30 September 2014

Special Snowflake: A Modest Rant

"Special snowflake" is a term in common use on a number of gaming forums.  For those of you unfamiliar, it's a slur hurled at those who stand out among us for being oddballs.  Most often, it's aimed at characters who (theoretically, at least) are disruptive to the milieu.

I've always had a problem with the term, and my dislike for it -- for the syndrome, come to that -- has crystallized over time.

It's meant, considerably more often than otherwise, "someone or something that stands out in a way I don't like." Play a preteen character? "Special snowflake." Play an alignment different from ours? "Special snowflake." Turn in a two-page backstory? "Special snowflake." Fail to march in lockstep with my paradigm? "Special snowflake." Is more flamboyant than the speaker? "Special snowflake."

What especially bothers me is that this comes from this, of all hobbies. For pity's sake, we're all weird. We sit around making pretend that we're wizards and elves and cyberjackers and secret agents and barbarian warriors. We're all aware -- and in many cases, painfully aware -- that we're "special snowflakes" to most mundanes around us, playing that stupid nerd game that loser junior high school boys too scared to come within ten feet of a Gurrrlll played.

Now I can see why, in turn, we seek to find people within our own community whom we can viciously disparage and denigrate, but it doesn't make it right, and it happens quite a bit more often than the "special snowflakes" actually disrupt things.


  1. Kind of funny, if not too surprising, that a culture of nerds... who often speak about being their hobby being 'oppressed' (all those tales of church folks burning D&D books) are themselves just as likely to slip over into being bullies.
    I've never been called a 'special snowflake' but I have been labeled 'disruptive' for questioning the group's assumptions about how the game should be played... over refusing to be a 'healbot' just because it says 'cleric' on my character sheet... for refusing to kill the giant, even though it says 'favored enemy' on my character sheet (fuck the character sheet, it's not the whole story!).
    My idea of a real 'special snowflake' is one GM's wife who behind the scenes got him to pepper the game setting with characters from her fan fiction... NPCs who were untouchable in-game but who our PCs were somehow always having to visit and save from kidnappers.

    1. And, I presume, for whom the PCs weren't permitted to say "Excuse me, why do we care about this yoho?"

      But yeah, exactly. My longtime observation is that SF/fantasy/gaming subculture is only surpassed in its ability for vicious exclusionism and internecine politics by junior high school.