The Tribe

I was watching the Magic Mics a while back. Its a podcast about Magic: the Gathering culture and since they were hitting their one-year anniversary, they decided to talk about something special: How Magic had affected their lives. Here, Erin Campbell, brought up “choosing your tribe”. She meant it as something positive, but it does sound to me like some high-schooler bullshit from an unimaginative movie.

Not only that, but for me it brings to mind two kind of negative connotations.

First, there’s a Ukrainian movie called The Tribe (originally Plemya), which is about a school for the deaf, where our main character gets inducted into pretty violent gang. He chose his tribe and paid for it. Obviously, not all “tribes” are like this exactly. (A pretty good movie, by the way. Watch it, if you have a chance.)

Second, I don’t remember where I first saw this, but I found this compelling: The only way most of us can ever express individuality is by conforming to the norms of a specific group. You know, someone wants to be different, so he becomes an emo or a hipster. Or a geek (or nerd, whatever).

Now, I like to think I’m an individual, and those who know me would actually probably agree. I march to the beat of my own drum and so forth. But am I giving away some of my individuality by being a part of a “tribe”, like the Guild, or roleplayer or Magic players in a larger context? Probably.

I remember this one incident from some roleplaying forum I don’t visit anymore. One user tried to start some ridiculous discussion on Russian roulette, but the problem was that his math was off. Me being me, I corrected it, which sort of destroyed his whole premise. In reply to this, one of the moderators stepped in and told me, publicly, that I shouldn’t harrass the user. How is being better at math harrassing anyone? Anyhow, the point being, that I was told not to get out of line. I was told I shouldn’t pick a fight that way.

Okay, sure, the moderator wanted to keep the peace. That’s understandable, but at the same time, he was destroying something very important: He was taking away our freedom to discuss things without having to toe the line. This wasn’t even opinion. I was talking about facts. Very certifiable facts.

Is this a price we have to pay to be in this tribe of roleplayers? We have to be careful not to upset anyone? Even people, who are clearly, unquestionably wrong?

Recently, there was a discussion in the Facebook group for Finnish roleplayers on what kind of sexism women have encountered in their groups. Apparently, they have encountered a lot of it. Again, a price of belonging to the tribe? Nerds seem to have something against women in other tribes as well. There was a panel called Women in Magic at a recent Judge Conference in the US. The content wasn’t really controversial or anything, but from what I heard, the comments on the Twitch chat were full of vitriol. How dare these women talk about the hardships they’ve encountered just to be able to be part of this great hobby? That’s just bullshit. Noone should have to endure that just to belong, but to many, this is everyday stuff.

And its not only women. There was a black guy, who made it into the finals of a Heartstone tournament broadcast on Twitch. Again, the haters came out in force. Apparently, one of the people, who was supposed to moderate it, actually joined in.

My personal experiences pretty much pale in comparison to what these groups have to face. I’m not trying to equate them in anyway, but I wanted to bring that up, because its indicative of a group think, which can’t handle people, who are different then they are, be they women, black, or right about something.

Back in the day we were outsiders. Not anymore. Like many such groups, many of our numbers used this distinction as a point of pride. They formed a strong self-image based on the people they saw around them. You know, white, socially awkward males. Now our little subcultures are open to all, as they should be. Some people just can’t handle it, so they unleash their hatred on those not like themselves. The same story as in society in a larger sense, but this feels more personal to me, as I’m publicly associated with this tribe.

I’m often trying to make the point that games are a great hobby, and they are. They’ve had a huge positive influence on my life. But here’s the problem: There was an Italian economist Carlo Cipolla, who described the world thusly:

There’s four kinds of people:

  1. Intelligent people, who manage to benefit both themselves and others
  2. Helpless people, who manage to benefit others at their own expense
  3. Bandits, who benefit themselves at the expense of others
  4. Idiots, who fuck everything up for themselves, and for other people

Based on this, he described his Five Fundamental Laws of Stupidity

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

Key being the first one. There’s always going to be more idiots then we think. Sadly, this means we have to face them even in environments where people should be smarter then elsewhere. Based on the fourth and fifth law, these people are actually worse for their own tribe than people like Pat Pulling. These are the people who give those like Pulling ammo.

So, we’re all screwed, which should mean that we should be more understanding of others in a similar situation in other tribes.

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