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Behind the Line: Depression, and “The Mold”

Depression is a very serious topic, and not one that should be dismissed, and yet some do. Before diving in, I should point out that not long ago I wrote about the hubbub at Google:

Behind the Line: Google, and “The Mold”

This wasn’t something I intended to revisit, but my point about “The Mold” from that article applies to this discussion.

 

Depression vs Kickboxers

I came across another little storm on twitter when I was introduced to Andrew Tate via this tweet:

He goes on to conflate clinical and non-clinical depression. Essentially saying that anyone who is “depressed” must be the minor, non-clinical type, and are therefore just feeling sorry for themselves. This is abjectly false, and MANY people have jumped onto this to point this out, including J.K. Rowling and Patton Oswalt.

The Catch and The Mold

There’s a catch, though, and this is where “The Mold” comes in. There were many messages that agreed with Andrew Tate as well. He commented thusly:

His expectation is that depression isn’t real, those who experience it are complainers, and there are others out there who agree and have re-enforced his world view. They have their own “mold” that does not accept major, clinical depression as legitimate. This is what’s very scary about social media, people can self-select to associate with people who’s “mold” is in line with their own. This will strengthen their rejection for those outside of it. When this happens it does not matter how damaging it may be to others, because those others are wrong, or broken, or malfunctional.

Challenging your own point of view, your own “mold” is the only way to validate it and try to make it better. If you self-select to an idological echo chamber, you wind up with what Lorenzo referred to on BTL Radio: “A non-stop gravy train of confirmation bias.” This is why I have encouraged people to try to reach outside of their comfort.

Alex St. John, Again!?

I only mention him again because he’s a pertinent example for this topic. He has a view of how a software engineer should behave, what their priorities are, and what motivates them. He clearly has a very strong “mold” that he believes applies to engineers. Not only that, but he has a view of the role of women in tech, that they are better suited to roles in customer support, and more social areas. I’m not diving into that again, but I mention it because this is an example of the circular nature of “the mold”.

There is a general sensation in society that women are better suited to these types of roles that deal with other people directly. I’m not arguing the validity of that sensation, but rather pointing out that it can cause someone to overlook the individual. A Customer Support position is open, who do you think should fill that role? If you have a choice between a man and a woman, and then catch yourself thinking it should be a woman, because they are friendlier, that could be that sensation in society influencing you. Can you think of any other difference, or just that perception. If it’s just that perception, we are back to “the mold”. This is how these societal expectations can morph into sexism. In this case, a woman is pressured away from technical she wants. It’s not much further to thinking she isn’t as qualified for that technical work.

To be clear, this example includes some logical jumps, and I’m not saying that this applies to everyone. This is just trying to explore the subtle effect of “the mold” and how far it can reach.

If you don’t fit, you’re gonna have a bad time…

How does this apply to Video Games?

Recently, PewDiePie kicked up a storm by dropping an N-bomb on a stream. Just like with Andrew Tate, this has been talked about a ton, so I’m not talking about the event itself. Instead, this is another example of the effect of “the mold”. There are those who say that racism and sexism are just a part of the gaming community. I will not forget Aris’s views on Sexual Harassment in the fighting game community:

Rea: Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?

Bakhtanians: You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community–it’s StarCraft. There’s nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there’s nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There’s eSports for people who like eSports, and there’s fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There’s no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?

If sexual harassment is considered synonymous with the community, members of the community may feel pressured to adopt sexist views. That’s “the mold” at work again, pressuring people to meet expectations. There’s a similar affect with racism. If dropping N-bombs is seen as acceptable, it can remove very important context from the term. Then, if it comes out in “a heated moment,” people who are still aware of the context of the term will associate all of that baggage with you.

I’m not saying PewDiePie is a racist, or that he isn’t. I don’t know the man from Adam. What I do see here is the ability of video games, and the culture that surrounds them, to cross borders. I see the tremendous impact that this can have for good or ill. I see another case of a personality not managing their public image thoughtfully in that moment. (I know he followed up with an apology, and I haven’t seen it yet. Again, that’s not really the point here.)

Racism, or at least the use of racist slurs, was seen as so acceptable in the gaming community that PewDiePie associated with, that he considered this acceptable behavior. I don’t know if he was exposed to the term in his childhood in Sweden, or brought up with an awareness of the hatefulness of the term, but he absorbed the term itself, and perpetuated it in the community. Some portion of the audience will feel emboldened to use the term more, others will feel emboldened to hate more, and others will feel hated and marginalized more. None of that is good.

This has all been negative, but “the mold” can be positive as well, but it’s up to us all to make it that way.

 


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 kynetyk@enthusiacs.com or follow on twitter @kynetykknows

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