In the wake of the May 14th mass shooting in Buffalo, New York that left at least ten people dead and three wounded, The Nation reporter Elie Mystal has blamed “gamers” for promoting a widespread culture of hate that led to the attack – a claim he has supported with an odd and questionable anecdote regarding his own time playing Hearthstone.
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The progressive news outlet’s resident “justice correspondent”, Mystal was quick to lame blame on video game players for the shooting, taking to Twitter roughly seven hours after the Buffalo suspect had been arrested to assert, “Everybody is on the “This is Fox News’s fault” and, it is. But I want to focus on another community I follow closely: Gamers.”
“I tend to follow streamers/YouTubers who explicitly *don’t* go in for these white supremacist dog whistles (obviously) but a lot of them don’t call it out,” wrote Mystal.
He continued, “I get it. For the most part these people are young, not particularly well versed in things like *the history of white supremacist movements* and avoid “politics” as uncool and, more importantly, unhelpful to their monetization strategies.”
“They’re overwhelming white and male and have been taught and told to associate words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ with somebody coming to reduce the breast sizes of their toons,” he told his audience. “Which too often *is* the only corporate tech bro response to legit request for more inclusion”.
Mystal further claimed, “And so when they see obvious white supremacist crap, in the chat, in the comments, they ignore it, laugh it off, or pivot to some other point to make everybody feel nice and happy again. And those are the GOOD ones. The bad ones encourage it, or go as close to the line they can.”
“Twitch is constantly behind,” he added. “Like all the platforms, there’s no AI solution that does a good job of distinguishing between white replacement theory (bad) and white boys ranting (whatever). And BECAUSE OF FOX… white supremacy and GOP talking points are often the same thing now.”
“But, I say this as an old gamer, but a gamer nonetheless, and one who is openly black while I play (ie, my avatars are always Black) there is an entire WORLD of *permissiveness* of this stuff,” Mystal said. “It’s not just 4chan and dark web stuff.”
The Nation reporter next claimed, “I am a public black guy who periodically gets yelled at BY Fox News directly, and the most bigotry and misogyny I’ve seen in 2022 was on the SWTOR general chat after its last expansion sucked with ‘fans’ blaming every *other* in the book for it sucking.”
“*Most* of the times I’ve been called the n-word in real life, like the numerical majority of times, has been in general chat in a video game or in an open voice public matchmaking lobby,” he stated. “Which they pretty much don’t even do anymore because it’s so toxic.”
Shifting his attentions back to the Buffalo shooting specifically, Mystal accused, “These deaths are on Fox for sure for popularizing replacement theory. But the fertile ground for that is not just with actual Fox viewers. There are edgelords all throughout the gaming community who gulp that stuff up and push it through their networks. Believe.”
“To be clear, I’m not saying ‘people who play shooters are going to/learn how to shoot people.’ I play Destiny and I’d still be crap at an alien invasion from the moon,” he attempted to clarify. “I’m not even saying people who make racist comments are gonna go out and shoot up a black grocery store.”
“I’m saying that people who want to go out and shoot black people find *community* in gamer communities,” he ultimately put forth as he drew his initial thread to a close. “Their Dad is watching Fox, while they play and stream whatever. It really doesn’t matter the game. You can find toxic stuff in FF14 and FF14 is about fighting literal sadness”.
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As Mystal’s thread began to disseminate across social media, it soon drew a response from Twitter user @Ah_Sahm_, who offered a caveat to the reporter’s claim and stated, “I don’t want to blame it all on gamers, but the only place I’ve been called an n word in the last few years has been in casual games.”
“Like not COD or fighting games,” he wrote. “Like online card games and chess apps.”
In turn, Mystal recalled, “I got called the n-word within an hour of playing Hearthstone for the first (and only) time and I screamed into the mic: ‘WE’RE PLAYING HEARTHSTONE. WE’RE PLAYING F–KING HEARTHSTONE. HEARTHSTONE’ like I was Allen Iverson, until my wife closed the game.”
However, as was soon pointed out to Mystal en masse by a number of actual Hearthstone players, this story was unlikely to have occurred as told because the Blizzard-developed card game does not currently allow players to text or voice chat with random opponents – such a function being reserved solely for those who one adds to their friends list – instead only allowing them to communicate via pre-programmed emotes.
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When met with this information by user @LumenwoodFriend, Mystal stated that said voice chat actually took place on “Discord” and sarcastically complimented the user on their “nice try” in attempting to crack his narrative.
Met with a similar refutation of this argument – namely that if in order to voice chat with another player via Discord, a user must either add that individual as a friend or willingly join a shared server and enter into the same voice channel – Mystal claimed ignorance, maintaining that he did not know the racial epithet-screaming player he had supposedly been matched up against.
“So you knew the person you were playing with?” asked @errol_baer.
“No,” replied Mystal. “I don’t think so. Could I have? I signed up on the discord and went looking for a beginners game and got one. Is that not how most people do it? Honestly asking.”
It should be noted that, no, this method is not how most players engage with Hearthstone, especially in their first time sitting down with the game.
Unsurprisingly, rather than deal with learning Discord’s mechanics, seeking out a third-party Hearthstone server filled with opponents ready to play, and adding said opponents to one’s Battle.net friend’s list in order to challenge them, most players simply click the very prominent button on Hearthstone’s main menu which reads “Play” and allow Blizzard’s service to do the matchmaking for them.
Further, even if one were to enter a supposedly ‘random’ Hearthstone Discord server, the only way to face-off against a specific user would be to add them specifically as a friend on Blizzard’s Battle.net service, as the Discord application has no official integration with Hearthstone.
Met with an overwhelming amount of pushback against his claims, Mystal eventually conceded in protest, “Okay so apparently this was a problem with my Discord and not with the Hearthstone app. So I apologize to the Hearthstone community for talking about racism instead of carefully thinking through which service I was using when it happened.”
“I’m pretty sure I just went, searched, found a discord for the game, and joined it,” he would further elaborate to another user who questioned his story. “But this is happening back when I’m just trying to learn discord so maybe you’re right.”
What do you make of Mystal’s takes on Buffalo and Hearthstone? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!
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