Traveling the Multiverse

Aka Ironyca Stood in the Fire – gaming blog

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

Someone in the comments said this:

“Speaking as a SWM, I agree completely with the metaphor. I just never know what the proper play style should be.

The game is obviously an MMO—how do you play well with others? Obviously, PK and griefing are not good ideas, particularly towards people playing on tougher difficulty levels than yourself. But even collaborative play is full of hard decisions.

Should I pair with lower-level players just because they’ve got a harder road ahead of them, even though it means that I’m not going to progress as fast? Should I play less well to avoid outpacing the people around me? People at my level, but playing a harder difficulty level, are often my competition—should I defer to them, even though we’re technically the same level?

It might be that the metaphor falls apart because it treats life like a zero-sum game, but life often feels like a zero-sum game…”

– The thing is, no one can blame the people who are progressing fast, as long as they play morally (don’t grief etc). They are after all choosing the path of least resistance to them.

It’s not about making Straight White Males feel guilty, it’s about becoming aware of how the game is overall imbalanced, so that we can FIX it.

With all the play testing we’ve done throughout history, we know that this game will always need patching!


I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a…

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10 comments on “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

  1. Vaneeesa Blaylock
    May 17, 2012

    Wait, you ARE alive? Oh, yay!

    Speaking of MMO’s… Virginia Heffernan recently said that as long as you understand that Facebook is an MMORPG, you’ll do ok…

    • ironyca
      May 18, 2012

      I had a deadline yesterday, which have eaten most of my time recently. Aha, I need to L2P on Facebook then I think!

      • Vaneeesa Blaylock
        May 18, 2012

        Yes, talk about looking like crap when you judge a transmog fest on a different server – nobody wants to be PWND on The Facebook!

        Hmm… if Mark Zuckerberg is Level 85… I wonder where that puts me… and what’s the equivalent of killing a young thistle boar? making “friends” with a stranger?

        Anyway, glad to hear you are alive! And survived, I hope, your deadline! Sorry, but I have to run!!! The Horde is spam-botting my Timeline!!!

  2. Mataoka
    May 17, 2012

    I was just thinking (and hoping) you’d be back soon–I so love your writing. This article–well–thank you.

    • ironyca
      May 18, 2012

      I’m around, just wasn’t as vocal :) And thanks for your kind comment.

  3. tomeoftheancient
    May 17, 2012

    Thanks for reblogging that Ironyca, that was a wonderful post. That was the best analogy I’ve read yet and I would have missed it.

    • ironyca
      May 18, 2012

      Yeah, the original post is very straight forward, I even found myself extending the analogy to how rep earning then works and guilds etc and how disabilities might come into it.

  4. Ratshag
    May 17, 2012

    The originals article presented a most excellent metaphor, and this be a nice summary of it. Some of the comments, though …. great googly moogly, they done made me head hurt.

    As a SWM, I’s aware what I gots fer ta go through life withouts havin’ the “Easy Mode” button grayed out fer me. In no way though do it make me less proud of what I done accomplished. I just wants fer buggers ta stop throwin’ out the stupid crap what grays out that button fer others.

    • ironyca
      May 18, 2012

      Hah yeah, the 800 comments. Why I read them, I don’t know. Guess I was curious how this guy’s leadership received this post, thought it was a quite striking read as well.
      “I just wants fer buggers ta stop throwin’ out the stupid crap what grays out that button fer others.”

  5. Navimie
    May 18, 2012

    Thanks for that read! Gosh it’s been a month since you posted! Glad to see you’re still out there.

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This entry was posted on May 17, 2012 by in Opinion and Discussion and tagged , , , .


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