Batman Vs. Superman Vs. The Box Office

I chose not to see Batman vs. Superman when I heard that a) Jimmy Olsen gets shot in the face, and b) Batman brands criminals to let other criminals know it’s okay to shank them in prison.

That did not sound like a Batman I would be happy seeing, no matter how awesome the spectacle was.

So I stayed out.  Yet I’ve been fascinated watching how BvS went from DC boldly claiming “This one might be Oscar material!” to 28% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Charting its box-office performance drop from “We’re going to beat Avengers with $1.5 billion” to “We’re still making a billion” to “We’re going to release the R-rated version in the hopes that we’ll crest $900 million” has been a guilty pleasure of mine.

Which, don’t get me wrong, if any of you would care to gift me with $900 million, my PayPal is open to you.  But if Avengers had made only $900 million, we might not have seen the Marvel Universe Stage 2.  Adjusted for movie and marketing expenditures, Batman with Superman made less profit than Superman alone.

And it’s a weird thing to watch, because:

On one level, this is a tremendous success.  Millions of people paid money to see it.  Marketing did their job supremely well getting asses into the theaters.

Yet asses did not stay in the theaters, witnessing from the steep week-over-week drop.  People went in, and did not recommend.  The folks stayed home.

Friends of mine have told me that Batman vs. Superman is not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be – and some have been mad that the media narrative became “It’s terrible,” which drove fans away from a good movie.  But that didn’t happen.  Literally millions of people went to go see it.  If they had all thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, then it would have kept going.

Instead, what I generally hear is “It’s not as bad as they say!” – and when you’re looking at an expensive movie ticket, “It’s servicable” is not what gets people’s asses to the theater.

I think what we’re seeing right now is a rejection of grimdark, which I find to be secretly beautiful.  People aren’t particularly inspired by a Superman who is trapped in a world that punishes heroism, nor a Batman who is murderously angry.  I don’t doubt that some people really get off on this idea, because they like the change of pace –

– and maybe in time, Batman vs. Superman will be hailed as a masterpiece.  That happens to a lot of movies that flop.  Expectations play a critical part in how audiences initially react to movies.  The reason some films perform terribly initially is that people wanted Harrison Ford to play Han Solo and he gave them Deckard from Blade Runner.  They thought Brad Pitt was a boxer, and instead they got Fight Club.

And what I suspect happened is that people went in hoping for fun heroism and got a faceful of gritty anger.  And they went, “Nah, not what I wanna see.”  And maybe in time, we’ll warm up to this newer, more murder-happy Batman, and this Superman who can fly halfway around the world to save Lois but can’t save Congress from a bomb in the same room, and the doubtlessly dark-and-gritty Wonder Woman.  Maybe in time, we’ll come to appreciate this movie for what it is, not what we thought it was.

Or maybe it’s an overambitious film that reached for greater heights than it could actually climb to, and the notion of heroism it peddles to people is as repellent as I find it, and the truth is it’s not very good.

Which is not to say someone won’t love it.  Once enough people see a movie, it will always acquire fans who adore it.  M. Night’s The Last Airbender has some rabid admirers.  Whether a movie is “good” for somebody inevitably comes down to “Does this movie hit my personal movie-kinks?” (note that I will personally adore any movie that has logically consistent time travel, which is why I’ll stand by both Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Primer) – and “Are the flaws of this movie ones that don’t bother me?” (maybe Charlton Heston’s overacting seems overblown to you, but by God I love him, so when Leo and Kate went the full Heston in Titanic, I said, “LET MY PEOPLE GO.”)

Batman vs. Superman has the advantage of “It’s a really unusual take on the characters” and “It’s really pretty,” which will attract some people, and lots of people don’t care about plot holes or pacing or the murderverse or any of the things that personally bother me.

And Batman vs. Superman opened up so big that the question is not, “Did anyone like it?” – because if you suckered a Batman vs. Superman-sized audience into seeing “Catwoman,” I guarantee you there would be a thousand folks touting the genius of Halle Berry – but “What percentage of people liked it?” and “Will that percentage grow, or shrink, over time?”

At this point, nobody knows.

I suspect BvS’s future looks a lot like Man of Steel’s past: People saw it.  Some people liked it because it was pretty and things went boom.  Some people really found the themes compelling and now it’s their favorite version of these heroes.

Most people watched the pretty go by, and forgot about it in a year, and maybe they’ll pick it up in the $5 DVD bin because hey, it was easy on the eyes.

But come the day they want comfort watching, most people are gonna choose the Avengers.

See ya, Supes.


What Donald Trump’s Campaign Can Teach Us About BDSM Consent

So Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, grabbed a reporter’s arm.

He went to jail for this.

Now, the charge he’s going to trial for for is simple battery, which is defined as “1) Any actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against that person’s will (non-consensual), or 2) the intentional causing of bodily harm to another person.”

And some of you are going, “Jesus, he just grabbed her arm, that’s a lot to go to jail for.”

Yet if you’re smart, you can learn a vital lesson about consent and BDSM from this.

Because depending on who you talk to it was a hard arm grab or a trivial one, it left deep welts or it didn’t, it was meant to hurt her or it wasn’t, whether he’s a serial abuser or whether this was a genuine mistake.

Which is a lot like any BDSM consent violation: there’s always a swirl of conflicting facts after the event, with people debating precisely what happened and whether the victim should (or should not) be upset by this, and hauling out the credentials that “X is a good person, they’d never mean to hurt someone.”

That’s the usual storm of uncertainty. It comes standard with any consent violation – and you can debate whether it should be society’s modus operandi, but at this point in time this is how humans currently operate.

Yet what isn’t in dispute is that after it happened, Lewandowski denied anything bad happened, saying that Michelle Fields made it up. Trump’s campaign denied anything bad happened. Trump denied anything bad happened. And when presented with video evidence that something happened, they doubled down and said, “Nothing happened, and even if something did happen, she’s crazy.”

And a funny thing happens when your first reaction is “WE DID NOTHING WRONG NOTHING HAPPENED WE’RE GOOD PEOPLE SHUT UP YOU’RE NUTS”:

The people you’ve tried to erase will sometimes go to great fucking lengths to prove you wrong.

And so Michelle Fields got angrier and angrier at watching her pain get written off. As the Trump campaign rebutted her denials with “NOTHING HAPPENED,” she was left with a choice: quietly agree she was as irrational as they claimed, or go balls-to-the-wall to prove that yeah, something happened.

She found enough evidence to make Corey Lewandowski’s life hell.

Which, again, is a common failure mode in the BDSM community – something bad happens during play, the top screams “I’M NOT A BAD PERSON ONLY BAD PEOPLE VIOLATE CONSENT THEREFORE NOTHING BAD HAPPENED,” and the victim of the consent violation is faced with a choice: stay quiet and agree that they’re a liar, or to go to great lengths to refute the person who injured them.

It usually doesn’t end well for the top when the victim goes volcanic.

Which leads us to the actual lesson:

Do you think Corey Lewandowski would be in jail if his initial response had been “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to injure you, we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again?”

My answer is, “No.” He’d have people calling for him to be fired, of course – but this is politics. You’ll always find someone calling for someone’s resignation.

And I’ve watched enough consent violations happen to watch the difference between the Big Domly Doms who believe their reputation rests on perfection, and the folks who went, “Aww, man, sorry you got hurt, are you okay?”

Now, nothing’s a guarantee. Your apologizing doesn’t mean the person who got hurt is obliged to accept your apology, and anyone who thinks that apologies equal forgiveness is generally a manipulative person. Sometimes you apologize and someone still escalates and yes, that’s a reality no one should deny.

That said, in practice, most people will accept an admission that something went wrong, whether you intended it to or not.  A “Sorry you got hurt. I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again” often prevents someone from escalating to, you know, bringing the cops in.

Sane people understand that BDSM involves risk, and bad things can happen when good people misread one another.

Yet what happens in the Big Domly Dom world is what happened in Big Domly Trump world: there is a huge hubbub about how much of an injury is necessary before you should apologize, and really isn’t this so-called “victim” a big baby, and nothing really happened anyway so why are we discussing this?

I personally think that apologies aren’t so precious that they should be doled out according to a perceived need. If I intended to do nothing bad to you and you wound up hurt, jeez, I’m sorry. (And particularly if I’m doing a BDSM scene with you, where I intended to bring you satisfaction in some way and you instead experienced trauma, then yes, I am very sorry.)

But if you have to be the hard-edged Domly Dom who refuses to apologize unless there’s good reason to, ponder this:

The good reason is that apologizing, even for incidents you consider trivial, is often the best way to defuse potential drama coming down the line. Maybe you don’t think you did anything wrong – but someone is hurt regardless, and if you choose to erase, belittle, or undermine their hurt, *they may decide that you are their enemy*.

That “I’m sorry” often protects you.

Which is, as so much of my advice is, giving practical reasons to be a nice person. You can debate all day exactly what happened between Corey Lewandowski and Michelle Fields – but his refusal to acknowledge that anything happened, even if it was trivial, was a factor in Michelle going to the cops weeks later.

A trivial hurt can still be worth an apology.

And I predict a slew of Domly Doms going, “Nah, she woulda gone to the cops anyway! Women like that are hysterical! They’re out to get us!” At which point I will suggest, gently:

Next time someone tells you, “You hurt me,” try leading with “I’m sorry” and “I’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” (And then, for optional credits, instead of blustering about that crazy person, look at your habits and determine what might have gone wrong to bring this person pain. For optimal results, start with the assumption that the hurt person is not a vindictive wuss.)

Try apologizing when someone complains.

You might be surprised by what happens when you’re not an asshole.

(Inspired by this excellent FetLife Writing.)

One Addict Needs Another, Or: Why You Should Be Wary Of Advice

One guy alone is an addict. He’s toking up, drinking up, shooting up by himself, and that’s not good.

He needs a friend.

Because if two people are toking up, drinking up, shooting up, then suddenly it’s social! You’re not there because of the drug; this is a convivial event, where you’re enjoying each other’s company and surely your buddy would tell you if you were getting out of line with your habit.

Your presence justifies their needs.

So a lot of the times, an addict will be very aggressive in getting people to try whatever the hell it is they’re hooked on – not because they necessarily think you’ll enjoy it, but because if you do buy into the thing they’re pushing then it makes their lives easier. You become proof they’re not that bad. After all, someone else is doing it with them!

“Giving advice” can be a kind of drug.

You’ll see people pitching these horrifically broken philosophies, ones that are cruel and dysfunctional and seething with drama underneath the shiny surface – and they’re pitching these philosophies hard, because every person they can get on their side is one more person they can hold up as evidence.

Like the drug-pushers, they’re not overly concerned if you’re happy – they’re enlisting you to justify their life choices, and it’d be nice if you were happy, but their main goal is trotting you out to show, “LOOK, MY WAY WORKS.”

Which is why you have to be careful, taking advice. Some people give advice not to help you, but to rationalize the fallout from their bad decisions.

Some advice is good, natch. But if someone’s informing you of yet another One True Way where if you just follow their advice and never deviate from it you’ll become a flawless and wonderful person just like them, look closer.

Chances are, you’ll find some sad schmuck desperately trying to amass an army to look like a bold leader.

A Reminder: Experiences Are Not Conclusions.

Every so often, I’m forced to haul out my two suicide attempts to justify my opinions on depression.  I’m glad I have them.  If I didn’t have the hospitalization and sleeping pills under my belt, I might be unconvincing.

Thing is, I’m told that if I had real depression, I’d automatically agree with this random depressive person’s viewpoint.  Because all depressive people “know” this to be true.

And no.

Not all depressive people come to the same conclusions.

No group ever does.

There are people raised in evangelist households who believe fiercely in Jesus and others who became staunch atheists – sometimes different outcomes from brothers and sisters who slept in the same room.  There are combat veterans who’ve concluded that wars are useless, and combat veterans who believe war is the only way, and sometimes they’re from the same unit.  There are disabled people who have bottomless pity for anyone who shares their symptoms, and disabled people who have come to believe that the other disabled people are whiners.

Yet too many people argue that “If you walked a mile in my shoes, you’d understand!”  And that’s erasing all of humanity’s glorious and contradictory messiness.  That’s a subtle way of saying all minorities are this hive mind who  all vote Democrat and anyone who votes Republican can’t actually have been raised right.

It’s an explicit way of saying that everyone is secretly a carbon copy of you, and they’d all be like you if they’d been raised as you.

T’aint true, McGee.

Which isn’t to erase your experiences.  I think it’s critical to understand other experiences as best we can, which is why I so frequently draw your attention to other people’s viewpoints.  If you’re a guy, trying to understand what a woman goes through as a member of society is useful.  If you’re a woman, trying to understand the guy’s perspective is useful.  And if you’re binary, understanding what the genderqueer and trans and other folks on the spectrum experience can expand your perspectives.  Speaking out without contemplating whether your situation may differ from other people’s is hurtful and thoughtless and should be rectified.

But what occasionally happens when people from the same background clash is an immediate war of credentials.  “Hey, did you do this?”  “I did that, and better!”  And the next thing you know everyone’s snarled in a gigantic game of one-up because the person with the worst experiences is the one who has the “real” viewpoint.  You wouldn’t think that if you’d been through my hell!

They might think that.  Your experience is not someone else’s conclusion.

We’re different.

That is, astoundingly, why we make progress.

Hey, Did You Know Smoking Cigarettes Gives You Cancer? I Know, Right?

I was always disappointed when I met a new friend who smoked.  And after watching ’em light up for the first time, I’d say:

“Hey.  You are aware that smoking can give you lung cancer, right?”

They’d look at me like I was crazy.  But when they saw I was mostly serious, they nodded.  “Yeah.  I know that.”

That was the end of the discussion.

I didn’t agree with their nicotine habit, but I figured that they’d been bombarded with anti-smoking messages and doctors’ warnings and people berating them like Baby Jesus was suffocating in their lungs, so… I did my due diligence.  I made sure.

And once I knew they had access to the information, I gave them the credit for having weighed all the factors I’d seen and deciding upon a different conclusion.  It was not, I thought, a wise conclusion – but if a lifetime’s worth of haranguing them hadn’t budged them from standing out in twenty-below weather to fill their lungs with poison, certainly I wasn’t providing any new information that was going to help.

They’d either do it or they wouldn’t.  And I wouldn’t help ’em – no smoking in my car, no smoking in my house, pop a breath mint before smoochy-times – but I gave them the respect of understanding that they either didn’t care, or didn’t have the willpower or genetics or whatever the fuck it took to drop a habit, and let it go.

Because I wasn’t bringing them anything new.  I didn’t have some freshly-conjured trick for quitting smoking, or a fresh twist on hoary medical statistics.

Everything I could tell them was something they knew already.

Which is why I have such disdain for most evangelism.  Hey, have you heard the word of Jesus?  Who fucking hasn’t?  How arrogant is it of you to assume that someone’s missed out on literally the most popular religion in the Western World?  How fucking stupid do you think I am to think that I’ve never had an opportunity to hear what Jesus said before your dumb ass came along?

Which is not to say that I believe you should be silent about Jesus.  Remember, I am a believer.  But if I talk about it, it’s by putting it out there in a highly personal sense – here’s the prayer that helped me – and I don’t offer religion-as-comfort unless someone comes to me and wants to know how I do this.

I make myself known as a Christian, when I can.  But I give people the respect of assuming they’ve seen Christianity in many forms, and if that was something that appealed to them, then they’d have investigated it by now.  The guy who converted me to Christianity didn’t do it by shoving Bibles down my throat – he did it by having his shit so together that I eventually asked him, “Hey, how do you keep so calm when everything’s going crazy?”

Which happened because he didn’t treat me like I was a problem to be fixed.  He didn’t look down on me because I was a hot mess at 20 and flailing and stupid, and for God’s sake boy how could you not know the healing power of Jesus?  How could you be so foolish as to overlook this solution that works for everybody?

Instead, he told me what worked for him.  And what worked for him didn’t work for me – Bob was big on churchgoing and ritual – but enough of it stuck that it really helped.

Which I bring up because I wrote about people who need wheelchairs yesterday, and this dude said, “Hey, you know, some people have truly degenerate diseases and they can’t walk… but have the rest of you considered working really hard at physical therapy?  I mean, like really working?  Some of you could walk all you wanted if you put the effort in, have you thought about that?”

Which is, honestly, a valid concern on some level.  There are some folks out there who might lead a better life if they put more effort into physical therapy, and some percentage of folks who are disabled are partially handicapped by their own inability to put the effort in.

But honestly?

What are the fucking odds that nobody’s ever told these people, “Work harder!

I tend to assume that, like my smoking friends, who routinely got hissed at by anti-smoking factions and doctors and all sorts of people, folks in wheelchairs have heard “Try harder.”  In fact, I happen to know they get called lazy all the time, even with people who I absolutely know personally are not.   I know that every last one of them has heard an inspirational story from some formerly-atrophied person who fought and battled and got out of their chair and got to the Special Olympics and became a world-class athlete…

Yet somehow, all of that has failed to budge the needle.

And it’s highly unlikely that you coming along and snapping off the moral equivalent of, “Hey, have ya heard about Jesus?” is going to be that moment that lifts them up.  It’s more likely that you’ll come off as a total fucking asshole to most people – because the people who are genuinely disabled will feel like shit because you’re essentially telling them “Hey, you don’t know you’re disabled, have you tried it my way?” and the people who maybe could help themselves with more effort have already been bombarded with your generic inspiration porn before and hey, that didn’t bring them to a realization either.

In other words, you’re basically a spammer – I don’t give a shit who wants my message or not, maybe 0.0001% of the people will be moved by my relentless inability to shut up, and who cares if this irritates them?  I’m the TROOF!

Whereas I honestly think if you’re the shining paragon you claim to want to be, you accept that the tactics you’re using haven’t worked generically on these people until now, and raise concerns gingerly, and take great care when pointing out “You know, there are other ways” not to do so in a way that essentially accuses your audience of not being as smart as you are.

Because if you were that smart, you’d know how well “insulting people’s intelligence” goes down.

Look.  There are always people who aren’t trying hard enough – whether that’s hard enough to quit smoking, or hard enough to find the philosophy that brings them peace, or hard enough on their own physical form.  But there is a distinct difference between a “Hey, this works for me, maybe it could work for you,” and the preening “HEY LOOK WHAT I FOUND IT’S CAUSE I’M SOOOO SMART HOW COME YOU’VE SEEN ALL THIS AND AREN’T AS SMART AS MEEEEEE.”

I think if you’re really smart, you give people the credit that they’ve heard things just like your message before, and it failed to convince.  And you start picking apart the subliminal message you send that “Hey, if you were only as talented/willfull/smart as I am, you could join me up here on my throne.”  And you think, “I have a valid message, but are there less insulting ways to get it across?”

Then you rework it.

You know.  If you’re really smart.  Like my friend Bob was.  Because he changed my life in a way a thousand evangelists couldn’t.

…but one more thing.  If you’re unconvinced by this, you may have picked up on the hidden meta-message in this essay – namely, that if you were only as smart as I am, you’d alter your communications patterns!  And I’d like to suggest something subtle, here:

The less you find this convincing, the more you may need to read it.

Because odds are good it may be a variant on the message you’re pushing.



You Can Walk And Still Need A Wheelchair

I’m lucky enough to have infinite steps.  I don’t even count ’em when I wake up in the morning: I take the dog out for a walk, and my legs keep working for as long as I want ’em to.  I go to the museum and I pay no attention to the distance between galleies.  However many steps I need to take, they’re just there.

Most of you don’t even think that’s a blessing.  Trust me, it is.

Some of my friends have zero steps: their legs stopped working.  They’re “traditionally” disabled, because their muscles or their nerves don’t respond, and no amount of effort can get them walking.  It sucks, and sucks hard, but at least that step count is predictable.

Unlike my friends who play the Step Lottery every day:  How many steps do they get before their body gives out?

That variance is huge.  Some days, they’ve got so many steps they can walk everywhere and have steps left over at the end of the day.  Other days, they get a paltry thousand and give out in the middle of the grocery store.

And they don’t have some magical step gauge that counts down to zero: they wake up, they feel great, and they only discover today’s Step Lottery gifted ’em a slim 500 steps  when they’re halfway to Wal-Mart.

Wherever they give out, they’re done.   It’s like an old D&D wizards’ spell; they’re not getting any more steps until they’ve rested for eight hours.

And when you run out of steps three blocks from home, you’re fucking screwed.  If you didn’t have the energy to walk, you sure as hell don’t have the energy to crawl.  So if you’re lucky, you sit on a bench for hours and hope your body somehow considers it restful.

If you’re not lucky, you’re stuck there until a friend picks you up.

If you’re really not lucky, you don’t have a friend.  Hope you can afford a cab!

When able-bodied people see a wheelchair, they think “That person can never walk.”  And if they see that person getting up out of the wheelchair, they often think, “That person’s cheating!  They’re not really disabled!  They were fooling me!”

Nope.  That wheelchair is their insurance against the Step Lottery.  Because they can walk now, but at some point during the day their body is all but guaranteed to give out on them… and it’s a hell of a lot easier to bring the wheelchair when you don’t need it than it is to be wheelchair-less when you do need it.

They’re not fooling you at all, buddy.  Their bodies slip between “walking” and “not walking” with frightening speed, and they can’t predict when that wheelchair is going to be the only thing that gets them home today.  So be gentle.

Why Should We Listen To Anecdotal Evidence Of Harassment In Gaming?

“I see far too often now people reading articles like ‘Tabletop Gaming Has A White Male Terrorist Problem‘ and just going along with the narrative as if anecdote were somehow evidence.”

That’s some random dude’s Facebook comment in response to my “Why I Don’t Play Magic Any More” piece, where I spoke about how I stopped playing Magic because a) I play Magic because I like hanging around with fun people slinging cards, and b) a lot of those people were That Guy who cracked gay and sexist jokes, so c) since I really fucking hate that guy, I wasn’t incentivized to show up.

But he’s got a good point.  Why should we listen to anecdotes when it comes to harassment in gaming?  Why don’t we get formal data?

Why doesn’t this guy ask his female, gay, and minority friends what they’ve encountered to start turning anecdote into data?

What I’ve noticed about the guys who shrug and go, “Well, that’s just anecdotal” is that they never seem much interested in checking to see whether these experiences are common or not.  They have access to friends, presumably, so it’d be as simple as posting something on their Facebook wall: “Hey, my female gamer-friends, have you had similarly negative experiences to this?”

And then you could start seeing what percentage of your female buddies had endured harassment or negativity in gaming stores.  Data incoming!

(Some percentage of those women would doubtlessly tell you they’d experienced harassment and so what, that’s just what happens in gaming, grow tougher skin – but that’s a separate issue.)

But no.  Generally, “That’s just anecdotal” is a synonym for “I’m about to write this off because it seems unbelievable to me” – as, in fact, this dude did later in the same thread, saying, “I find several of the points made patently absurd and quite frankly I see no reason to believe that the stories mentioned are even true.”

I checked his Facebook wall and he didn’t bother to explore the idea further, just wrote it off: This experience of a woman, which I am not, seems hyperbolic. As such, I reject it.

But hey!  I heard you complaining several paragraphs back – the plural of “anecdote” is not data, am I right?  Why don’t we do a scientific survey to find out how widespread harassment in gaming is?

Well, trickier than you’d think.

The problem with trying to determine the levels of harassment in gaming is that the most-abused people are probably no longer gamers at this point.  It’s like taking a survey of people who live in a city and asking, “So how many of you have moved out due to the crime here?”   Sure, if Wizards of the Coast did a big poll to ask about my personal gaming experiences, I’d see that poll because Magic is still my full-time job.  (Buy from!)

But someone who’d stopped playing Magic would not see it.  They wouldn’t be heard.

We could use that Very Scientific Survey to convince ourselves that things are just fine.  And if you’re big into honest data, like the dude concerned about this sad prevalence of anecdotal data, then you should be equally concerned about people being overlooked.

And sadly, Wizards of the Coast is about as big as it gets when it comes to gaming.  It’s not like RPGs are this multi-billion dollar industry where focus groups sit down and R&D pours thousands of dollars into scientific polls before rolling out their latest game store chain.  Most card and tabletop games are at best a couple of hundred thousand dollars dropped into Kickstarter, and most of that is covering costs.  Polls cost between $1,000 and $10,000 to take, and again, you’d have to be comprehensive in catching the people who have stopped playing games to know how bad the issue is.  Most game stores are mom-and-pop industries.

There’s simply not the money.

But wait!  What if there was a way – not entirely scientific, but better than nothing – to see whether harassment existed?  Let’s do a thought experiment!

Let’s say I’d written a post entitled “Tabletop Gaming Has An Anti-Vaccination Harassment Problem,” wherein I detailed my endless sufferings at the hands of loud anti-vaccination people screaming at me for my love of medical science whenever I walked into a store.

Or I’d written a post entitled “Tabletop Gaming Has A Suit-And-Tie Problem,” wherein I discussed the scorn I got from nattily-dressed gamers in Brooks Brothers suits mocking me for my incorrectly-tied ascot.

Or I’d written a post entitled “Tabletop Gaming Has A Vegan Problem,” where I lamented the lack of fatty, meaty foods available at gaming shops.

Can you honestly say that you believe these posts would have been passed around as widely?

Oh sure, there’s always a couple of gullible people who’ll go “That’s horrible” and post any old booshwah – that’s what Snopes is for – but in general, people post articles like this because they match up with their personal experiences.  When I saw people posting “Tabletop Gaming Has A White Male Terrorist Problem,” it was mostly women and trans people discussing how unwelcome gaming stores had made them feel in the past.

There are plenty of articles complaining about gaming.  Someone’s always got an axe to grind.  Most of these axes are nerf axes.

Whereas this one took off because it sounded plausible to the people who shared it.

If someone wrote about the problems with gamers and their obsessions with tuxedos, that article would have died on the vine because it didn’t reflect a reality they saw.

These articles catch fire because something in them indicates a problem that people have seen with their own eyes.  And again, if you asked the people who posted it whether they’d had similarly off-putting experiences, you’d generally find that most of them had.

(One woman  I saw posted the “Terrorist” article and had an acquaintance comment, “This couldn’t possibly happen, she’s making it up,” only to have his female friend document her history of abuse in gaming, year by year.  He stopped arguing shortly thereafter.)

And, I note, the dude writing about how these things couldn’t possibly exist had to work fucking hard to ignore the evidence in the thread he was posting in, because the friend of mine who’d posted my essay said that he’d seen female-unfriendly stuff he didn’t like, and other people in the thread said “This is what I still have to deal with at my home store(s),” and yet somehow the dude blazed right on past the evidence of people who spoke to him to go, “…nah.”

Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible people are wrong or misguided about what they feel.  I mean, yeah, there are people who post about the War on Christmas, and the very personal denigration they’ve felt from clerks who’ve wished them “Happy Holidays.”  But if you’re smart, you don’t tell those people, “Well, that doesn’t really exist,” but rather, “You’re overreacting to minor incidents.”  Which would be kinda dickish to women who’d complained of being groped in gaming alcoves, but at least you’d be honest about your real viewpoint.

And also keep in mind that gaming does not have to be a universal cesspool for this to be an issue to be concerned about.  Some folks pulled the “Not all men!” canard to defend gaming, and I’d agree: there are a lot of female-friendly, queer-friendly, minority-friendly shops out there.

But let’s say you go to a restaurant you love, and one time in twenty there’s bird shit in your burger.

Is that someplace you’d go to to relax?

Yeah, it’s not quite data, and there’s always going to be someone shrieking about how terrible things are, because this is a big messy world and someone’s going to get fucked over by some insensitive clod somewhere.  Hell, there’s feminist enclaves with incidents of harassment on their records, because the rule is that sadly, someone’s always going to be a dick.  Yet you’ll note a subtle distinction in these sorts of hubbubs, because there’s often a difference between “God, that’s terrible that happened over there!” and “This terrible thing is similar to my experience!”

You just have to pay attention.

And gaming is getting better.  Creators like Monte Cook and Shanna Germain and Mark Rosewater and hundreds of others are trying to create a more inclusive place.  Stores are being opened because the owners hated that old, dingy, hateful store and wanted to create alternatives.  It’s way better than it was a decade ago.

But while the anecdotal method has its issues, the more formal analysis you’d seem to crave doesn’t exist, and really honestly can’t.  Again, it’s really hard to find enough ex-gamers and put them in with gamers to get an accurate picture of things – and even if we could, are you crowdfunding $5,000 to find out?

You’re not, unfortunately.  Because the truth is for this dude, he looked at something he didn’t like and went, “This doesn’t happen.”  And he didn’t really care about the evidence.

He just didn’t like what he saw.