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OPINION: IShowSpeed and why misogyny is fun

08:37 PM April 09, 2022

It’s an unsurprising premise: a gamer is toxic on the internet. Also unsurprising is the fact that he has over 7-million subscribers who eat up and digest this toxic content like a radioactive bird regurgitating Uranium-laced worms for her chicks. I am, of course, talking about Darren Watkins, the YouTube streamer (and rapper) by the IGN of IShowSpeed – the latest in a line of called-out gaming personalities.

The bulletin board in the middle of the plaza was a tweet by video game journalist Jake Lucky. With over 9.7-million views on the embedded video – a VALORANT clip featuring a particularly livid IShowSpeed, millions of users have borne witness to such dripping sound bites as “Is a bitch talking to me? Is a female talking to me?” or “Get off the fucking game and do your husband’s dishes bitch.”

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To this streamer (and many other people like him) in a regular VALORANT lobby, I am what they would call “a bitch” or, maybe if they’re feeling a little nice, “a female”. That is to say, if I choose to speak into my mic, I could be on the receiving end of one form of harassment or another – a moan or a slur on a good day, full-out inting on a not-so-good one. So, you can imagine I have a stake and some opinions on this.

 

DEFENDER-SIDE

To sensible people, a few questions arise: who watches these? Who defends this? Why?

Well, it’s entertaining.

There’s something about watching a person go absolutely insane on such trivial matters such as a video game that, in its own voyeuristic way, is just so entertaining. Like a car accident on a major highway – you just can’t look away. The dumpster fire has already been lit; why not add gas to the flames for a brighter burn?

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The metaphor here is that the bigger the dumpster fire, the more fascinating it is to watch. After all, what is livestreaming but an exercise in voyeurism?

The unfortunate consequence (because we often forget we are all each responsible for each other on this earth) is that this kind of content sets a precedent. He shouldn’t be saying that. It’s 2022 and we know he shouldn’t be saying that, and still, he has a huge following with billions of collective views on his YouTube channel.

He’s being openly hateful in a public space and thousands of people think it’s alright. Maybe it’s alright that I am as well.

We have far forgotten that the internet is one of the most public spaces of all and for some online personalities, a bad joke or an unfortunate clip can spell the end of your career. In an age where ‘cancel culture’ is a phrase that lives in our collective lexicons, why is it that few people actually get ‘canceled’?

Like saying a word over and over and over again until it sounds unrecognizable and foreign on your tongue, ‘canceling’ someone doesn’t actually mean anything anymore. Pedophilic Hollywood executives still keep their Oscars; James Charles is still rich; IShowSpeed will still have people watching him. In fact, his YouTube channel gained subscribers through the whole ordeal.

At best, the 30k retweeted, 175.4k liked tweet by Jake Lucky is a massive callout for Speed and, hopefully, people who behave like him. At worst, it’s free publicity because the people who defend people like Speed are people who specifically want to consume toxic content and, unfortunately, they will continue to exist long after the viral tweet has passed the gaming news cycle.

With the clip making such a huge splash, Riot Games has capitalized on the situation to make IShowSpeed into an example. Don’t be toxic or else we’ll permaban you. Frankly, with the entire video game community watching, this was the only choice Riot Games could have made. In 2022, social justice is good for business. It makes sense to be. It’s amazing and refreshing to see people on the VALORANT team be so engaged and cognizant to the calls of their community.

So, as of this writing, IShowSpeed has been permanently banned in all of Riot Games’ titles.

 

THE AGE AND RACE QUESTION

The people defending IShowSpeed’s blatant display of misogynistic behavior like to point out two things: his age and his race.

On the topic of age, I was 18 when I received an unsolicited dick pic on Twitter; 16 when I was felt up by rough hands in a sardine packed MRT tram; barely 10 when I learned the word for misogyny. I understood it then and I understand it now. The thing about things like misogyny or racism or homophobia or other such words is that, to the people at the receiving end, the experience comes earlier than having the words to describe them.

I can’t fault Speed for having been brought up in an environment that taught him it was alright to harass women. But I can fault him for not having learned otherwise. There are people who defend him by saying that he’s only 17. Well, I was only 10. It doesn’t take a child-genius to learn about kindness.

Defenders of his also like to point out a race aspect by including a separate video clip of Speed being on the receiving end of putrid racism – from a different set of teammates, on a different map, in a different VALORANT match.

I am not going to pretend to understand the racial culture of a country I have never set foot on, and, at least in the case of this situation, I don’t have to. While I will never begin to understand the pain and hurt Speed is rightfully allowed to feel from the altercation, this doesn’t erase nor excuse his misogyny. These two wrongs don’t make a right. In fact, the racist players in his match have since been banned as well.

If people hurt you and you pass along that hurt and the next person passes along that hurt so on and so forth, society will literally collapse. We have socially constructed modes of decorum that we, as the whole human project, have cultivated for hundreds of thousands of years to protect each other. Whether you like it or not, we all owe each other the continuation of the human project.

Speed has come forward with an apology and a promise to be a better person, and I wish him the best for that. There is a dignity in understanding that you are still a ways away from the best version of yourself. It is a journey all of us have to take – some of us admittedly later than others – but a journey that begins nonetheless. One day, he will look back at his 17-year old self and understand this journey. For now, he is at least taking the first step.

 

Whenever a clip like this circulates, there is often a barrage of think pieces not unlike this one trying to unearth “gaming’s toxicity problem.” To be clear, I’m not a good enough writer or thinker to even begin that can of worms, but in this clip, in this scenario, I know where I stand. Sometimes, all the time really, people are mean to each other – just read any history book. And while I cannot offer an end-all-be-all solution to toxicity (otherwise, we’d be here for hours), I know and can see that we, as a gaming community, are making strides towards inclusivity.

You’ll never survive a COD lobby, they can say – like it’s an achievement to uphold archaic beliefs of who can and cannot play video games. What if I don’t want to be in a COD lobby? It’s 2022 and there are a myriad of competitive titles I can pick up and play. I don’t think it’s a hard bargain to ask for video games that are played for fun and enjoyment without having to face a hate crime first.

Just mute, they can say – like the damage hasn’t been done or the perpetrator has learned their lesson. Just because you can’t hear it doesn’t mean the other person stopped being a jerk. Toxicity in gaming cannot and should not be viewed with a myopic lens. It’s not a communication problem, it’s a person-being-a-jerk problem and unfortunately, we’ve got a few ways to go from solving that.

So what now? Well, we began with an unsurprising premise – a toxic gamer on the internet. The only way to end this is with a hopeful reflection of what became of that – a community of gamers condemning and educating toxic gamers and supporting the people on the other end of that toxicity.

This kindness is what we all owe to each other.

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