I’ve always felt that I have a great sense of humor, and can laugh at jokes that others might find offensive. However, I do realize that there are certain types of jokes that can go too far, and that the best “offensive” jokes are the jokes that break stereotypes and make the audience uncomfortable in order to prove a point and/or make people think. These kinds of jokes, though, are being told by professional stand-up comedians that are masters of their craft. Internet trolls, online gamers and others in the World of Geek don’t seem to understand that. Homophobic, sexist and racist remarks have become a mainstay of geek culture (especially amongst gamers), and this language is casually defended as just “being jokes” and that “people are too easily offended these days.”
Before the release of Modern Warfare 2, Activision released a viral ad for the game that featured the homophobic language that is constantly spewed by angry, ignorant gamers over Xbox Live, PSN and PC servers. Kotaku posted a great write-up on the ad, condemning it as tasteless and doing nothing to bring legitimacy to gaming. Sadly, the comments below the article are mostly from people that defend bigoted insults and slurs that are so prevalent in competitive gaming. The commenters primarily defended the language by claiming that it was “part of the culture”, “harmless” and the words take on a different meaning given the context. I agree that context is rather important, and in regards to the context of gamers using hate-speak for competitive and humorous purposes, they’re just being rude dicks and not the clever comedians or serious athletes that they wish they are.
I’ll admit, I have used some of this negative language in the past, and, just like the Kotaku commenters, I’ve typically defended it by telling people to remove a stick out of their ass and lighten up. Granted, I really only made these kinds of jokes when I was around friends that spoke that way constantly, and I always felt guilty when I kowtowed to their juvenile mentality. Over the past few years I’ve tried to remedy this, which hasn’t been too difficult as I’ve always been one that tries their best to watch what they say (which is part of the reason I’m a very socially awkward person). I’ve been fairly successful at quelling this behavior, but I do slip up from time to time. In this week’s episode of Dangerous Kids, for example, there is a moment when the four of us laugh about a gamer’s handle (one that I’ve mentioned on the show before) that is “TheRapeTrainHasNoBrakes”. We then proceed to make a couple of dumb rape jokes, but quickly move on. I feel bad about the event, and only played along because I didn’t want to start an argument, especially on one of our more energetic episodes.
I realize that the term “rape” in gaming culture doesn’t mean to violently force someone, usually a woman, to have sex, and instead is used as a synonym for “destroy” or “annihilate.” Years ago I used to support this rationalization, but I have since changed my mind. There is absolutely no reason to tell a person to “rape” their opponent(s) or vice versa. Doing so is not only sophomoric, but it is abhorrent behavior that tells rape victims that what happened to them is the equivalent of getting their ass-kicked at Street Fighter. Understand this: Rape is one of the most horrific things that can happen to anybody and isn’t to be taken lightly. George Carlin famously said that rape can be funny. He’s right, it can be funny, but only when done in a brilliant and satirical manner that only stand-up comics like him can provide.
I’m certain that some of the co-hosts on the Dangerous Kids podcast will disagree with some of what I’m saying in this column, and that some of our fans may just wave-off my opinions as being politically correct and humorless. I’m far from being a champion for political correctness, I just want my fellow geeks to act in a more civil and measured fashion. As for me being humorless? Yeah, sure. Tell that to my Troma film collection, Suda51 game library and shelf of Garth Ennis books.