When I was a child, I played games as a child. So at the very start of my experiences, the games were simple ventures into the mechanic that would come to be known as “Roll and Move.”
Looking back on those early memories of games long gone, I remembered long nights when the power was out. Those nights we looked for anything to do that wasn’t just sitting in darkness. I remember lazy Saturdays when my family lacked any desire to go out into the world, but we didn’t want to stay inside either. On those days we pulled the chairs around the table on the front porch to play cards and roll dice. They were great times and wonderful memories – but sometimes that was actually in spite of the game we played.
It has been documented in print, in podcast, and in public discourse that I hate the game of Monopoly. The times I have played this game number in the hundreds. This experience gave me a unique keenness of observation. As a rule, I can narrow down who will win to one of two players by the fourth time around the board. It is by no means a perfect system, but I’m right more than I’m wrong – and that revelation often takes hours to play out.
I don’t remember ever liking Monopoly. I SURVIVED Monopoly. I have since discovered games like Acquire, For Sale, and even Settlers of Catan that do what that Parker Brothers classic hoped to do in a more entertaining way. With each new discovery I wanted to kick the Monopoly man in the shins for every frustrating argument or six hour loss determined in the first round. I went on a crusade to assuage the ignorance that plagued me in my youth and educate the world about how much of a lesser game it was.
And I was wrong.
Let me clarify. I still hate Monopoly and refuse to play it. However, my opinion on the game has absolutely no bearing on whether another person might enjoy it. I try to have an opinion that is informed and educated in the ways of game play and immersive design. I would like to think that my opinion is worth listening to, but I have no authority to dictate anyone else’s proper response or enjoyment in a game. There is no basis for me to denounce someone as less of a gamer because they enjoy Monopoly. The same even applies for those who like games that are more “party game” oriented and get bored playing euro games or vice versa. I am not a gatekeeper.
“Gate keeping” is quickly becoming a term in the geek lexicon. It is the concept that describes any act of decrying any act or person that falls outside of the gatekeeper’s definition of what makes the true definition of a certain fandom, title, or experience. Perhaps the most vehement use of this term in recent history is found in attacks on supposedly fake geek girls. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the “fake geek girl” – I will not conflate this article by going through that issue. A quick search of the net will get you all the information you need on that subject.
Within that search, you may come across the following example of how silly this mind set can be.
It’s an image that quickly became a meme. It features a woman in a spectacular cosplay outfit being mocked for the costume she wore. The creator of this version of the image, a self-appointed gatekeeper of all things comic book culture, felt the need to assault this person they didn’t know simply because he believed she knew nothing about the culture she stole the costume idea from. The connotation of the words “You’ve made ‘trying too hard’ an art form” suggest he saw her efforts as silly. Her apparent lack of knowledge proved that she had no place within the community at large. She was a trespasser.
What is the problem, other than the obvious of course? This gatekeeper – so passionate to combat this blatant act of co-opting his culture from an outsider – proved his own ignorance about the characters in the books he sought to defend. Shortly after this image hit the internet, commenters quickly pointed out the foolishness of the accusation.
This was not some bizarre rendition of the Joker, but a spot on cosplay of Duela Dent- the “Daughter of the Joker.” A character that is firmly entrenched within the Batman canon. The very canon that the anonymous gatekeeper was looking to protect.
Have we gotten to the point we are so afraid of damage being done to something we love that we attack anyone that dares to see it from another angle? Does something so wonderful and powerful in our lives need us to protect it? We do ourselves as much disservice as we do others by attempting to silence these other voices. Creativity is birthed when the questions are asked of our worlds. To ponder “What happens if” is to explore previously undiscovered country in our communities. To put this in other words- if we keep drawing lines in the sand, we will find eventually find ourselves standing solemn in the corner while the other kids are having fun.
I never set out to be one, but I was a gatekeeper. I had to confront my own biases to come to grips with how foolish I had become. We live in a world that is full of varying opinions, a history of interpretations, and a multitude of experiences. This is not only true between those out of the church, but even among those of us who claim Christ. In fact, I would argue that the gate keeping within the church is worse than even the most virulent forum post or picture comment the geek community has put out there.
There has never been anything spoken from on high commanding all gamers to get together as one. Never has a cry come out of Zion declaring that all cosplayers are to come together in the joy and fellowship of glorious fandom. And yet …
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
Ephesians 4: 1-4
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
1 Peter 3:8
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
John 17: 20-23
These are just a few passages among many, and that last quote is from the high priestly prayer of the Savior before He went to the cross.
There will always be differences among us, but perhaps it is time we stop being over-zealous gatekeepers and start talking with people about why they play the way they play.