Monday, August 24, 2009

Videogame Vernacular

ThinkB4YouSpeak is a new campaign that is gaining A LOT of press in the gaming media.
Penny Arcade
A comment from the Joystiq post-


c. 1178: Means full of joy or mirth
c. 1300: Means brilliant, showy
c. 1890: Is a young tramp (a MALE that would give sexual favours to a FEMALE)
c. 1929: Is what homosexuals called each other
c. 1970: Is what the public calls a homosexual
c. 2000: Means lame

A comment from the Gaming Politics Post-

But aside from all that nitpicking, I disagree with the very core of this campaign. Calling something gay to mean that it is stupid/uncool/etc is not homophobia, not in and of itself. Gay can be used in a homophobic way, but the context is everything. It's very similar to the word retarded. When you call something retarded because it is stupid or whatever, you are not using it to discriminate against the mentally challenged. That meaning of the word probably doesn't even enter your mind as you use it. It's the exact same thing with gay. It's also interesting that both words originated as harmless ones, gay meaning happy and retarded meaning slowed; later ended up associated with groups of people, gay for homosexuals, retarded for the mentally challenged; and now both have also become empty words for stupid/uncool/whatever. But the point is, just because the words can be used in an insulting manner, doesn't mean that every use of the word carries that same venom. I can understand that people who are the target of such insults can be overly sensitive about the word, but I don't believe that gives them the right to ignore the context the word is used in and demand that everybody eradicate the word from their vocabulary. Just be patient, soon enough slang will move on and "gay" will go the way of "square" (gasp! quadrilaterophobic hate speech!) and other antiquated insults.

And personally, I don't use the words gay or retarded. I think they are tasteless. But that's my decision, as it should be. I can choose what I do and don't want to say. I truly despise thought police and all the bullshit they come up with, like this campaign. Really, all this does is isolate homosexuals even further, trying to drive home that they are separate from the rest of "us" and need to be treated differently.

Am I going to be targeted as being insensitive if I am playing on XBL and somebody pulls off a 23-hit combo and I say "that's sick?" Is SwineFluSurvivor002 going to be offended by my use of the word so casually?

This campaign has good intentions; and there IS a problem- but centering your campaign on the phrase "that's gay" is like the LD teachers union or whatever faction is in charge of protecting the Learning Disabled going after the phrases: "that's dumb" "that's stupid" and "that's retarded." Imagine a football player who can no longer play because of a lame foot- due to his injury he starts playing Madden so he can rekindle his love of football in some way- and then he picks off a pass late in the 4th quarter and then returns it for a TD to win the game when the opposing player yells over his BT headset on PSN "that's lame."

Are we supposed to be articulate and slang-free whenever somebody does something "cheap" can we even use the word "cheap" anymore or is it to offensive for people who are poor or people who are frugal?

Sorry, but I just do not envision gamers saying "What a series of unlucky circumstances brought by an inferior set of skills unrecognized by low quality Artificial Intelligence."

"That's Gay" is a phrase said by GAY PEOPLE- it is a staple in our vernacular. Queer at one time was thought of as derogatory and then you had programs on TV like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In fact you could make the argument that Queer is now so seldom used that it has become more harmful of a slang term than gay- and if queer is used so openly than how harmful can gay really be in its current criticized context? Even the phrase "No Homo" is being targeted- a phrase that is literally short for "not in a homosexual way"

In our quest to become more and more politically correct we are more susceptible to campaigns like this one; a campaign that tries to group people who say "that's gay" as being homophobic, or using derogatory language. There is a clear line between saying That's Gay and this-

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