I was participating in the producers-only stream for RKG yesterday when an interesting thing happened. Somehow, Discord came up and a woman who participates heavily in the FB group said she didn’t feel comfortable in the Discord chatroom. Buncha dudes said you just had to jump in and blah, blah, blah. I told the first woman that I agreed with her, and a third woman chimed in to agree. Dudes kept insisting that the room was so welcoming and ignored what we three women were saying. When one woman tried to point out the cliquey nature, dudes were like, “But we became friends! But just join in!” without really getting what the women were trying to say. They took their experiences to be the standard and factual while dismissing our experiences or trying to excuse them away. It was a microcosm of privilege in a concrete setting, and I have rarely seen it so starkly.
I want to point out that I’m not saying they’re terrible guys or raging against the machine. They all seemed like nice dudes, and I say that sincerely. My point in this anecdote is how ingrained such behavior can be and how difficult it can be to make someone see privilege where they only see normality. I thought about bringing up the gender component, but didn’t. In the end, we dropped the conversation with no one being convinced that they were wrong.
And, I don’t think anyone was wrong. The dudes were right in that the Discord chat is inviting and welcoming IF you can fit into the culture. Which is very laddy. Which is not the same as bro culture, but it’s still off-putting. And we women were right that it’s not welcoming if you don’t fit into the culture.
Side note: It’s been weird that the two YouTube groups I like both left their big companies (IGN and Buzzfeed, respectively) to go private within six months of each other. As I noted in my last post on this subject, The Try Guys’ targeted demo is young women whereas RKG’s targeted demo is young men. The Try Guys have been away from Buzzfeed for roughly eight months, and I realized when they came back from their Christmas break that I don’t like them nearly as much now as I did when they were with Buzzfeed. I thought about why that was, and I realized there were a few reasons. One, they’ve become more of A BRAND and less of just four goofy guys trying interesting things that get them out of their comfort zone. They have merch now, and they push that merch in their videos. Yes, in a jocular way, but it’s still them hawking their merch. Two, they had a video in which they showed the stuff they did before Buzzfeed, and Eugene’s was disturbingly brilliant. It showed in stark relief how different the stuff he’s doing now is. I wasn’t the only one to notice, and he had to tweet out why he thought what he was doing now still aligned with his vision.
That actually leads into my third reason: their stuff has gotten progressively…fluffier since they’ve left Buzzfeed. To some extent, I understand. They’re cranking out much more content, and as I noted, their targeted demo is young women. However, one of the last videos they did was a DIY video with a popular female DIYer, and it was pure fluff. More and more of their videos are them doing kitschy things rather than the bold and daring things they used to do or even the ‘let’s do roller derby for two solid days’ videos that drew me to them. If I had stumbled across their videos today, would I have subscribed to their Patreon? No. Last reason: they’re becoming exaggerated caricatures of themselves. They all have distinct personalities that are charmingly quirky, but now it seems as if they’re leaning into those quirks way too hard. I know it’s part of being a BRAND, but it’s grating me the wrong way.
I think the one thing that links together my dissatisfaction of both groups is that I don’t fit the target demo in either. I don’t fit HARD. On the Try Guy side, I don’t give a fuck about girly shit–I just don’t. I liked it when they did the fake nails or corsets as a commentary on gender roles and such, but in and of itself? No. I don’t give a shit. At all. The DIY stuff is excruciating, and in general, I feel as if they’ve gone way too mainstream.
On the RKG side, I don’t drink and I don’t like sci-fi, so that leaves me out of 95% of the conversation. Near the end of the producer-only stream, the boys were talking about their favorite authors/directors (as were the members in chat). ALL the names mentioned were white dudes except one woman, and that one was mentioned in chat by a woman. Tolkien, Lovecraft, and Poe were three of the ones I remember being talked about enthusiastically. Oh, and Krupa did his thesis on Oscar Wilde. I was thinking of dropping Banana Yoshimoto in the chat just to see what happened, but I didn’t.
Amusing side note: I mentioned that I was an Old as one of the reasons I didn’t like the Discord chat, and I said I could state with confidence that I was the oldest person in the chat. One guy asked how old and offered that he was 37. I told him I was older than he was, and he was like, “Daaaamn!” I think the fact that I’m much older is probably an even stronger barrier than my gender (though it’s hard to tell) because, and I say this with love, young people cannot comprehend what it’s like to be my age. How could they? They’re not there, yet. If you had told me what I’d be like at 47 when I was 22, I would have scoffed at you. They simply don’t have the frame with which to view my life and experiences. Again, why would they?
I mentioned in the other post whether it was incumbent upon a known entity to be inclusive or not. I’ve thought about it more since then, and I still haven’t come to a definitive conclusion. Let’s talk about RKG for now. They are successful because they appealed to a certain demographic–in their case, goodhearted lads who leaned more towards the geek side. If they are going to expand their business now that they are private, then it would make sense for them to shape their content for that demographic. It makes even more sense in video games because that’s who the biggest audience/consumer base is*. If they know they are appealing to a certain demo, why not go harder for that demo?
The problem with that, obviously, is that anyone who isn’t in that demo won’t feel compelled to buy into that product, and you may alienate people who might otherwise buy your product if they don’t fit your demo. Back to the Discord chat discussion. It’s a circular problem. There’s a certain culture, and if you fit it, you’re welcomed into the culture. If you fit that culture, you may not necessarily notice that you’re not welcoming of people not in the culture. It’s not a malicious thing, but one of ignorance. And it’s infinitely harder to change.
The thing is, I don’t think it’s on the individual (or the company or group or whatever) to change the culture. The problems I’ve been encountering with RKG is that video gaming culture is still overwhelmingly male. That’s not something they can change themselves, nor should they be faulted for taking advantage of it. It’s just frustrating because I’ve searched and searched for women who game and stream that I like, and they are few and far between. There are many reasons for it as I’ve gone on at length in past posts, so I won’t belabor the issue here. It’s just disheartening that something I enjoy is at best oblivious to me. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t think there is an answer on the micro level, and the macro level isn’t going to change in my lifetime. So I’ll continue to be all by myself in the meantime.
*Well, sorta. That’s another post in and of itself, though.