Jimmy Kimmel Trolls Gamers; Many Respond with Death Threats, Because Of Course
“I love making people mad. After pizza, it’s probably my favorite thing,” says Jimmy Kimmel in the video above, in which he responds to the legions of gamers who are mad that he recently disparaged YouTube’s new game streaming service on his show. Although Kimmel doesn’t apologize for his jokes, he does concede that he might have been wrong, and he’s willing to find out more: “I’m going to sit down with people who care very much about this topic, and I’m going to be open-minded. I will give these gamers an opportunity to show me what is fun about watching other people play video games.”
Of course, Jimmy Kimmel is probably doing that because he thinks it will make for an entertaining segment on his show (as Conan’s “Clueless Gamer” segments have shown), not because he’s capitulating to the reams of death threats that gamers have sent to him. The bulk of this segment features Kimmel reading these threats aloud; with his comedic timing, they sound pretty hilarious, but one can’t help but remember that Kimmel is a rich famous man who lives a well-protected life. It’s easier to laugh off death threats sent to a celebrity, especially when it’s Jimmy Kimmel playing the role of “clueless Dad figure who doesn’t understand you kids and your video game streaming services” … as opposed to someone far less powerful who has informed complaints about gaming.
Kimmel’s complaints about YouTube game streaming seem to be that he doesn’t understand the appeal, and his misunderstandings reflect a lot of common misconceptions about who plays games. He even concludes this video by giggling that most of the people sending him threats are probably “12-year-old boys.” (The truth, Mr. Kimmel, is a lot more depressing than that.) The part that bugged me, though, was when Kimmel mocked the idea of online communities and online friendships; essentially, he jokes that gamers have no real community. This is a pretty massive oversimplification of several intersecting problems.
I appreciated having the chance to laugh at some of the sillier threats that Kimmel received; it’s cathartic to be able to smile at these comments, rather than feel depressed, as I do feel when I (an un-famous person who is not a celebrated talk show host) receive death threats for having opinions about video games. I even could relate to Jimmy Kimmel’s statement at the end in which he admitted that many of these comments did genuinely upset him. I don’t think he was joking when he said that. Even though he may not understand video games at all, he still is a human being and he genuinely does not seem to understand what actually happened here.
I don’t think that Jimmy Kimmel knows how many people play and watch games without having it be an entrenched part of their identity; many people engage with games in a variety of ways, in much the same way that people enjoy any other hobby or pastime, and they don’t necessarily call themselves “gamers” or even make internet comments. The boring truth of YouTube game streaming is that it’s indicative of a normalization of gaming as a hobby. Some people believe this has resulted in the degradation of the “gamer” identity; others might call it a positive and useful expansion of the “gamer” identity; reactions among game enthusiasts about this whole kit n’ kaboodle have varied wildly; this issue has been an undercurrent in gaming culture for upwards of a decade now.
Anybody might get defensive upon hearing a comedian describe an activity they enjoy as a “waste of time,” although one would hope that such defensiveness wouldn’t result in death threats. Still, that central defensiveness is part of a much larger conversation that’s been happening around games for a long time now, and it seems to be a conversation about which Jimmy Kimmel has remained largely unaware. But who could blame him? Even reporters who’ve attempted to cover this issue have often left confused; Kimmel is a comedian, but I strongly doubt he’s the only person in his age bracket who feels confused and baffled about “gamers” and their varied subcultures. Getting angry at him doesn’t seem like a good solution, obviously, so it’s easy to laugh at the people who did that. But what is the solution? Is it even worth trying to explain to Jimmy Kimmel what’s really going on with games right now?
I just don’t know. So we may as well laugh at some of these silly internet comments, because trying to explain what’s actually going on would be like trying to explain video games to my parents. And I gave up on that years ago.
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