Friday, May 18, 2012

Straight white male: the lowest difficulty setting

For us gamers, here's a great post by science fiction author John Scalzi about The Real World, where straight white males automatically play the game on the lowest difficulty setting:
In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

Now, once you’ve selected the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.

As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.

Likewise, it’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn’t change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.

It's quite clever, don't you think? You might want to check out the entire post. This just gives you the gist of it.

If you don't play computer games - especially role-playing games - you might not get it. Well, the automatic advantages of straight white men ought to be easy enough to understand, anyway. But I thought this was brilliant.

The thing is, you still have to play the game. You can play well, or you can play poorly. And there's enough randomization that the game can be very tough or very easy, no matter how well you play. The game of life isn't guaranteed to be easy for you as a straight white male. But you do play on the lowest difficulty setting.

As a gamer - and as a straight white male - I thought this was brilliant.


darreth said...

You know... whenever I tell people something like this I get looked at like I just grew 2 extra HEADS! (At least here in rural Nebraska) *SMIRK* You're not supposed to point out that we (WHITE MALES) don't HAVE and don't WANT TO HAVE a CLUE what it's like to be BLACK/HISPANIC/ASIAN HELL... A WOMAN! If you do that you're just making EXCUSES for "THEM"!

WCG said...

Darreth, don't you know that white men suffer the most discrimination these days? I can't tell you how many times I've heard that.

I don't know how they can keep a straight face, especially since many of those people got their jobs because of who their parents knew (and they were all hired by white men and promoted by white men very, very much like themselves).