Path to Casual: Player Responsibility (part.1)

I normally would rather write about some new cool thing you could do with the Tribal format. Or maybe an article about how to build with synergy for Emperor. Heck, I’d even rather write about how good of deck CawBlade is in Standard, and I hate that deck with a passion. But, today, I’d rather talk about something entirely different. Something that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with casual play, theory, deck construction, or anything else you are probably accustomed to in a Magic: The Gathering article. I would like to discuss a little thing called player responsibility.What exactly is player responsibility? The term, I am positive, you have heard before. It refers to holding ourselves, as player of Magic: The Gathering, responsible for our own actions. That we should not just say “Oh, this is a game and since there is nothing in the rules against what I am doing it must be okay.” But to put it into a more frank phrasing, it means don’t be an asshole.

To be honest, 9 out of 10 times when I am playing Magic, I don’t have to remind my opponents to be polite while they play. In fact, I spend most of my games cracking jokes with my opponents and having a pretty good time. Which considering the fact that outside the Magic community I have to deal with the unpleasantness that are an occupational hazard of being an out transsexual individual. So, I can honestly say that overall my experience with the player community has been positive.

If everything is all lollipops and sunshine, why am I even talking about this? I guess maybe it has to do with a side of my life that has nothing to do with my being a Magic player. If none of you know, I am transsexual. Physically transitioning from male to female and I will be completely honest. I know I do not look like a conventional female. I am 5’9″ and weigh 250lbs. I am built like a linebacker and have beard shadow from having years of facial hair before I came out. I have no illusions about my appearance. What I also have no illusions about is people’s reactions.

And before this gets accused as just as my pity parade, I would like you all to pause. Pause, take a deep breathe, and continue reading through the end. It is like when you crack open your pack in limited. You prob check the rare first and see you got something like Decimator Web, only to find out you got a gem like Go for the Throat a few cards down. So, consider this the Decimator Web portion of the pack and I promise that somewhere down the line you will find a card worth picking.

So, why did I bring up my being transsexual? Well, it is a little complicated to explain. I think we can all agree that Magic: The Gathering is a fairly competitive game. Even in the realm of casual, the game has to have a winner. Some one has to come out on top. Another thing we can agree on is that the overwhelming majority of Magic players are of the male gender. Correct? Not saying that there aren’t female Magic players, just pointing out the truth that they do not make up the majority. Oh, a point. I was going to get to one. In a competitive environment, smack talk is bound to happen. Even joking around in my casual play group at college I talk some smack. It just happens. Especially if I am laying down some bad beats.

Now, here is something you all may not want to admit. When males smack talk there are a few topics that are sure to get a rise out of your male opponent. You can talk smack about the women in their life(read: sisters, mother, girlfriend.) Or you could talk about how “gay” they are. Not even in the pejorative sense that @Dr_Jeebus recently defended on both his blog and on his Twitter a few weeks ago. Don’t worry,  I’ll get to that rant soon. But I am talking about people using “gay” as a pejorative as in referring to the subject as a homosexual. Apparently, the male ego is universally fragile enough that collectively it is not comfortable with the suggestion of being homosexual. I have seen many a male player go on tilt when called “gay” or when on tilt tell their opponent “how fucking gay your deck” is.

Now insert here tired old excuse. It may sound something along the lines of “I don’t ever do that” or “those people are a small grouping of players” or “gay doesn’t mean homosexual anymore.” Which ya know what? I will agree to an extent on some accounts. Yes, you probably have never resorted to using “gay” as a derogatory term or in a pejorative manner. Sure, that is amazing. Here is the next step to a healthy player community, do you intercede when you hear it? Do you say something? Point how that may be offensive to anyone around you? Because otherwise you are contributing to the problem. By silently shaking your head, you allow the person to continue in the mindset that the usage of the word is acceptable and not offensive because no one said anything.

And I want to debunk a myth right now. The use of “gay” as a pejorative. I have heard a lot of chatter about the word meaning more than its roots of ‘happy” or “male homosexual.” That the evolution of the word is now acceptable and distant from both legitimate definitions. What do I mean by legitimate? As a Journalism major and English minor, I am referring to if the definitions used in the Oxford English Dictionary. Why? Because it tracks the origins of the words, down to the year its unique usage is first used. Along with that, it also will include idioms and slang usages. But I digress. “Gay” as a pejorative. Here is the problem with saying the word means more than being homosexual. This goes out specifically to you, Dr. Jeebus, since you brought etymology into the picture. Gay began being used as a term for homosexual males the same way queer was. Instead of referring to male and male relationships as homosexual, which was considered a mental illness at the time, people would say the two men had a very special relationship or that they were just very happy around each other. It had less to do with “your definition evolved on the basis that all homosexuals are complete and utter flaming queens,” as Jeebus  was so kind to point out.

The evolution of the word “gay” as a pejorative is not as separated from the meaning of “gay” as to refer to a homosexual as some would like to rant and rave. It is not like “gay” grew into the meaning of “dumb, stupid, bad” all on its on. No, it stems from the negative connotations held towards homosexuals. People are not offended as much because it refers to homosexuals. Its because it continues to reinforce the sentiment of being “gay” as a bad thing. End of discussion.

This falls into something that I want to address. The “my friends, who are gay, aren’t offended when I use the word that way” excuse. You know what the problem with that statement is? It is, and this is a mentality I am hoping you don’t have, that all gay people feel the same way. I know I can call one of my Spanish friends a Spic. I know I can say some really offensive Jewish jokes around some of my friends. But do I use these terms around everyone? No. What works for you and your friends isn’t necessarily the same for every individual. And while I am not saying be PC all day every day. But if you know something is offensive to some, why would you go out of your way not only to use it but to then call people who are offended oversensitive? I have a pretty thick skin. I will be honest, I don’t care every time someone uses “gay” as a pejorative. The reason I go around correcting people is because I know it offends people. That’s like saying its ok to make 9/11 jokes because, after all, it was ten years ago. Right?

There are probably going to be a lot of trolls built off that last statement I made. Guess what, it isn’t how I feel. But I have learned that making realistic and universal comparisons tend to hit home more than to give people the evolution of the word “accost.”

I guess what I am saying is, watch what you say and do. I am not encouraging you to police yourself and be PC all the time. That would be absurd. What I am saying is, don’t throw things near a hornets’ nest and then expect people to sympathize with you when you get stung. Don’t hide behind hash tags like #realtalk. Don’t say you’re just being real and no nonsense. Because, you know what? At the end of the day, there are plenty of people at the end of the day who have to deal with abuse and ostracizing because they are some “gay ass faggot.” And that isn’t cool.

I love this game. But, certain players out there make me want to agree that we have no social skills and want to not be considered part of this community. Part Two of this series will discuss the community and its treatment of its female members. Until then, keep it casual.

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About Amanda Stevens

My name is Amanda and I am a nerd. This fact will taint everything that will ever come out of my mouth. While I follow real world news, you would never know it. I prioritize most of my conversations around Magic the Gathering, anime, and League of Legends. Also, don't mention Green Lantern being gay to me, you will regret it.

Posted on June 16, 2011, in Path to Casual and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I dream of a world where business class gaming culture permeates both tabletop and video game environments but there are some deeply ingrained and definitely learned behaviors like those mentioned that are part of gaming culture often ignored or just often accepted as “it’s the internet, get over it”

    From my perspective, the change needs to happen at the highest levels of gaming stewardship and trickle down. 10 seconds on any FPS game will reveal far more egregious abuses than the ones listed here, and the change has to come from within the culture as a whole.

    I’m not even sure most heavy abusers are cognizant of the meaning behind their words or actions when it comes to these, “rage-spiking” in games can happen and MTG is no exception – next thing you know the nicest people you know IRL are rattling off strings of slurs that would strip the paint off a Cadillac.

    What’s the solution? I’m not sure, but I’m glad you made this post. ❤

    • I think Dan the main solution is to just be aware. I am not expecting people to just up and change. I am not even expecting people to agree with me. Ideally, I would love for people in the Magic community to agree that certain words are just not okay. If I could, I would ask Magic celebrities and WotC staff to maybe come up with something akin to what the NBA did with the PSA they did for GLSEN (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIs1IpivqZQ). But that probably won’t happen. All I know, is that I really want the discourse to start in a way that wasn’t, quoting you, “it’s the internet, get over it” mind set.

  2. I think it’s hard to argue against a plea for greater courtesy and consideration from others within your community. Although I tend towards loose speech and am impossible to offend, that isn’t the case for everyone and this goes double for folks you don’t even know. At the end of the day, no-one’s being asked to learn a new language or closs out great chunks of their vocabulary.

    By the same token, though, I think we need to consider intent, and not worry overmuch at casual language used without harmful motive. If some teenager said something’s “gay” within earshot, or cracked a joke on the Pope, I’m not going to feel moved to confront them. I give folks a certain latitude when I don’t feel that there’s actual hatred in the words. Last St Pat’s, I got a Facebook message from an acquantance in Scotland, a die-hard Rangers supporter (while I’m mad for Celtic).

    “How many potatoes does it take to kill an Irishman?

    None. Happy St Pat’s.”

    Such is life, no?

  3. PS- thank you for posting this!

  4. Absolutely intent as well as intimacy level matter as to the “meaning” and repercussions of words. Being able to laugh at our hypocrisies and stereotypes is key to bringing people together. But I have zero respect for those who go out of their way to say things they know will hurt. I have zero respect for those who, after they’ve gotten feedback that their words/actions are indeed hurtful, cannot offer an apology or retraction or at the very least, a sensitive response that shows that others’ feelings are valid. We have to be able to commiserate and empathize with each other as well as laugh inappropriately with each other. This post speaks to the need for sensitivity and self-reflection around some matters within the community, and I applaud Amanda for posting it.

  5. I think the fairest argument against chastising people for using “gay” in the pejorative sense is that so many other terms or phrases have equally offensive origins but draw little criticism.

    “Dumb” and “retarded” are frankly insulting. “Man up,” “Act like a man,” or “Douche” are patently sexist, as is “bitch” both as a verb and in the effeminate prison sense. “Ghetto,” “redneck,” or even “rude” have all kinds of classist implications. There is a professional football team named the “Redskins.” And these terms/phrases and many others have over time simply gained enough mainstream acceptance to either pass unnoticed (like “dumb”) or just be considered crude (“douche”). But none of these terms reached the almost hate speech level that “gay” is nearing (i.e. none of them had professional sports PSAs advocating against the term).

    Censorship is always a dangerous path that begins with good intentions. And every time it becomes socially acceptable to castigate not only terms but individuals simply because they use the terms, you are essentially politicizing and regulating one of the most intimate human practices: speech.

    And, on principle, I just have a hard time getting behind that.

    • I am not talking necessarily about censorship. There is a difference between asking people to be socially conscious and telling people to censor themselves are two different things. I will not walk up to people of Hispanic descent and call them wet backs or spics. That isn’t censoring myself, that is being socially conscious. If I was talking about censoring people I would have not approved PCedToDeath’s comment, not matter hurtful it is. Because, I will admit, it really is. But s/he has a right to their opinion. Just like I have to mine.

      • I’m not sure this is a meaningful distinction. Censorship and social propriety, when applied to words, aren’t sharply distinguished. They’re just different points on a single line of social control. The “n-word” taboo that exists in our country is a product of similar social consciousness.

        And so when we begin to advocate that people need to be careful when using the term–regardless of intent–then we are moving from the point of social propriety toward the point of censorship. Words don’t just begin censored. By definition, it has to begin this way.

        It would be one thing if you were stating that people need to avoid intentionally discriminatory actions toward LGBT individuals. This is more or less akin to your “wetback” example, and I’m going to go with you on this. But the product of what you’re advocating isn’t, or at least isn’t only, that kids shouldn’t run up to LGBT individuals and says “Hey faggots!”

        The product, or at least a product, of what you’re advocating for here is that a 12 year old (or even 25 year old) who has no idea about the history of the term “gay” should refrain from saying it in public if they mean “stupid” even if they are not referring to homosexuals. In other words, we are deeming the term, per se, offensive.

        And this can be a dangerous practice that, at its worst, can lead to absurd outcomes such as the “niggardly” controversies.

        So advocate for social consciousness. I do as well. In fact, I am right here. But keep in mind that when you apply that social consciousness to a single word, the difference between that application and censorship is less like the difference between fire and ice and more like the difference between ice and water.

  6. “Its because it continues to reinforce the sentiment of being “gay” as a bad thing. End of discussion.”

    Being gay is a bad thing. End of discussion.

    What a sad state of affairs that this PC garbage has infected gaming. You can write articles until you are blue in your stubble covered face “A-MAN-da” but the majority of people won’t think you right or normal for mutilating your body.

    You are not a woman, you are a man. You can never change your XY chromosomal pairings.

    I guess some people have given in to 40 years of gay whining and had accepted it as normal, but it is not, nor ever will be.

    No amount of activism or politically correct social engineering will change that.

    • Such things may not be normal to you, but I hardly think you speak for the world, mate, and a good thing at that. Here’s an article from a couple weeks ago from CNN, on Nepal officially recognising a ‘third gender’ for its census.

      http://articles.cnn.com/2011-05-31/world/nepal.census.gender_1_gender-identity-citizenship-first-openly-gay-lawmaker?_s=PM:WORLD

      Whether you want to be on the wrong side of history is entirely your right… you’ll recall that the enemies of desegregation in America had no shortage of champions as equally passionate about the issue as yourself… Where are they now?

      The same place you’ll be.

      By the way, the only one you denigrate and belittle with those insults is yourself.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your opinion. At no point will ever ask people to censor themselves. Evident in the fact that initially your comment, PCedToDeath was banned from the site. But, no matter how hurtful or personally attacking your comment is, it is your voice. I am just disappointed in your decision to voice it in a such a disrespectful manner. Sure, I may be feeding a troll here. But there is a stark difference between PC and showing a lil tact. And in this situation you chose neither.

    • Oh please. Human sexual dimorphism isn’t binary, no matter how much you’d like to pretend otherwise. A small but nonzero number of people have neurological or systemic traits that put them in a grey area between what we call “man” and “woman”. Sex chromosomes are only one of a host of characteristics that can diagnose physiological sex, and even those come in sorts other than the common XX or XY. In fact, there are chromosomal disorders that can result in an XX man or an XY woman… with no outward signs; plenty of people with these conditions are diagnosed well into adulthood.

      A transsexual is nothing more than a person who developed neuroanatomical features of one sex (specifically but not exclusively in the hypothalamus) and the body of another. It’s a medical condition no more severe than a cleft palate, and certainly within the normal range of human variation.

      All you’re doing is being a dick and insisting that reality suit your narrow understanding of human biology. There are more things in heaven and earth, PCedToDeath, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  7. I have never, and I will never, understand homophobia.

    Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that I grew up in the Netherlands, my upbringing in itself (I consider myself lucky to have intelligent, open-minded people as parents), or the fact that I have thought for a while that I was gay myself, and am now pretty sure I could possibly fall for a girl if I hadn’t already found the love of my life in my boyfriend.

    The lack of tact is a serious issue. Both on the internet (and here the fact that ‘we’re on the internet’ is not an excuse, ever), and in real life.

    Personally, I can deal with a lack of tact. Over the years I’ve learned how to put things past me, so I’m hardly bothered by anything anyone says, unless they’re a friend of me. However, I still think it’s godawful how the majority of people – yes, that’s right, the MAJORITY of people – act like total douchebags. I have no illusions it’s ”just a small group’. Whether it’s the use of gay as an insult to one’s sexual preferences, a pejorative or merely as a way to say ‘merry’ (which, I think, is completely obsolete because only English majors and/or people who have actually known it from advance know that ‘gay’ used to be ‘merry’), or condescending remarks towards female players, or players in general who aren’t very good at whatever game it is they’re playing yet.

    And you know what? I think it’s a bloody crime that this sort of behaviour leads people to stop doing the things they want to do. Basically, what’s happening is that these people are taking away someone’s ability to decide for themselves what they want to do, because they have to be weary of the trolls every damn step of the way.

    So how’s that for censoring?

    Is this overreacting? Perhaps. I’ve spent almost a decade on the internet, and I’ve seen it all. Cursing, bullying, backstabbing, emotional manipulation. I’ve been there. I almost left the internet and never got back on. But you know what pushed me to come back? Friends. A handful of great people that make me willing to face whatever shit the internet (and real life, for that matter) wants to throw at me, catching it and setting fire to it before throwing it back, saying ‘fuck you’ in the process.

    Amanda, I applaud this article. I also applaud your way of handling trolls. If it was me, I’d be setting off firecrackers in their arse, but you are the embodiment of what you call Player Responsibility. You are an example, not only in your openness but also in your behaviour. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  8. people just love to hide in the internet and talk Shit.

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