Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Privilege Check: a Funny Card Game (But You Wouldn't Get It)

(EDIT 4/6/2014: I encourage you to read the comments, where the creator of the game explains their position.)

(EDIT 10/1/2015: also this)

Sometimes, when the planets align just right and the sun is out and my dog is being the cutest, I find myself thinking that this whole social justice thing is going to be alright. People are speaking up, laws are being passed, ground is gained. Give it another, oh, let's say 200 years and maybe we'll get somewhere. My teaspoons are helping! Excelsior!

Other days, I get emails from my favorite Indie RPG site advertising this shit:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot win an argument on the internet. This common presumption is, however, incorrect. It is perfectly possible to win an argument on the internet, not by being right or by using evidence, but by the simple expedient of being more oppressed than anyone else. 
Not oppressed in the actual meaning of being oppressed, but rather how many minority groups demographics you can cram yourself into. If you're the most oppressed, nobody can hope to challenge anything you say or think without being a horrible bigot. 
Privilege Check is a game that recreates this phenomenon by setting the players against each other to compete in order to be the least privileged person at the table and, thus, to win while the most privileged person at the table is dubbed the 'Shitlord'. These cards can also be used to create random Tumblr profiles. 
All the fun of a knock-down, drag-out, 'social justice' argument on the internet, even when you don't have access to wifi!

And I kind of want to quit this whole "advocacy" thing and make a life for myself farming beets on Jupiter. I'll have a funny little star pet named Dirk and we'll be best friends and wear matching sweaters and be so happy far away from the fuckery of these earth beasts.

I'll be damned if I'm going to spend a whole five dollars on this vile thing, but here's how the gameplay goes: you get a hand of cards that denote either your race, gender or psychological disorder. You combine them all together with buffs and event cards to create the most victimized person you can think of and score Victim Points. The person with the most Victim Points at the end of the game wins.

Don't worry if your favorite identity isn't represented, they're saving those for the expansions. I personally can't wait to see Wheelchair User - 5 points. Think of all the hilarious pictures they can draw for that one!

It'd be a little redundant to point out that you'd have to be an unimaginable asshole to think this is in any way funny, so allow me to skip over that and go straight to my core argument of WHAT!!?!

I wonder if anyone sees the irony in all of this. Because if members of a marginalized group try to protest this fuckery, you know they're going to run into the usual Roman Turtle Formation of hand-waving excuses. "It's just a game. Have a sense of humor. This is why nobody likes you people. It's not meant to be taken seriously. I didn't intend to hurt anyone, so anyone who is hurt should just deal." And so on. I guess that means we win then.

I tried being a marginalized person on the internet (female - 2 points, rape survivor - 5 points, QUILTBAG - c-c-combo!) Curiously, it didn't result in anyone saying "ugh, well, in that case I can't say anything, can I?" People didn't exactly shrug and go home. In fact they threatened my life and made a game of intentionally trying to trigger me. I didn't feel like a winner. In fact I felt like all my carefully collected Victim Points weren't getting me much of an advantage at all.

But allowing for the possibility that this is indeed a clever teaching tool, something created to show privileged people the many identities that are being oppressed and ridiculed and beaten and murdered as I type this, it still doesn't work. It doesn't work because they've framed it with this "internet argument" bullshit and it doesn't work because frankly, anyone who buys this won't be in on the joke and just have a chuckle at how annoying and silly those marginalized people are. And if you're framing it as a joke, then you're working from the premise that something about your statement is inherently funny, or made funny by context. This shit is not inherently funny, and the context only makes it worse.

It's not a surprise that words and phrases used by social justice advocates get co-opted and ridiculed, because that always happens. For me, the phrase "check your privilege" officially became a big old joke when John Stewart bleated it on the Daily Show and it sort of broke my heart. It's sad, but that was always going to happen, because that always happens, sure as the waxing of the moon and the coming of the tide. It's hard to be properly shocked by something that happens like clockwork.

What really leaves me stewing in a stinking miasma of shock and hurt and anger is the fact that some people , enough people to be considered "a demographic" for this game, look at our lives, our experiences, our struggles and our trauma and think we're playing a game. Trying to score points. Trying to win arguments. Relishing being hurt and marginalized because it makes us feel superior. 

I don't feel superior. That's the whole point of being marginalized. You're made to feel like liquid shit every single day. By a lot of things, including funny little jokes like this. The developer is already online mocking people giving it one star reviews and claiming they "don't get it." This is literally the first and only comment on the page. It's true that somebody isn't getting something, I'll give them that.

But it's just a joke. Don't get offended. The more offended you get, the more you speak up, the more they win. And if you don't get offended, and don't speak up, they also win. 

But at least they lose at Privilege Check.

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