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Behind the Line: Immaturity in the Game Community

A long time ago I wrote about the immaturity of the games industry. There, I was specifically talking about the business side. We should also recognize that there’s some ingrained immaturity on the consumer side as well. I don’t mean that in the sense of “games are kids toys,” or anything like that. I mean that there is a subset of game players who are immature, even into adulthood.

In case you didn’t see, there was the story of Trainwreck, who went on a misogynist rant on his Twitch stream.

Via Kotaku:

“This used to be a god damn community of gamers, nerds, kids that got bullied, kids that got fucked with, kids that resorted to the gaming world because the real world was too fucking hard, too shitty, too lonely, too sad and depressing,” Trainwreck said in a voice that landed somewhere between a seethe and a roar. As he saw it, IRL streaming made Twitch the domain of “the same sluts that rejected us, the same sluts that chose the god damn cool kids over us. The same sluts that are coming into our community, taking the money, taking the subs, the same way they did back in the day.”

I don’t claim to know the intricacies of Twitch stream politics, but it seems to me that he resorts to unprofessional language and insults to try to dismiss other channels surpassing his. There are also questions about how Twitch handled this and how evenly they apply their rules, but that’s not really the part I want to tackle. There are two other distinct elements I want to dig into.

Power Fantasy

I don’t believe that power fantasies are inherently a bad thing. On the other hand, power fantasies make up a HUGE portion of game mechanics. What is the effect of someone being brought up on a constant stream of stories saying “you are the special,” “you are the powerful one,” “you can beat up everyone and that’s the right thing to do,” and so forth? If that becomes omnipresent, it fades into the background radiation of your life. When that happens, it starts to influence expectations. Everything becomes framed as a challenge in your heroic narrative; everything that doesn’t agree with your pre-conceived notions is wrong and evil. Of course it is, you’re you and you’re the powerful one, you’re the hero, so you need to attack the challenge.

Power fantasies can stunt maturation when they are this pervasive. It can leave someone unwilling to explore their own lines of thinking, question their motivations, or consider an alternate point of view. When challenged, the response is to lash out and attack. This is a textbook definition of immaturity.

In Trainwreck we have someone who seems to be lashing out at a perceived threat of women challenging his space. Rather than competing, he operates on the assumption that they are running with an unfair advantage by way of their gender. It sure looks like he feels empowered to use misogyny to lay blame on others.

If there is too much power fantasy in video games, do the games themselves contribute to this kind of immaturity in the players? Now keep in mind I’m not saying video games are the cause, but it is worth noting the possibility that it is a contributing factor.

Outcast Kids

Then there’s how Trainwreck tries to represent the community, framing it as a group of people rejected by the “popular’ group, and wanting to defend it from an incursion from that same popular group. The framing is that he and the community are under attack. This one is pretty straight forward:

If gamers are outcasts, then gamers know how much to be cast out sucks. The solution isn’t to try to make the new group some sort of “exclusive” group, to take power within the group to harm, reject, and cast out others.

I’m tired of seeing “nerds” turn into massive jerks. Seems to go against Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory that enduring hardship helps advance moral development, and that people don’t regress in this development.

No, games should be inclusive. Everyone is welcome. Different view points are welcome. No one is trying to destroy anything or take anything away from you.

We can all be better, so please, everyone, let’s just be better.


Kynetyk is a veteran of the games industry.  Behind the Line is to help improve understanding of what goes on in the game development process and the business behind it.  From “What’s taking this game so long to release”, to “why are there bugs”, to “Why is this free to play” or anything else, if there is a topic that you would like to see covered, please write in to or follow on twitter @kynetykknows

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