It Doesn’t Feel Like The Lowest Difficulty Setting, But I Suppose That’s The Point

by Richard

John Scalzi is a writing dude of some renown among the internetti. He’s published a number of science fiction books to good reviews and good sales. He’s also the author of a number of non-fiction works that attempt to explain, among other things, movies and the universe. Not in the same book.

He’s also a relatively deep thinker who’s blessed with a facile pen and can bring obtuse concepts down to a level understandable by the rest of us. As he does in a recent post on privilege.

Basically, his contention is that here in the United States, life is like a video game. If you’re a straight, white male, you get the game set on the easy level. Deviate from any of those descriptors and the level of difficulty goes up and up.

Not a bad way to think about the situation. And he’s even talking the language of the Guide. Wonder if I should hit him up for a charge for using the word “dude?”

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

Okay: 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.

I know some people get hives when we start talking privilege. When it happens, their neck hair rises up, they get all hunched over and the words, “I’m not defensive about this” begins to pop out of their mouths every second sentence.

I’m here to ask you to relax. Go check out this essay by Scalzi. It’s good stuff. And you might even learn something.



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