The recent FM drama has made me think more deeply about the concept of speedrunning communities.
For better or worse, speedrunning is as popular as it is today because people have pushed the boundaries of video games to achieve impressively low times. Based on my experience, I believe that the skill, dedication and obsession that is required to achieve this is typically correlated with traits that cause a person to act in immature ways around people. These include:
- Youth (younger people press buttons faster, have better reaction times, and have more free time)
- Poor social skills (often the motivator for people to play video games for long periods of time)
- Low empathy (often found in especially competitive people)
Unlike many sports, speedrunning doesn't require teamwork and cooperation. With few exceptions, you can use other people's strats without ever interacting with them. If you decide to work with others to optimize a new route (which is definitely more effective than doing it alone), that route can easily be adapted by a lone wolf type, who can then gain most of the glory and credit for the route by virtue of achieving top times with it.
Despite this, speedrunning communities are huge and have become subject to intense scrutiny in recent years. The scrutiny is fair, but the people in the communities may not be mature enough to make the decisions necessary to maintain a healthy environment. Some of these people are teenagers who just started high school. Some of them have autism, a condition that is correlated with being brutally honest in ways that many people are uncomfortable with. Many of them are self-centered but ultimately good people who get thrown into the spotlight because the public is enamored with their speedrunning accomplishments.
In short: Most of us are much better at video games than we are at interacting with people.
This gap is obviously larger than it should be. Too many people are publicly posting things that are directly hurtful to other people or groups who have done nothing to harm them. Immaturity isn't an excuse for that. However, I worry that if the pendulum swings too far in the other direction -- where we're banning people from communities for insensitive comments instead of using them as teachable moments -- then certain groups of people will feel excluded from the community in the same way that women and transgender people are now. Flawed people deserve to be included too, as long as they demonstrate an ability to learn and improve.
I think offensive language should be given more leeway than other offenses, such as cheating or abuse. It takes a series of mistakes for someone to become a cheater or abuser -- not just a momentary slip-up. Removing someone from the community for these types of offenses is fair and logical. But offensive language sometimes slips out when a person, in a moment of poor judgment or negative emotion, communicates an honest thought in a place where it's not welcome. Let's be real: We all have thoughts that are offensive to other people and other groups. Having those thoughts doesn't make a person worthy of exile. Rather, we should teach people the reason that they shouldn't say or act on them -- because it's genuinely hurtful to people who have done nothing to deserve that hurt.
Now, should these people hold leadership positions in the community? Probably not. But I think it's important for the people who inevitably replace them to consider their perspective and try to help them, rather than adopt zero-tolerance policies that ostracize them. For many of the best speedrunners, social skills are a weakness that will only improve when people encourage them to be better, not condemn them for life because they're not good enough yet. Try to help them by saying "I feel hurt when you say this" rather than "You're a shitty person." Not only is the former response beneficial to both parties, but it shows a person's true colors -- if they mock you for your feelings, you know they're not ready to improve and thus not ready for a second chance.
One final note -- I think some of us underestimate just how immature young people are. Sometimes I think back to mistakes I made when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, and I feel glad that I was given the opportunity to grow. I burned bridges with a few individual people, which was an appropriate natural consequence for my actions. But I also had people around me who understood that my immaturity wasn't a permanent state -- that I would grow out it once my brain fully developed and I gained more perspective about how other people perceive my actions.
NOTE: This paste is not referencing any single person or situation. I am writing this in response to what I believe to be a trend. Not everyone who posts offensive comments is socially awkward, and not everyone who pushes for inclusivity is taking it too far.