It’s 1986, I’m 20 and this is as good as it gets :D

Success is defined, in it’s most basic form, as the favourable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavours. You set out to do something, you manage it, you succeed. Back when Pretty In Pink was the film to watch (hey, there was flirting in the Computer Lab. THERE WAS A COMPUTER LAB :O) personal success was less about “showing them they didn’t break me” and more about having the courage to be out in the first place. If there was a basement room as far away from cool as it was possible to get, that’s where you’d have found me back then (and no, I’m not just being self-depreciating. I was woefully naive and unprepared for what the World was about to throw at me.) I often wonder how I’d fare if I was twenty now and I reckon the world I find myself in is a lot more geek-friendly than it was back in the 1980’s. Mind you, back then we had James Spader before he went to seed. You win some, and then you lose some…

I had a couple of conversations on Twitter this morning: one on what it is to be cool, and another on how people determine their personal success in game. There are lots of finishing lines to make it to in Azeroth, after all: Glory of the Raider, 8/8 Heroic, Server First… or the first person to 150 Vanity Mounts, or to grab the Professor title. Any of these have the potential to bestow Coolness upon their recipients, depending on which of the Cool Kids’ Tables you happen to aspire to sit on… though of course the really Cool Kids don’t have a table with the rest of us (at least not one you’ll ever get to see…) I’ll stop there, because I have real problems sometimes taking myself seriously when I have a conversations with that particular C word in them. Being cool and having success are both horribly subjective states. On certain days, for instance, logging in at all can be considered successful. Saying ‘thank you’ when someone helps you out in Trade has the potential to be an immensely cool thing to do, if the world around you is slinging mud at each other. You have to take your victories sometimes when you can find them.

This week’s been a lot like that, if I’m honest. There’s a discussion going on that started with a request that I can both identify and agree with, and which was subsequently addressed on a wider forum which has produced a not-unexpected reaction. It was proof, if it were needed, that there is vast breadth of difference between what people consider acceptable and what is inappropriate in a Gaming Environment. I’m still desperately trying to work out where I stand on all of this, having spent the best part of two days trying to find an answer. The closest I’ve managed to come until this post was via Twitter:

Even though I can’t tell you where my personal definition of Cool currently resides, I know deep down in the fabric of my being that trampling over people’s personal feelings if they consider the objectivisation of women in gaming as bad and wrong is just NOT COOL. It’s not just women either, it’s anything/anyone that marginalises a person’s rights. So what if it’s just a game: this may be where people come to relax and unwind, but does that mean it has to ignore the basic codes of conduct that we live by? Reality is big and mean and horrible, yes we get that EVERY DAY on the news, but for an average early teen (for instance) if the signals that are sent by designers to those people playing aren’t strong and decent ones, we could all be in a lot of trouble. I feel sometimes I’m an exception as a mother who actually watches what her son plays and takes time to understand how the world he inhabits is portrayed. I also know gaming companies always like to roll out the ‘we have a rating on our games, you need to understand the complexity of the content’ statement when people try and blame games for bad behaviour. The reality is far more complicated than I think a lot of people want to consider.

I recall the horrible feeling that resulted with the quest you’d get in Northrend from the Kirin Tor mages before you headed to The Nexus, where you’d be forced to torture a mage for the information he had. That quest remains, I still hate doing it, because torture even in a game is not something I can cope with. If Ji Firepaw’s dialogue remains when the game goes live I’ll do what I did when I played him first on beta: ignore it and roll Alliance. However, there might be a chance that dialogue will change as a result of this discussion being instigated. There’s the key, right there, someone started it. Even if you don’t agree with the sentiment there are many, many people who consider them valid. That should be enough to make the Devs consider a change. This isn’t asking for a Mass Effect about face in direction or ending, it’s not expecting that it will be done (at least in my mind), it is simply an understanding that words have a great deal of power, and when used well they have the ability to alter your World. What you say, and how you say it, defines what you are after all…

If this happened, at least in my mind, Blizzard will have done a very cool thing indeed, and I won’t have a problem saying it. If I’ve also managed to make any sense with all this, I’ll consider that a major success to boot…

5 thoughts on “Looking for the Cool Kids…

  1. If there were a like button, I would like this to pieces. Take this as a like.

    I always fail to understand why some people don't get why differences in language like this is a problem, and remains a problem. It saddens me.


  2. Agreed, but its not just differences in language, it's differences in attitude. I only briefly skimmed the first page of the official forum thread, but when I came to “Umm, he's a character in a video game. Who cares?” I shouted angrily (in my head, of course). Attitudes and language matter just as much in gaming and on the net as they do in print and broadcast; all are mirrors to their creators, all have a responsibility to their audience.


  3. This is my first time commenting here, but I really enjoy your writing. So glad I found this blog.

    Let me preface with the fact that I am male.

    I was linked to that thread yesterday and I'll be honest, my first reaction was that the OP was overreacting. I immediately classified her as a hyper-sensitive feminist. I am now ashamed to admit this.

    But then I found that WoWInsider post and I came to realize what you said in your post. That just because I wasn't offended or that I didn't understand her position, does not mean that her opinion is invalid or the ravings of a “crazy feminist”.

    Reading through the comments, my opinion changed to ya, Bliz should probably do it to be politically correct, to actually agreeing that it is in fact creepy.

    One comment in particular helped to shape my opinion. It linked to an article about how a man being hit on by a gay man will sometimes elicit fear. The fear that someone finds you attractive sexually and may have the power to act on it without your consent. This is something that women have to deal with every day. As a guy, I had truthfully never considered this before. No girl in my life has ever explained it this clearly before.

    Suddenly Ji's comment changed in my mind. Before it was just some harmless, awkward comment. Now it's just another reminder to women that they are powerless to stop these creepy men from taking advantage of them. No one should be reminded of something like that while playing a video game. Especially in such a cavalier manner.

    As a man, who prefers to think of himself as a gentleman, something like this shouldn't be allowed. And in reality, them changing the comment to something more neutral does not effect me at all. I lose nothing.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I just felt I needed to share the revelation I had.


  4. The reason I call it a language problem is that there's no evidence here (*other*than language, but you get meta and circular is you go down that route) that Blizzard have an issue with female gamers. But language matters, even if they don't, because other people do, and it allows others to think their attitudes don't matter, because, hey, all women should want compliments, shouldn't they?

    Of course, if they don't change it, following feedback, it's evidence at least that they just don't get it, and aren't willing to listen.


  5. Of course Blizzard will have done a truly cool thing! How it can be different? I really liked you post because language is something we use everyday but fail to think about it.


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