Hi! Just like you, I love video games. Ever since I could pick up a controller, I’ve pushed buttons on a controller and made a digital person and/or object move on screen. It’s given me a lot of joy, pushing those buttons and making something move. Sometimes the moving thing is a superhero or a guy with a gun or a superhero with a gun. There’s a lot of variety in pushing buttons to make something move.
And just like pushing buttons to make a thing move, a large part of my childhood was reading my favorite book series, Dog Kid University. In Dog Kid University, a kid who didn’t know he’s a dog finds out he’s a dog and gets to go to a school for dogs that are kids. It was really fun to read when I was eleven years old, and that fun has stuck with me ever since. As a child going through the human experience, the story of a character also going through the human (dog!) experience really touched a deep part of me. When I was finally old enough, I got a Dog Kid University tattoo to hopefully impress other people who liked Dog Kid University.
Some people tell me that I shouldn’t like Dog Kid University anymore because its creator has said they don’t like an entire group of people. And, look, I get it. As someone who was bullied as a kid, I understand the pain someone feels when they’re told they shouldn’t exist. It hurts to be excluded, let alone actively told your very presence is a societal evil. I’d assume. None of the bullying I received was actually that or even remotely like that, but I pretty much use my life as the default by which to judge any experience. It’s a skill I have.
It hurts to be told you shouldn’t exist. But you know what also hurts just as much if not more? Me not getting to enjoy Dog Kid University: The Game.
You see, I’m entirely unique in that Dog Kid University was important to me in my youth. Without Dog Kid University, I wouldn’t have learned that lying is bad and you should always stick by your friends. These are lessons I could have only learned from one specific set of books in one specific book series. I think of Dog Kid University every time I don’t cut off someone in line at the supermarket or swear at my general practitioner. The moral training I received from an entertainment IP is part of the rich fabric that makes up my existence as the main character of reality.
I’m also extremely unique in that I miss my youth. You might not get what that’s like. While it wasn’t always good to be little, sometimes I look back to those older days and know things used to be happier. Why? You could theorize that it was because I didn’t have any bills, or I had summers off, or that I generally wasn’t responsible for choices that could affect the lives of other people.
But, no, it was because of Dog Kid University. And thus the only way to return to the prelapsarian joy of pre-pubescent consumption is to buy the new game based on Dog Kid University. To rob me of this pleasure is to rob me of the only thing I have left in this universe. The fact I think this doesn’t seem weird to me at all, a grown adult. All I know is that Dog Kid University: The Game is going to fix something in me that God broke a long time ago.
So you have to see it from my point of view: me grasping at a fleeting, ephemeral moment in time is far more important than an entire group of people feeling supported. Remember: I’m one of the only people who have ever had a childhood, while that group that’s being told it shouldn’t exist is an entire group! I’m outnumbered here! As far as I can tell, there’s already a lot of people who support the group; I see them on my social media feed! And if a hundred people like a tweet saying that a group should exist, then that must mean the group is doing pretty, pretty well.
Plus, if I don’t support Dog Kid University: The Game, I’m actively not supporting a hardworking group of game developers. This is a statement that would only make sense if I bought every video game ever made, but I’m going to still say it with a straight face. Do you really want to hurt the people who were already paid for working on this game? Just because an extremely powerful multimillionaire wants a group of people to not exist? Come on, now. You’re willing to drive Ford cars even though Henry Ford was antisemitic. The fact he’s been dead for almost 80 years while the creator of Dog Kid University is still alive and still saying these things has no bearing on my argument.
I want to support the group of people being hurt, I really do, but they’re not leaving me a lot of wiggle room here. How can I support a group if supporting them involves even the slightest inconvenience to me, my time, or my enjoyment of a product? Is the group even thinking about my needs? It sounds like they’re not. They haven’t brought up my childhood even once while talking about issues wholly unrelated to my childhood.
Also, do members of that group have to be so loud about defending their right to exist? I mean – haha – some of us are just trying to live here! You don’t see any of us complaining! Except when we do! And then it’s the most important thing in the world! I’m just saying, the more people tell me they’re desperate to stay alive, the less I’m inclined to believe in their right to stay alive. It’s annoying, and my entire political matrix is built on convenience and aesthetics.
The real bullying here isn’t a deeply influential creator supporting hate groups. The real bullying is people posting messages online that say it might not be cool to buy products that make that creator richer and more influential. It makes me feel guilty, an emotion I associate with doing something wrong. However, I don’t like feeling guilty, and if I don’t like something, then it’s not my fault. That’s what Professor Bark would call a “ruff paradox.” There will be no self-reflection or self-awareness of this train of thought.
True, none of the people in the group are making it illegal to buy Dog Kid University: The Game. In fact, the game is readily available on multiple platforms and in multiple stores. But if some people are being critical online, the game might as well be getting erased from the Earth forever. That’s how it feels to me. I deeply care about video games and video game preservation, and without any evidence of this, I truly believe this group is trying to take away my games. Because if there’s one thing that’s the same, it’s being asked not to play a game and an ironclad law being passed that prevents me from playing a game.
To be clear, I respect all people. I respect groups who are me and groups who are not me. But if I’m going to respect all people, that also means respecting people who want other people to die out and disappear. Right? Maybe the real oppressors here are the ones with a higher rate of suicide and being murdered. Have you ever thought of that? I bet you haven’t, because you’re in a bubble, which is something I say when other people think my self-justifications are stupid.
After listening to both sides – my side and the other – I’ve decided I’ll still be buying Dog Kid University: The Game. I want to reiterate that this is only about reliving what I thought were the greatest experiences of my life for fifteen minutes before the horror of being an adult seeps back into my consciousness. It has nothing to do with supporting or not supporting anyone. Except for the people I’m supporting with my money, which is what I’m doing when I purchase a product.
Nobody deserves to be bullied. Not a vulnerable group and certainly not a person whose single goal in life is to now make that vulnerable group suffer. If there’s one thing that Dog Kid University and its hero Thomas Schnauzer have taught me, it’s that bullying is wrong no matter who you are.
And there’s no way a person who wrote that aphorism in a middle grade novel could be wrong.
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