We’re back with our “thinking about thinking” series! If you’re interested in our previous deep thoughts, check out the Metacognition series. Join us for some deep thoughts (and maybe the occasional not-so-deep thought) about gaming. If you find one you’d like to answer, you can either comment below or write a post and share the link so we can all read your fantastic thoughts!
What is something about the gaming community that you feel strongly about?
“Tolerance” is a word that gets thrown around quite a lot, and seems to be mentioned more nowadays, particularly in the gaming community: we must tolerate the surge of “casual gamers,” tolerate the gamers that are not like us, and tolerate more diverse casts and characters in our games. Tolerate it. Go on. Tolerance is good for you.
Except maybe it’s not.
As you know, I’m a fan of words. The right word can convey a concept much more clearly than a dozen loosely related words. And the wrong word – or the wrong word with a good intention, in this case – can be harmful.
You guessed it. Tolerance is one of those words.
But Athena, I hear you type. You’re the one always going on about representation in games all the time!
“Tolerance” is defined as a willingness to tolerate opinions and behaviors you don’t agree with. “Tolerate,” meanwhile, is defined as allowing the existence or occurrence or practice of something you don’t like or agree with, without interfering. This doesn’t seem so bad, does it? A tolerant person is allowing a person different from them to exist. How very kind of them to allow that person to exist.
When taken as part of a larger whole, tolerance usually implies confining certain aspects of a person/society to certain places in that society. We tolerate a rude dinner guest, because we must only deal with him/her until she leaves for the evening. We tolerate differing political views as long as they don’t stomp on our feelings too badly.
Contrast this with acceptance, or when one recognizes the (often uncomfortable) state of things or condition, and does not attempt to change or protest it. Acceptance is a much less judgmental state of being: seeing the state of things, nodding, making peace with it, and moving on. Live and let live, acceptance says.
Socially, “tolerating” often means that the person(s) tolerated are confined to a certain place in the society. Minorities might be “tolerated,” but not welcomed into the fold, after all. Just take a peek at the low-income housing in any affluent (read: predominantly white) neighborhood. They’re never really in the nicer, more convenient part of town, is it? But they’re tolerated. Tolerance has a certain (perhaps unintended) negative connotation to it: you tolerate the things you are not okay with.
Ideally, we should not tolerate each other. We should accept each other.
Gaming Our Systems
So where do video games fit in to all of this? As we’ve talked about before, video games can act as a mirror for ourselves, and also for our realities. With that in mind, I’m going to contrast two incidents in Chrono Trigger. Imps an humans are enemies at the beginning of the game, and upon visiting the imp city Medina, Crono and his friends find a less-than-warm welcome. They are allowed to go about their business, but the imps are very clear they wouldn’t prefer the humans to not be there. Their presence is merely tolerated; they are a short-term annoyance that is allowed to conduct their business and leave to go back to their homes.
Meanwhile, Crono and his friends accidentally tumble into the house of a few imps, who, after being initially surprised, welcome the motley crew into their home, saying they have let bygones be bygones, and even offering Crono and his pals food.
While I imagine they must be tolerant of Crono bursting into their house (on multiple occasions), from all the information available it seems that these imps accept Crono and his friends: they see the human/imp conflict as something that happened and was resolved long ago, acknowledge the state of things now, and move on without judging or trying to change the thing that might otherwise make them uncomfortable.
To a lesser extent, we can take a game like Skyrim. I’m playing as a khajiit, which is a humanoid-cat creature who, as far as I can tell, are slightly more physically adept than the average human. Unless I’ve missed something in the lore, they are just that: bipedal cats who look sort of like humans and have the same basic needs and perform the same basic functions as anyone else.
My particular khajiit, Ra’zirr, has been accepted as the Dragonborn. It is something outside of his control, but no one questions him, no one asks him to prove he can Fus-Ro-Dah with the best of them. No one tells him to keep his shouting powers down.
However, poor Ra’zirr is only tolerated as a khajiit. He will have just returned from triumphantly battling a dragon, only to be told that he’s being watched, or to move along, and always end with him being referred to as a “cat.” It gives the game the distinct feeling that Ra’zirr’s presence is merely tolerated, as most would prefer he go back to wherever he came from and stop bothering the nice, quiet, Nord town.
There are not many instances for us as player to truly have the tolerance/acceptance ideas shown to us in a way that make us the one being the tolerant vs. accepting one, so unfortunately we are only ever able to see this comparison in action, and even then, it is such a subtle difference that it’s easy to miss. But it’s an important difference. Tolerance is the bare minimum of how we should treat other people, like the imps allowing the humans to pass through unscathed. What we should strive for is acceptance.
This is something that, while not such an important detail in games, is of paramount importance in the community. Gaming is quickly becoming (or perhaps it has already become) a diversified hobby, with people of all genders, races, orientations, play styles, and tastes taking to this electronic media in their spare time.
So the question before all of us now is, Do we tolerate the tablet gamers? the folks who play games on “easy”? the people who look or play differently than we do? Do we merely allow them to exist within our space because we are told to do so, the same way some bemoan how they are forced to tolerate diversity in a BioWare game?
Or do we look at the world around us, realize it has changed, and willingly accept all gamers into the fold?
What about you? Do you think tolerance and acceptance are different concepts? Have you played a game that contrasted the two (or only had one)? What would you say to those who merely tolerate gamers different from them? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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