Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anime is Healthy For You

I'm at Sakura-con right now. If you are reading this, chances are that you've seen me IRL, as this is the first live day for the blog and the con is my first forms of advertisement! So welcome to everyone at the con and any friends.

Today, I'm going to talk about anime culture. I'm gonna keep things short-ish for brevity, but if you want to hear me go into more detail about it, feel free to leave comments.

Before I begin, I'd like to explain my perspective on this subject. I am not an anime nerd. I am a gamer, and I haven't watched a full anime series in probably over a year. I cannot name my favorite anime or favorite characters. I used to be somewhat an anime nerd, but we ('hardcore') gamers and anime nerds do not mesh properly. I'll explain that in a bit too. So before someone claims that I am biased, be assured that I am not.

Anime culture is one of the best/nicest cultures I have ever been exposed to. It is probably second only to gay and lesbian communities (or rather LGBT communities) and accordingly there is a fair bit of overlap. The anime societies of America (and probably elsewhere in the world) are very accepting and open to all types of people.

This openness extends to myself, as I am not very much of an anime fan and I feel somewhat distant when I talk with them. However, they are very nice to me, and I can almost always talk to anime fans and get points across without a ton of inflammatory disagreement. This is simply not the case with other gamers. Gamers are so elitist that we will even exclude people interested in the same game as us, on the merit that people don't like the way we play.

Anime fans however are amazingly accepting of everything. I could believe extremely contrary things to another anime fan's beliefs, and they would accept my beliefs as another, alternate truth that they personally do not hold.

This is sort of Buddhist in its approach, in that two beliefs can be exclusive and yet not conflict with each other, and we can talk to them without strife or spite. For example, Buddhists accept that Christians believe what they do, even though Christianity's core beliefs directly contradict with all other religions. I think the belief in Buddhism is that ideas or beliefs should not separate us as people. If I'm wrong on that, feel free to correct me, as I'm not a Buddhist (although most practicing Buddhists probably would not!)

While at Sakura-con, I have strived to have an accepting attitude with the people I meet, and although thus far they almost always had different beliefs (I'm a gamer, and we tend to have extreme views), we always got along. I let them know that I accepted their opinions, and they always gave me room to give mine. It has been very awesome thus far.

I have talked before about how exclusive cultures are dangerous, and anime fans are everything but. That's really encouraging.

I'm gonna take a stab at why - it's because watching anime is cooperative. Anime is something that we can all watch at and enjoy together, and talking about anime is more idea sharing and less fact checking. When we like something together, maybe we like different things, but the point is that we all have a good time.

If you compare that to a lot of other things, like competitive gaming, there are clear winners and losers. If the other guy is a real competitor, you give him respect, but it takes a lot to be viewed as a competitor. When you first show up in a scene, people don't know you and you have to sort of prove yourself. Otherwise, you're just some 'scrub' and they tend to treat you as such.

As an example, when I talk with non-gamers (well, non-hardcore gamers) when games are involved, people are generally very open and nice to me. When expert gaming friends speak with the very same people, they are generally shunned and disliked. I don't even feel like my gamer friends actually act unlikable, but they seem to radiate an aura of elitism. Maybe it's inflection or something. I don't know.

I was owning up in SF4 against some non-gamer people (I generally lose to gamers, heh!) and I was being very nice and conversational. I changed my gameplay 0%. I did not play easy on them at all. I did very 'mean' things like tick throws, baiting reversals, and generally dirty tactics that most non-gamers look down upon (please note that I think these tactics are wholesome and fair). However, I was called cheap 0 times, and had many people compliment me on my 'skilled' play (most good players would disagree). I complimented people first, though. Also, whenever someone missed an ultra or some other big opportunity, I always lamented their loss and proclaimed that the game was partially to blame.

The end result is that I felt like an anime fan to these people. It was kind of fun! I got to be a gamer and the anime fans had fun even though they were getting beat. It was interesting.

So back to what I was saying, is that we can learn a lot from anime fans. Yes, they're weird, but part of the nature of being inclusive is that you include people that are a bit strange. If, instead of being rude or looking down upon people who believe differently than us, we can treat them as peers and equals. If we do that, they are perhaps more likely to see things our way.

I think that if competitive gaming communities were truly inclusive, that we took people in and made them feel welcome, and respected them even when they were not as skilled, that competitive gaming would be mainstream. Anime is very mainstream in today's world, and I think the general acceptance, the mutual connection of anime is the reason.

If you're a gamer reading this - just imagine for a minute, if we taught that playing less than our best was disrespectful to our opponent. Imagine if, when we defeated our enemy, that we pointed them on the path up rather than smashing them down.

Some people might say that dilutes our skill, and this is perhaps true. I am not a very good player, after all. I am loathe to say this is the case, though. I think that having this attitude does nothing to your skill and perhaps even improves it, since open-mindedness lets you imagine new strategies better, maybe!

I think that my biggest regret in all this is that I did not realize these things sooner.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Nerdy

Very, very late update from my last post. I recently moved into a new house (yes, a house!) so I don't have internet there yet. Most of my last two weeks has been very busy moving things, packing, unpacking, and so on.

This update is going to be about the media, and specifically about how they don't get along with us nerds. It is a rant. It will not be full of very much useful information.

It seems like every time I hear a news story about the Internet, gaming, or anything nerdy (eg. furries), it's portrayed in a distinctly negative light. It seems like anyone who surfs the internet is a hacker, software pirate, or child molester. Most older people I know who have never touched a computer claim that they're afraid that someone will hack them and steal everything they have.

As we all know already, video games teach our games to kill, and modern video games are indistinguishable from real life. It seems like every time a kid picks up a gun, a first-person shooter or Rockstar game is at fault. If video games actually teach something or promote something, it is pretty much always overlooked in favor of the violence they seem to create. I think the fiasco surrounding Mass Effect (where a person who had never played the game accused it of being sexually explicit) was particularly indicative of how the media is willing to jump at anything in order to portray games in a bad light.

Perhaps more hilarious is the whole idea that 4chan or other imageboards are 'hacker havens' or homes to child molesters. I think 4chan is bad too, but not to the same degree that the news portrays it. What is even more annoying is the misconception that there are numerous malicious hackers ready and waiting to get inside your computer and steal your personal information or destroy your computer. Most good hackers get well-paying government jobs and the bad hackers can be stopped with easy to install security software. Even then, the internet is mostly a safe place. Malicious hackers number a tiny fraction of the internet's denizens. Most non-nerds will never meet one, and many nerds won't either.

On the other hand, child predators on the internet are an issue, but the issue is not as clear-cut or easy as one might think. Not everyone talking to your kids on the internet is a child predator. If your 15 year old daughter is flirty on the internet and picks up attention from guys because of it, she is partly to blame for anything that does happen (this doesn't absolve the criminal but it does put some blame on the girl). What puts the girl more at blame is the fact that they will often arrange RL meetings and lie about their age! Is it the guy's fault that he tried to hook up with a girl on the internet? (answer: still yes, but girl is very much to blame too)

When I was going through college I had to deal with this stereotype a lot. Both left-wing and right-wing groups tend to dislike video games for some reason. Left-wing people tend to ignore that restrictions on video game publishing pretty much strictly violates the rights to free speech, which I find somewhat hypocritical. When I stood up to defend gamer rights and absolve developers of liability in a very liberal education society, it seemed like everyone would rather blame games rather than their parents. Maybe in another 20 years things will be different.

Or will it? The world looks brighter, or so a billion other blogs tell me. Barack Obama is in office, and he's the first nerd in office, ever. He told the Secret Service that they could pry his BlackBerry from his fingers, and now he's the first president to have email at his fingertips all the time. He's got a Twitter account. He reads Spider-Man. Hell, Marvel gave him a Spider-Man cover.

Hopefully the world will change its view of us a little sooner.