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Jimmy Kimmel, YouTube and Straight Punching



Last Friday, Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live decided to do a segment on YouTube Gaming, the brand new game streaming service by YouTube meant to compete with Twitch.

Jimmy Kimmel then did a response yesterday talking about all of the hate and vitriol he has received for doing the bit, continuing to talk about how he saw watching someone play a videogame to be silly.

So first things first: watching or listening to someone do something you could be doing isn’t weird.

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Rifftrax is all about watching a bad movie but having someone talking through it with you, usually someone a lot funnier and clever than you. It was a show well regarded in its years on Comedy Central (it pretty much helped the channel survive its early years) and Rifftrax is a welcome continuation to the series.

Then there’s audiobooks. Audio books are basically letting someone read a story to you. In a way it’s like you’re a child again lacking reading skills needing mommy or daddy to read to you at night. In reality, it’s a great way to experience a novel on the go, as well as a way to hear it through the words of someone else. Is it pathetic? Of course not.

Videogames might feel different to Kimmel because he doesn’t experience games the way people of my generation have. And that’s okay! I used to rent Video Game Tips tapes from my video store to see secrets, tips and tricks. There’s also a lot of games I don’t have a computer strong enough to play that I’ve watched people do Let’s Plays on to experience them. Jimmy probably doesn’t know about the folks who have done interesting things you can’t usually do, like the Final Fantasy VI “Let’s Break” series by Elephantgun and the Animal Crossing LP by Chewbot which took a simple life sim with animals and turned it into a fascinating horror story. These took simply watching (or reading about someone playing) a videogame and turned it into something special.

And even if Kimmel knew this stuff and still thought watching people play videogames is dumb, that’s fine!

I first caught onto the story by Katherine Cross discussing how bad this made the gaming community look.

I agree completely with Cross and it got me thinking about punching direction. When it comes to comedians and their audiences, the biggest issue today is punching direction. Is your joke punching up to the authority or is it punching down to the proletariat? Are you targeting the harmless, those struggling, and those treated as inferior today or in history? Are you targeting those in power, the privileged, and those with advantage? These are questions just as important as if the joke is good. This is why jokes about the homeless where they are the target are considered punching down and why a joke about a Kardashian reality show is considered punching up. Maybe there was a time where being a gamer was something embarrassing and shunned. I hear stories about it all of the time but I’ve rarely experienced it myself. I was never bullied for bringing my Gameboy to school and I never saw anyone who was. Just because I didn’t experience it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That said, it certainly doesn’t happen at the volume one would consider gamers to be attacked. The only attacks that have happened to gamers to the point of lives destroyed were by fellow gamers. Kimmel wasn’t stupid to hashtag it #gamergazers. He knows what he’s referencing. Fact is, gaming is quite accepted in society today. Maybe not at the level of novels, television and film but gamers are not a maligned class of people hated for their beliefs in 60 frames per second, if those days ever truly existed beyond bullies trying to find anything different about a person to attack them. It’s 2015. I don’t feel Kimmel was punching down, nor was he punching up.

Maybe it’s time we consider punching straight. When a target is completely fair game. That’s what gamers are. Fair game. It’s neither above anyone (though there are a lot of “PC Master Race” gamers who act above others because they can afford hardware others cannot. Again, that’s why I had to watch someone play Bioshock instead of buy it) in the sense that being a gamer makes you a more privileged person (though again, affording games does that and there are sections of gamer communities that are exclusive instead of inclusive). It’s also not under anyone, especially in the sense of visible minority or persons with disabilities.

Was it condescending when Kimmel said to go outside and play? Sure. Kimmel admitted he didn’t understand it in the first 30 seconds in the piece. He also admitted later that watching football was dumb. He wasn’t coming from a position of lording over gamers. He just didn’t think watching videogames was a worthwhile endeavour. Just because he did it on a television show on network television doesn’t mean he just declared war on you. You have a hobby. That’s it.

Mocking gaming is punching straight. Threatening someone with death or wishing cancer on them because they mocked your hobby? It’s not punching at all. It’s hate.

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AWAW Aaron Wrotkowski 2024