Intent is so hard to judge, and this whole controversy is based on what was intended in the commentary on Nycole’s play. I’m not going to jump in and judge, but I can say how I would have commented on that situation.
Regardless of who is playing, if I see something like that on the screen, I’m going to assume one of three things is happening, all roughly at equal probability. First, that the person actually knows more about the game than I do and they’re approaching it in a way I should learn about (like maybe only left/right movements in this mode might cause the dots to clump or slow down and up/down collection can be easier later in the mode). Second, that the person isn’t familiar with the game rules and is just doing their best with something unfamiliar, which happens A LOT at all levels of competition, regardless of player gender. Third, that there is some software or hardware bug preventing the player from optimally playing the game.
The safe approach when commenting on play like we saw, is probably to mention all three things. Saying, “she might not understand how the mode works” versus saying, “this is a hard video mode. Even if you know how it works, if there’s a button not working or the software is acting strange, it can really make playing correctly impossible. Players at all skill levels run into trouble on this one.”
And while there is still an implication that she might not know how it works, you do it with more qualification.
ALL THAT SAID…
You have to be a bit more mindful of what the women in pinball deal with. If you feel like someone is overreacting to an innocent comment, there’s probably more reason for it than for just what is happening right in that moment. Every time someone makes a comment, intended or not, that comes across as sexist or dismissive, it’s going to raise hackles across the community.
I think we’re all trying to work hard to eliminate bias and unwelcoming behavior from the hobby. These conversations and dust ups are part of the process. Hopefully people who get called out or feel singled out can choose to learn from it and be more careful in the future. I also hope for those that do the calling out or the singling out that they’ll allow those people to learn and will give them a fair second chance at being a part of the community.