Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Okay, so I didn't know the school computers ran a bunch of Steam games. That's pretty cool. Thanks for that knowledge, dude next to me. Can you tell me how to access them? Thanks man.

Wait. Why are you still hovering? There's a controls tutorial and I'd already worked out that it was WASD. No seriously, I know how to play a game. Dude, you've worked with me, you know I'm going into game design for crying out loud. No! Seriously! I can do this myself! No! I don't want to do easy mode! Didn't you have homework to do?!

Granted, I have not had the experience of being (assumed physically) male in a setting where software or games were in use, but from observation, the "hovering helper" behavior is most often targeted at females. It's not restricted to gaming; I've seen it with software, and math homework, and the like.

I could write it off as politeness, but really... no. It's not politeness, but a failure to take me-- to take women-- seriously at work here. The "helping" behavior is founded, as near as I can tell, upon the assumption that the help-ee doesn't/couldn't possibly know what she's doing (or, apparently, how to ask for help...). Again, I'm not talking about, say, a beginner's class where everyone is getting hovered over, or helping a known beginner who has already asked for a walkthrough; this is just what I've observed from using computers in labs and classrooms, with girls and women of both unknown experience and known competence. Especially in the latter case, it's insulting. I've played games before, but clearly I'll need help to play another one? Er...

So... especially if you know that I've used a computer, played games, learned software, done math, worked physics problems, or done whatever before, please acknowledge that. Please acknowledge that I have the agency to ask for help if I need it, and don't start hovering unsummoned. Please don't insult me like that.

(Think I'm misinterpreting? Tell me so in comments, but show me reasoning and keep it civil, please.)


  1. I've both been a "helper" and been "helped" before. Based on my own experiences, it is less the assumption that the person being "helped" is incompetent, but rather more typically that the "helper" is over-excited about sharing a loved activity with a new audience, and wants to be sure they get off on the right foot, hopefully so they will love the activity just as much.

    Is it still a selfish sort of self-indulgence just like any other "back-seat driving"? Sure. Is there malicious intent? Certainly not. Is it behavior designed to strip people of their agency? Sounds like a stretch in my book...

    Are there situations where my reading of the situation falls through? Most probably. Much of this is based strictly on the subject of teaching games to others (be they board, card, computer, or whathaveyou), and I have failed to account for your other mentioned examples, such as homework, etc. I'd definitely have to try to recall and probably re-evaluate situations from my past in order to get a better insight down on paper about those.

    But do I think that in the standard case, for teaching games, that you might be reading way too much into things, seeing intents that are actually not present? Yes, yes I do.


  2. Aaaa, clearly this should serve as a reminder for me to not post while sleep-dep. Came out all wrong.

    I agree that there's no malicious intent; nobody's consciously trying to offend, annoy, show up, or prove anyone to be less competent in these situations, certainly. The "agency" jab was also too much. Agency's a much stronger concept than what I was really meaning to talk about.

    Brief re-combobulation of the post, the way it was meant to come out:
    -Teaching a known beginner or someone who's asked for help is all good.
    -Hanging around in case someone's got any questions or just to give the occasional hint/tip, regardless of known competency level, due to boredom or enthusiasm or it being one's job to do so: ehh, may sometimes become annoying, but nothing wrong with it unless it turns to outright pestering. (I know I'm certainly guilty of this one, too.)
    -Insisting on helping and backseat driving, when one knows the "helpee" knows pretty well what they're (usu. she's) doing, or doesn't know but has no reason to think they don't know what they're doing, and has not been asked... not so good.

    The point, then, was supposed to be that I've seen the last case a few times too many, and more from one sex to the other than I am comfortable with. I may have a bad sample space, but it's been in numerous situations; a guy who's known me/my ability level for over a year trying to walk me through a character creation screen after I asked for one command line argument to get a game running, a guy ignoring a male friend who has asked for help on an assignment in order to repeatedly ask a female friend who's currently doing fine if she needs any help, someone not in a given class giving a student unsolicited dictation on how to do a Photoshop project she was well into getting through on her own, among other similar instances. When someone hasn't really got a reason to be giving a person a walkthrough (procrastinating on something else, interest/enthusiasm for what's being done, etc) or is ignoring something (someone else who actually needs help, etc) in order to do so, and knows they don't need it or don't have a reason to think they need it, that's when I get suspicious. And when it's consistently a guy doing so for a girl, hat's when I start to think maybe whoever it is is making assumptions about ability level based on sex. Granted, I've seen some people who apparently are just Navi's cousin or something and do this equal-opportunity, but overall I've much more often seen it directed from males to females.

    I guess I did also make it seem like this is something a _lot_ of guys do, which isn't really what I was meaning to show; it's usually only the one or two guys in a lab full. But one or two unwanted "helpers" still wears on the nerves eventually.

    So yeah, TL;DR yes I was overtired and I think I was whining and ended up blowing different parts of the issue way out of proportion, but all the same I've seen certain occurrences a bit too often to ignore.

    (Other thing that tells me I need to not post while overtired: I end up writing comments longer than the original post @_@)


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