Opinion – How to be a decent human being at a con

Stranger in a strange land….now with more anime!

I’ve had the opportunity to go to a number of video game cons and I’ve noticed something each time I’ve gone.  There is always someone, be it someone with me or after the event, who feels the need to disparage the event.  To look down on those participating and criticize the proceedings.  While I am fortunate that none of my friends have engaged in this kind of behavior, others have.  It strikes me as an unnecessary attack on gamer culture and a response to ignorance or insecurity.  Gaming certainly generates its own problems, but sometimes those issues are rightly blamed on the outside.

It’s worth noting that cons are weird.  They are probably the only place where your average human being is likely to come across outlandish game characters, super specialized talks, and an openly present gaming culture that often spends its time in the shadows.  That, combined with the overwhelming sensory overload, creates an environment that seems foreign, even to the target audience.  My first couple of cons were difficult affairs and I’m technically part of the culture.  This is all to say that I understand and accept when people are put off by gaming cons.  I understand even more when they walk in at the request of a partner or family member and must make their way around this alien world without a frame of reference.  There is nothing wrong with this and I applaud someone willing to do so.  My objection is not with someone who has decided that gaming cons are not for them.

My problem is when someone comes to a con and denigrates the inhabitants.  This comes in two forms, one born of ignorance and one born of hate.  For those who attack in ignorance, they often cling to outdated stereotypes as a way to understand a world that may seem foreign or scary to them.  They express contempt as a way to distance themselves from what they’ve been told is contemptible.  I see this behavior as a holdover from gaming’s early days where it was the playground of young boys and obsessed older men.  As the source is not malice, but ignorance and fear, the response is not to attack, but to inform.  Gaming and gaming culture has taken great leaps in the past few decades and it is important that we communicate that to others.  For many, the rise of gaming is a frightening phenomenon that has grown around them, yet they only have outmoded tools to understand it.  By familiarizing people with games culture, we can make gaming cons and gaming culture a far more approachable experience.

The hatred is the sticky part.  I’ve been in the presence of someone who called female cosplayers “sluts” even as he jockeyed to get pictures with them.  This was someone who appreciated the new games, loved the costumes, yet felt the need to attack con goers for reasons I can’t fathom.  His comments, and the comments of those like him, show how gaming is not, and can not be divorced from the broader culture around it.  The notion that someone is less worthy because they put on a costume is ridiculous and the idea that you can walk into someone else’s culture and insult them without cause is odious.  If someone isn’t capable of treating everyone with respect, they should leave the con.  That applies to gamers as well as outsiders.  Cons are not a place to attack others, but rather celebrate gaming.  Take your hatred elsewhere.

A gaming con, like any con, is a gathering designed to bring people together around a common interest or goal.  The purpose of the con is the creation of a mini world where attendees can spend a few days focused on the topic of their choosing.  If someone isn’t on board with that, then they are welcome to enjoy the 99%+ part of the world that is not the con.  On the other hand, if you’re going to attend, give respect to all the people who love these events and make them happen.  They’ve invited you to be part of their culture.  Be a good guest.

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