A reminder of what ‘censorship’ means

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After a few media mishaps surrounding an Overwatch scandal in the past week, it’s time we take a hard look at how word choice skews conversation.

Our example? Forbes games writer Erik Kain, whose work I typically enjoy. The offense? Calling Blizzard’s decision to cut a victory pose for Overwatch character Tracer “censorship.”

The real question is, why do people care what poses Tracer has? Does the loss of an ass shot of an animated character really matter that much to these folks?

No. Of course it doesn’t.

To start, let’s go to our handy-dandy Webster’s New World College Dictionary, which many people seem to forget is available in hardback and via a search of Google dot com. To censor something — this is the verb’s definition, in case it’s tough to keep up — means “to subject (a book, film, writer, etc.) to the close examination of a censor.” Now, what’s a censor? It’s someone with the power to “remove or prohibit anything considered obscene, libelous, politically objectionable, etc.”

Right there, in the definitions, we see the problem with Kain’s premise. To censor something, one must have control. But it’s easy for people such as Kain to decry “outrage bullies” and “the conflation of ‘sexy’ and ‘sexist’” while not understanding that one person on a forum who suggests something be altered — or even 1 million people on a forum, for that matter — is not an act of censorship. Censorship requires force. It requires authority.

No, getting rid of a pose in a game because someone suggests it is not "censorship." Get over it. | Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

No, getting rid of a pose in a game because someone suggests it is not “censorship.” Get over it. | Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

The real conflation here is the conflation of censorship and change made to benefit someone other than oneself. In this case, the pose removal doesn’t make sense to or benefit Kain or the readership that supports him. For that reason, they call it censorship.

Claims such as Kain’s cheapen what censorship actually is and the actual problems — massive problems — it causes.

The “Great Firewall” in China is a form of censorship. The United States of America v. Progressive, Inc., was an attempt at censorship. Arresting journalists for anti-establishment articles or questioning governments in foreign countries is a form of censorship. A person of color or non-Christian religious standing being beaten at a Donald Trump rally is a form of censorship.

Threatening murder, rape or other forms of violence because someone exercises his or her creative license is a form of censorship (looking at you, GamerGate).

So no, Kain et al, Blizzard changing a character pose because someone asked it to is not censorship. It is consumer preference being expressed during the beta stage of a game. And Blizzard is not being censored. It is reacting to consumer preferences.

This difference is important because it places the onus where it belongs: not on Blizzard and social justice warriors and whoever the mouth-breathers want to spew out, but on the mouth-breathers themselves. The real question is, why do people care what poses Tracer has? Does the loss of an ass shot of an animated character really matter that much to these folks?

Overwatch is scheduled to release May 24. | Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch is scheduled to release May 24. | Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

No. Of course it doesn’t. What matters is that they can have another example in their basket full of SJW-developer collusion examples and keep decrying a demographic that’s destroying gaming because censorship or some other word they can’t properly use. Note that I’m not inserting Kain into this group of people. He isn’t that in the slightest. He is, however, fueling the outrage bullies — the real ones, not the ones concerned about an anime ass shot.

Blizzard, in deleting this pose, used its creative license to better serve a user, and perhaps a group of users. SC2_Portrait_Overwatch_Tracer

Women over 18 have made up the majority of gamers since 2014, and developers are finally starting to reel back on the male gaze that’s cast over most AAA titles. Meanwhile, men who see this and don’t know how to react to the realization that this isn’t just their world anymore cry “CENSORSHIP” whenever a change is made in a nod to female consumers.

Just like they yelled “QUINNSPIRACY” when Zoe Quinn filed a restraining order against a crazy ex-boyfriend. Just like they yelled “GAMERGATE” when mainstream news organizations caught wind of death threats and SWAT-ing and all the other bullshit that’s come with this supposed war against censorship.

Just like they’ll probably yell “SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE AND DETRACTS FROM THE POINT OR ATTACKS THE CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR” once they read this and post it on their forums.

We’re the outrage bullies? No. Blizzard’s detractors are angry about a lack of butts in their beta game.

The only bullies here are the ones shouting down a developer’s right to creative license.

1 comment

  1. “Women over 18 have made up the majority of gamers since 2014”
    Subtract mobile and social games from that that and women are not even close to the majority. Also, gamergate happened because Zoe Quinn had sex with game journalists in exchange for them publicising her game. Her “crazy ex-boyfriend” shed light on that because she cheated on him on multiple occasions. You say why should we care about some video game character ass shot, but why did people care enough to get it removed? And why was talking about violence at Trump rallies against non-Christians and non-whites necessary? One case of violence was a black Trump supporter bearing a white man. No wonder people call you a social justice warrior when these are the arguments you bring to bear.

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