Every once in a while, various gaming and roleplay communities collectively shit themselves because yet another call-out post is going around and ruining their precious hobby. There’s a lot of crying about maturity levels, “just block and walk away”, and accusations of people not getting outside enough.
That one is hilarious on its own, since those folks aren’t exactly following their own advice. Anywho~
Call-out culture is a thing. It exists, it can be harmful — just like everything else — and it requires some critical thinking skills to deal with. Some people are very, very good at being obtuse and not paying attention to what’s going on, so they’ll fall for absolutely everything. Others are better: they can pick apart each call-out and figure out what’s genuine and what isn’t.
Even with the risks associated with call-out culture and the call-outs themselves, we still need them.
Back in ye olde LiveJournal days, I ran with a variety of roleplayers that were (and some still are) associated with World of Warcraft. There was this overall accepted idea that if someone had issues with a player, they’d let their friends and other roleplayers know and just… whatever happened, happened. We had bad_rpers_suck and the WoW-specific one (I created it and still can’t remember what it’s called), with the second one being more about the problem roleplayers that people ran into and the proof of their behaviour.
That proof was referred to as “receipts”. I think that term is still used, but I don’t see it as much.
Why do callouts seem to be more common now than they were years ago?
I don’t think they are.
Ten years ago, our online communities were more insular than they are now. More private channels, friends-locked journals, members-only websites, that sort of thing. Tumblr does not have the luxury of making posts that only your friends can see — and if your posts are set to show up in the site’s search engine, chances of some random stranger stumbling on what you’re saying are very high. You can’t limit who can or can’t reblog your posts, either.
Tumblr is the internet equivalent to playing games in the park. LiveJournal is the internet equivalent to playing games in your living room.
Anybody can join in on Tumblr, and on LiveJournal you could limit participation.
We had the blogosphere then, too, with some posts going viral — AppleCiderMage’s guide to dealing with harassment in WoW comes to mind and is very relevant — but no call-outs actually stand out to me right now.
What purpose do these call-outs even serve?
People tend to make a call-out post when they’ve reached the limit of the bullshit they can deal with and they feel it’s time to expose the behaviour of the other person. A small percentage call people out over perceived slights. The majority write about situations of abuse, harassment, stalking, sexual harassment (unwanted advances included), and general bad apples.
I said it several years ago and I’ll say it again: gaming and roleplay communities need people to expose these behaviours.
If we all remain silent for fear of being thought of as “immature” or whatever the flavour-of-the-month criticism is, then these people — people that run the gamut from sexual predators to serial abusers — get off scott-free. When people share their stories, they show others that they aren’t alone and help lead to healing. Yeah, it may not seem healing to talk about what happened and expose oneself like that, but for some folks it can be. We need to work together to keep these sorts of folks out of our communities and away from our most vulnerable.
Warnings about people that were nasty pieces of work in roleplay and gaming communities helped me get through the past ten years of being part of various fandoms without suffering too much. I learned the sort of behaviour to look out for, warning signs, and to trust my gut. I learned which people were troublesome and in what ways, and was equipped with the tools I needed to either get away or stay away. The years before all this were … not so great. I got dragged into a lot of shit I shouldn’t have, and dealt with some awful people. Sometimes I wonder if some advance warning would have been helpful.
Block and walk away does not always work.
I wish it did. I wish it were always that simple. Once in a while, it is! It often escalates, though, and police services are still very new to dealing with cyber harassment — and if someone has had bad experiences with police or is part of a minority group, a run-in with the police for any reason can have dire consequences. It’s easy to sit behind your keyboard and crow about what somebody should be doing instead of writing about an incident on the internet — I mean, you didn’t have to deal with that bullshit. You obviously know best, though!
Even then, with the police and other proper authorities involved, that may not be enough. The perpetrator may be forced to stop dealing with one person, but they can go on and victimize another, and another, and another.
And unless everyone’s willing to put themselves through the absolute fun that is trying to explain online harassment and abuse of any sort to authority figures, that’s going to keep happening.
We have to self-police.
It sucks. It really does. If we don’t keep each other informed, though, we wind up with far more victims suffering in silence — and I’d rather be seen as a petty arsehole than be part of the reason that someone else winds up getting targeted by one of those jerks.
Your mileage may vary.