It’s kind of easy to forget with everyone so focused on the sexist side of gaming culture, but there’s also a pretty big racist side that’s come into new focus thanks to the Black Lives Matters protests that are raking the country. While the government and the police have been slow to implement meaningful changes, media companies have been quick to try to placate the crowd by offering half-gestures that neither address the problem nor make any meaningful changes.
That being said, video games aren’t just mindless entertainment. Many times they act as platforms for people to interact with one another, kind of like a mini social media network, and while they’re every bit as capable of taking half-measures as the big dogs, sometimes a gesture is more than just symbolic. And I would argue that was the case when earlier this week, Infinity Ward made the decision to remove the “Okay” emote from the game, which is the act of circling the thumb and forefinger, leaving the other three fingers extended.
If you’re not sure why this would be a moderately big deal, it’s because a few years ago in 2017 racists on 4Chan co-opted the gesture, whose use as a symbol of white supremacy, while still in the minority, could theoretically become a real problem. Moreover, since there’s already an uncomfortable influx of racism among the Call of Duty fandom, it only makes sense that Infinity Ward would try to get a head start on this kind of thing and nip it in the bud.
And I wouldn’t really worry about losing out on a valuable tool of communication: these emotes are used almost entirely to taunt the other players, and there are still other emotes that can clearly communicate you understand a plan.
So why not. Let’s play it safe. And see how angry people get when the emote they never use suddenly becomes the hill they want to die on.