Wednesday, April 06, 2005
While vanity-surfing through some old posts from another weblog, I ran across the entry below. Since it touches on some hot-button game issues, and since it's a cheap way to keep my post count up, I thought I'd cross-post it here. I still feel the same way now that I'm in SL. People should be treated with respect, as unique individuals, with worth and complexity beyond the surface trappings. But, given the appearances some people freely choose in world... Well, right or wrong, sometimes it's hard to muster that respect.
It goes without saying (at least I hope it does) that I don't advocate harassment in any form, even against those who seem to be "asking for it." But in a virtual world like SL, where your appearance is 100% up to you, you need to understand that the face you show isn't solely a personal aesthetic choice. It's a complex visual statement of precisely how you wish to be perceived.
I have no answers or particularly deep insights here. But the whole issue is food for thought, anyway.
My Sidekick, November 2, 2004
Today, I saved a fellow superhero from a hoard of Hellion thugs in the Hollows. Or, rather, Jackrabbit (my City of Heroes alter ego) did. She had gotten herself in over her head and, after politely asking if she wanted assistance, I jumped in and routed the gangsters. I do that kind of thing a couple times a night, and I actually kind of enjoy it. Superhero for the superheroes, that's me.
She thanked me for my assistance, and I ended up adopting her as my sidekick for a couple of hours. The sidekick system allows characters of disparate levels to partner up, by boosting the effective level of the sidekick when he is in the vicinity (within about 200 feet) of his mentor. I think this is a nice touch, and well in keeping with the whole Golden Age comic book mythos. Before he got all uppity and decided to change is name to Nightwing or some such, Robin was only so-so by himself. However, fighting at Batman's side, he was a formidable foe. Similar examples can be found throughout comicdom.
But I digress. Frequently. My sidekick and I wandered the Hollows (a small suburb that was destroyed by a massive cave-in, engineered by the subterranean Trollkins) and did our part to take back the streets for the decent folk of Cherry Hill Estates. During the downtimes, we chatted a bit. We are both relatively new to the game (these being our first characters), and are cautiously optimistic about its potential. She established that her real-life gender matched her character. (This is not always the case, not that it really matters. CoH is very enlightened in this regard. The females punch, blast, and slam just as hard as the males.) She mentioned how her boyfriend recently introduced her to the game, as consolation for her MMORPG widow status.
I made reference to my previous experience playing EQ, and how people's behavior in this relatively new game was so much different from the established rules of etiquette and procedure that arose in the venerable old RPG. People kill-steal right and left, and have no qualms about dragging thirty additional aggressive foes through a pitched battle, just because it's 50 yards closer that way. Those kind of stunts would get you shunned in the comparatively civilized world of EQ, where most competent players have realized that basic manners and good sportsmanship are survival traits. (This earned me the virtual equivalent to a blank look, as usual. But I have the slim hope that, if I preach long enough, to enough people, civility will catch on in CoH. As my grandma used to say, if you run 'em under the water enough times, they're bound to get wet.) Basically, just the normal chitchat.
But one comment kind of stuck in my mind. She mentioned that, as a female who played a female character, she hated the way she was treated by other players. My sidekick told me how most of the male players she met (with the notable exception of yours truly, thank you very much) spent all of their time making lewd comments, asking for cyber sex, and just generally harassing her. I agreed that this was indeed unfortunate, then quickly changed the subject by leaping in to save a helpless old woman from a band of Outcasts.
My sidekick's name? Orgasmia. Her costume? Flesh-colored, skin-tight briefs and top (about as close to naked as you can get in this game), and a pair of black leather boots with stiletto heels.
I know we're all taught not to blame the victim, and that a woman has every right to expect not to be sexually harassed, no matter the circumstances. And I completely agree with all that. There are rules to civilized behavior, and to being a gentleman.
However, there is also such a thing as personal responsibility. No, the Fratboy Defense ("She was asking for it!") doesn't cut any ice here, nor should it. And even putting aside the common rules of decency and RL law for a moment, the EULA prohibits such treatment of other players. But, honestly, what did she expect? When you tailor your entire online persona to elicit crude lust (inasmuch as this is possible with real-time rendering, shading, and... ahem... bump mapping), you really can't be too surprised when unwanted lascivious comments are sent in your direction. It's unfortunate to see someone's faith in a society's protections betrayed, but I just can't muster much sympathy for the naked woman in the black leather boots.
This probably makes me a male chauvinist pig. I guess I'll just have to live with that.