The Pale Blue Pixel

Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” monologue never fails to move me. A single pixel breaks down the barriers between all the family of man, making us realise how very few we are, and how alike, when compared with the rest of the universe that is not us.

I often think about that when I read gaming blogs and forums, and Martin Luther King day seems an appropriate time to talk about it. As gamers, we divide and subdivide ourselves, into evermore insular tribes, contemptuous of all outside OUR group. Hardcore, Casual, PvPers, non-PvPers, people younger or older than ourselves. Those who play different games to us, or who play the same game but are less experienced, or play in a way that we don’t personally approve of. People who speak other languages, or who show less perfection than ourselves in their typed English. We have special labels for the people outside our own tribe. “Noobs”, “Carebears”, and a great many that I am not comfortable writing down. We have a derogatory term for every occasion.

Just as an extraterrestrial visitor would consider the differences between the different sorts of human to be trivial, an outside observer would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the different tribes of gaming, and could be forgiven for concluding that gamers are the worst people in the universe, based on our own opinions. Gamers are sometimes demonised by the general media, or by politicians, but it tends to be nothing compared with how we talk about ourselves.

Bashing one group of players in order to appeal to another’s sense of superiority, or even just to stir up controversy, is a technique used across the whole range of gaming journalism, from the scrappiest little blog to the large sites and print media. It is an unworthy deed, and it infuriates and saddens me whenever I see it. It drains my will to be part of this gaming society, though where could I go? We just reflect humanity’s own obsession with dividing itself, but in microcosm.

We should not be in the business of “otherising” our fellow gamers. We are too few as it is, and the universe so very large.

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