On “Proud Gamers” and “Proud Atheists”

Letting go of my pride has been really beneficial toward improving my personality and relationships. It’s harder for me to feel offended or insulted, it’s made me less competitive, and made me happier about who I am and what I do.

Let’s not get that last part twisted. I said “happier”. Not prouder. What is there to be proud about oneself? Your family history can be rich and diverse; you can donate your time and money to charity; you can raise a family; you can win competitions; you can make things; you can make money; you can learn about the world; you can love culture. Your achievements and interests say a lot about you, and they should make you feel happy. But I don’t see self-contentment as pride.

What I see as pride is taking these achievements and interests and integrating them so closely into your identity that they overtake you. You become offended by anyone criticizing or disparaging your interests. It becomes a personal affront, and something you must rectify to maintain some sort of balance. Let’s give some examples from the list of achievements and interests above.

  • The first one’s easy: you might believe your sex, gender, body shape, ancestry, nationality or race is superior to others. (It’s not.)
  • If you donate to charity, you might feel that the time you spent selflessly helping others entitles you to special treatment or excuses your behavior toward those less privileged than you.
  • If you’ve given birth and/or raised children, you might let your status as a “proud mommy” or “proud father” completely overtake what you talk or care about.
  • If you’ve partaken in some sort of athletic, scientific, or other competition, you might think your victory (or even your participation) has placed you on a new level, immune from other challengers.
  • If you’ve invented or otherwise created something, you might believe that makes you the foremost authority on the topic.
  • If you have a great amount of money, you might feel like you need to show the world through the purchase of useless luxury accessories.
  • Your unshakable belief in a higher power (or lack thereof) could, well, cause the Crusades.
  • And if you love some aspect of your culture so dearly that it shapes your identity, it might prevent you from seeing the big picture when those with similar interests use their voices to cause harm.

Let’s talk about these last two in detail, as I run into them on the Internet quite a lot. Let’s start by saying that I am not spiritual or religious, and that I enjoy playing video games. These are just two things about me. I have friends for whom neither of these facts are true, and we get along. If you’re like me, you have these friends too. That’s great.

“Proud Atheist”

But let’s talk about atheism for a sec. Atheist thought on the Internet seems to be entering into its own little Enlightenment. Popular figures such as Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson have become the figureheads for a new form of advocacy wherein science is the final word in all worldly matters. That it’s not enough to believe; one must “know”. I’m down with the intended message: scientific research is important for the progress of the human race.

But, aside from Young Earth Creationists who believe science is either “historical” or “observed”, I don’t see how science needs to conflict with religion. People can 100% understand and accept everything that has been discovered through research and still believe in some form of higher consciousness. You can never prove everything — science is all about progress, not the end goal — so you can never disprove everything, either.

On one hand, this is often considered the “god of the gaps” perspective wherein a supernatural force’s power diminishes as new discoveries arise. On the other hand, it can be called agnosticism. Theistic agnosticism. You can also state that there could be nothing out there, but we’ll never know. That’s atheistic agnosticism. It’s really two sides of the same coin, until pride gets in the way.

Really, what’s the big deal with never being able to know everything? I posit that there are many atheists who are so proud of their views that they perceive this inability to know certain things as a weakness. And they’ll fight to cover up that weakness. Sure, it’s usually relegated to arguing over the Internet, but that’s probably because no major military powers are run by atheists. Some atheists are so proud of their stances that they perceive religion on the whole as a threat. That’s why wars are started, guys.

Back to the science advocacy. I’m going to take a guess that a lot of people are in “fucking love” with science because they’re rebelling against their friends or relatives who might have pushed religion on them. Friends and relatives are what Facebook is full of, anyway, and a new generation of atheistic people feel the need to find ways to rebel against those who don’t feel the same way as they do. That rebellion takes the form of pride. Pride in your ability to argue with “reason”, with “logic”, with “reliable sources” (I’ve heard those three terms so goddamn much). It’s plain to see that the pride is a defense mechanism.

“Proud Gamer”

Oh, jeez. Sorry if you’ve been following me on Twitter for the past month or so where I’ve been poking some much-needed fun at this debacle called #GamerGate.

This Goddamn thing. I don’t want to talk about what sort of terrible shit started it. Rather, let’s talk about the supposed goal of this “movement”: to reestablish ethics in video game journalism. Why? Because, among other things, a bunch of journalists have written articles about how the label “gamer” has become poisoned by a wave of misogynistic, violent assholes whose voices often drown out the more progressive ones. #GamerGate purports to need publications that respect the label of “gamer” and don’t spend their time dragging perfectly well-meaning folks (insert laugh track) through the mud.

I’ve gotten the argument that anyone who plays games is, by definition, a gamer. Fine. But much like I would sooner join a monastery than be lumped in with those who label themselves as “atheists,” I would burn every game I own before falling in with the “gamer” crowd. But for many, being a gamer is so central to one’s identity that any criticism of the content in video games, or the culture surrounding them, is — again — perceived as a threat. But let’s take a quote from our good friend Anita Sarkeesian:

…remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.

Putting aside the fact that criticism is central to video game journalism (ever read a review?), it’s important to try to understand why someone would feel like they’re being attacked when nothing is being attacked — rather, a piece of media, created by someone else, is being criticized. Nothing is being prevented or taken away. Learning is taking place. If this messes with your sense of self, it might feel uncomfortable, but maybe you need discomfort. Maybe you’re learning why identifying under a certain banner or label can stagnate you if you’re unwilling to grow beyond it.

Or, maybe you truly disagree with everything you’re reading, which is your prerogative. But only a prideful person can feel like an analysis of something you like is actually a condemnation of you, when you haven’t actually done anything. And even if insults are being lobbed at you (heck, I’ll lambaste you for supporting #GamerGate), what about this whole topic is so important that you must lob them back?

Some might argue that it’s not #GamerGate supporters that are doing the name-calling; rather, it’s “social justice warriors”: an ill-defined collection of women and Tumblr users who are supposedly trying to shut gaming down because it only appeals to white males. Let’s play devil’s advocate and say for a second that this mischaracterization is actually true: who cares if they actually were? Would they succeed in shutting down an industry so powerful and deeply ingrained within our culture?

In reality, those fighting for social justice (a good thing, in my humble opinion) are aiming to introduce diverse voices into the mainstream. It’s an additive process. Nothing is being shut down or taken away. Some journalists believe strongly about social justice. That’s good, because reporting about important issues is their job. What, social justice isn’t an important issue, you say? Why is that? Is it because the issue doesn’t affect you? How proud must you be to actually believe that a focus on minority voices will only drown your oh-so-important voice out?

So… do you hate yourself?

I admit that my definition of pride is somewhat narrow. It’s not the sort of pride you feel when a loved one has accomplished something amazing. It’s not the sort of pride you feel when your cultural leaders proclaim that your life is worth living, and your rights are worth fighting for. It’s not the sort of pride you feel by living the life you want to lead (I call this “happiness”). I feel all of these and I hope that you do, too.

It’s the sort of pride that blocks you off from opportunities for growth. And we are never done growing, learning, or changing. So when something with which you identify is being scrutinized, think about why it’s so important for you to slather yourself with labels, and whether your pride is getting in the way of your future.

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