Photograph via Laura Rauch/AP

Bye Bye Banter: How Social Justice Censors Gaming

Censorship of trash talk is hurting video games as soft gamers run crying to mommy for help instead of standing up for themselves and dealing with banter like full-grown adults.

Social justice has made its mark in the video game community, and professional gaming has become adversely affected by censorious, and humorless rules and regulations that prohibit players from making any sort of gestures or remarks that might conceivably be “offensive” in any way. And social justice warriors–soft, casual gamers who want easy victories and Platinum Trophies handed to them on a silver platter–are behind it.

The Overwatch League, which is operated by the game’s developer Activision-Blizzard, has implemented a series of social justice-oriented guidelines that have effectively neutered any sort of “toxic player behavior” in the name of professionalism.

In March, both Blizzard and Valve banned Pepe the Frog in their ongoing war against “toxicity” and what is without a doubt an attack on conservative Internet culture. A professional gamer was even forced to apologize for wishing his friend a happy birthday using the cartoon mascot on social media. Such is the reach of these regulations.  

This week, a professional Overwatch team suspended one of its players, Josh Corona, and fined him for $2,000 for squinting his eyes and saying, “I’m from Korea.” The team, Philadelphia Fusion, made him donate $3,000 to the Anti-Defamation League and matched his donation—as well as his fine—to give the group $10,000.

It’s beyond my understanding why the ADL should receive money on behalf of offended Koreans—not that anyone even complained, given that Korean gamers banter as much as anybody else in gaming.

Ian Miles Cheong on Twitter

An Overwatch player was fined for squinting his eyes and saying “I’m from Korea!” so his team temporarily suspended him and is donating $10,000 to the ADL in response. Social justice is totally not a protection racket at all! https://t.co/Wg0RIOMCJh

As I noted on Twitter, social justice is a protection racket that capitalizes on imagined slights and offenses that offend only the most brittle snowflakes who run around with K-pop avatars and care too much about what others think about their obsession with the East Asian nation.

His donation will help no one in Korea, nor will it serve to diminish any sort of real offenses other gamers might have towards Koreans. If anything, it might make some people become even more “toxic” toward Koreans as a knee-jerk response, perhaps not realizing that Korean gamers had nothing to do with the Overwatch team’s treatment of its player, who did absolutely nothing wrong.

Unfortunately, the penalty Corona received was widely celebrated on Twitter, with many calling it “just.” One poster noted that the “kid has to grow up someday,” implying that speech should result in a harsh sentence whenever someone is potentially offended.

Is that really the kind of world we want to live in? A place where everyone’s too afraid to make a joke—much less speak their mind and express their inalienable right to free speech?

It doesn’t help that comics like the once-clever XKCD publish “public service announcements” stating that “the 1st amendment doesn’t shield you from criticism or consequences” including boycotts, deplatforming, bans, and in the case of Overwatch, an actual fine. And in the case of Scottish comedian Mark Meechan, jokes can now lead to a prison sentence.

The enemies of free speech claim that it’s not censorship until the government steps in, but as the recent case of Scottish comedian Count Dankula shows, jokes can now lead to a prison sentence—a verdict supported by the same people who disingenuously claim that they aren’t treading on your freedom.

The slippery slope isn’t a fallacy, it’s an empirical truth.

Competitive video games undoubtedly breed an aggressive atmosphere not unknown to professional sports like football, basketball and soccer—but this sort of behavior is, arguably, part and parcel of the experience. Where’s the fun in a game where you can’t taunt your opponent for losing, or better yet—taunt them into losing? After all, some of the greatest moments in sports occur when two opponents make fun of each other before entering the ring.

Had there been a code of conduct preventing “toxic behavior” in boxing, Muhammad Ali would’ve never been allowed to rope-a-dope his opponents, and we’d never have gems like the ones Mike Tyson’s provided us throughout his career.

Mike Tyson abusing Lennox Lewis

Uploaded by IndianMikeTyson on 2009-05-21.

As one YouTube commenter notes, “Only Mike Tyson can threaten to give a man a rim job and sound absolutely terrifying at the same time.”

Granted, Tyson lost the 2002 fight to Lennox Lewis, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the greatest trash-talk sequences to ever grace the sport. Furthermore, it didn’t stop Lewis from putting Iron Mike in his place by making him eat his words.

In other words, he handled it like an adult instead of crying about it.

Photograph via Laura Rauch/AP

You can reach out to Ian on Twitter at @stillgray, check out his videos on YouTube, and follow his political and gaming livestreams on Twitch.

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