Monday, March 12, 2012

On Video Games and Censorship

If you indulge me with this one final post on the matter, I shall retire my near endless series on posts about word choice. I think you’ll see I’m taking this in a novel direction, and hopefully I can get some feedback from people who can either confirm or deny some of these ideas (where the gamers at?).

I used to play video games all the time. I still do, but I used to, as well.
[RIP Mitch Hedberg]

What I don’t do anymore is play online multiplayer games, for a few reasons. Without going too in-depth, since this isn’t really important, I don’t think it’s right for me to play expensive, time-consuming games while I’m unemployed. I’m more into simple, classic games now (i.e. free games or games I already own).

But there’s a strange phenomena within the online gaming community that always confused and irritated me: censorship.

Most online games allow for chat between players, and as you might guess, in a world where people experience frustration and are completely anonymous, a lot of incredibly horrible things get typed out for others to read. That always struck me… because it’s one thing to shout “Fuck!” at the moment of defeat, but it’s another entirely to hit Enter, type “Fuck,” then hit Enter again. It seems stupid to me, but it happens constantly.

And “Fuck” is about the kindest thing you can expect to find. That’s what Mormons who lose might type (that comment is based on a true story). You can generally expect some random stream of the following words all mushed together in a seemingly incoherent epithet: nigger, cunt, bitch, fag, faggot, pussy, twat, retard… you get the idea.

And those are just expletives. People casually throw around words like “rape” and “gangbang,” perhaps in a way most people would find offensive, but which has no such negative connotation in the game. People willingly even use the terms in reference to themselves: “Holy fucking shit, that nigger just jumped out of nowhere and raped me,” or “those cunts just gangbanged our whole guild.” Here’s an instance where I would rather have been the nigger or the cunt.

As you might imagine, this offends people, and when people get offended, they often get very bitchy. So, they bitch to the company who runs the game, and the company either tells them to fuck off or they put in a word filter that censors out naughty language.

And it never works. [A third option, which does “work,” but is grossly unfair because of the selective application of such rules, is to suspend or ban players who break certain ambiguous, undefined guidelines.]

A few things happen. First, people start typing the words using alternate letters or symbols. Sure, you can’t call someone a “cunt,” but you can call them a (unt, [unt, kunt… or any of a number of other permutations using 1337 5P34|< (leet speak, a generally well understood alternate alphabet using numbers and symbols). People find different typed characters that allow them to get around the filter to say what they wanted to say in the first place.

“Retard” can be written out as just “r-tard,” since any retard can fill in the blank. This is actually particularly damning, because a whole new set of insults arise from people using this system. There are people now who actually say out loud,  in real life, “r-tard,” pronouncing the letter “r” and then saying “tard.” Talk about retarded. You also have “!” able to fill in any “i,” so you see n!gger and b!tch. It’s common to see f@g and @ss. It’s just not difficult to get around filters.

Then you have folks like me. I always prided myself on coming up with creative insults, usually aimed more at making people laugh at my expression of frustration than at actually insulting them (though plenty of them were insulting if taken seriously, they were so over the top, they were mostly just amusing). Unfortunately, none come to mind… oh wait, I remember one in particular that I used for quite a while as a sort of go-to insult: cum-gargling assclown (azzclown if “ass” was filtered).

So, enough mindless insults… what’s the point of me bringing this up?

Even if you flat out ban the use of certain words, people still find ways to be offensive. If anything, word filters in video games have hyper-charged the evolutionary process of insults. I think George Carlin would have had a joygasm is he had been a video game player, because the level of creative filth flying around the chat logs of online gamers is – for lack of a better word – epic.

In fact, one thing I learned is that I think you can be more offensive not using dirty words than by relying on dirty words alone. Calling a black person a “nigger” is offensive, and I think everyone reading my blog can agree you not only shouldn’t do it, but you look like a racist piece of shit if you do. Is that as offensive as questioning someone’s species? Is that as bad as being blamed for AIDS? Is it as awful as taking what are truly tragic statistics about the real difficulties faced by black people and using them to belittle an entire race of people?

Which would you rather be called? A nigger, or AIDS-ridden monkey jailfodder? Yes, the correct answer is, “neither,” but if you had to choose…

Calling someone a word that is offensive is a shortcut to offending them, but it’s also a slightly sterilized euphemism. We can all acknowledge such terms are boring and lazy, but should we be encouraging people to get creative when it comes to insulting others? I kind of like the quaint feel of a single word, because it can never mean something more offensive than the mind of the one who hears or reads it. There’s an almost limiting-factor to traditional insults, one ignored by people who think such words are the worst of the worst (I assume such people are boring and unimaginative).

In my experience, I have insulted a lot of people. I mean… I’ve insulted more people than I’ve met. That is not easy to do. From that, I’ve found one thing in particular to be true: anyone can handle being called a name, but many people can’t handle a finely tuned insult based on a truth which applies to them, even if it lacks any word that would be bleeped on daytime television.

In fact, you can offend people to no end without ever using profanity. If your goal is to piss people off, you don’t need to use one dirty word. I’m not saying you shouldn’t… in fact, I think you should use foul language, because using a word like “fuck” early is like putting up a big flag saying, “If you offend easily, this is not for you.” I do use such language when I know what I say might offend someone because I want people to know they should have their guard up before I swing (I’m not one to sucker punch).

Personally, my goal isn’t to insult people, but I love saying things that are true and which I can’t find said elsewhere. There are just certain things I know other people have noticed too, but perhaps they were just too big of a pussy to say something before. And that’s cool, I want to share that moment with you, and I’m happy to take the heat if anyone with sand in their vagina happens to come across it and think they need to give me a piece of their mind. I can handle whatever piece they give me, and if they hand over the whole thing, I’m happy to have been the reason they lost their mind that day.

It’s not that I enjoy pissing people off, it’s that I know when people get pissed off at something I say, it’s because I struck a nerve. People react to lies and mistakes in a completely different fashion than to how they react to some fact they don’t want to confront. When people throw a hissy fit over something, it’s because there’s a nugget of truth there. This isn’t to say everything that people get upset about is completely true, but I also know that if it was completely untrue, it would have been largely ignored.

Nothing confirms a theory quite like having someone it applies to calling you names while ignoring the message. Again, it’s not that I like pissing people off, it just so happens that I like finding out the truth, and the truth pisses people off.


  1. Like charity, cencorship should begin at home. But, unlike charity, censorship should stay there.
    If one finds offense in the language of online gaming, he should refrain from online gaming.

    As far as general language goes, I find the word "Fuck" to be highly usefull !

    1. I'm more of a "shit" man myself. And no, the link is not disgusting (I can only imagine what one might think it leads to...).

    2. Used together, they can be very powerful.
      "Get your shit the fuck outta here!" See?

      I may someday disgust someone here. But, I assure you, it will be merely coincidental...or not.


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