When I first heard there was a video game called Social Justice Warriors which simulated Internet arguing, I (errantly) assumed that in the wake of the gamergate controversy, the title was invoking a pejorative use of “social justice.” Upon further investigation, I learned that the titular Social Justice Warriors are indeed the heroes in this turn-based RPG, battling “trolls” in a virtual simulation of every dumb Internet comment-thread ever.
The “warriors” in this crusade are based on standard medieval fantasy RPG heroes. The game characters are described on the game’s Steam site:
Social Justice Paladins duel foes with 140 characters or less while shrugging off attacks with a press of the Block button, at least until their foes create new accounts.
Social Justice Clerics serve in the name of their patron sub-deity, taking solace in its comforting presence to heal and summoning its divine power to smite their enemies.
Social Justice Mages conjure powerful constructs of fact and opinion to alter minds and reality… while occasionally summoning an activist organization or hurling a scathing fireball of a blog post.
Social Justice Rogues fight fire with fire. Throw flurries of vitriolic character attacks, confuse enemies with smokescreens of alternate accounts, then delete your accounts and withdraw into the shadows of the net.
JJ Shepherd, a video game historian, developer, and gaming researcher at the University of South Carolina, hipped me to the game and clarified the play:
Briefly describe the gist of what happens in a game of Social Justice Warriors.
Shepherd: Once a warrior is chosen, the battle against waves of trolls begins. The resources you’re given are simple but highly indicative of what it takes to argue on social media. “Sanity” can be thought of as health and strength. It corresponds to how effective your arguments are and how angry you are. For instance, if your sanity is low and you are reaching a boiling point, then attacks are far less effective as they start lacking coherency.“Reputation” is an interesting resource system. If the player has a high enough reputation they will gain favor with other social justice warriors, and they will bandwagon, helping the player fight. It can also be used to launch personal attacks against the troll (at a price).
Using these resources the player can launch one of four different attacks each turn. A logic attack targets the troll’s sanity, but has a low chance of accuracy—so while your logic is sound the troll is probably going to ignore it. Then there is the personal attack, which goes for the troll’s reputation and has a high chance of accuracy. While this can be a powerful anger inducing attack, it takes away from your reputation. A mixed attack combines the best of logic and personal attack, and in so you prove your point while calling them stupid, but keeps your reputation intact. Finally the special attack depends on the warrior. For instance the cleric will heal its sanity by talking in their sub-forums “/r deity,” or the rogue will dig up a scandal to completely defame the troll. Whoever’s sanity or reputation is depleted first is the loser of the battle. If the player wins they go on to face more powerful trolls.
It sounds like the SJW tactics are not so much different from what the trolls get up to. Can the game be beat, or is this a Professor Falken style lesson of “the only way to win the game is not to play?”
Shepherd: I’d agree with that to a degree. It reveals many truths about arguing with people on the Internet. It never matters who’s right, and all that matters is feeling like you won a pissing contest with idiots. It’s interesting to note the trolls are applying the same tactics against you, which reveals in many ways social justice warriors are also trolls in their own right. I haven’t been able to beat it yet, but I believe that’s what they’re going for. As hard as you fight you keep having to go against more and more trolls until eventually you give up and walk away from your keyboard. Is it worth sacrificing sanity and your reputation trying to prove a point? I believe their stance is “no.”
If our assumptions are correct, this time-waster is a statement on time-wasting—but without all the hurt feelings and impotent death-threats.
If this sounds like an ideal waste of your time, and you want to try Social Justice Warriors first-hand, the game can be purchased for eight dollars on Steam
...Or just scroll down to our comments section, and get a face full of the real thing.