The internet is a weird place. You go about your business and no matter what, you trip over someone else’s drama. It’s expansive and close-knit all at the same time, and everyone is commenting on everyone’s else’s business, except all that business is deliberately public. Everyone cares and doesn’t care all at the same time. It’s a mess. So now because of this tangled web we’ve all weaved, gunked up with memes, video games and foul language, Cheat Code Central ended up being the subject of a PewDiePie video.
One of our list articles, a reaction to “toxic” gaming communities (a topic that was making the rounds at the time) used PewDiePie’s… vocabulary as a jumping-off point. (He said the n-word on a stream.) Dude saw it and made a video responding to it, netting millions of views and more of that Scrooge McDuck-level internet dosh. The weird thing is, while I get seeing an article about yourself warrants a response, he used it to make some odd comments about toxicity in gaming that I don’t think will do him any favors.
To PewDiePie’s credit, he named neither the site nor the writer of the list, which is a respectable way to go about something like this. When you have thousands of followers on the internet, chances are most of them are creeps who are willing to go out and harass people on your behalf. It’s easy enough to Google the article and find it, but that takes more effort. So kudos for that. He even takes some of the entries on the list seriously, commenting for example on whiny gamers who spout off during losing games. Sure, why not?
It gets weird though, when we inevitably get to the stuff about language. Even after everything, he is still trying to defend himself and dropping the n-bomb. He says it wasn’t toxic, because he wasn’t saying it to anyone directly. Ok, and? Like yeah, let me go outside and walk down the street in a public place, yell some racial slurs at nobody in particular, and see what happens. Doing that kind of stuff on a popular livestream isn’t the same thing as going outside, but only because it’s easier to forget that consequences are a thing. There are still real people on the other side of the screen, and words do matter.
That’s the thing that really gets me about Online Free Speech Discourse. “Oh it’s just words, they don’t mean anything, and just don’t let it get to you.” If words don’t mean anything, what’s the point of language? Are we, the people who grew up on the internet, so desensitized that we really don’t understand that language, literally the way we communicate, doesn’t have meaningful substance? Context and history just don’t exist somehow? I don’t buy it. It’s a bunch of nihilistic junk. (Or probably just the closest, flimsiest excuse for a shield someone with racial slurs in their vocabulary can come up with, natch.)
PewDiePie closes the video with some really fascinating insight into why he took so much issue with the topic in the first place. Sure, he figured it was about him when he discovered it, and maybe 10 percent of it was, but he seems bothered by the idea that being “toxic” in a public game is a problem. He talks about how he did “so much horrible shit” in games like World of Warcraft and Tibia. He suggest that being a crappy person, on purpose, is “part of the game." Going out of your way to be mean to people is fun, I guess. It’s that 4chan mentality that some people our age never grew out of after the early 2000's. It shows a lack of empathy and is part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now, culturally.
I mean, you do you. I get it, you got called out in an article online and have the right of reply. But when you ping-pong back and forth between saying it was wrong for a racial slur to “slip out” and saying it’s fine, good, healthy, and fun to be horrible to other people online… well, toxic is the word of choice for a reason.