Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

I've been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word "privilege", to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It's not that the word "privilege" is incorrect, it's that it's not their word. When confronted with "privilege", they fiddle with the word itself and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word "privilege" in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

Being a white guy who likes women, here's how I would do it:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive roleplaying game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, mobile phones and doughnuts, although not always at the same time. Let's call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

OK: In the roleplaying game known as The Real World, "Straight White Male" is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviours for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your levelling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it's easier to get.

Now, once you've selected the "Straight White Male" difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you're probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.

As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you're playing on the "Straight White Male" setting, gaining points and levelling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.

Likewise, it's certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn't change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.

You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the "Gay Minority Female" setting? Hardcore.

And maybe at this point you say, hey, I like a challenge, I want to change my difficulty setting! Well, here's the thing: In The Real World, you don't unlock any rewards or receive any benefit for playing on higher difficulty settings. The game is just harder, and potentially a lot less fun. And you say, OK, but what if I want to replay the game later on a higher difficulty setting, just to see what it's like? Well, here's the other thing about The Real World: You only get to play it once. So why make it more difficult than it has to be? Your goal is to win the game, not make it difficult.

Oh, and one other thing. Remember when I said that you could choose your difficulty setting in The Real World? Well, I lied. In fact, the computer chooses the difficulty setting for you. You don't get a choice; you just get what gets given to you at the start of the game, and then you have to deal with it.

So that's "Straight White Male" for you in The Real World (and also, in the real world): The lowest difficulty setting there is. All things being equal, and even when they are not, if the computer — or life — assigns you the "Straight White Male" difficulty setting, then brother, you've caught a break.

John Scalzi writes science fiction and is currently working on a video game with developer Industrial Toys. His new novel Redshirts will be out from Tor Books on June 5. He blogs at Whatever.

Republished with permission.


    I didn't read this because there were too many words. Can some one give me a one or two sentence break down of what this has to do with gaming?

      Uses an extended gaming metaphor for life.

      He uses gaming analogies.
      Not strictly related to gaming, but... it's a curious read regardless.

      Well, I think he is trying to say that straight white males get the easy life using video games as a metaphor.
      He also writes science fiction so take from that what you will.

      This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

      you are a white hetrosexual male, you should feel guilty

        That's about the gist of it.

      He applied used his TLDNR writing skill and failed.

      you want easy? i wnet to school with an aboriginal girl who halved my scores in maths and sciance, whom got into uni to be a doctor when i had a fairly average score. the reason? government powerups to her class

        I hate it when the government take kids whom aren't good at sciance and make them doctors. You were obviously cheated.


        and she ifs probably more than twice as likely add you to work in poor communities in remote areas

        I bet you felt proud you could run twice as fast as a cripple, too.

      Using gaming difficulty levels as a metaphor that being the same race/gender as the people in power in your country makes you have to put up with less crap?*

      *Stolen from PiratePete on page 2

      I stand by my original statement, go fuck yourselves kotaku

        DeeDee has liked this post

    I know this article isn't exactly for us Australians, but I think being a rich gay black jewish transvestite is still going to be a lot easier than being a poor anything. I would also argue that the "straight white male" is the every-man class which is there for beginners, but it's boring. Other races, sexualities and genders might be more "difficult" to live as but they have greater perks, skill levels, etc etc which make them more "fun" to be.

    Also it's this kind of discussion, as light hearted or tongue in cheek as it may be, that keeps racism and bigotry alive. Why distinguish what "difficulty" we may be playing on when we're all playing the same game? It just creates sentiments of elitism which leads to the aforementioned racism and bigotry.

      Bring a rich anyone is easier than being a poor anyone, but a gay transgender woman of colour is going to find it a hell of a lot more difficult to become rich than a straight white cis man. The article doesn't even deal with trans/cis but it is probably even more significant than sexual orientation or male/female in terms of gaps in privilege.

      And the point of the article was to make people aware of their own privilege, not to berate them for having it. There is no issue with privileged people, and most people have one form of privilege or another. The issue is with privileged people who aren't aware of their own privilege and don't realise it exists. Privilege is what allows someone to not understand or care about an issue which is affecting someone else deeply. A straight person might not care about marriage equality because it doesn't affect them or occur to them. A man may not realise that a rape joke is triggering for some women (and men) because of their male privilege. So on and so forth. Its about being aware of or checking your own privilege, not about reducing it or something silly like that.

        You should use the word 'privilege' a bit more.

    Im a straight white male that works in construction. From the more redneck workers I get called gay because im more intelligent than them. Yep, like idiocracy this really does happen. I think this writer should say stupid straight white males is the easiest setting

    zzzzz. Games and Gaming?

    Sorry, I'm still stuck on the article image of the hipster wearing grey jeans, white shirt with a sweater draped around his shoulders playing Doom on his Mac.
    That guy needs more colourful clothing.
    I suggest a red hoodie.

      First Privilege and now Hipster. This page is just filled with people using words that don't mean anything and are unsure how to correctly use them.

    Nothing like a little early morning racial profiling :P

    Most people would probably know I'm fairly level and reasonable on these matters.

    With that as context: this article is patronising, offensive, and implicitly discriminatory.

    Just because you're generalising about an overlooked group doesn't make it any less racist, sexist, or bigoted.

      Didn't you hear, it's impossible to be racist when your talking about white people :P

        Being offended is a white man's racism... as Zap has aptly demonstrated for us. Thank you Zap ... now go back to being priveledged, healthier, richer and more dominant on average than any other known demographic.

          Someone makes a generalisation based on my gender, sexuality, and/ genetic grouping. They also state that due to a combination of these, my problems are not real problems, my accomplishments are less than other's, my life experiences not as valid.

          Regardless of what I am, that should never be acceptable.

            I don't think that's meant to be the point of this article... more just, hey, remember that living your life may not be as simple if you aren't a white straight male. Other people have it hard for stupid reasons that are pervasive in our society, so continue living, just don't forget about them! It's not invalidating your experiences.

              My issue with this whole thing is that straight white men can also have it hard for stupid reasons that are pervasive in our society. Ethnicity (because let's not forget that not all white people come from the same country or background), hair colour, height, weight, religious views, political views, social habits, mental capacity etc.

              You can't just break it down to "this person has an easier life then this person because they are this gender, skin colour and sexual preference".

                The way I read the article I don't think that's what the Author is saying. I thought there trying to say that some demographics are more likely to face harder challengers then others. He actually says that straight white males can face a tough life too, it's all down to the luck of the draw. It's just once you've already rolled and got "white," "Male," and "straight." the odds become a little better for avoiding other difficulties. Like you get to roll a D6 instead of a D20.

                Doesn't mean you haven't achieved much if you're having a good game. Just keep in mind that there are people out there still rolling D20.

            They're not saying that your problems aren't real problems at all. They're saying that you have access to opportunities that people who are gay, black or female may not have. That's not to say that you, individually, are better off with an individual of an oppressed group.

            But if you have never walked down a street at night afraid of being raped and then blamed for it, if you have never known that you will be targeted by police for the colour of your skin, if you have never had to worry that your parents will reject the person you love, then you have privilege, full stop.

            It's not about blaming you for having it but about being aware of it. You may not be rich, then if someone were talking to you about their iPad and didnt understand why you didnt have one, then you would be a victim of class privilege. These are all of course mild examples of how privilege operates. It's not invalidating your problems, but making you aware of other peoples.

              You should get all the internet points for your comments so far in this thread.

              Let's put the intent of the article aside for the moment. Regardless of intent - which we cannot comment on authoritatively - the article has the net effect of making SWM feel like their triumphs are due to circumstances of privilege more than their own hard work, and that their pains and woes are statistically insignificant and ultimately outweighed by a privileged social position.

              It's an inflammatory piece with ridiculous overgeneralisation. The stink it would cause is incredibly predictable, and the insight it offers is surface and useless.

              And he's really surprised by a negative reaction? Come on.

              Unfortunately, his choice of metaphor directly implies it.

              If SWM is easymode, the achievements from that setting are not worth as much as others. For example, and using his metaphor, I can complete a stealth run on DXHR on easy mode. However, this is worth nothing next to doing it on "Give me Deus Ex" mode.

              The metaphor used here is atrociously bad and undermines the entire premise of his intended article.

                It's not a flawless metaphor, but no metaphors for human interaction are flawless because they are so complex. The advantage of a metaphor, even if it is overgeneralisation, is that it gets a signal boost to sites such as Kotaku which means that it reaches the people it is actually aimed at. I've read hundreds of articles on privilege, but because they are on social justice blogs, only people who are already aware of their own privilege will access them. A video game metaphor, which is a fairly good but not perfect metaphor, means that it will be read by people who are not already aware of their own privilege.

                While the article is perceived to be attacking SWM, did it at least make you aware of your privilege as a SWM? Because if so, it has accomplished something. It perhaps should have been curtailed by a couple of addendums, such as saying that it is not trying to blame people for their privilege, and simply trying to make people aware of privilege through an accessible metaphor, and acknowledging the problems with that metaphor, but I think the actual metaphor itself is among the best I've seen in terms of complex human emotions and interactions.

                  I think this is one of the core problems here. I undersysnd priviledge as well as all forms of discrimination extremely well. This article "does nothing" for me; however I can look at it objectively and see the direct application of discriminatory thoughts and generalisations. That shouldn't be happening, no matter the purpose.

                  The fact that by pointing out the inherent hypocrisy of the article results in people being told they "dont get it" or that "of course you'd say that" is terrible. What this then generates I'd a scenario where if you do not agree completely and utterly with the flawed argument, you are cast as compromised, rather than the flaws being acknowledged and rectified.

                  It is unfortunate that s deliberately broad brush has been used for "white" and I feel that needs to change. These arguments are becoming ever more discrete in target, and that tiny grouping is then used to represent a whole that is much, much smaller than reality. It's extremely disingenuous - and again, calling this out is net with derision and discarded.

                  In short, we should not be dealing with "I'm right because I am; if you disagree at all you are not only wrong, you do not understand the topic"

                its an excellent metaphor, where it falls down is the gamer instinct g to seeka win . you don't win at life, you just bust a gut and try to enjoy yourself. the big take away from the article is that the hurdles before you are lower as a swm. and if you're denying that, you need to meet more varied people

              But that sort of stereotyping is exactly the definition of racism. If this article is to make people aware, it could not be doing worse for itself. You cannot just generalize like that and expect people to not be mad about it, saying that SWM are inherently privileged is the same as saying that black people like to steal, they are both racist remarks and untrue for much of the population. Sweeping statements get attention but they distance the reader, which is why people are saying its a bad piece of journalism.

                There seems to be some confusion in this thread about the definition of privilege in such a context. Privilege has a particular meaning in social justice circles. It is not to say that all SWM are 'privileged' in a general sense, but that they are able to accrue benefits from a more specific form of social privilege. White people do not have to worry that the colour of their skin will prejudice law enforcement against them. That is an example of white privilege. Straight people do not have to worry that their parents will kick them out or never accept the people they love. That is an example of straight privilege. Men do not have to worry that what they are wearing will be used as a legitimate excuse to rape them. That is an example of male privilege. Other circumstances, such as class or general circumstances may mean that they are not privileged in a general sense, but it does not eliminate their straight white male (or cis or able) privilege.

                  Rubbish. There are many straight white males who, if they brough home a much older woman, would not have the relationship accepted as valid.

                  How is that "straights" having it easy?

                  The major problem I find with the article is that it picks out race, gender, and sexuality, and tries to define the general population by such, the problem with this is it is way too simplistic, out of the millions of 'categories' people fit into, he only chose three. This kind of gross generalization is what I was mainly referring to rather than privilege. To say that as a SWM I won't have to deal with the law enforcement being prejudiced against me for the colour of my skin, this seems to take the position that all officials are white, which is most certainly not the case, and what about those police officers of ethnicity whom are racist, does me being white stop the term of racism from meaning anything? Just because some white people are privileged in society by other higher ranking white people doesn't mean this doesn't occur for every other ethnicity under the sun. As for sexuality I can think of ample examples for why a partner chosen by me would not be accepted by my parents, such as sexual fetishes or age. Men are raped, the same as women, the justification doesn't really mean much, men are also much less likely to report rape than women, so you will never find accurate statistics on such.

              Privilege only exists theoretically. In reality there's so many different factors involved that any privilege you have over another person can be negated by a multitude of other factors that have nothing to do with race or sexual identity. It becomes a matter of individual differences rather than group differences. Privilege is a word people use to keep the circle talk going, to keep agreeing with each other.

              What about a straight white affluent male with a mental disorder such as bipolar that tears his life apart slowly, that affects everything he does, that he didn't chose and that drags his "difficulty" in the game of life way up? Does he have more privilege than a middle class black woman living a comfortable life in a country such as Australia where racial issues are less acceptable among, well, the middle to upper class especially?

              Would I claim that Barack Obama or Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah have more privilege than me? You're damn right I would. Regardless of what their difficulty setting WAS, your privilege changes on a day to day basis at times, and is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

              All this generalisation sounds awful like what women and the gay community and ethnic groups have been complaining about this whole time, and it's getting worse every day. This intent to drag the white man's influence on the world down is completely missing the point and is destructive more than constructive.

              Just because you're a part of the group that you're arguing for, it doesn't mean that you're not an idiot or you're not wrong, but if a white heterosexual male disagrees, and points out the flaws in your argument, he's suddenly a victim of his privilege? That is crazy talk. Half the women who argue for things like feminism online have never actually researched what they are talking about, are we to assume they just KNOW, inherently?

              And if you're worried about your parents not loving you or your partner that you have chosen, then that's a problem with your parents as people, not some larger social issue. And in fact, if you have a problem with anyone you meet in this life who defines you by your gender or sexuality or race, it's a safe bet they are just a terrible PERSON, and you certainly shouldn't just put them in the same pigeonhole you yourself are a victim of.

                Privilege is less important from an indivdual point of view and more the operation of cultural and societal factors that are beyond any one person's point of view. Someone with bipolar has to deal with perceptions of themselves as unstable and volatile, something someone without bipolar does not necessarily have to worry about just because of a label. That would be a form of privilege. It doesn't apply to everyone, but it's only a broad generalisation in as much as talking about anything societal and cultural is going to be a broad generalisation - there are millions of people who suffer all different forms of oppression and there are not many people who do not suffer any. It is not a wholistic thing necessarily: someone can be privileged in the traditional sense, such as Obama, but still be a victim of other people's privilege, such as the whole ridiculous birth certificate debacle, which would not have been an issue were he right. He still does not have white privilege.

                Someone who is a victim of privilege does not have that privilege, but is interacting with someone who does and perhaps isn't aware of it. I was not attacking him in any way; quite the contrary. And yes, many people are just terrible PEOPLE, but that doesn't mean that their views are not shaped by cultural and societal views which preference the privileged. When was the last time you saw a complex transgender person on television for example? It is the othering of the oppressed which perpetuates oppression.

                And trust me, if you have ever been consistently and constantly singled out, harassed, belittled or dismissed because of your gender, you'd know that the research is not the important part of feminism, although very interesting, mind opening and useful.

                  If he were white. Damn autocorrect.

            You're missing the point: as a straight white male, you're the only group that *doesn't* get generalisations slapped on it. The problems you have would be worse if you weren't straight, white, and male. Yes, this is massively, infuriatingly unfair. That is the problem. Recognising it, and keeping it in mind when you're dealing with those who are not straight, white or male, is how the balance is redressed.

              "You’re missing the point: as a straight white male, you’re the only group that *doesn’t* get generalisations slapped on it."
              And that right there is a generalisation of SWM. Besides, I'm a SWM, and that doesn't stop people from making generalisations about my French heritage on a regular basis.

                No it's not Jacques, straight white males can't be generalised against!

          SenorFreebie, do you like it when people start talking about the 'average' of whatever demographic you fit into? The average doesn't exist in real life; people are people, not numbers.

      "He said: give me the groceries... Whitie!" *breaks into tears*

      This guy is a complete arse... Read more of his blog and just look at the things he says.. He deleted almost every comment that was critical of his article and then posted about how cool he was in doing so the very next day..

        No, just the dipshit ones, he left plenty of critical ones. The high correlation between being a dipshit and disagreeing with this article should give you pause.

    Every one's got their burdens, even straight whilte males. Life isn't always as easy it as seems looking in at someone elses life. I understand the need for these kinds of article, though. Talking about tollerance, civil rights and the like is important to make progress -- controversial ideas or otherwise.

    It's a generalization and metaphor. Don't get your panties in a bunch over it.

    This is my favourite video game

      The gameplay is balls

      Really? I think it's the least fun game I've ever played. Except maybe Bart's Nightmare.

    I'm a straight white male who has been living in Japan for 4 years. Let me tell you, nobody...NOBODY is more racist than East Asians. I can't work out who is worse, Chinese, Japanese or Koreans. I love living here but sometimes my experiences are straight out of 1920's America. I have people crossing the road to avoid me, I am told (politely) there is no room in a restaurant when there clearly is, and this is all based on the colour of my skin.

    I know that was a little off topic but I guess I wanted to inform that life is not always peachy for the supposedly 'blessed' straight white male. Also, does this article even belong on Kotaku?

      Clearly they're scared you will walk in and buy the building...
      That's what white males do right? Buy everything in sight :P

      This only applies to Western countries, which he definitely should have specified in the article itself. Each country has their own levels of privilege for different groups, although I think straight man tends to be at the top.

        bizarre, I spent five years there and never once experienced what you describe.

          I should have added that I live in the countryside.

            I had that happen in a major capital in Japan. Never experienced out and out racism there, but I have had people cross the street, stop dead in their tracks, vault over a barrier and run into traffic to get away from me.

            Then again I suppose it is all in context. Clearly SWM are a minority in Japan, as Japanese are in Australia. If people think they can get away with it, you would be surprised what they would do.

    Yeah I'm pretty sure if I wrote an article called "Asian Student: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is For Mathematics" it would be considered racist, so how is this not?

      Because it's accurate. Straight white men rule the world.

        Yeah, but not all straight white men. 1% of 1% of people run the world commercially and politically. Why rag on a whole class for people for that?

          It's not ragging on anybody. It's attempting to explain that there is little to no prejudice against straight white males in western society, where there is for other races, sexes and sexualities, and this makes most aspects of life easier for people that fit this description.

          I guess when you have privilege, it's a lot harder to recognise said privilege.

        I think its less accurate and more a massive and offensive generalisation. Not unlike my hypothetical.

    "Straight White Male" may have been the lowest difficult setting, but asshats like you sure as hell are ramping it up.

    Every time I get classified as a "straight white male", it's for the purposes of bashing us for having 'easy lives'. I've come to dread the term and buy into the hate. I feel marginalised as a member of this group, guilty to be privileged, and petty for having problems of my own.

      And empty for having achieved my accomplishments from a position of social advantage.

    This looks to be another Troll article by Gawker to generate page hits...

    Ignore the troll :P


      Easiest difficulty setting is "troll".

      Look at how well we ignored the troll ...

    What a flawed, bloated and condescending analogy.

    The main problem i see with this article is the fact that i didn't 'choose' to be a straight white male, I just am, just like other people don't 'choose' to be gay minority female, they just are. I don't deserve to be talked down to just because I was born this way, the same way people who are born as a gay minority female don't deserve to be talked down to or discriminated against either. I didn't pick this 'difficulty setting' and definitely don't like being treated as if I am bad/lazy/insensitive because I am a straight white male.

    I am aware of the situation the world is in, but it's not entirely my fault. I am not prejudiced against anyone for things they can't help, like being born of a certain ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation. I am not a perpetrator of these acts of discrimination and when encountering them I do my best to stifle and eradicate them. I could do more but I'm not going to lie, my passion and ability lies elsewhere other than gay/minorities rights movement and that's ok because that's my choice, I'm a better illustrator/designer/musician than political activist and I believe people should follow what they are good at/what they like doing and that's what makes the world interesting.

    But before you go and write a pompous article talking down to people (under the guise of trying to 'speak their language' or some other such condescending agenda) about how they have it so easy (like they actually have a choice) and therefore are bad/lazy/insensitive because they have chosen this choice, maybe you should think about what good it will do, because clearly it's not not helping any causes. Rather than rallying your audience to your banner of anti discrimination and segregation (which is what i assume you are trying to do, but you haven't really made that clear) you've alienated them.

      That wasn’t the point of the article though. It wasn’t aimed at straight white men who are aware of their own privilege and check it. It’s explaining privilege to those who don’t understand that they have it. You clearly understand that being a straight white man makes your life inherently easier than a gay woman of colour, regardless of other circumstances, so this article was not aimed at you, but at those who do not understand their privilege. It isn't an attempt to change anything really, he's not blaming all straight white men for the state of the world, but rather an attempt to make those who cannot recognise their own privilege aware of it.

      You’ll note at the end that he says that you do not get a choice – he’s not berating people for BEING straight white men, but rather explaining to those who do not understand aspects of their own privilege how privilege operates.

        But why read the artical properly and try and understand when Roh can just write a half page rant about how it's not his fault.

        And Roh, you're not bad/lazy/insensitive because you're a straight white male. You're all those things cause you act like a dick.

          But at least Roh is aware of his privlege and how it makes him act, which many of the people on this thread seem not to be. I'm aware that my white privilege means that little representation of people of colour on television is not as blaring obvious to me as to people of colour. I'm also aware that my friend's male privilege means that they aren't bothered by sexist representations of women on television and film as I am.

          Awareness of privilege just means checking your own. This article was not berating you for having it, but making you aware of it Roh, which you already were. Checking your privlege is mostly important before you speak down to those who don't have it, because they are going to be more likely to have noticed an inequality or discrimination or unfair representation than you, and thats going to be more likely to bother them.

          I'm not the one insulting people on the internet.

        "All things being equal, and even when they are not, if the computer — or life — assigns you the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, then brother, you’ve caught a break."

        This makes it seem like he is talking directly to me, a straight white male, because it is.

        As you've said I am aware of my position in the world and maybe this article isn't supposed to be aimed at people like me, but when this article is clearly making hugh sweeping generalisations about 'straight white males' of which I am one, it's hard not to think he is addressing me.

        I did see that he said it isn't a choice, but that is why i stated his analogy is flawed, because the whole idea of a difficult setting in a game is that you CHOOSE it, it's not assigned at random. I do understand what he was trying (and floundering) to say, but surely there are better metaphors out there that can illustrate his point. Even in the responses on his his blog he says that 'metaphors aren't prefect', but isn't that the entire point? To show the same subject in a different light so as to reach a better understanding and not completely misrepresent a subject by using a metaphor that is fundamentally wrong.

          It's not a perfect metaphor. Reducing complex human interactions and emotions to a simple and easy to understand metaphor is always going to lose some nuance. But it is among the best metaphors I have seen for such a complex concept.

          He is talking directly to straight white males. Because those who have privilege are the most likely not to be able to recognise it. Find me a metaphor that does not have to make sweeping generalisations for the sake of clarity. He leaves the choice thing to the end to emphasise how much it sucks that you cannot make that choice; and when I say that, I do not mean that SWM would want to choose a higher difficulty setting, but that it sucks for the people who don't experience privilege that they can't. It's not invalidating the problems, experiences or accomplishments of people with privilege (trust me, I have an incredible amount of privilege and have never once felt that that invalidated my achievements), but to emphasise that others do not have that privilege and thus that achievements become more difficult.

          It is a metaphor, not the real world, and playing on a harder difficulty setting is not something to aspire to in the real world, but helping or at least understanding and empathising with those who are on a harder difficulty setting is. Perhaps a lot of these caveats should have been in the article. But that doesn't invalidate his general point.

            I agree that metaphors can never be perfect, however I found it a bit of a stretch to relate it to what he was trying to convey, so when it gets down to it that's what was grating me, not what he said, but how he said it.

            I'm definitely not denying the fact that straight white males could have more opportunities than other groups, but I'm just not that keen on being lumped into a group with people who are purposefully ignorant. I stated above that I am aware of my own position and try and be wary of others and theirs, I don't feel I am part of the problem but I freely admit that I'm not on the front lines, but I shouldn't be chastised or condescended to for that choice, just because people with certain genetic traits similar to mine choose to be morons.

              He definitely sounded very condescending at the beginning, which made me think that the article was going to be terrible, but I thought the rest of it wasn't bad. I don't think he was chastising you for not being on the front lines, but educating others, which he did not elegantly separate from people who are aware of their privilege such as yourself.

              The point is, thank you for being an empathetic and understanding person who can check their privilege :) You are honestly and sadly a rare person.

                Thank you for the intelligent discussion, that and not calling me a dick.

    What exactly did I just read?!..
    I can see what the article wanted to do.. But I think it did the opposite. We are supposed to be fighting against racism and sexism, not encouraging it.... It can be hard to be a certain type of person in many different countries and States. Just because your experience is limited to middle upperclass America does NOT mean that you can dictate and presume what it is like for everywhere in the world. In some places just being white can get you killed, excluded and abused. Just as much as being a transsexual Russian man/woman might do elsewhere.
    I went to this guy's blog and read his response to the replies of the original articles.
    In reading those replies I have decided that I extremely dislike him as a person. Egotistical and Naive.
    I don't think even he knows just how little he gets it.
    Good day sirs.

      That wasn't the point of the article though. It wasn't aimed at straight white men who are aware of their own privilege and check it. It's explaining privilege to those who don't understand that they have it. You clearly understand that being a straight white man makes your life inherently easier than a gay woman of colour, regardless of other circumstances, So this article was not aimed at you, but at those who do not understand their privilege. You'll note at the end that he says that you do not get a choice - he's not berating people for BEING straight white men, but rather explaining to those who do not understand aspects of their own privilege how privilege operates.

        Sorry, replied to the wrong post.

    What a load of bullshit.

    Seriously, one of the worst articles I've read since that "videogames taught me how to me how to dress and so can you" pile of shit a while ago.

    While it is a generalization, it's fairly accurate. In my boyfriend's accounting classes the lecturer straight up tells the Indian/Asian/PoC students that they will have a lot more trouble finding internships and work because the industry has a buttload of predjudice.

    It's not always true, but in Australia and America it generally is. Can't wait until in one or two generations everyone will be so mixed race that racism becomes literally impossible.

    That's not privilege, that's inequality. No one assigned them elevated status or benefits beyond the masses, they were simply born into more favourable circumstances. It's not fair, it's life.

    Additionally, peoples problems are relative to them, you don't have to be poor to be miserable.

    That it Kotaku im done.

    I get it. It's not trying to upset fellow SWMs out there. Its' trying to explain to you why some people feel resentful of your position. Many things are easier for us because we don't have to deal with background struggles caused by simply being who we are.

    Don't be offended by the article. There's nothing to be offended about. If you think about it objectively there are words of truth in there. Then you can move on with your life, potentially a little more tolerant.

      I think most SWMs are aware of this. My main issue was with the approach this guy adopts. Surely the key to unlocking tolerance is to appreciate individuality in personal and lifestyle circumstances.

      Lumping an incredibly large class of people together - a class that exists on almost every continent, and encompasses a near-infinite range of economic circumstances (from the poverty of a Russian slum, to Trump Towers), a near infinite range of health circumstances (from juvenile leukemia to gangrenous amputees to 120-year old smokers), and a near infinite range of experience (from child and drug abuse to mental illness to private education to sports stars to charity workers), and say 'hey you're all privileged' is kind of disingenuous, and ultimately a ridiculous and inflammatory argument.

        In my experience many SWM, particularly in the geek community, are NOT aware of their own privilege, particularly their gender or straight privilege. Working at a gaming store as a woman, let me tell you, /sucks/ a lot of the time.

        I think he is just using SWM as a touchstone for all privilege. All sorts of privilege exist: class privilege, able privilege, cis privilege, etc. These would address many of the problems you're pointing out here. Again, perhaps he shoud have addressed these, but it is easier said than done and still keep the metaphor snappy and of a readable length. But SWM ARE ALL PRIVILEGED. They may suffer from other forms as oppression, but that doesn't invalidate their straight, white or male privileges. By the same token, having one form of privilege does not invalid non-privilege in other areas. For clarity, he definitely should have acknowledged other forms of oppression, even if briefly, but it doesn't make the metaphor that he did write invalid, just incomplete.

          Your argument seems to be that the world is more complex than his simplistic argument represents it as. I agree with this, but I see it as a reason to NOT write articles like this, rather than as an apology for its shortcomings.

          And you're right: some male geeks are douches (so are some male non-geeks and some female geeks and some female non-geeks, and some straight and gay geeks and non-geeks) ... but I don't think you can comment on whether or not they are aware of their privilege - they might just not care. And that's an entirely different point, and that's one worth writing an article about.

            It has started discussion though, and maybe made people more aware of their privilege, which wouldn't have happened if he had written a more thorough or non-metaphorical article, because it either wouldn't be reaching the people who it needs to reach, or would be a victim of TL;DR.

            I agree, I'd love to see someone write an article about people not caring about their own privilege. But on your other point, I have certainly met people who are unaware that being straight gives them privileges that queer people do not have. And I think that can often be the case in the gaming community - people use homophobic insults in games and women are disregarded because of their gender frequently, and I would be willing to bet plenty of those were completely unaware or at least disregarding of their own privilege, or did not know how privilege operates. That is why introductory articles such as this are so important, if flawed. If people aren't aware that privilege exists, which in my experience is A LOT of people, this is a primer to an actual discussion of privilege stripped of the incomplete metaphor.

              But in these examples of yours, privilege isn't the focus. Crappy behaviour is the focus. I understand your philosophy and commend it, but this article isn't going to change anyone's crappy behaviour.

                It might do if their crappy behaviour is a result of privilege. For example, someone might use f****t or n***a as an insult online without realising how offensive that is to queer or black people. If they learned about privilege and acknowledged their own, they may then empathise and recognise this, and stop using it. This is hypothetical of course, but if even one person does it then the article has accomplished something.

                And I commend you for being someone willing to critically evaluate and discuss, as opposed to just shutting people down. It's refreshing :)

      Agreed. The problem is that people are quick to defend themselves, which isn't bad it's just natural. I mean in the face of an article that seems to be saying "oh you got it sooooooo easy" it isn't hard to realise that no, you haven't actually had it that easy thank you very much, and get defensive. Of course the concept isn't about objectively having an easy life, just trying to make people aware that their place in society may make it easier than others.

      Which of course is another problem with an analogy like this, because while it can be useful for awareness of your theoretic social 'power,' it doesn't account for the incredibly numerous realities of life. It can quickly fall apart because no matter your theoretical 'difficulty setting' life can still be hard as all hell to get through.

      Not to mention that the analogy kinda assumes a single endgame, which appears to me to be getting a good job that earns you a whole lot of money. I mean what if I want a different endgame? Maybe a profession that isn't 'proper' for a guy like nursing, or I want to be a stay at home dad while my wife goes to work? Suddenly the 'character' you're playing has increased their 'difficulty setting.'

      So yeah, I think the concept is useful to try and make people a bit more aware of things they probably wouldn't even consider, but when applied to real life and each person's wildly varying experience it's usefulness can be lessened or even entirely eliminated if you're in a circumstance that it cannot possibly account for.

      I mean personally I know in comparison to a massive amount of people I've had it easy. That doesn't mean life has always been easy though, honestly plenty of times it's been bloody hard, but that's life. I try and keep aware of how comparatively easy I've had it though, even though there are those out there who have it easier than me too. You don't have to feel guilty either though, as plenty of people have said like everyone else you didn't choose who you are.

        Yay someone who understands privilege. I'm a middle-to-upper class, able, white, passing-as-straight cis woman so I have almost all the privilege its possible to have. I have to work every day to be aware of my privileges and be aware of the issues facing lower class, disabled, trans or people of colour. It is not a crime to have privilege, but it is bad not to be aware of it. Which you are, yay!

          I think you are confusing awareness with social conscience. They are not equivalent.

    Racial power is an ever changing cycle. For the past few hundred years its been white Europeans. Before that the Arabs had a small but significant run, go back further and it was split between Chinese and Southern Europeans etc etc.. Only difference is that these days we live in a global society, so the effects are more wide spread. In the next few centuries the Chinese will likely be top dog again, though by that time well start seeing the true effects of globalisation (more mixed races and the new cultures which stem from them.) Exciting times ahead.

      Bringing history to a gender / race battle. I like your style. Can I be Thursday? I think personally that the future isn't defined by the dominance of one racial group, leaving aside the fact that 'Chinese' describes a state more than it describes any one ethnic group. I think it's going to be defined by the gradual break down of borders and the dominance of ideas. The internet is making it so easy to learn, to communicate, that we're going to realise eventually that borders, governments, racial, gender and religious differences are all largely irrelevant ... and that we don't need to oppress others to live our privileged white lifestyles.

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