Gamer terms, Penny Arcade, and Bulletstorm

I was directed to this old piece by a reader today in the Boston Phoenix. It’s pretty long, but a very clear, level read on the Dickwolves debacle that went down over at Penny Arcade several months back.

After reading through it, I was reminded of another controversy in Bulletstorm, with its blatantly sexually suggestive names for combo moves. Near the end of the Phoenix article is talk about the word “rape” as used by gamers, which caused me to pause and think about how I, too, use the term. The journalist, Maddy Myers, asked a pertinent question on whether we should be using such a term.

“We got raped by that boss” “I managed to sneak up on the mage and wtfpwned and raped his face” and other such sentences are common occurrences in games – Not just MMO’s but FPS’es, RTS’es, heck, any game for that matter. One would be hard pressed to disagree that this is a common term in the lexicon of a gamer, much as words such as “moeru” (Burning passion) or “bishounen” (Pretty boy) creeps into the lexicons of anime fans.

As an Asian gamer and journalist, it never crossed my mind about that term, and now I’m looking at other terms too. China farmer, for instance. Sure, it really does imply that the person grinding mobs is being a farmer, and we know that a good chunk of people who are in-game bot farmers do actually come from China. But is it necessarily ok to use the term as such? Everyone knows to mock a non-English speaker playing the game with “ni hao” (How are you in Mandarin) but is it ok to be doing so really? The answer when we think of it is, clearly, “No.”

But we still do it, because we’ve become immune and inured to using such terms.

Often, we are concerned with the way people who don’t really understand gaming claim that gaming increases violence and other bad things. At the same time however, perhaps our growing usage of it might point to a greater tolerance to what we consider is “ok”. That’s a slippery slope, and one I think really bears more thought in a later post.


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