I have been fortunate enough to not run into gatekeepers, those who believe they need to “test” the validity of another person’s dedication to the fandom, during my time in all of my fandoms. Until last Wednesday night.
In addition to playing TTRPGs, I love video games, especially ones with role playing aspects. I played Elder Scrolls: Skyrim from the day it released on 11/11/11 (and while checking the date I found news I had missed earlier Elder Scrolls 6 is coming! AND you can preorder Modiphius’ “The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms” game right now!) until 12/20/19 when I finally submitted to signing up for Xbox gold and plugged in my Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel disc and joined my first MMO (massive multiplayer online game). I have avoided playing MMOs because of the horror stories I have heard from World of Warcraft, Fallout 76, and other MMO players talking about gatekeepers, racist, misogynist, and other offensive encounters. I play video games to escape real world issues, playing MMOs felt like it would require too much bandwidth, but I really love Elder Scrolls.
The first couple of months went well, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t plug in my headset to listen to the chat channel, which worked well for since the game has a lot of solo opportunities. But then I was invited to a guild, which turned out to be filled with really awesome people. They’re helpful, team oriented, and welcoming to new players. I was relieved and lucky to be found by a good group of gamers, so far so awesome.
There are many ways to engage with other players on this particular game and platform, including private messaging. On Wednesday, while in the middle of playing my game, I received a PM from “miguy78” asking me if I was new. Sadly I have screen shots but was unable to get them to post correctly, I will include them at the end in their immutable orientation. Let’s take a look at what happened and why I said what I said, shall we?
miguy78: Hi u new
me: to the game only? (uh, I didn’t even see you on the screen strange rando person, who are you?)
me: Just a little…played games since ’78 (If you are in a conversation and someone says something like this, you have crossed a line. This is defensive code that says “Back off gatekeeper, I don’t have time for your crap)
Me: missed in screen shot, I asked about whether they were new or not
78: no, Im, Level 885 (asserting they’ve played a long time, my character is clearly newer)
Me: But did u play Pong? (tossing in some gaming cred to slow this dude’s roll)
78: Yes who didn’t
Me: People born after 1980 (again, I’m guessing this guy was born in 78, I am older than this person and trying to establish that this conversation is not necessary, because I already know where this is heading)
78: Lol, Do you game
Me: Wtf? (Seriously, I am on a freaking MMO gaming server playing a game, I have all the confirmation that I need now that this is a gatekeeping attempt)
78: Just wanted toquiz u
Me: No, I just hang out here waiting for utter randos to gatekeep me (seriously dude?) I owe u shit (now is the time to shut this shit down)
Me: U quiz me? (Really WTF?)
78: Never mind then (First smart thing rando has said)
Me: I’m gaming, Bye
To be clear, this person was sending me private emails while we are both in the middle of the game. I should have just ignored them, but my polite and friendly side won out and I engaged which I shouldn’t have done. If you’re reading this and thinking “But Monica, he was just trying to be friendly”, you could be correct, but keep in mind, we were on a huge server filled with other players, most of whom do not know one another. This would be like walking down the street in New York city and someone randomly stops you to “quiz you”, if that doesn’t set alarms ringing in your head, it should. More over, this crosses into male privilege territory, my handle (mamaursula, if you want to play ESO with me, please drop me a line!) and my character both give the impression of a female gamer, although I do have a few male toons as well. On the other hand, this person goes by “miguy78”, which implies a 42 year old man.
The real problem arises when he asks me if I game and says he wants to quiz me, in the middle of a GAMING SESSION. Anyone who picks up a remote and loads up a game is a gamer. These questions are gatekeeper questions. Ask yourself, kind reader, when was the last time you had to take a quiz? School? Work application? Trivia night at a bar? Well, that last one is quizzing for fun, prizes, and the basis for the hilariously funny movie “Game Night”, but quizzes and tests are used to ensure you possess the knowledge and comprehension of information and material, not the way to initiate a friendship.
If you’re lonely and looking for a friend who has similar interests, be aware of your “surroundings” and whether there are better ways to get to know people. Offering information about yourself and asking open ended questions about the other person invites conversation. In this case, asking if I am available for a conversation would have been better, since we were playing a game. Expressing patience and the expectation that you know it might be a while before you get a reply is some fashion would be preferable. I blocked miguy78 to ensure I wouldn’t be hearing from him again, but there are others out there, just like him and depending on their level of anger at being turned away leads to their self-identification as “incels” (involuntary celebates). I have no idea where miguy78 falls in that respect, but it is precisely because of incels and others who were like that long before the term was coined that make marginalized gamers caution to outright terrified to get into the gaming pool. If you find yourself in a situation where you’d like to expand your social horizons, don’t be like miguy78, don’t be that gamer.
The immutable images of sidewayness.