This is going to sound like I’m bitching. It’s going to sound like I’m ruining someone’s fun and making them think too hard about the way they spend their time online. It’s going to sound like I’m ball-busting and creating problems just because I want to.
If you play Second Life for the sheer purpose of doing something with little thought put into how it might affect someone who carries the stigma of what you are dressing up as for the moment, go ahead and click here.
Now that those people are gone, let’s talk.
A few weeks ago (can’t remember exactly when because I was knee-deep in work at the time), C88 had some drama about their current cycle with “gypsy” items being included. Some members of Second Life who are actually Romani spoke up and said, hey, cut that shit out. It made the designers on plurk have an honest conversation about what’s a slur and what isn’t. I’m happy that whole thing ended on a positive note and the C88 team rectified the situation quickly.
Here’s the problem now: roleplayers on the whole missed out on that. If you look at a lot of roleplaying sims that contain a Romani group as a faction, they are often referred to as “gypsies” out of character. Up until now, I myself didn’t even know this was a derogatory term. But it is, and we should all stop using it. Even if there were no SL players of Romani descent or heritage (which there are), a slur is a slur and once you learn it is one, you’d think that’s enough of a reason to stop using it. Sadly, though, some people don’t care.
It’s no surprise SL is used by a lot of players to get their quick fix of pixel sex and virtual thrills. I’m not here to judge anybody if they do that, but I want to point out this: it’s a shitty thing if the way we’re getting off or getting our virtual highs is by cheapening any culture to a one-dimensional stereotype. Sex notwithstanding, if you can’t create an interesting character based on the strength of their personality instead of general excitement over what culture they are from or what species they are, maybe you should think about why you’ve created them in the first place.
That’s like saying:
“I’m a fascinating character because I’m gay! Look how fierce I am!”
“I’m fascinating because I’m black! Look at my urban-ness!”
“Omg I’m a fairy I’m a fairy I’m a fairy let’s write paragraphs of boring rp because I can fly and shit, and this is my whole schtick”
Seriously? You’ve got nothing else?
There’s a lot more for material if you want to look, that can inspire you to develop your character’s personality and inner strength if you do the research. Or, you can abandon that and create a storyline that, you know, isn’t hinging on the fact that your character does exactly what society as a whole thinks they do.
Instead of playing another backwards-cap-wearing black dude, try a suburban black guy who maybe doesn’t get his own cultural stereotypes and is sort of at odds with it.
Instead of another stereotypical gay character who wears matching everything and has a quick wit, try a gay character who is unsure of even coming out and would probably be the last person anyone would think is gay–until they hit on the wrong person.
Instead of paragraphs boring cookie-cutter pixie fairy rp, try creating a fun personality first, then attach some wings to that person and decide what species they are.
You’d get a lot more out of someone like that, and by the time you learn what’s appropriate to call them, it wouldn’t ruin anything.