Saturday, October 25, 2014

Charity - Extra Life

Charity - Extra Life

For most of the day I've been on and off watching the Wizards of the Coast DnD Extra Life Marathon.  Basically a large cast of rotating players, with DM Greg Bilsland are playing a 25 hour game or Hoard of the Dragon Queen.  As of the time of this writing, some...I guess 15 hours in? We've raised almost 75 000 dollars for Extra Life just through Wizards of the Coast.  Extra Life is a large, charity streaming event of gamers all across the world playing to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

Across the entire Extra Life program, we've raised 4.2 million dollars this year so far.

That's a crazy amount of money.

Now I don't know about everywhere.  I mean I really don't, there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of individual streamers across the world with their games.  I just happen to be watching my friends on the official DnD channel.  But the donations there?  They don't come from a single rich person dropping thousands of dollars.  I mean maybe there are a few huge investors who are dropping large coin like that, but I don't think it happens that often.  Instead, most of the money?  It's being raised in 5, 10, 20 dollar increments.

They're being raised because we're geeks, and we embrace it.  We love it, and we're alright with giving the charity money instead of a cup of coffee, or another video game.  We're sending in money to improve dice rolls, to buy our friends health potions so they can keep playing, and the money is being raised to go to the children.  Wizards is auctioning off neat stuff, and the money raised all goes to charity.  Across the world we are tuning in, Canada, US, Germany, Singapore, NZ, Australia, India.  There hasn't been less than 900 of us in this ONE room all day long.

Our room is filled with in-jokes. When anyone mentions green flame in the game we all scream GREEN FLAME as loudly as we can.  On occasion, people wander in who have never seen DnD before, and we do our best to explain the game, the craziness everyone is seeing live in front of them, and try to welcome them.

But what's amazing is how communities are banding together, raising money for charity and doing it by enjoying our favourite pastime together.  Cracking wise, telling jokes, we spread out over tumblr and blogger, off over twitch and twitter to message in and have fun. We make references, draw pictures, tell stories and share laughs.  That's awesome.

Alright and now I'm going to talk about something ever so slightly more sombre.

Regular like clock work, probably about once every fifteen minutes, a troll wanders into the chat room.  It's because twitch is a kind of democratic vehicle for voice.  Like most of the internet.  Anyone who comes in is voiced (you can turn that off, but that's sort of bad), you can throw a message immediately into the chat room, everyone can see it, everyone can comment on the stream, and most of the players in the game are generally watching the chat.

I get it, it must feel empowering.  To be able to say anything, and have people acknowledge it.  Like I get that part, I was a teenager once too.  Also WoTC is a pretty equal-opportunity gaming environment.  In every session there's at least one girl playing, because DnD has largely become a fairly equal opportunity game (I mean it really is, your gender matters NOT AT ALL in the game one way or the other, and anyone who plays otherwise is missing fundamentals of the game entirely).  So there's always a woman at the table, there's dice being rolled, there's always between 900-1400 of us in the room at any given moment.

So I get it.  It must feel empowering.  These trolls, they come into the room for attention.  They scream in all caps "Wow she has huge boobs," "OMG Hot Asian Girl!" "What are you fucking nerds playing?"  I get it.  I do.  We're getting fewer than I would have expected, but these trolls aren't figuring something out because they're only in our world for a very tiny moment of time.  But here's the thing.

We're getting better at weeding you out.  It's a weird little secret but it's true.  We're programmers, we understand systems.  You are a flaw in our system.  We're designing bots to fight you, we design language lines to autoban you, we immediately censor your bullshit from our environments.  That's right, we censor you.  The internet is not a perfect democracy.  You can say whatever you want, but we will remove you from our community if you aren't worth anything to it.  You are noise, and we are removing you.  And not only are we removing you, we're automating our removal systems.  We're checking your IPs against lists, we're formatting longer lists and attaching them to systems to automate your removal.

We're taking you off of the internet that we exist on.  We're removing you from our communities.  And you know what's sadder?  We're removing you from the opportunity to play in our worlds.  We're building worlds together, and jokes, and friendships, and bonds.  We're doing good work, and playing together, and enjoying one another's company.  And with one stupid comment, one ill-thought statement, we are removing you.  We are doing charity for children, and we have no time for bullshit.  We are fostering safe environments, and we are not playing your games.  A person came into the room yelling about GamerGate, we removed them.  A person came in a few hours later yelling about Anti-GamerGate, we removed them too.  We don't have time, and we don't have energy, or headspace to want to deal with your drama.  We're working for the children today, and we simply aren't playing by your rules anymore.

I don't know exactly what the future will hold, but I do know this.  For the last 16 hours, we've been a small part of constructing systems to close off the flaws in the system that are trolls.  The rest of the internet is doing the same.  We're going to make you play with each other instead of the good people.  We're going to silence you, or remove you, or ignore you, or just turn our backs.  We're going to shun your misogyny, your creeper factor, your asshole nature, your yelling on the internet or your selfish ME factor.  And we're not looking back.

We have a world to change, and we're doing it right here right now.