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I’m a Boy. Does Playing Female Characters in Video Games Make Me Gay? - Best News

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I’m a Boy. Does Playing Female Characters in Video Games Make Me Gay?

I’m a guy “in real life,” but I’ve always played female characters in video games. More and more people say this means I’m either secretly gay/trans or a total creep. Am I allowed to just prefer it? —Gender Player

Dear Player,

It sounds like you have a lot of people in your life, Player, who think they know you better than you know yourself. I won’t pretend to have insight into your deepest self, but I can offer some ways of thinking about your choice:

Fantasy and fiction offer an escape hatch from your usual point of view and let you explore perspectives different from your own. Choosing a droid as your avatar doesn’t mean you’re a robot deep down. Reading a novel that portrays the world through the eyes of a female narrator doesn’t mean you’re secretly a woman (or a “creep”). The pioneers of the internet hoped that digital spaces would liberate us from our ordinary lives, allowing us to experiment with assumed identities behind the veil of anonymity. That’s certainly not the utopia we ended up with (instead, we’re often sorted into rigid boxes by prediction engines and targeted ads). But video games still hold the promise of the masquerade ball, a place where you can don a costume, download a new skin, and pretend for a little while to be someone else.Play-acting and role-playing, of course, can sometimes reveal deeper longings, especially those the conscious mind has refused to entertain. If you feel an overwhelming sense of euphoria while playing a female character or find yourself fantasizing about being the avatar in real life, then maybe your friends are right and there’s something deeper going on.Gender itself, it’s often said, is a “script,” a kind of performance that is socially reinforced to make people all across the gender spectrum conform to the standard binary. Choosing a female character might simply be an acknowledgment of parts of yourself that you’ve felt compelled to repress in ordinary life—not a sign that you’re living in the wrong body, necessarily, just evidence that your mode of gender expression has become too narrow. An “avatar,” in its original sense, refers to the multiple forms/genders that a deity can take. The characters you choose might be an acknowledgment of your own plurality, an attempt to incarnate just one of the multitudes within you.


I’m a vegetarian, but I’d eat lab-grown meat. Does that make me a hypocrite? —Chicken Little

Seeing as you’re not grossed out by the idea of meat grown “in a peach tree dish,” as Marjorie Taylor Greene put it, I assume your vegetarianism is ethically or religiously motivated. Hence the fear of hypocrisy—but I don’t think that’s the right word, exactly, for what you’re feeling. A hypocrite is someone who claims moral standards that their behavior flatly contradicts, and lab meat, if we are to believe the hype, promises to be both humane and sustainable. Like many technological solutions that transform a vice into a neutral choice (clean energy, NA beer), it cancels out the moral calculus and relieves us of the duty to make sacrifices for a better world, or a better self. You can have your happy cows and eat them, too.

The hypocrisy you fear is more subtle and insidious. Maybe the idea of eating lab meat strikes you as a bad bargain, like allowing yourself to shower verbal abuse on a chatbot. The technical fact that it’s “not harming anyone” shouldn’t stop you from feeling queasy about your motives and the suggestion of antisocial desires that were probably better off repressed. As I’m sure you know, Chicken, it’s possible to push the Frankenmeat thought experiment into darker territory. Would you eat lab-grown human flesh? Would you eat meat grown from your own cells, or from those of a baby?

If you’re concerned with solely the practical consequences of your actions, then sure, you’re not betraying any of your values. What you are betraying is a certain idea of yourself. I imagine you became a vegetarian not because you truly believed your individual actions would change the world, but because you liked the idea of being the kind of person who was willing to do difficult things and make sacrifices for higher ideals. Perhaps abstention made the gauntlet of mindless consumer choices feel a tad more meaningful. Maybe it made you more willing to do other hard things for the sake of moral consistency. If you focus exclusively on the results of your actions, you’ll end up constantly hunting for ethical loopholes that come at the price of your soul. Virtue, even when arbitrary and pointless, has rewards of its own.


Now that AI can fake pretty much anything, I just assume everything I see or read on a screen is fake until proven real. Is that reasonable or cynical? —Doubting Thomas

I think you’re right to doubt, Thomas. Your namesake, the apostle, refused to believe in the miracle of resurrection until he saw proof with his own eyes. But what kind of hard evidence, if any, can convince us of anything in the Year of Our Lord 2024? Photos lie, machines hallucinate. The social sciences can’t replicate their most fundamental experiments. Data analysis, at a certain scale, can be exploited to prove basically anything. It’s easy to feel like something has been lost, that our faith in consensus reality—or any kind of reality—is on the decline.

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But the opposite of faith is not doubt. It’s certainty, the false belief that our eyes and ears are unmediated scientific instruments, that facts are facts, pure and simple. Despite all the hand-wringing about the post-truth dystopia, the reality is that we have been relying on a false sense of certainty for quite some time. The photos you take on your phone have long been “fake” in the sense that they are composites—AI-mediated amalgams of silent image bursts that are created each time you press the button. Even the old analog photos represent one person’s perspective, concealing entire worlds that existed outside the frame. Facts have always been selected to tell a certain story. History, according to the old cliché, is penned by the victors.

At the end of the day, Thomas, how much can you really know for certain? Can you prove that the sixth finger in the stock photo is not an instance of polydactyly? That the princess in the paparazzi shot is not a body double? That the ocean cradling the leviathan is not some guy’s bathtub? Can you fathom the 1.76 trillion parameters that produce the chatbot’s answer? Do you know where the universe came from or why we are here? Can you explain the mystery of time? Can you be certain that everything you have seen in your life is not a dream, or a computer simulation? Can you prove that you are not just a mind in a vat, hallucinating all of this: the words you are now reading, and the screen on which you are reading them, and the vast and preposterous world that lies beyond—the shadows, and the wind, and the waning light?

Faithfully,

Cloud


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