attempts, in the gamer world but also outside of it, to rationalize hate (in all its forms)? And specifically in videogame culture, on whom is the onus to address the injustices? Until now I’d always considered fuckneck sightings to be isolated incidents, results of an IRL fuckneck walking into a virtual world. But what if the virtual world is somehow constructed to invite fucknecks… or make them? In every other context with hate speech or unwelcoming environments we look to something/someone to “fix” it, so who are we looking to “fix” gamer culture? Is it the fuckneck gamers we’re hoping will be changed by reeducation? Is it the producers of games? Is it everyone who plays a game? I’m interested to see what people think of the role of honor code initiatives in certain games, reporting/banning policies, cultures created and promoted by the creators of games, player-to-player interactions, and other possible methods of unpoisoning the toxic gaming environment.

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One Response to Blog Post #4: That Awkward Moment When You Realize You’re Playing on a Low Difficulty Setting

  1. cstabile says:

    That’s a great question: what if the virtual world is constructed so as to create fucknecks, as Phillips puts it? I don’t believe we were specific enough in our last discussion about which kinds of games produce the most hostile virtual climates. It might be helpful to think about the militarization of video games alongside these hostile climates because there’s a very important homology (or structural resemblance) that appears.

    One in three women in the military has been sexually assaulted and the reports from female soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq provide chilling evidence of climates that are very much like those in Halo, the Call of Duty franchise, and other FPS games (see the HuffPost piece:, as well as Al Jazeera: The difference being that the effects on real bodies are much more devastating than those on virtual bodies.

    And this doesn’t take into account sexual assault cases involving US troops and Afghan and Iraqi women.

    So, the surprise about virtual hostile climates surprises me, given conditions for women in other militarized zones.

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