For those who aren’t sure of what I am referencing, Mr. Kimmel had a short feature during his late-night talk show regarding the new Youtube Gaming site (it’s a lot like Twitch, only via Youtube). In his bit, he picked on the the Youtube Gaming community, and also families of gamers, by making a jab at how parents have failed if all their kid does is spend time watching other people play video games.
This isn’t the first time that Jimmy Kimmel has used the geek community for comedic fodder, however, the material he uses for his jokes isn’t limited to nerd/geek culture. Jimmy Kimmel is the class clown; he’s that guy who gets off on trolling everyone, and in some cases getting others to make fun of themselves. The guy knows how to get a rise out of people, but it is also his job to make jokes and point out the humor of the multifaceted gem we call humanity.
While most people can appreciate a little humor at their expense, however, what the nerd/geek culture in particular historically doesn’t take well is when people make fun of something we are very passionate about. Not all of us in the geek community even enjoy watching other people play games, but those who do are passionate about it. And these comments don’t just insult those of us who enjoy watching but also those who put the work into making the videos as well. Mr. Kimmel made a joke about a group of people who he clearly doesn’t understand, and we all had a right to be upset, but that doesn’t justify the level our community’s actions went to after we took offense.
The gaming community is a passionate one that becomes fervently heated in the face of ridicule. Sure, what we do isn’t for everyone, and we understand and (most of the time) acknowledge that. That being said, people like Jimmy Kimmel don’t necessarily need to point out the things we do and make fun of them. I know that the point of comedy is making fun of pieces of culture, race, religion, etc, but you should have some understanding about the subject you’re making fun of for the joke to actually make sense and be genuinely funny. We were offended just as any group would have been for being attacked. Look at the backlash The View received when they were dismissive and didn’t bother to try to understand the purpose of Miss Colorado’s talent monologue during the Miss America pageant. Gamers aren’t alone in the passion we have for our community, and just like anyone, we want to be respected and understood.
That being said, we took our defense too far. Society in general is still struggling with treating people on the internet with the same degree of basic humanity we (usually) do in person, but mix that in with a group of people, some of whom have likely been the victims of bullying at one point in their lives, feeling bullied by Jimmy Kimmel—and the results are downright ugly. Death threats have no place in online conversations (or any conversations for that matter) and there is no reason we can’t reply to things we disagree with or are offended by with well-worded statements to open a channel of discussion, particularly in this case where Kimmel’s ignorance was the foundation of his joke.
After the dust-up, Mr. Kimmel tried to educate himself a bit about the community and why there are those who make Let’s Play videos and also some others who watch videos of professional gaming. I still don’t think he fully understands it, and watching the segment it’s hard to feel like he was being serious about the session, as he still makes some jokes at the expense of the hosts who offered to educate him after they were disappointed by his comments like the rest of the community was. But the overall point of this segment was for Kimmel to learn more about the community he had so cavalierly made fun of before, and whether or not the attempt was successful or not, the thing is there is not really an effective way to illustrate what goes into making these gaming videos or the enjoyment that comes from watching them. It is an arduous process that involves editing video and sound, adding animations, etc, and there was no way for them to show Kimmel that whole process in a 10 minute segment, but I’m still glad that there were members of the gaming community willing to try and educate him.
Our culture is growing constantly, and there are still those of the old guard who are pushing against changes in the community and its expansion into mainstream culture. Developers are constantly finding ways to branch out and cover a wider area of interests, and with this expansion it is inevitable that more and more non-gamers will eventually be a part of this community we call our own. The growing popularity of gaming is a great step forward, as it exposes our community to the larger world and helps alleviate some of the ignorance that fuels stereotypes that people like Jimmy Kimmel sometimes exploit for entertainment.
The best thing we can do is use this as a learning opportunity to become better. Mr. Kimmel, your comedy has gained you success, but I wonder what the cost of that success may be. You have oftentimes shown a profound lack of education about those you poke fun at, and if you continue to bide by this method, you may find yourself alienating potential fans. I hope you understand a little more clearly why your jokes on this matter were upsetting for many of us, and I hope the next time you joke you come at that joke with a more informed perspective. As for the gaming community: I’m a fan of each and every one of you. You’re my people. You’re where I found much of the acceptance I needed to keep moving forward in life, and I hope the next time someone sparks our rage, we react diplomatically in order to save face and show the greatness in all of us.