John Scalzi published an article today on his blog titled “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.” I felt the need to pass it along, without much in the way of comment. It’s not exactly related to the usual topics covered here on A Dribble of Ink, but it’s interesting, important and Scalzi’s a prominent figure in our community. Gender is a hot-topic issue in the SFF community these days (see here, and here, and here) and Scalzi, as he traditionally does, tackles the subject of gender- and race-privilege with an even hand. The “fun” really begins in the comments section, as is wont to happen on the Internet.
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?
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.
You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the “Gay Minority Female” setting? Hardcore.
Please, read it and let me know what you think.