In the week since Origins, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m entitled to. It’s a delicious thought. Being owed things. Feeling I deserve things. It’s all fantastic when good things are coming my way. It feels like a payoff, a reward reaped not because of hard work, but because I just am who I am.
And when I feel I’m entitled to something and I don’t get it, the feeling is poison. It buries itself right into my middle and it turns my desires into acid. It eats away at me until I pull my head out of my nethers and wake up.
No one owes me anything.
It’s so easy for me to think they do. It’s so easy to see people who I think work less than I do, do less than I do, want it less than I do, and to be seethingly jealous of their perceived successes. I wonder where my slice of the pie might be, and if it’s not too much trouble, could I get that pie with whipped cream and a hot cup of coffee?
It’s almost second nature at times. That’s the scary part. If I’m feeling bad about things, looking at the world through smoke-marred lenses, it’s easy to ascribe every action I take to this feeling. It’s easy to think that the only thing driving me is some kind of vitriolic jealousy that other people have what I don’t. It’s a Kindergartener’s reaction: I see what someone else has and I want it.
So where the hell does it come from?
Over the years going to conventions and interacting with people online, I’ve come to learn a lot more about how the world works. I’ve woken up some. I’ve heard stories of harassment from friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Whether it’s a woman being groped on the con floor, a person of color getting a slur casually thrown in their direction, a queer person having to put up with casual homophobia at the game table, a transgender individual being scared about using the restroom, or any one of a host of other aggressions, there’s a lot of stuff that happens to people that’s downright awful.
And I’m largely immune from most of it.
This is a systematic problem. I’m white, I look like a dude (regardless of what my gender identity might be), I’m bisexual but I’ve never dated or been with a guy. What I’m trying to say is that all of the different examples I gave above are things that I have never experienced. White guys, it has been said, live life on Easy Mode. It’s not to say that we can’t be hurt or have problems, but we have a lot of societal insulation from that stuff, in general.
For me, it made me prone to expecting things to go my way. So the problem exists on two levels: one’s the societal level that privileges white guys and then there’s the me level, the one that bought into the idea that I deserved things without having to work for them. This all ties back to last week’s post about leveling up. Part of what I had to do to get better at writing and designing was to realize that no one was going to hand anything to me.
The other thing that has happened since realizing that the world isn’t going to go my way all the time is actively realizing how other people are affected by the same systems that give me privilege. It makes me want to change those systems. It makes me want to give more and to try and give people the benefits that I’ve enjoyed.
What does this all have to do with games, though?
It means that I want to make games like Valkyries, where there are groups who don’t usually get representation being front and center. It means that I want to see and play games that feature people who don’t look like me. It means that when I go to a convention, I want to support an open, safe environment where everyone who wants to be a part of the community can do so. And not just so they can feel safe, but so they’ll find themselves represented, and be able to tell/experience their own stories.
All of this stuff has been really present in my mind due to both Origins and current events. The referendum in Britain, by many accounts, was driven by people hearkening back to “the good old days” of Britain covering the world in empire. That’s scary. Those were not good times unless you were part of the largely white, male ruling class. It’s racism, colonialism, and a whole lot more bad -isms that I don’t want to see have a grip on the world.
I guess the final point of all of this comes down to some version of being the change you want to see. I want better for everyone. So I’m going to make games that have a chance to push back that darkness a little, that let people see themselves at the table. This is ground I’ve covered before, but every time there’s a new surge of awful, I feel like it’s worth talking about. Games are a small part of the entire picture, but all of these things matter regardless.
I still feel entitled. It’s easy to slip back into old habits and patterns of behavior.
But the world doesn’t owe me anything.
If anything, I feel like I owe a lot to the world.