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ExtremeTalk: Let’s talk about the ‘PC Master Race’

I’ve been a PC gamer since I was eight years old and my parents brought home our first computer. It was built around an 80286 processor clocked at 10MHz, with 1MB of RAM (640K base, 384K extended), a 20MB hard drive, and an EVGA card hooked up to an NEC MultiSync II monitor. While outclassed by most modern toasters, it was reasonably high-end for 1987, and it powered thousands of hours of adventure, exploration, and imagination.

Nearly 30 years later, I still love PC gaming. I have owned consoles and played games on them from time to time, but the PC is the love of my gaming life. Gaming on a PC means having access to a virtuous cycle of hardware improvements, user-created mods and total conversions, and the most flexible, precise set of tools ever created for computing: a mouse and keyboard. I genuinely believe that the PC is the best gaming platform ever invented, and while I mostly cover hardware and technology, I’m glad that my job at ExtremeTech allows me to occasionally write about games and gaming as well.

What I’m less happy about is the way discussions on gaming often devolve into ragging on console players and repeated assertions of the superiority of the “PC Master Race.” Folks, we need to talk about this.

The origins of the master race

Let me start off by saying I’ve read the PCMasterRace’s subreddit dictionary, its distinction between people who own a console and so-called “peasants,” and its arguments for why the PC is objectively superior. I’m aware that the general use of the phrase is meant to refer to people who exhibit “willful ignorance regarding the objective superiority of PCs over consoles,” and that the subreddit states “We don’t use the term to put ourselves above other gamers. We use the term to put our PCs above consoles. It’s not the people, it’s the platforms.”

I accept that’s the intention. I also accept that many people who fly the Confederate flag genuinely believe they are demonstrating a love for their own cultural heritage rather than explicitly endorsing racism or racist behavior. But when you borrow the language of the actual Nazi party, you are unavoidably borrowing the implications that other people attach to that ideology — so much so, in fact, that the PC Master Race subreddit has multiple links and details on how it’s not actually intended to discriminate. If you need to put a lengthy disclaimer and explanation on your self-proclaimed title, maybe it’s time to find a better label.


Images like this really don’t help the claim that there’s no connection between Nazi ideology and the “Master Race” concept. Image from this video on YouTube

The other problem I have is with the way the word “peasant” gets thrown around in these conversations. The Nazi party had a view of farmers and the peasantry that could be politely described as “bipolar.” On the one hand, appeals to the peasantry and the land were a critical component of Nazi ideology, which glorified the German farmer and rural living. The doctrine of Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil) held that simple farmers were the bedrock of German society, a bulwark against invasion, and set a moral compass that those living in cities had forgotten. This glorification was more rhetorical than practical — Germany did not attempt to systemically dismantle its cities or force its population to return to rural, agrarian living.

The problem with juxtaposing “peasant” and “master race” is that the Germans only held German peasants in such high regard. Their plans for peasants in the territories they captured were spelled out in the Generalplan Ost. Put simply, Germany intended to resettle dozens of millions of people, starve them to death through food shortages, and keep the peasant stock on-hand to serve as a slave labor and agricultural force.

As the German population in the conquered territories rose, a select group of people of Slavic descent were to be selected for “Germanization.” Everyone else was either worked to death or deported to locations like Siberia. Education for the peasants living in Poland and Eastern Europe was to be limited to the most basic level possible, their cultural expression was to be banned, and their children would be kidnapped and taken to Germany to be forcibly reeducated. The long-term plan was to sterilize the Polish peasantry, forbid them to marry, and ban all medical aid to people of Polish descent. They’d be worked until they died, at which point German populations were projected to have grown enough to populate the areas left behind by the other ethnic groups.


GeneralPlan Ost.

Again, I’m not accusing people who refer to themselves as the “PC Master Race” of wanting to commit genocide against so-called “console peasants.” But there’s an incredibly ugly history behind this language, and as someone who studied both history and political science, I wince when I see this kind of language flung across our comment threads.

Is this the best name we can come up with?

My views on gaming and game consoles are simple: I believe everyone should be able to play the games they love on the platforms they enjoy. I’ll tell anyone who asks that I believe the PC is the best platform to game on — and I’ll do it without referring to them as a peasant, console or otherwise.

I don’t need to belong to the PC Master Race to validate my love of PC gaming, and calling people peasants and denigrating consoles ignores literally decades of amazing gaming history. I loved the Final Fantasy series when I was growing up, even if I had to play at a friend’s house. Resident Evil 4 on a borrowed Gamecube is one of the best titles I’ve ever played, even if I found the controls restrictive. I’ve thought about buying a used PS3 just to play The Last of Us, because I’ve heard so many good things about it. I didn’t stop being a PC gamer just because I enjoy a round of Super Smash Brothers or Mario Kart.

Those of you who’ve interacted with me in comment threads know that I enjoy robust debate and discussion. ET isn’t announcing some change to our comment policy, or threatening to kick people off the site for calling people peasants. But there’s got to be a way for the PC gaming community to take pride in the capabilities of our chosen platform without using Nazi terminology — even if it isn’t meant the same way. It’s also worth noting that the term’s original meaning was to mock individuals who acted as though they belonged to the Ubermensch, rather than endorse it.

With that, let’s turn it over to you: Is this the best name we can come up with? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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