« Some Skepticism | Main | That /pizza story »

Feb 17, 2005

Comments

1.

On a similar note, I had consistently referred to one of my guildmates and teaming buddies in-game as "gimp." "gimp" is an extremely common term, or at least it was in AO, basically meaning that you're incompetent or your equipment is weak or that you're somehow deficient. I learned many months later, to my horror, that this individual had lost the use of his legs and was confined to a wheelchair. I had casually been slinging one of the most degrading terms at him on a daily basis. He was not offended nor had he ever been by the term. In-game it was never a comment on one's disability and therefore it lost a lot of the valence it had in meatspace. The first few times after that I felt somewhat uncomfortable chatting with him, but within days I was back to ridiculing him as being so mindbogglingly "gimp" as a way to distract ourselves from the mindless grind that is MMO.

While using homophobic language does have its own problems, in-game it does not appear to have the same impact as in the real world. While I personally feel exceedingly uncomfortable with people saying a bad situation is gay (rather inexplicably since, as noted above, gimp is fine by me) I understand that there is no malice or even understanding of the original terminology here. I have definately referred to a wipe as an "ass-raping" or something along those lines and there isn't a homophobic bone in my body. Well, maybe one or two, but they're little ones.

2.

Aren't you also propagating a stereotype by automatically associating being "ass-raped" with homosexuals? :-)

3.

I was, at one time, a GameMaster for Ultima Online, and had to enforce policy on "zero tolerance words", so my abhorrence for words like "rape" (in the context of something bad happening in-game), or any form of racial slur is deeply, deeply ingrained in me.

Back when I was a GM, several years ago now, there was no policy against using "gay", "homo", "fag", etc, in a derogatory manner. A player could have his account suspended for calling someone a Jew in the wrong context, and would be instantly removed from the game for using the "n word" in any context. And yet players could run around using as many sexual-orientation slurs as they liked. The policy was reviewed internally at least once while I was there, and the general feeling amongst the GMs, IIRC, was that slurs based on sexual-orientation were just as bad as slurs based on race or religion, but that the terms were so much a part of gamer culture and general American teenage culture that we would be fighting a losing battle if we added such words to our policy, and would probably end up banning at least half our players.

Several of us argued that we held a zero-tolerance policy for the "n word" despite it being common slang in some cultures currently, and having been, at one point, in wide spread use throughout the US. We argued that the only reason it is a largely unacceptable term today is because people stopped tolerating it's use. We argued that the only way to stop the use of any slur in-game was to make and enforce policy against the use of it.

In the end, it was too large of a policy shift to undertake for a game that was already in its fifth year of operation. Most players would have found out about the policy change the hard way, and it would have greatly increased the work load on our already over-worked department. So we left the policy the way it was and instructed offended parties on how to add any word of their choosing to their profanity filter.

I still support the idea of treating "gay" or "fag" or any other sexual-orientation slur just like any other slur, especially since, in my experience as a GM, there are two very separate groups that are offended by words like this. Firstly, there are the non-homophobes, who are offended by terms representing what is, in their view, a valid lifestyle, being used a insults. Secondly, there are the homophobes, who are insulted when someone implies that they might engage in a lifestyle that is, in their view, wrong.

Admittedly, most of the MMO-playing public falls between these two extremes, and do not think anything of calling a situation "gay" or someone who stole your kill a "fag". Most people use these words so often that they have lost most of their sexual-orientation meaning. But just because some people have become desensitized to these slurs, does that make their use ok? What percentage of the population has to be offended by a slur before we, as virtual world creators, put our foot down and say we won't tolerate it anymore?

4.

I'm sure this will vary game-to-game, but I'm not sure that the "male playing female" thing relates to transgenderism in real life. IRL, a man dressing up as a woman involves lots of stimuli that games can't/don't provide. In a game, all you really have are flirts and chats with other players. Gender is very, very limited in a MMOG setting, enough so that I don't think most players consider their character's sexuality when playing.

5.

Might be overanalyzing a little here. The specific subculture that overuses calling everything "ghey" are adolescent male MMO players. Non-MMO-playing adolescent males use the same slang.

6.

"This is what makes me wonder whether these words have effectively undergone a local mutation in gamer discourse so that they no longer have any particularly direct or intense referent to real-world homosexuality."

This isn't a "local mutation" in my part of the world. I would say it happened first in the real world and that these players are simply using language from their "real lives" in the game.

I have had this discussion with straight adult friends who use "gay" as a synonym for "bad" or "lame".

"I don't mean homosexual, I mean bad! Come on, you know I'm not homophobic, Neil! You're silly."

Give me a break. That is so female! Oops, I don't mean women. I mean stupid.

Perhaps it is the next evolution of how gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangendered people have adopted formerly-negative terms for themselves into their own vocabulary. Instead of saying "gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangendered" we would much rather say "queer". It was used against us first, but we've made it our own. But now "gay" is being used as a negative term again. But for another purpose...

The fact that gay is now a negative term again is insulting to me somehow. Why was this word chosen? Why not an actual synonym for "stupid" or whatever is meant?

7.

I think that's part of the problem, Neil. To my mind the original use of the term in this context, as "gay = bad" (and I think Scott is right: it's something that adolescent or young men now say even if they're not gamers) almost certainly was homophobic, quite overtly so. But then, gay *became* a synonym for homosexual in its longer history by an equally complex etymological process. Gay became homosexual with the rise of certain (somewhat homophobic) early 20th Century tropes of homosexuality as effeminate, which historians of homosexuality have been quick to observe were always a distortion of the range of homosexual desire and practice from the first moment that a homosexual "identity" became a visible part of practice in Western societies.

So you're right to suspect that "gay = bad" got into gamer discourse by way of homophobia, and probably right to resent that it affected a word that had started to have a largely neutral, affirmative character in everyday speech. But language is a moving target. As "gay" becomes a generic word for "bad" or "annoying" in MMOGs, it increasingly does not become a word that means "homosexual person", much as once upon a time, "gay" only meant "happy". I don't think you can stop this process: I think you can only note the moments where a word that meant one thing seems to, through continued usage, be in the process of meaning something else.

Thinking about Samantha's observations, I can only note that when I was playing World of Warcraft the other day, a player used the word "Jew" to pejoratively characterize another player in the general chat channel. Tons of abuse descended upon that player--and he was also the target of plain old "That is the weirdest thing I've ever heard" assertions. So at least within MMOG worlds, many players do see the difference you describe.

On David's point, I don't think it does relate. That's sort of my point: that the homophobes in the "why are men playing women characters" threads will usually be the only ones asserting that the desire to play a female character marks a man as having transgendered or homosexual desire. That assertion is viewed by the vast majority of other players as hugely stupid, in almost every such thread I've ever read.

8.


My personal opinion is that no speech should be censored, and no one should be suspended. Words are just words, and people need to have thicker skin.

However, I also think not nearly enough players are banned from games. Once you've made it clear that you intend to cause trouble, I've got no further use for you. We need to worry less about the money, and more about the community.

So in summary, say 'gay' if you want, but don't be an ass.

9.

"I can only note that when I was playing World of Warcraft the other day, a player used the word "Jew" to pejoratively characterize another player in the general chat channel. Tons of abuse descended upon that player..."

Interesting that the majority will not allow the term "Jew" to change meaning in this way. Yet the majority are permitting "gay" to change meaning.

10.

A comment on the word homophobia: it means to fear (or more often hate) homosexuality. Some people believe that it is wrong without hating or fearing it.

It's not a complicated issue. Homosexuality is still viewed negatively, therefore words with a homosexual connotation are negative words.

I think it's similar to how a lot of non-Americans hate America, though I've never met anyone in my travels that hated me or treated me poorly just for being American.

The people I know don't hate homosexuals, but they do look at homosexuality as a negative thing. For example, I've had homosexual friends, despite thinking that the homosexual act and lifestyle are gross.

Racism is more or less in the past, at least in the States. Homosexuality is not.

Maybe we just project our personal opinion of a subject, without hating people who choose to like that subject? That sounds most logical to me.

I have one last thought. Has anyone ever considered males playing female characters as a man's desire to have power or control over a perfectly beautiful female? I've heard friends as describing their female characters as their "ho" or their girlfriend, but not as themselves. Some guys like to make a woman's breasts bounce on command.

11.

As a bisexual man who went through a phase with more than a few boyfriends for quite a few years, I am strongly gay-lib. I have played gay characters of both genders frequently in MMORPGs for the last decade. Where possible, I take the time to berate users of homophobic terms, usually by pointing out that I AM one (both IC and OOC, although usually the discussion is IC).

In adopting this approach, I've found that people in the game world are remarkably like the real world. A few are frightened of dealing with the whole thing and run off, a few want to discuss or debate it further, and the vast majority, including most of the bystanders, are mildly positive about me standing up for myself, provided I don't get too loud or nasty about it.

It is my conclusion that homophobic terminology has became part of the "l337 5p34k" slang favored by most non-RP players of MMOGs. I suspect the teenage-mentality origins of l337 have much to do with the adoption of certain terms, since teenage boys are notoriously unsure of their sexuality, and often far more homophobic that older men (and women).

I continue to crusade against homophobic terms, but I suspect it's a very uphill battle.

12.

Generally, when I hear someone say "ghey" in a game, I don't interpret it as an insult, but rather a way for the speaker to indicate that he (presumably he) is younger than me. Younger in spirit, anyway.

13.

Arnold wrote:

>It is my conclusion that homophobic terminology has became part of the "l337 5p34k" slang favored by most non-RP players of MMOGs.>

I don't think that's it at all, simply because I know so many people that use the "gay" terms but either aren't aware of or despise the "leet-speak" that others use. From my experience, it would be more correct to call it a part of popular slang, but not of the "leet" slang group.

>Where possible, I take the time to berate users of homophobic terms, usually by pointing out that I AM one (both IC and OOC, although usually the discussion is IC).>

I'm not sure that players using the "gay" terms as slang are speaking IC. At the least, they aren't doing a good job of it. Most of the RP-related gaming I see is very good about keeping this kind of popular slang from the real world out of the virtual one.

The term "ass rape" is fine by me, since rape will always be a bad thing regardless of your sexuality. The term "rape" is used in the same context, though for men I would assume that this would have to be anal violation as well.

14.

Maybe it's worth considering that he word "gay" originally meant "happy"?

15.

Language is a fluid social construction. That's a given. But are you really saying that a subculture that liberally uses "gay/fag/homo/ass-rape" in its lexicon as derogatory terms in the current culture uses those terms in a way that bears no reference to an existing social group? Cause the last time I checked, I didn't think it was possible to use "fag" in a derogative way that didn't reference a negative connotation with gays. Unless, of course, I live in an entirely different linguistic metaverse than yours.

And I understand your example of reactions to extreme explicit homophobic views in forums, but even as a community rejects explicit prejudice, it can condone implicit prejudice. People will condemn someone who claims that women shouldn't be allowed to work, but does that automatically mean sexism suddenly ceases to be a problem? And just as a culture can condemn overt homophobia, it can condone linguistic usage that stigmatizes that very same social group.

I also found it interesting that you started off by saying essentially that "duh - of course prejudice carries over" but then you end up saying essentially "oh - all this fag/gay/homo/ass-rape stuff - of course that's not homophobia - it's just word play".

So I'm confused by your logic, but I guess I'm one of these "naive bumpkins".

16.

I think ghey et al. in gaming clearly derive from derogatory words for homosexuals, particularly male homosexuals. Yes, the meanings are somewhat different, but I can understand why someone would be offended (and while I'm all for offensive speech in the public sphere, I consider video games private property, and the developers have every right to censor). If it was a word with multiple common meanings (who uses "fag" for "cigarette" or "drudge" nowadays?) or just a homophone (i.e. niggardly), that would be different.

17.

I don't think it's "just" wordplay. But I do think there's at least the beginnings of a reasonable assertion that linguistic meanings inside of gamer discourse in this respect are becoming unmoored from whatever predicates they were determined by to start with. The weakness of the "predicate argument" in CMC/virtual world scholarship, in fact, is that it begins with an important reminder that technology doesn't erase our social histories and experience and let us start anew, but then continues to insist somewhat rigidly, in some cases, that a virtual world is never anything more than its real-world predicates. MMOGs, virtual worlds, virtual communities, are somewhat bounded cultural spaces, and in them words and ideas and even practices can begin to take on new meanings, new connotations, become unmoored from commonly understood or prior practice.

To some extent, I suppose I'd also toss in here a larger suggestion that we tend to overread prejudice and bigotry as an active social practice and a set formation in particular individual's consciousness from expressive language and representation. That's a much deeper and more complex discussion, but this seems to me to be one interesting place to start that conversation. I'm no longer very clear whether expressions that carry homophobic meaning in some cultural domains, such as MMOGs, necessarily express either an interior state of homophobia or a socially coherent desire to enact or practice homophobia.

18.

I see a lot of us coming from the lofty, genteel realms of academia or the creative professionalized nooks of the private sector, where we generally enjoy and expect a certain type of comportment. We know that we're dealing in a culture that is still highly marked as one for adolescent boys, and often under-achieving, poorly socialized, anti-intellectual adolescent boys. I also think that, although gaming is an activity that traverses a lot of class boundaries, it is still primarily centered around the lower-middle class gestalt.

So, given that, does how we react reflect our disciplinary approaches? Ultimately, I'm a game/world-as-text game/world-as-artefact kind of cat with some interest in reception, and only in as much ethnography as it helps me get to the rest of it (which is a bit more than none.) Those coming from the sociological, anthropological, or economic/legal/governmental side of it will have their own take.

The question is, how much agency do we want to have in pushing for certain standards, for moving the consensus? I'll admit it - I'll trade on gravitas at times to gently browbeat guild-mates for homophobic speech. Is this a problem? Would it be a problem for an anthropologist? Would it affect their research? Will it affect mine?

19.

Nick Yee > I didn't think it was possible to use "fag" in a derogative way that didn't reference a negative connotation with gays. Unless, of course, I live in an entirely different linguistic metaverse than yours.

This case shows that we live in linguistic meterverses that areas that which don’t overlap. ‘fag’ is slang for cigarette thus certainly can be used in a derogative way that has nothing to do with sexuality what so ever. When I hear an American use the word I still have a moment of confusion then have to translate the meaning into English.

20.

There are actually several terms that have lost a lot of their original negative meanings. For example, growing up I heard the term "gyp" many times without knowing it originally referenced gypsies in a negative fashion. These days the term is so dissociated from its roots that I more often than not see the word spelled more phonetically as "jip" in online game chat. These people are using the word in it's negative connotation without necessarily being derogative towards a class of people.

I think we're seeing something similar where people are using the term because it's always been used that way; however, it's losing some of the "you = homosexual = bad" connotation we're discussing here. Just the way the language is developing.

My thoughts,

21.

It's frustrating that 'addictive' is acquiring a positive connotation in gamespeak; fodder for over-eager legislators.

22.

I'm mostly a lurker here...but I wanted to comment on two things: 1-gay, 2-assrape

On the occasion that I encounter someone using a term like ghey, gay, or faggot, I find it to be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I tend to find the language offensive not only from a social standpoint, but linguistically as well. It's just so unimaginative. On the other hand, it lets me know who to avoid. I don't group with people that are clearly....um, lacking, and one way to announce your deficiency is to broadcast "u r ghey, stfu n00b" on the general channel.

But,I don't really think that use of the word "gay" is truly an indication of homophobia. My suspicion is that it's mostly laziness. It's an easy insult that pretty much offends everyone, gay or otherwise. And, it tends to be used by the same people that use insane amounts of (and IMHO rude) shorthand.

Now, regarding ass-rape. You have to consider that most mmo players are boys. We can't really get raped the other way... Well, I suppose we could get face raped, but it doesn't have the same ring. My personal preference when refering to a massive wipe is "gang-rape", because it's usually a case too many mobs to handle. But, I tend to gauge whether or not my current company is likely to be offended by such language before using it.

omgwtflolkthxbye!

23.

Words only have the meaning that we provide them with. If a group of people decide fag means stupid or bad, then thats what it means to that group.

Its that simple. But of course diverse groups of people interact and meanings of words overlap and conflict results.

I know I have said fag or ghay more then is wise at times, simply because of the fact that it carries no weight for me or my friends anymore. Its meaning is something else that we have implicitly agreed on. Its easy to forget how it could offend someone else.

24.

It's typical now that people don't know where "gyp" comes from. Many young people probably don't even know what a gypsy really is. "Isn't it like a phychic or something? It's a woman with a crystal ball?"

But I don't buy that people don't know where "gay" comes from. I don't think that most gamers are homophobic. But there are a minority who are. They will use ghey, gay, fag, etc. out of malice. The majority adopt it out of apathy.

I agree with Mister Rabbit in his approach to handle it in games. I'm aware that I'm playing in a virtual world with a lot of teenage boys who are not yet secure with their sexuality (whether it be het, homo, bi, trans, whatever). They quickly give themselves away with terms like this.

I don't think MMORPG developers should try to ban the use of the ghey terms. Grouping is never forced. "Tonight you are scheduled to play with Assrape88. Enjoy." I enjoy kicking a member from my group or leaving a group if I don't like what someone is saying. Most people I have played with are not like Assrape88. People grow up. Usually.

25.

AFAIK, the use of "gay" as a synonym for "bad"/"obnoxious" is unlikely to have been introduced to the world in the context of online games. I'm pretty certain that this dubious achievement is due to HipHop culture, where labeling undesirable stuff as "gay" has been common for at least 15 years now. It even transcended the language barrier; about twelve years ago, when I co-produced a weekly HipHop show for German TV, I noticed that leading heads of German HipHop had taken to use the German equivalent - "schwul" - for the same purpose. Nowadays, almost every male of age 25 and under seems to use it - even some gays call other gays "schwul" when dissing them.

26.

This seems to be an outgrowth of PC ideas about what is allowed and not allowed to be said. Protected groups (certain minorities, sexual orientations, practitioners of certain behaviors, etc.) are not permitted to be disparaged or even PERCEIVED to be disparaged; unprotected groups are open season. The irony of the fiercely protected double standard about double standards seems to be lost on everyone.

I have to say, as a gay man I don't see what the big flap is about. Why would the words of someone I don't know and will probably never meet impact me one way or another? Why should I care? As a wise man once said, "your opinion of me is not my business".

27.

The use of gay/fag/etc. as a general negative insult/expletive versus a literal comment/statement referring to homosexuality predates all MMOG's, most definitely.

From my earliest days in elementary school in the 70's, I can recall "fag" as being probably the #1 insult you could call another kid. However, I assure you not a single person who used the word knew what it meant in regards to sexuality. Does this make all the kids homophobic? No.

"Fag" itself was co-opted. A faggot literally is a bundle of sticks. Obviously now, most people don't mean that when they call someone a fag. It's the same with "gay." The meanings and usage of words change, in real life and in game life. If it is okay to spin asexual words into homosexual words, is it somehow not okay to spin homosexual words back into asexual words?

The general concensus from my experience is, if the raid wipes and someone says, "Damn, that was so ghey. We had our asses handed to us on a plate," most people don't start jumping up and down, waving their arms crying foul. It's clear to all the primary intent of the statement. Ghey/non-ghey is not that intent, and to focus on it I think misses the point entirely.

28.

This is an interesting issue, something I guess I play a part in and don't realize it on a day to day basis. In UO, one of my mules was female, and turned into my main char eventually. I have 5 toons in WoW, about to create a 6th. So far each has been male, but the 6th will be female...just because I want to do something different. There are several guys in my guild who create almost exclusivly female toons. None of them act any different, and it's fairly apparant a male is behind the character.

I'm guilty of over-using 'gay', but that's no different in real life. "That's gay" is probably the most over-used phrase used by co-workers and friends for some reason. Some members of the guild use the N-word, Jew, spic, and other offensive language way too much, and it has actually forced dome people to quit. I haven't really looked into or asked these people why they use those words so much, but maybe I will just out of curiousy the next time guild chat gets spammed with derogatory language.

29.

In another fifty years you may be right, but currently, no. It is still homophobic language preferred by people who are either uncertain, undecided, or insecure about their own sexuality.

Given time though, and yeah, someday it will lose it's direct sexual connotation and become just another random profanity.

After all, fifty years ago "gay" had nothing to do with sex.

30.

xx

31.

"In another fifty years you may be right, but currently, no. It is still homophobic language preferred by people who are either uncertain, undecided, or insecure about their own sexuality.

Given time though, and yeah, someday it will lose it's direct sexual connotation and become just another random profanity.

After all, fifty years ago "gay" had nothing to do with sex."

How is it to change if this is true? The fact that you agree it may be different in the future suggest that you see the fact that it is changing now as well as i do.

In some circles it is obviously not homophobic and does not refer to any sexual behavior. In other circles this is not true. I dont understand how you can make such a blanket statment about a changing cultural norm.

Armchair psychiatry is ghey.

32.

I've always wondered why some adult people find certain words particularly offensive. In my particular case, I was told off for using the word "gangbang" for a situation in PvP where a group of players is defeated by overwhelming forces. I was told to use the term "gank" instead, because it is nicer. Even though it stands for exactly the same thing. Many words have more than one meaning, it's not that hard to work out which one someone is referring to.

I don't normally use "gay" as a derogoratory term, but if I did, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be hard to work out that I meant "bad" and not "homosexual".

33.

But RedWolf, gay's primary meaning TODAY is homosexual. You can't argue against that. It's true TODAY. Gay means homosexual. When you say "that is gay", you're using an alternate meaning of the word, a much less-used meaning. Most people are fully aware of the primary meaning of the word. So it shouldn't be a surprise to you that some people will find it offensive to use "gay" in that way. Most people who are not offended by it still choose not to use the word "gay" as a synonym for "bad" because they don't want to be perceived as homophobic.

When you say "that is gay", be ready to be judged as immature and/or homophobic. In a game and in real life.

34.

I've been known to, using my admin character, repeatedly kill players who use the term 'gay' as a pejorative in my earshot on Achaea. Just because it's commonly used to mean 'bad' doesn't mean it's not homophobic. In fact, I'm willing to say that most adolescent American males are extremely homophobic. Hell, I think most people generally are fairly homophobic. Show them a man and a woman making out. Show them two men making out. See which one provokes a strong revulsion among most people across the country. (and I don't mean friends of the readers here. It's likely that people reading this are a little more enlightened than the general populace.) It's going to be the one of the two guys making out.

In the end, I may have to put up with hicks and rednecks dominating American politics and pulling asinine, repressive manouevers like banning gay marriage, but I sure don't have to put up with people implicitly or explicitly encouraging those attitudes in my virtual worlds.

--matt

35.

What about adding gay NPCs?

36.

We have some gay NPCs.

37.

The attempts to say that the use of "gay" to mean stupid has nothing to do with homosexuality is completely disingenuous. I can assure you, that when they are describing something stupid but very masculine, they do not use the word "gay." It is always associated with some kind of effeminacy, with weakness, with not matching up to expectations of strength. Granted, some of the people who use it may not be specifically homophobic, or may not utterly antagonistic to gay people. But they, at best unthinkingly, participating in a way of speaking that normalizes heterosexuality deeply, associates homosexuality with weakness and inadequate masculinity, and strongly reinforces gender roles.

And strongly reinforcing gender roles is something that adolescent boys often do as they come to grips with their own adulthood. In fact, when they find out that I'm long past my adolescence and understand that, at least when I'm around, the MMORPG becomes no longer a space for them to work out their teen angst. And, in an another sense, this is when they are the most teachable. Like I've said before, I manage to bring in a kind of gravitas (being unflappable about things that bug the heck out of 9th graders does that fairly well) and introduce the possibility that their high school episteme may be very limited.

I guess this was my veiled point farther upthread - that the MMORPG becomes a place where we can affect a previously unreachable generation/sector of the population and shape values. Before this time, cosmopoliton educated adults were insulated from the world of lower-middle class 9th graders - we didn't have to confront their anxieties, their insults, their painfully constrained sense of the normal. And they didn't have to confront our demands for comportment, for consideration of other, for creating spaces that were open to difference. While in one hand, these confrontations can be annoying and upsetting, on the other hand, they can be seen as an opportunity for new types of intergenerational and cross-segment exchange.

38.

"Show them a man and a woman making out. Show them two men making out. See which one provokes a strong revulsion among most people across the country." - M. Mihaly

Well a lot of people cringe when they see a man and a woman making out for the first time. Difference is, this is usually at a young age so it's chalked up to youth. I'd argue that much of the difference in reaction can be attributed to what people are used to. Show some heavy making out to some 19th century Victorians and you'd get an interesting reaction. Does that qualify as heterophobia? ^_^

Anyway, it's a minor point, really, but worth bearing in mind.

39.

Greyhawk>After all, fifty years ago "gay" had nothing to do with sex.

Just as a point of information, listen to this .wav of Cary Grant in the movie Bringing Up Baby. This is how he's dressed at the time.

That movie was made in 1938.

Richard

40.

A more detailed review of Bringing Up Baby for those interested, but according to Wikipedia the term "Are you gay?" was used as a codeword in N.Y. between homosexuals in the 1940s...

41.

William Huber said:
> The attempts to say that the use of "gay" to
> mean stupid has nothing to do with
> homosexuality is completely disingenuous. I can
> assure you, that when they are describing
> something stupid but very masculine, they do
> not use the word "gay." It is always associated
> with some kind of effeminacy, with weakness,
> with not matching up to expectations of
> strength.

Then you are assuring me of something which does not match my own in-game experience :)

I associate "gay" used as a pejorative term with Southpark - I'm sure it didn't come from there, but Southpark popularized it. I have seen "gay" used to indicate ANYTHING which did not meet expectations; the implicit gender of those expectations was not an issue. What do you consider to be "masculine" versus "feminine" in the context of challenges?

In my experience, if something is unexpectedly difficult, its gay - if something is too lame, it's gay - if something is excessively ANYTHING... it's gay. Gay has thus taken a secondary meaning of "excessive".

42.

I'm having a bit of a cognitive disconnect here with the people who claim "I say ghey, and it just means 'bad' not 'homosexual'". Yes, you mean 'bad'. But by using the word gay to mean bad instead of just saying "d00d, that sucked", you are accepting and promoting the premise that what is gay is undesireable. And that's just as inappropriate as using Jew as an insult, even if you say didn't mean 'member of the Judaic religion'.

I wonder how many people would raise a fuss in game if 'elf' suddenly because the term of choice to describe something bad. Betcha the number of elf PCs would drop off heavily.

And saying this kind of hate-origined language can't be controled in an online enviroment because it's too entrenched is just a cop-out for the accountants. They know that cracking down on it would lose them players, and their bottom line can't handle it.

As far as any coarse language in general... When did role-playing start letting the the uncreative and brainless in? You're in another world, come up with some original )@$&)(@$ slang for once!

43.

Iamblichos said> In my experience, if something is unexpectedly difficult, its gay - if something is too lame, it's gay - if something is excessively ANYTHING... it's gay. Gay has thus taken a secondary meaning of "excessive".

Of course. I mean, you'd have to be as lazy as a nigger not to understand that, right? Those who deprive themselves of this secondary use are just Jewing themselves out of a great new descriptor.

44.

I liked the example of gyped. Cause we all know that when people say "i got gyped" they are actually expressing there repressed fear of gypsies.

As wells as the fact that they are smelly swindlers.

People who say gyp obviously beleive these things simply because i say so.

45.

What is funny about this is that for us that primarily get English in writing the connotations of the words are quite different.

As a norwegian I have trouble viewing non-Norwegian words as "foul", and I know people who cannot get themselves to saying certain words in their own language at all, but are quite happy to say them in a different language. It's all in your own youth. It is rather common for teenagers to play with words and situations that have homosexual connotations with some fear and excitement...

But then I've always thought that americans/brits go a bit far when it comes to politeness. A result of a lot of cultural tension that must be held at bay... There would be nothing wrong with saying "black as a negro", or "he is gayish" for instance. Of course, there shouldn't really be anything wrong with being called a "cocksucker" either. Only a homophobe would dislike that, or?

46.

Jessica Mulligan said:
> Of course. I mean, you'd have to be as lazy as
> a nigger not to understand that, right? Those
> who deprive themselves of this secondary use
> are just Jewing themselves out of a great new
> descriptor.

If the users of modern English wish to change the meanings of those words too, gods love them. I don't make the news, I just report it. :)

I stand by my original statement, though. I don't care what people call me, as long as they leave me alone. There will always be pejorative terms, and people will always view the "other" with distrust; it's hardwired in. The supposed cure (the thought police) is much worse than the offense.

47.

Iamblichos wrote:

The supposed cure (the thought police) is much worse than the offense.

Oh? Funny, I guess I'd want the bartender in my local, culturally-diverse bar to kick out some jerk running around loudly saying things like, "My friend is lazier than a nigger." I have and will continue to do the same thing on our games. I'm not trying to control your thoughts. I'm just going to insist you don't actively perpetuate the kinds of attitudes that lead/led to gay kids being beaten up or blacks being lynched while you're in our worlds.

--matt

48.

Matt said:

I'm not trying to control your thoughts. I'm just going to insist you don't actively perpetuate the kinds of attitudes that lead/led to gay kids being beaten up or blacks being lynched while you're in our worlds.

Wouldn't this fall under the much bigger discussion, 'is hate speech free speech?' And if so, what's the precedent in vw's? Is it only player-managed?

49.

Lisa Galarneau wrote

Wouldn't this fall under the much bigger discussion, 'is hate speech free speech?' And if so, what's the precedent in vw's? Is it only player-managed?

I'm not entirely sure what you're driving at, but I'd say that hate speech is a type of content whereas free speech is the absence of restrictions on what you can say. Apples and oranges. In any case though, as no right to free speech exists in virtual worlds unless the developers/administrators grant it (and I'm not really aware of any that grant 100% rights to free speech), free speech arguments are irrelevant here to me

As far as precendents go, the precedent is definitely for admin control, but I don't think that's particularly relevant. It shouldn't matter much to a virtual world operator what precendent is. They're not courts of law who have to worry about what their contemporaries or forebears have done or are doing except insofar as taking lessons about what went right and what went wrong from their contemporaries, or except insofar as player and potential player expectations may be shaped by precedent.

--matt

50.

Well, there again, I seem to be odd man out. I don't see "hate speech" as something with objective existence. It's all just speech - what credence I give to a speaker is my own business, and let the marketplace of ideas decide what is appropriate. "Hate speech" is a verbal shorthand, a shibboleth designed so that people can now say "you haven't committed any illegal acts but I don't like the way you think" without anyone thinking about how easily abused such oversight can be.

Words (like any other action) have consequences. Accepting the consequences of our speech and actions is a crucial part of maturity. If someone was running around a bar saying "lazy as a nigger" as per your example, this someone would probably be beaten up - which is an appropriate socially-sanctioned response in which a community (the bar) decides that it disapproves of a given behavior (rude comments) and acts to stop it through punitive measures. This is democracy in action.

What is being proposed in this case is that some external regulatory agency (GMs in this case) monitor the speech within a community and punish offenders. This is NOT community action - in fact it is the opposite of community action. The monitored community is subject to the whim of this external overlord, who must have easily-abused powers to be effective. History, ancient and modern, is replete with examples of why such external policing of communities does not work in the long run (see the recent WoW scandal where a GM was abusing his authority to help his guild, or the child-prostitution rings set up by UN "peacekeepers" in the Congo).

51.

I just wonder where the line might be drawn. Would a developer consider filtering certain 'objectionable' terms? Do profanity filters, for instance, screen for the N-word? I don't know much about this area, just wondering what the status quo has been... Laissez-faire? What about in kids-oriented vw's?

Oh, and I remember the phrase 'that's so gay' evident widely in junior high school in the early 1980s. We had no idea that it had anything to do with homesexuality - it was simply the opposite of 'rad'.

52.

Iamblichos> History, ancient and modern, is replete with examples of why such external policing of communities does not work in the long run

Actually, it is full of examples of why such moderation is required. Just look at how Usenet got killed when the AOL generation came.

53.

iambichos wrote:

Words (like any other action) have consequences. Accepting the consequences of our speech and actions is a crucial part of maturity. If someone was running around a bar saying "lazy as a nigger" as per your example, this someone would probably be beaten up - which is an appropriate socially-sanctioned response in which a community (the bar) decides that it disapproves of a given behavior (rude comments) and acts to stop it through punitive measures. This is democracy in action.

Wow, I don't know what kind of bars you hang out in, but I like to think that in the ones I hang out in, the person would just be kicked out by the bouncer or management. You know: The people whose responsibility it is to control the behavior in their bar. And democracy in action? I think you mistake mob rule for democracy.

--matt


54.

And this is what always happens when the topic of discussion is about something GAY. It starts to get ugly.

At some point, nothing constructive can come out of the discussion. Use "gay" as a synonym for "bad", but (as this discussion shows) know that it is insulting to some and considered inappropriate by many. If you think that's l337 then go 2 it d00dz.

55.

Neil> At some point, nothing constructive can come out of the discussion. Use "gay" as a synonym for "bad", but (as this discussion shows) know that it is insulting to some and considered inappropriate by many.

But is it a good thing to hush-hush avoid things that are insulting or inappropriate? The net result is that the commercial sector push controversial themes to the extremes: eliminating natural nudity, deviant sexuality and racial indicators, overexposing stereotypes or worse: making blacks good in entertainment targetting blacks and evil in entertainment targetting white people. I don't see how minorities benefit from the resulting norms that come out of this.

Isn't the better approach to turn the page and load terms such as "gay" and "nigger" with positive connotations rather than to be overly careful about how you use them?

What about having quests where you are to aid a gay NPC by bringing his love roses or some such? I think such twists would bring Art to MMOs, and there is a lot that could be done if someone had the guts to do it. AO plays a bit with "semi-sexual" references: the gender-less "atrox" with an extremely masculine body dressed up in a feminine wedding-dress, the Dominatrix with bouncing boobies and a whip, the bar "Rompa Bar" (naked butt), emotes such as "crotch" (later renamed to "adjust" :-) etc

I feel gay today, anyway!

56.

Ola, I think it would be a mistake to imply that any person or group is in control of how language develops. No one can deny that certain groups have power over this, but sometimes language develops in a way that no one can predict or control.

So, let me pose this question: who has the responsibility and/or the right to modify popular language habits? Does everyone? Does anyone?

57.

It's my understanding that the spelling "ghey" (which I first saw in use in the early 90s) was invented specifically to try to disentangle the term from real-world homosexuality. I can recall exchanges of the sort:

A: "That's so ghey."
B: "Don't be a bigot."
A: "No, G-H-E-Y. I've got nothing against gay people."

I can sympathize with users of "gay" as a derogatory slang term. In the usage I'm familiar with, it was very distantly related, if at all, to "effeminate", or "weak", or other homosexual stereotypes. It was more likely to mean "stupid over-bureaucratic rules" or "much less exciting than advertised" or "trying too hard to be cool".

Is it hard to believe that slurs can disassociate from their origins? Jessica Mulligan powerfully suggests otherwise above, but herself has used "lame" and "sucks" as derogatory terms in her columns. I am confident, though, that she is neither bigoted toward the disabled nor homophobic.

It's reasonable to believe both that adolescent slang use of "gay" isn't necessarily hate speech, and at the same time, to be uncomfortable with its use and to wish to discourage it.

Context: I'm active in the equal marriage movement.

58.

i hate fuckin gays

59.

Via Guardian Game Blogs I just picked up on this seminal piece of ‘new games journalism’ by Ian ‘Always Black’ Shanahan:

Bow Nigger
http://www.alwaysblack.com/blackbox/bownigger.html

60.

Will said: "It's my understanding that the spelling "ghey" (which I first saw in use in the early 90s) was invented specifically to try to disentangle the term from real-world homosexuality."

Actually, it was created to avoid language filters in chat logs, in the hope of avoiding being tabbed for CoC violations.

Will said: "Is it hard to believe that slurs can disassociate from their origins? Jessica Mulligan powerfully suggests otherwise above, but herself has used "lame" and "sucks" as derogatory terms in her columns. I am confident, though, that she is neither bigoted toward the disabled nor homophobic."

An interesting interlocution on the evolution of language, to be sure. However, does any reasonable and responsible person believe that the current use of 'gay' and its variants are not meant to be an insult and slam by accusing the target of being homosexual? Is there any difference, pejoratively, between 'gay' and 'faggot'?

I would submit, to both questions and for even the most casual observer, the answer is no. Just hanging out at a trash-talk session in-game after someone has been 'pwned' in a PvP battle and watching the angry conjunction of the two terms, among others, will reveal that. And while 'lame' and 'suck' and other words also develop alternative, relatively innocuous meanings over time, some don't, especially those most intentionally hurtful and discriminitory. For example, I don't recall anyone saying to me lately, "See my new Corvette? It's really Kike!"

Meanwhile, back in real life, as someone who manages commericial online games, when players contact my player support reps, abusive language is, without fail, among the top five of the weekly total. Guess which insult is at the top of that list? The gamers themselves certainly seem to feel the slur isn't being disassociated from its origins.

The comments to this entry are closed.