Open Letter to Gamers Everywhere: Stop Saying “rape.”

by kaminazo

I’m guilty. I’ve been a 15-year-old white boy for a time in my life. I’ve said it at LAN parties when I was killed and my gun was stolen. But I was wrong. We as a gaming culture need to stop appropriating this hateful and juvenile term to describe our frustrations with loss during a “fun” recreational activity. I’m not saying that teenaged boys will ever stop using the word, or that girls aren’t guilty of using it, too. But, I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve heard adult males claiming they were “raped” in a game. No one needs you to advertise it.
You were not raped. If you somehow equate your loss of a match or having resources stolen to being sexually assaulted, then you need to re-evaluate your definition of the word. Rape is a violent, humiliating, life-destroying, illegal, and very real crime. The victims are almost always women or children, not straight white men. You are minimizing the trauma of every person who has ever been raped, abused or sexually assaulted by using the term freely to complain about sucking at your game.

So, just quit it.

I’d also like to mention that you’re wrong. First, you’re on the wrong side of history. Historically, we will look back at hateful people (bigots, racists, and homophobes) as tyrannical and evil. I can already think of several examples from my history book. If you want to tout your freedom of speech, do it by saying something accurate. We already have perfectly acceptable game vernacular for being killed: ‘frag.’ I’m sorry if that’s not “extreme” enough for you. Go slam another Mountain Dew.

Second, you’re using the wrong term. Don’t try to argue that you’re just using the term rape from the historical context “rape and pillage.” This type of rape is the wartime act of seizing women as spoils of war and subjecting them to sexual violence. It’s usually coupled with an extreme sense of xenophobia, racism, and disregard of basic human rights. It is not something we emulate in our games; Even if the game has war, battle, military, conquer, or invade in the title. No one is forcing the rape portion of “rape and pillage” upon you. If your village, town, castle, or clan was just attacked in a game and resources were stolen, you have been “sacked” or “pillaged.” That would be perfectly acceptable to say. “My base just got pillaged.” or “I’m sick of getting sacked.”

Third, I hope you’re wrong about the person you directed that language toward. I think the person who just beat you at a game would be shocked to discover that you think they’re a rapist. Yes, that’s what it means when you say “I’m getting raped.” I hope you would be pretty mad, too, if you were the person who just won and then had your sore-loser opponent said you just raped them. Conversely, if you are a bad-winner, I hope you wouldn’t choose to compare yourself to a rapist by saying “You got raped” or “I just raped you.” If that’s your goal in life, there is a special list for you to be on and special place for you to live.

Fourth, if you heard someone say it and didn’t care, you’re a bad person. I’ve been there. It’s easy to fix: inform yourself and be conscious of it. If you heard someone say it in a mixed group and said nothing, you might have just let a rape victim relive their worst experience. I’ve been there, too. Now that I’ve made that mistake, I won’t repeat it. So, please learn from my mistake. If you heard someone say it and it bothered you, say something! Or at least make them read this if you’re too non-confrontational. If you are a rape victim and you heard someone say it, I’m so sorry. You should never have to hear that word used out of context. I’ll do everything I can to make people I know stop it. 

Finally, if you’re the one who says it, I don’t hate you. I don’t dislike you. Just think about your life and your choices. I want you to think about what you said, why you said it, and who might have been forced to listen to you say it. There is only one appropriate time for you to cry “rape” and I think you know when that is. Not when you’re playing a game with others. If you still don’t care, then you shouldn’t play games with anyone. There are plenty of games you can play alone in an empty room with no internet connection. Just be aware that people who lack that sort of empathy are called sociopaths. Historically, sociopaths were exiled from their communities or pushed off cliffs to protect the community. I don’t condone murder and exile, but in gaming terms it would equate to booting and account banning.

I didn’t come by this opinion out of the blue. It’s something I’ve struggled with for the last 20 years. Originally I was one of the offenders, too. It’s easy to take a powerful word out of context when you’re frustrated with your white-boy problems. It’s much harder to care about other people and be conscious of how your words affect them. It took years of education and insight from people I love to train myself to: first, stop saying it, second, notice it and be bothered by it and third, speak out about it.

It’s about time the gaming community levels up and removes the word “rape” from its vernacular. Why? It’s not about you. It’s about the 1:6 women and 1:33 men who have been sexually assaulted during their lifetime. In a 50-member guild, that means you’re making at least 9 people relive the horror of real rape every time you say it. So stop.