The Other Difficulty Mode

What Halo Can Tell Us About Identity & Oppression

Essay - The Other Difficulty Mode

If being a “straight white male” is, as John Scalzi argues, like playing a game on the easiest difficulty, then those of us who are less privileged are playing on a harder difficulty. While I think that this metaphor is a sound tool for initial conversations about privilege, its underlying theory of power is too simplistic. This metaphor splits the world into straight white men and everyone else, leaving the reader with no way to account for the many different kinds of oppression that affect us (racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, etc.) and the specific ways in which these oppressions interact. Difficulty settings in games also tend to be arranged on a bipolar line with predictable, quantifiable changes being made to the gameplay as the difficulty increases. Our social identities, by contrast, are multidimensional and we cannot simply arrange them on a line from “most oppressed” to “least oppressed.” Continue Reading