Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 13, 2012

People tend to think about other people in groups. But groups are nearly never completely homogeneous. Thus every possible statement you can make about "bankers", or "soccer fans", or "hardcore gamers" is most certainly wrong for at least part of that population. Much of this is due to a rather necessary brevity of speech: If you want to occupy Wall Street and protest against banker's salaries and/or behavior, your sign can't possibly be big enough to list all the possible exceptions to the term "bankers". Thus on my blog, if "hardcore gamers" are mentioned, I do not list all possible exceptions either. I am absolutely sure that there are some hardcore gamers which are very nice people, and who spend their time patiently helping and teaching new players. Likewise I am convinced that there are honest bankers, and quietly polite English soccer fans.

Thus it might appear unfair to some that if you watch any documentary about hardcore gamers raiding in an MMORPG, you will always see some not very attractive, nor very well kempt guy shouting profanities in his headset. Hey, you will say, not all hardcore gamers are like this! And you are right. But does this make the documentary wrong? Haven't we all met that guy and heard his shouted profanities over Teamspeak? Haven't we read those blog entries where some hardcore gamers declared their superiority, and stated how unworthy other players were of "welfare epics" (which incidentally is a term that was used by a hardcore gamer working for Blizzard and speaking in an official capacity)? Haven't we all seen the general chat in which hardcore gamers measured the worth of other human beings by their gearscore, and called less good players by all sorts of names?

If any sort of behavior is sufficiently prevalent and sufficiently offensive in a group to be widely remarked, it is inevitable that even the members of that population that don't behave like that risk getting tarred with the same brush. The French town that had several pubs demolished by English hooligans after a game will *not* remember the quietly polite English soccer fan. And the average MMORPG player will be more likely to remember the hardcore gamer who called him names for having gemmed or enchanted one piece of gear wrong than some other hardcore gamer who didn't behave badly. Unless there is a certain degree of self-policing in a group, where certain ethical standards are adopted, and members are clearly told that certain modes of behavior aren't acceptable, this sort of generalization is likely to continue. There are lots of examples of such wider groups who made an effort to become more respectable and succeeded. But it requires more than just denial or anecdotal evidence of a few group members having done something nice.
There's also a problem with reporting. Media (and bloggers are not immune) often become echo chambers where every single participant "proves" his point by citing the others, in a "globalized circular reference" :)

Remaining with what I'm most familiar with (WoW) I can tell you that most of the information floating around (such as the whole "dance vs. performance" thing) is more or less bullshit. But since it gets repeated a lot by most of the vocal bloggers, it just circulates as "the truth". The "anecdotal evidence of of a few group members" is the result of:
- controversial stuff "selling" a lot better than non-controversial stuff;
- nice people having something better to do than spend their time clarifying reality to an audience they don't care about,
- the same nice people getting tired fast of being dismissed as "anecdotal evidence", while the same anecdotal evidence of the opposite is believed blindly.
So you think it takes more than one counter-example to refute a generalisation?
> polite English soccer fans

I don't know about this one...
> polite English soccer fans

I don't know about this one...

How about French/German/Italian/Spanish/whatever non-racist football fans...? No, me neither...
I would be very careful about calling the English a "race". Just saying.

If you look up Hooliganism on Wikipedia, you will find a reference to it being called "the English disease". And yes, of course that too is a generalization.

So you think it takes more than one counter-example to refute a generalisation?

What do you think about the role of bankers in the financial crisis of the last years? Now try to make a statement to which not one single counter-example can be found. So, no, single counter-examples do not refute generalizations any more than the remark "this is a generalization" does.
I was referring to the constant racist chants often heard from French/Italian/German/Spanish/etc football fans whenever there is a non-white player on the pitch - if you're going to point the finger at the English then be prepared to take a good hard look in the mirror.

Anyway, point made, moving on.
If you look up Hooliganism on Wikipedia, you will find a reference to it being called "the English disease"

And you actually read the full article on Wikipedia you will clearly see that almost every European country is listed! I think it's fair to say that generalising comes from not knowing (or reading) the full facts. Ignorance is bliss I guess.
When exchanging information some responsibility always lies with the receiver.
This makes the difference between trying to understand someone and ultimately find the truth, and trying to win an argument.

On hardcore gamers, I often disagree that even a slight majority behaves the way you think, Tobold.
I think it's fair to say that generalising comes from not knowing (or reading) the full facts.

No. Generalising comes from taking a shortcut. When you want to make a short remark about soccer hooligans, you don't want to be obliged to quote 10 pages of Wikipedia about the relative prevalence and historical evolution of the phenomenon over the last 50 years.

Every person is an individual, with an individual behavior. But if you want to discuss any subject in which more than a few people are involved, it is actually impossible to list every individual involved, and his role and motivation. Your statement about French/Italian/German/Spanish/etc football fans being racist is such a generalization: Not EVERY one of them is a racist. To be exact, you would need to make a complete list of how often in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, etc. exactly what percentage of the fans participated in racist chants. As you probably can't do that, your only choice is to generalize.

On hardcore gamers, I often disagree that even a slight majority behaves the way you think, Tobold.

And I doubt that even a slight majority of French/Italian/German/Spanish/etc football fans are racist. But it isn't a question of statistics, but a question of perception: If in a high enough number of cases these sort of chants were heard, and then got widely reported, it generates a perception of an underlying racism among all these fans.

The perception of hardcore gamers is more influenced by the one guy ranting on the WoW forums or his blog than by the 10 guys who say nothing. Or to quote Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Although in this case it is more a problem of the good men being shouted down if they protest about the bad apples.
Generalising comes from taking a shortcut

I couldn't disagree more - generalising comes from ignorance. And my comment about European racist football fans was exactly that - to point out that generalisations are easy to make when you are ignorant of the full facts.
Dave, if you don't agree that generalization comes from shortcut, I challenge you to make a one-phrase statement about a group of people which is not a generalization, not self-evident, and to which no exception can be found.
You should seriously consider becoming a lawyer; your ability to twist and bend a conversation thread is second to none. That wasn't a generalisation by the way.
Ah, you're always saying that if you are out-argumented.
@Dave: sorry but Tobold is 100% right, a generalization IS a shortcut. It allows you to transmit an opinion in a single statement, intentionally blurring any detail you don't want to focus about (because you consider them irrelevant to the discussion at hand, for example).

Being a shortcut, it can also be used to hide ignorance, but this is another story :)
@Helistar: You're describing a summary or synopsis. Tobold just likes to argue, generally speaking.
Tobold just likes to argue

Why would you leave comments here if you DON'T want to discuss arguments?

You just make a statement ("All generalization is ignorance"), and then you refuse to discuss the validity of that claim. And that in spite of the obvious logical flaw of that argument ("All generalization is ignorance" is a generalization, thus it follows that the argument is ignorant. Actually this is a version of the Epimenides paradox.).
Are we now making the generalization that only HardCore gamers are rude? I am sure that rude bahaviour falls across all categories of game, depending on the situation, from everything to pugs to battlegrounds to trade chat trolls. Since most of us can only cite personal experiences and because we often disagree with eathother, the truth is most likely somewhere in between, no?
Are we now making the generalization that only HardCore gamers are rude?

I certainly never claimed that. Although I would say that because Hardcore gamers tend to take games a lot more seriously than casual gamers do, the probability of one of them getting angry to the point of being rude is somewhat higher. But they certainly don't have a monopoly on being rude.
Taking the actions of one person and applying them to an entire group is called prejudice. While clearly being prejudiced against hardcore gamers is a lot less unpleasant than being prejudiced against a race, for example, they come from the same core. It's intellectually lazy, frankly.
We're too smart to let our perception bias make us racists. We know that personal, emotional experiences skew our ability to generalize accurately.

Fight it with your brain. Assume the best in people, don't be shocked by the worst, and move on.

We have absolutely no control over others, and only a little more over ourselves.

Don't overreact to the bad, spread the good, and rainbows and unicorns sprout from your loins.
-Why isn't there an option to simply not generalize? Why not just refuse to take the shortcut?

It can be done, and should be more often than it is.

A genralization is the same as a sterotype. How it comes around is that enough people see the same 'thing' to equate that 'thing' with the type of person that is exhibiting that behaviour or 'thing'.

Of course this does not imply all or even a majority. What it does imply that a critical mass (and this has been documented to be as low as 2%) experience the same 'thing' or witness the same 'thing'.

Bottom line is there is some truth in the sterotype but that truth is then wrongly applied to the whole group.

After that point it becomes the generalization or sterotype.
These sweeping generalizations are probably what caused the firestorm in the previous thread :). Even after clarifications that Tobold was meaning only the superiority complex douchebag niche of hardcore gamers, most of us probably couldn't (and still can't) help but think of being a part of the group Tobold was generalizing, even though he wasn't trying to.

And when I think about it, it's not like any of us have attempted to publicly denounce these folks or attempted to quash this sort of behavior in the gaming community. At best, we just sort of distance ourselves a little bit, and say "we're hardcore, just not THAT crazy hardcore".
Pretend I had my own gaming blog, and spent a lot of time on it. I'd post at least once a day, spend time replying to comments, etc. But occasionally I'd remind everyone that "I'm not really that into my blogging, it's just for fun, no big deal. I'm not like those other bloggers." Then one day I make a post about how gaming bloggers are losers because they spend way too much time on their blogs and take them too seriously, and because blogging about games is a pointless and superficial affair worth no amount of praise when they could be spending their time being productive.

After the obvious backlash I make another post that essentially says "I didn't mean you guys, only the small portion of obviously stuck up bloggers who nobody likes." So I've saved myself from looking like an elitist by pointing out that the point of my original post was basically to say "bad guys r bad" (in other words, scapegoating), but I can't take back what I said about gaming blogs being superficial and devoid of merit.

Everyone knows what the stereotypical hardcore gamer is, Tobold. That's not what people took issue with. I don't have a problem with you generalizing hardcore gamers. Some hardcore gamers have bad attitudes, everyone knows that. I have an issue with you then arbitrarily making claims about how it's wrong to feel any amount of pride over something achieved in a game because the achievement has no objective worth.
Hardcore players don't use gearscore. That's a pug thing.
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