Today, I’m going to do something a little different. There’s a piece by one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi, that I keep trying to remember to have on hand to talk to Straight, Cis-gender, white males specifically, especially when they say “I’m not privileged! My life sucks!” I also think this post is a fantastic metaphor overall.

From “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is”:

As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.

Likewise, it’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn’t change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.

You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the “Gay Minority Female” setting? Hardcore.

And maybe at this point you say, hey, I like a challenge, I want to change my difficulty setting! Well, here’s the thing: In The Real World, you don’t unlock any rewards or receive any benefit for playing on higher difficulty settings. The game is just harder, and potentially a lot less fun. And you say, okay, but what if I want to replay the game later on a higher difficulty setting, just to see what it’s like? Well, here’s the other thing about The Real World: You only get to play it once. So why make it more difficult than it has to be? Your goal is to win the game, not make it difficult.

I’d also recommend reading the follow up posts that are linked at the bottom of the page.

The basic take-away: Having challenges or having less in your life doesn’t mean that you don’t have privilege or that you don’t benefit from that privilege. It also doesn’t mean you weren’t discriminated against for being poor, or a geek, or whatever. As I said in my previous post, intersectionality is a real thing. But as Scalzi said, you can still lose, even if you have more opportunities to win.