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Author Topic: Gay culture / Gamer culture [Social Context]  (Read 23253 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: November 19, 2002, 03:26:59 PM »

Hello,

I was wondering whether anyone wanted to discuss the parallels between closeted gay culture and gamer/role-player culture. I don't suppose those parallels are hard to perceive.

Or is it a no-brainer, without need for clarification or development?

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2002, 04:04:43 PM »

I disagree!  I can see distinct differences between the closeted gay subculture and the gamer subculture.

I was going to respond I felt it was a no-brainer, unworthy of discussion because the similarities were so apparent, but then I read your response to my post over in Social Context and something clicked for me.

The idea of boxes...the closeted gay individual doesn't (usually) reverse the boxes as does the (stereotyped) role-player.  That is, they don't (as a general rule) limit themselves to socializing and being liked solely amongst a group of other queer individuals.  They have non-queer social groups, they only refuse to reveal to these other groups their sexual orientation.

The role-player, however, DOES restrict themselves to such. The individuals we are talking about do not have non-gamer social groups, and tend to search for such in order to have any sort of socializing whatsoever.

This is worlds apart.

The only obvious, mappable similarity between the two is the fear of persecution upon revelation of their lifestyle.

If you have different understanding of the lifestyle or habits of the gay subculture, Ron, fire away. I admit my own knowledge therein may be lacking, though over my lifetime a decent portion of my closest male friends have been queer (closeted and open), so I feel I have a reasonable base to work from.

However, if we're looking at relatively socially healthy people who game in comparison to the closeted culture, then there's a better match, and I can see where you're going with this...though I don't know if comparing a lifestyle and a hobby is the best comparison because of the different social factors.

You can't really talk about gay sex to your straight friends (or your gay friends), or actual sex for that matter (unless you're a general perv); whereas role-playing, once stripped of the geek stigma, is something you can discuss with non-interested parties, like bowling or any other activity.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2002, 05:11:36 PM »

Hi Raven,

Yeah, the parallel I see is not with the stereotypical "gamer" (whom I'm afraid I'm quite cruel to in the later posts in the Social Context thread) but rather with the ... well, how does one put this, um ... well, to what Matt Snyder describes.

I was trying to figure out a way to put that without calling Matt a closeted queer. I mean, in gaming terms, about role-playing. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

OK, so I'll start over. I'm drawing a parallel between closeted gay culture and the non-stereotypically gamer person who role-plays, but somehow never treats his role-playing in conversation and other interactions the same way as other hobbies (bowling, martial arts, movie tastes, etc). Any resemblance to any specific person here on the Forge is purely coincidental.

Also, I'm not claiming any kind of complete correspondence. I do think there are parallel features that would be enlightening to discuss.

Best,
Ron
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2002, 06:17:47 PM »

Hey Ron, don’t sweat the comparison -- closeted queer and all that. I know what you’re getting at.

I simply don’t have enough experience with closeted gay culture to make any substantial comparisons. I have had many gay personal contacts (co-workers, classmates, a few friends and a relative), but not any I’d term “in the culture”.

Beyond the comparison, I think I’d just say that I’ve already ‘fessed up’ to some reasons -- both good and bad -- for my group and my hobby to remain mostly “closeted.” I’d be happy to explain more or bring up some more specifics, though.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2002, 06:37:01 PM »

I think, like you mention, that the parallels are pretty obvious.  Both have very good reasons to remain closeted are illserved by outside agendas seeking to "out" them.  Both can choose to remain closeted because the benefits of "coming out" are outweighed by the problems it causes.  

There are segments of society who will always view roleplayers with scorn.  Whether this comes from some "roleplaying is satanic" perspective, or some "why don't you just grow up and quit playing children's games" perspective, or some "jock vs geeks" perspective or whatever there are those for whom "roleplaying" is perceived as a flaw.

Some of those persons will be in a position of importance and/or authority over you:  a boss, a coworker, a client, the person reviewing your performance, parents of your significant other, whatever.  Revealing your hobby to them might be a way to convince them how wrong their preconceptions are.  It might be a way to improve the hobby's image.  Or it might just be a way to ensure you get passed over for promotion, lose the account, or create no end of turmoil in the family.

While perhaps the "dangers" of being outed as a gamer aren't as great as say the "dangers" of being outed as a gay man in the 80s there are a lot of commonalities.  Many of us are no doubt quite comfortable openly flouting our "gamerness".  Others prefer to wait until their "game-dar" signals that they're among like individuals before admitting their hobby.  Some tow the line being generally open but rigorous about avoiding letting certain people know.

In alot of ways walking into a game store is a lot like walking into a gay bar.  Some people stride right in broad daylight in a busy strip mall not careing who sees them going into "that store".  Other people I know literally will wait in their car pretending to look for something or talk on the cell until the "coast is clear" before slipping inside.

For me personally, there are groups I tell and groups I don't, and generally I try to make sure what the reception will be before I do.  Being in a business which is all about personal reputation and team play, its generally not a subject I broach with coworkers because the one person who responds badly could be really damaging and it just isn't worth the hassle to me to risk it.  For similiar reasons its something I never bring up in a job interview.  

In alot of ways admitting to being a "gamer" (like admitting to being gay) is like a game of russian roulette, and you never know which person you tell is going to be the one that goes off.  Sometimes it doesn't matter and sometimes it can.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2002, 07:25:58 PM »

Parallels?

I play roleplaying games. I don't talk about it with others that I don't know also play RPGs because, on some level, I am embarrassed by it and I'm afraid they may think less of me because of it or worse. That said, I will sometimes drop it on people like a bomb for shock value. If I don't do that, I will slying question people I think may be roleplayers (you can sort of just tell, you know, just by looking at people) to see if I can find a new play partner (as it were).

This has been my experience.
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2002, 07:32:03 PM »

I don't think its really a gamer thing. One thing I've noticed is that *any* even mildly interesting person has an unusual closet hobby that they don't talk about with others. My mom's a yogi, my dad races motercycles, my sister is an incredible belly-dancer, I'm a swordsman and a game designer (which, in my experience, is a helluva lot harder to explain that just being a gamer) and we're all Mormons. And while we're more than happy to talk about our chosen hobby and/or religion with genuinely interested parties, I think we generally avoid talking about it with people that aren't close to us and who don't know us very well. BUT if someone asks and seems to really want to know, then we'll talk their ear off.

Isn't it the same with just about everyone? Don't we all have a hobby or lifestyle choice (religion, sexual orientation, etc) that we shy away from talking about with others?

My guess is that we do, but we've been gaming longer than any of it, and so it's first in our minds.

Jake

ps. and, for the record, I've overcome my fear of discussing Mormonism, swordsmanship, and gaming *almost* entirely, but it took effort. I still don't know how to say "I spent $20,000 on a game..."

EDIT: I just realized that this may have been a better post for the Social context thread, which I haven't read. If so, sorry.
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2002, 09:01:01 PM »

Hi there,

Great responses, folks.

Jake, I think the key issues that separate the gamer thing from "another hobby," at least in terms of the comparison we're examining, are these:

1) Some negative repercussions to being perceived as a gamer are real. The most substantive case study I can think of occurred to one of our own Forge members, Raven, within the last two months, as documented on a couple of threads in the Site Discussion forum.

2) Many more negative repercussions are much more minor - and they arise as much from the "self-closeting" behavior as from the 'phobes, as it were. In other words, the problem here is behaving as if gamer/gay were the problem, in any way, by anyone.

3) The "self-closeting" behaviors I'm talking about are distinctive, compared to how one reacts to having one's odd but dignified hobby publicized. I don't know your dad, but I suspect that if someone mentions his motorcycle racing, he does not hunch his shoulders, grin sheepishly, make a self-effacing joke, or (at best) change the subject sharply. I also suspect he does not play the "neuter" game, which would be, say if he were off to race motorcycles one day when his friends invite him to do something, he says, "I'll be busy that day," consistently, as opposed to saying, "I'll be racing motorcycles that day." [The parallel is the "gender" game played by closeted gay folks, who in conversation with "unsafe" people, use neuter gender pronouns to disguise the gender of their partners.]

Anyway, now that I've gone and rudely described the behavior of a man I've never met, let me know if I've made this distinction clear. It's crucial to this thread.

Everyone, one of my key points on this thread is to state that gay people were able to gain some recognition, and most importantly legal protection from bashing, when they were able to enlist support from straight people who had voices in the power structure. A fellow closeted gay person in the power structure is all well and good, but not, in the long run or during harsh times, very effective. No, the key was to be out to people who were (a) not "accusable" in terms you would be accused of, and (b) willing to go to the wall for you.

And yet, this key begins at the internal level after all. One doesn't get that non-[X] support, at the mass level, until one is proud to be [X].

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2002, 09:02:43 PM »

Quote
Isn't it the same with just about everyone? Don't we all have a hobby or lifestyle choice (religion, sexual orientation, etc) that we shy away from talking about with others?

As Matt noted, we all restrict ourselves somewhat to particular groups based on value judgements of that group or other groups...this is typical behavior for the animal, and psychologically healthy, to a degree.

Heck, I noted this myself in regards to my wife and I...I'm a social outcast because the local culture isn't one I'm immersed in, or even remotely interested in, and they aren't immersed or interested in mine.

But the difference is...is the lack of discussion because it is a closet hobby, or is it because of a screwed up sense of social realities?  Obviously, in this thread we're talking about socially healthy people who just don't discuss their hobby with folks outside it.

Well, why not?

In this case, and given Matt's group as an example of such a group, what we're discussing here is Poker Night.

My father and his friends do this and have done so as long as I can recall; basically, you and your buddies get together to play cards (poker) and BS for a couple hours.  These groups are always made up of long-time friends and rarely change much.  They aren't so much focused on the game as a game but on the game as a social activity. Poker Night isn't something you generally discuss with the outside world because...well, why WOULD you? It's Poker Night.

Matt, consider this, what would you do if your buddy John brought his new buddy Fred to your game one night, with the intent/hope of having Fred join your group long-term?

I'll bet that Fred is going to feel like the odd man out...that is, unless he's been exposed to your group of friends in other less intimate activities (public activities: bowling, dinner, movies, etc) where the main component is socializing within the context of another activity; or the situation is that you've all agreed beforehand with John that its OK to bring Fred with.

This is why I think the gay subculture/gamer subculture comparison is odd on one level...you don't bring Fred to the gay bar with the intent/hoping he'll become gay and thus join your subculture. You do bring Fred with to Poker Night with the intent/hoping he'll become one of your Poker Night circle.

Looking at it this way, it seems when you treat RPing like a "lifestyle" rather than a "Poker Night" you often end up with the screwed up social context...which doesn't happen when you have a lifestyle that is actually non-inclusive (ie: queerness; religion).

It's the diffrence between doing something together and being something together.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2002, 10:28:42 PM »

Quote from: greyorm
Looking at it this way, it seems when you treat RPing like a "lifestyle" rather than a "Poker Night" you often end up with the screwed up social context...which doesn't happen when you have a lifestyle that is actually non-inclusive (ie: queerness; religion).

It's the diffrence between doing something together and being something together.


Raven is - as usual - on the mark here. The fact that role-playing is considered a lifestyle by many of its participants is one of the major factors in its dysfunction.

However - I'll tie this back in with Ron's point - this does not only come from the role-player. Role-playing is considered a lifestyle by the "mundanes," in many cases. The perception of that lifestyle ranges from smelly and weird to satanist, depending on the local environment. And that is exactly where the connection with gay subculture comes in - the average gamer is perceived as a part of a whole that may not typify him in any way, just as a gay person can be perceived to be part of a (stereotyped) culture that he may not actually represent.

I've told my story (find a humorous take on it here), but I'd be especially interested in your responses to the following questions:
* Does your family know you role-play?
* Do they publicly acknowledge it?
* If they found out that you were gay, would their reactions be different?

I will note that the answers to these will differ greatly by local culture.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2002, 10:58:05 PM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon

I've told my story (find a humorous take on it here), but I'd be especially interested in your responses to the following questions:
* Does your family know you role-play?
* Do they publicly acknowledge it?
* If they found out that you were gay, would their reactions be different?

I will note that the answers to these will differ greatly by local culture.


well, I don't think this will be helpful to the conversation, but yes, my family knows about my roleplaying. as for "acknowledging" it... maybe there's one of those local culture differences at work, here, because that sounds to me like asking "does your family acknowledge that you watch tennis?"

it's just not the sort of thing that comes up naturally in conversation, unless a family member is introducing you to someone whom they know is also a roleplayer or connected to gaming in some way. at my sister's first wedding, she mentioned to one of her bridesmaids that I game, because apparently the bridesmaid's boyfriend was a game designer.

it's not that I live in a city where roleplaying is a part of the community (I'm sure there are anti-rpg factions locally.) it's just a game.
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John Laviolette
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« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2002, 08:02:41 AM »

Ron,

You might find a better comparison between 'closeted roleplayers' and transvestites. Some parallels:

If anyone knows who's 'outwith' the subculture, it's a spouse or partner.

There are events every few months where those within the subculture can meet and 'dress up' in relative privacy - those allowed are 'in costume', or spouses and partners.

There's a tendency for the shops that cater to the 'subculture' to be buried away in the dingier parts of town, though the staff tend to be entirely understanding and members of the subculture themselves.

There's a tendency for the products to be overpriced because the market [and therefore the competition] is so small.

There's a fear of being found out because there's still a real social stigma involved in pretending to be someone else.

When it is portrayed in the media, it's almost invariably a caricature that badly misunderstands the thoughts and behaviours of those within the subculture.

On occasion, it is well portrayed by the media, usually through a band-member or a film-star mentioning something appropriate, and the relevant fan clubs will often provide a good starting point for acquiring more information.

There are magazines devoted to the subculture, but they tend to be expensive, though there are large and active internet communities, most of which date back to the earliest BBSs.

[Note that this applies equally well to parts of the fetish scene, but not, really, to the gay scene anymore.]
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2002, 08:26:58 AM »

Hi John,

Yeah, my first parallel model was going to be the fetish scene. I was thinking about the kind of feverish privacy (both social and activity-based) that such individuals apparently practice, as well as the literal fetish objects themselves, which seem more or less similar to the dice, the miniatures (back when), and screens, etc, etc. I still think one or two details do show some parallels.

Actually, it's the modern gay culture, especially of men, that I'm thinking of now, rather than the near-separatist or wholly-covert culture of the 50s and 60s, or the pride vs. bashing-phase of the 70s and 80s. I'm thinking of men who are employed in career-based jobs (as opposed to marginal, temporary ones), who like and know plenty of straight people, and who respect themselves and their sexual partners as people. These guys have a lot of hard choices to make regarding disclosure that I don't envy.

I recognize that I'm grossly oversimplifying, and perhaps I'm presuming quite a lot, as a straight guy who "thinks he knows something" about the topic. I'd welcome someone closer to the culture to correct my dates or concepts.

Best,
Ron
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erithromycin
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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2002, 08:46:11 AM »

I'd say that the parallels with the fetish scene are closer to those within the gay scene, because the fetish scene is one that can be analysed as sub-groups with more complex differentiation within the scene than the rather broad gay/straight thing you seem to be getting at. As they say over on the newsgroups "Your Kink's OK, It's Just Not My Kink". Perhaps more mature than "D&D SUXXORZ!!!!111!!", but there you go. You can draw functional parallels between, say, those who have one specific fetish [game?] and those who move between them or try and integrate them [genre crossover?]. There's also, as you said, the focus on paraphenalia, but I do think there's something in the difference between play [because that's what it's called in each sense] in the clubs [almost random encounters] and in people's "personal lives" [with people they consider friends if not partners].

Your near-seperatist/wholly-covert culture really starts in the Victorian era, when morality laws started to enter the legislative calendar. The bashing starts in the mid-60s, really, almost as a spillover of institionalised racism. You've got Pride before Stonewall [about 78? I forget] but that was the major date. Of course, there's one thing you're ignoring, which is the fact that a huge number of people died in the early eighties due to AIDS, a factor that may [to trivialise it] damage your attempts to follow it as a model. The specter of a 'Roleplaying Disease' isn't one that we've got, unless you count, say, 'Satanism', but it's an external hysteria thing rather than an internal situation. The disclosure things influenced by a number of things, but AIDS remains the primary one, at least from the few closeted people I've talked to. That, of course, and the opprobrium of families, and the sense that being gay is 'against God's plan' or otherwise 'unnatural'.

[Side-note: I get what you're trying to say about "treating sexual partners as people thing" but you really need to find a better way to phrase it - I think what you're looking at is the movement away from the bath-houses [conventions?] to long-term relationships [campaigns?] that came about in the mid-80s, again largely due to AIDS. The gay scene's still got an awful lot of casual encounters, but I'm not sure that that distinction fits within what you're attempting to say.]

Oh, and I'm Drew, but I'm far more famous as "erith".

[edited to cure the dreaded Hangin' Tag]
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2002, 09:37:02 AM »

Dammit, I even said "Drew" in my mind, then I typed "John" because I was thinking of a post to Talysman too. Rrr.

Thanks for the points on the parallels and clarifications. I definitely agree with you that the AIDS issue does not have a direct correspondent; as I said earlier, I'm making no claims about 1:1 total parallel, just instances and details that might be illuminating or helpful.

Both your points and some earlier ones, notably Ralph's, lead to some topics I was hoping to get to.

1) The issue of internalized homophobia. Taking it to role-playing (and looking for no more direct correspondence than what I'm about to describe), role-players, in my view, expect more censure, significant snap judgment, and disapproval than I think really exists among the non-role-players.

This is not to say that crises don't exist - they do. Raven's recent experience matters. But I also think these instances are readily identifiable, and with the proper approach, can be addressed effectively (in the future).

However, rather than the flare-up, individualized crises, I'd like to turn our attention to these phenomena: (a) perceiving the "outside/majority" view as uniformly unsympathetic or negatively judgmental, (b) cloistering and isolating the behaviors to avoid the "straights' inevitable pogrom," and, this is a biggie, (c) actually coming to believe, internally, that one's own behavior/identity is a wrong and warped thing.

[Please note that I include no judgments regarding homosexuality per se in this post. If you think it's a wonderful expressive blessed thing, or a wrong and warped thing, keep it to yourselves, right? So far, so good.]

Let's focus on all three, (a) through (c). Earlier on this thread, and I repeat it to emphasize it, I wrote:
Everyone, one of my key points on this thread is to state that gay people were able to gain some recognition, and most importantly legal protection from bashing, when they were able to enlist support from straight people who had voices in the power structure. A fellow closeted gay person in the power structure is all well and good, but not, in the long run or during harsh times, very effective. No, the key was to be out to people who were (a) not "accusable" in terms you would be accused of, and (b) willing to go to the wall for you.

And yet, this key begins at the internal level after all. One doesn't get that non-[X] support, at the mass level, until one is proud to be [X].


I consider this issue to relate directly to the "self-isolating behaviors" that I'm asking about in the original Social Context thread. It strikes me that a number of people have diverse social contexts, but in most cases, they practice some isolating behaviors relative to non-role-players. And as I described to Jake in this thread, I'm not talking about plain old "don't bug people who aren't interested about my hobby," but rather, distinctive and self-subordinating modes of action and speech.

Any thoughts on that connection?

Best,
Ron
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