Gamers Have Never Been an Oppressed Minority

Evil Kirby Is Not Oppressed

Let me get something out of the way: I have never been genuinely oppressed.

That’s probably not a statement I would have agreed with when I was a teenager. See, it was the 1990s and I was into punk rock and skateboarding in a small Minnesota town. I skated around with my hot pink hair and Jnco jeans and fuck-the-world attitude, and I got picked on like crazy for it.

And I’m not saying I just got called names, though I certainly did. I was actually harassed by people who would go out of their way to hate on me because of what I was wearing and what I chose to do with my free time. People would pull their obnoxiously loud pick-up trucks off to the side of the road so they could shout “faggot!” at me at the top of their lungs. More than once did a group of guys chase me down so they could perform acts of physical violence upon my body. People were made uncomfortable by my physical appearance, and they didn’t find themselves capable of expressing that discomfort through means that didn’t involve punching me or calling me names.

And it wasn’t just kids; police officers would pick on me too. They’d pull me over for the crime of “looking suspicious.” They’d write me bunk tickets that they knew I couldn’t fight with my crazy colored hair. They’d pull me out of my car so they could search it (without a warrant, I’ll point out). One of my stepbrothers once got a full-on pat-down for the “crime” of holding a skateboard in plain sight. I once got pulled aside and interrogated about how many of my friends owned guns.

But I was never oppressed. All of the things I’ve mentioned above are forms of harassment, sure, but none of them are actual oppression. Perhaps the police examples I’ve mentioned above technically qualify, but I’m not entirely comfortable allowing those events to sit under the same umbrella as other, much more severe examples of oppression. At the end of the day, I still had my privilege. I was still able to construct myself a path through the swampland of adult life without being burdened by qualities I had no control over.

At some point, this strange idea entered the heads of a small but vocal subsection of the gaming population that gamers compose an oppressed minority group. Now, there are certainly minorities who identify as gamers; I would be a fool to deny that. And a lot of those people have faced real-life oppression over their minority status.

But oppression isn’t a typical part of “the gamer experience;” you don’t become oppressed because of your decision to play video games.

Portal GLaDOS

In fact, gamers had never even had it close to as bad as the small-town skater punks in the 1990s. And even so, the small-town skater punks weren’t actually being oppressed.

For some context, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “oppression” as such:

1.
a: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power
b: something that oppresses, especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power
2.
a sense of being weighed down in body or mind: depression

Now, I’m going to ignore that second definition for the time being and focus on the first, because I believe it is the definition that the “gamers” I mentioned above are claiming as their own. (I’ll get to the second later, though.)

Oppression is what happens when a holder of power abuses that power and acts excessively cruel toward the people he or she has power over. Gamers do not constitute their own minority that is subservient in any way to another group that is abusing that power to keep gamers beneath them.

Gamers have never had to fight for any sort of right whatsoever. Gamers have never had to fight for the right to vote, for the right to earn equal pay to that of non-gamers, for the right to walk through the airport without getting harassed by security. Why? Because gamers have never been oppressed.

Sure, the video game industry gets the raw end of the deal whenever Fox News decides to cover horrendous acts of violence committed by people who enjoy video games, but that doesn’t often trickle down to gamers as individual people. For example, even after the Red Wing massacre of 2005, in which a teenager gunned down a bunch of people at a school in a town not far from where I lived at the time, I could walk around wearing a Halo T-shirt without being harassed by police or anyone else. Major media was playing up a video the killer had made that they claimed reminded them of a video game, so there was this strange wave of anti-gamer sentiment in the media coverage, but that never trickled down to gamers as people. It was lazy, sensationalist news coverage that villainized video games. It didn’t even remotely lead to the sort of oppression that, say, Sikhs received for wearing turbans in the post-9/11 United States.

There’s also this stereotype of gamers as basement-dwelling dweebs who have terrible hygiene and are morbidly obese, but this is just a stereotype. There are people who absolutely believe this stereotype to be true without exception, but those people are simply wrong, and their wrongness has little to no effect on the lives of actual gamers.

Nerd Alert!

Maybe you want to claim Merriam-Webster‘s second definition of “oppression.” Perhaps witnessing the games industry being smeared by mass media is making you depressed. That’s fine, but that’s not the kind of oppression you can equate with injustice. If a TV news program makes you depressed, you’re a normal human being; you’re not an oppressed minority.

It’s easy — when we’re young and frustrated at the world for not seeing things exactly as we do — to equate some mild harassment with genuine oppression. The problem with this mindset, however, is that there are actual people in the world who come from backgrounds of extreme oppression, subsets of the population who were genuinely treated like animals, or who had to face jail time for simply having the wrong skin color in the wrong neighborhood. It’s an incredible disservice to these people, to the things they suffered, to compare a few anti-gamer TV spots or clickbait Internet articles with generations of terrible, horrible abuse.

If you’re attempting to make the argument that gamers are actually, legitimately, genuinely oppressed, please take a moment to think about how your arguments are actually deeply offensive to anyone who’s faced real, actual oppression. Please just stop and consider the effect your words have on others, and reflect on how this argument allows those who actually do have misconceptions about gamers to feel justified in maintaining those misconceptions.

If you want to prove to the world that gamers shouldn’t be defined by bad news coverage or silly stereotypes, then show some compassion, show some empathy for others who have suffered. Let’s show the world that gamers can be genuinely awesome human beings.

Dark Souls and Team Fortress Cosplay

About The Author

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