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View Full Version : Vidya games is racist.



fire_of_avalon
06-28-2012, 04:41 AM
Whoa there, dawgies. Give me a minute to set out the premise.

There are very few characters of color featured in video games, at least in my experience. The most pertinent example for our purposes at these fora, I think, would be Barret who is basically a stereotype of a stereotype. Yeah, he's a good guy, but he's not smart enough or in control enough to be "the hero." His story doesn't get as involved and he doesn't really develop beyond his reasons for adopting whatsername.

The more I pushed myself to consider this the less confident I became that I could identify a character in a video game representing a person of color who didn't pander to some kind of antiquated stereotype. Is this because I'm rather limited in my experiences with gaming, especially modern gaming? Or is this still an issue in this particular subset of the media industry?

So I made everyone in #eoff argue with me about it for a while, and some chatters were able to give a couple of modern examples that kind of opposed overt racism in game - but very few.

Media notoriously excludes people of color when it comes to stories about personal development over the course of time/adventure. Characters that represent people of color tend to be stock characters who provide support to the main character, but little guidance. Quips, but little wisdom. They're filler.

This bothers me a little, especially because in so many of the games I play the storyline is about saving the world for all people, fighting against ruthless and tyrannical evildoers who want to enslave or destroy planets and peoples. But the group that challenges them are all representations of white men and women with white men and women problems. I love her, does she love me? Who am I? Let me rebel against a father figure real quick.

I'm not saying those things don't happen for people of color - I am saying there are other problems people of color face and that those problems and those people aren't adequately represented in vidya games.

But, this is based on my very subjective and admittedly limited experience of playing games, especially modern games.

So I want you to tell me; has this gotten any better? Are people of color still populating parties as the comic relief or are they getting to be the stars? Are they following stereotypical stories or archetypical stories? Do any video games out there hit on systemic racism with characters who realistically face it? (The hand people in FFX do not count - they were all white dudes too.)

No, Madden and any professional sports game doesn't count either. Neither do games in which you can tailor the main character's appearance.

krissy
06-28-2012, 05:37 AM
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/ce/BGE-cover.jpg

but this was years ago

Del Murder
06-28-2012, 06:01 AM
The new Assassin's Creed for Vita stars a black chick.

Also, the black guy was the character I played in Borderlands, but that is a fps so it doesn't really count.

And I assume the Prince of Persia is...Persian? Though in the movie he wasn't for some reason.

nik0tine
06-28-2012, 06:02 AM
I think this is probably just a Japanese thing. The Elder Scrolls has had black people who acted like white people since its inception.

I Took the Red Pill
06-28-2012, 06:33 AM
I spent like a ton of coins to unlock the black guy in Temple Run. a ton.

NorthernChaosGod
06-28-2012, 10:22 AM
I'm pretty sure Dom from Gears of War is Mexican and he's a beast and goes out like a champ.

Steve
06-28-2012, 10:45 AM
Going down the route of FF characters there's a later game which featured a prominent black character. Kiros, who by the way was the most intelligent and wise member of Laguna's squad.

Involving other games series; Resident Evil 5 had Josh and of course Sheva. Gears of war had Dom, Jace and of course, the one the only Coletrain baby! I'm currently just skimming over the games on my shelf here. Another major game series with prominent black/ethnic minority characters would be the Mass Effect series, Anderson is a black guy, Udina was indian, Emily Wong is asian descent. It goes on. Heck if I remember a character description of Shepherd early on it was supposedly the reason for his tanned complexion (on default shep) being that he was meant to symbolize a mixture of different cultures, same with Ash in ME1. In ME2 and 3 it seems Shep and Ash got more white. I would mention Assassins Creed 1 here too since it's set in the Holy Land during the crusades...

I think that you're wrong about the inclusion of ethnic minorities in games, sure some games don't include many ethnic minorities for some reason or another, though notably because of the setting. At the same time, some games provide very few white characters (hello Resident Evil 5) but then again look at the setting, everyone screamed racism about RE5 but it was taking place in Nigeria... if all the zombies had been white that'd be more racist than anything else in the game.

fire_of_avalon
06-28-2012, 12:47 PM
I think this is probably just a Japanese thing. The Elder Scrolls has had black people who acted like white people since it's inception.

This is really important now -because it's important to distinguish here that the inclusion of a character who is a certain color isn't the same thing as a character representing a person of color. What I'm getting at here is that a lot of games include people of different races - but as stock characters who more often than not perpetuate a stereotype to support the main hero/storyline. Their personalities aren't well developed and more importantly, what little personal conflict they might face doesn't really reflect the same conflict a real person of color faces. So people of color who play video games don't get to identify as deeply or as often with the characters in the stories.

Of course i still want to hear about modern games that are challenging this notion.

Pete for President
06-28-2012, 02:54 PM
Nico Bellic (GTA IV) comes to mind. He could be considered a minority by being Eastern European, and he definitely is the main character. It's debatable I guess.

On related note, I'm getting more tired of Russians and Middle-East rebel type characters being stereotyped as the ultimate bad guys all the time.

Mirage
06-28-2012, 03:33 PM
BF3's story mode has a middle eastern looking guy as the "main character". His allegiance is pulled into question during his debriefing, even if from the POV of the player, it's pretty obvious that he's innocent. Well, as innocent as a war-worn soldier can be.

FFX, al bhed are treated as tech-taters/gypsies, ronso are treated as brute and unintelligent.


And I guess this is as good a time as any to repeat what I was saying in chat yesterday.

Racial discrimination is a subject that is pretty touchy. I'm going to take a crazy assumption here and say most video game writers are white or asian(living in asia) males. How many of these writers have actually experienced serious racial prejudice towards themselves? How would they know what it feels like or what sort of things go through your mind when subjected to it?

This is very likely a subject that is extremely hard for a white male to actually write realistically about. You've never experienced it, you might not have seen others experience it except in TV shows, and even if you had seen it with your own eyes, you might not have recognized it as racism because you've got that so called "white priviledge" all around you acting as a firewall. Such a person would put his career at a considerable risk by writing a story about something he has no clue about what is like. Do you want a story about a black guy experiencing racism, or do you want a story about how a white person thinks a black person experiences racism?

It's the same thing with how males and females interact with their own and the opposite sex in media. Male writers know how males talk to other males. Male writers know how males speak to females and females speak to males. Male writers are however very unlikely to know how and what females talk to each others when there are no males around, unless he is a peeping tom who sneaks into the girls' locker room on a regular basis.

I think it's unrealistic to expect a white person to write about how it feels to be discriminated against based on his skin color, just as I think it's unreasonable to expect a male writer to know what girls talk about when they go to the restroom in pairs. Of course, now and then you will have writers that think themselves capable of pulling such things off, but I think it is reasonable to assume that there are more writers who do not feel comfortable doing this than there are writers who do.

Is this an ideal situation? Probably not, but I can't think of a way to "fix" it that doesn't involve people of minorities and females to get into those companies and start writing stuff for them themselves.


With this in mind, to answer the original topic of the thread: No, I don't think it is fair to accuse games in general to be racist. If anything, writers avoiding the topic of racial discrimination is more out of respect, insecurity over their own abilities, or a combination of both. A white person writing about racial discrimination would be kind of like a white guy going over to a black person and say "hey dude, i know how it's like to be black". That's not something I would do, at least. Mostly because I would be lying.

And it's getting better, at least in western countries, where there actually is cultural diversity. Japan doesn't have all that much of that.

I Took the Red Pill
06-28-2012, 03:34 PM
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_EXbQfoTldXs/TBdik0nVcDI/AAAAAAAAC-E/Uvlm1zHwpG0/s1600/gta-san-andreas-ps3-3.jpg

(maybe not the best pic to use as a counterexample)

Mirage
06-28-2012, 05:21 PM
Oh i just remembered something

The world of FF11 bursting at the seams with racism from NPC characters, and the galka race has a history of discrimination and hard manual labor, as well as living in the poor district of the predominantly human city of Bastok.

There's also an elvaan npc that called me a repulsable ball of fur! That is totally racist, only my tail and ears have fur.

Roogle
06-28-2012, 11:14 PM
I think this is probably just a Japanese thing. The Elder Scrolls has had black people who acted like white people since it's inception.

It is to the point, sometimes, where it seems like character models are distributed randomly if they are of the human or elven variety.

I believe there is a Redguard child in Whiterun who looks completely fair skinned. I don't think Bethesda cares very much about race or gender, honestly, and it is a refreshing change compared to games where having a darker skinned character is considered a big deal.

Raistlin
06-28-2012, 11:54 PM
This trend may have started changing in modern games, but I agree with foa that by and large games don't prominently feature minority characters in main roles. This is far from unique to games, but spans all forms of media. I remember reading an article about this standard for women and minorities in movies which measures the occurrences of, say, two women talking to each other for more than X amount of time on a subject that doesn't involve a man (or two black people on a subject that doesn't involve a white person). Megan or Miriel might know what it's called, but I'm too lazy to look it up. Anyway, the number is shockingly low, even in movies that have a prominent minority character. I doubt it's conscious racism in all cases, but it does display unconscious biases. Black characters in games/movies/whatever tend to be support/comic characters and women characters tend to be eye candy and possibly the love interest. That is their "roles" while the white guy saves the day.

However, I do think it is getting better, and I would not be surprised if it is getting better in video games faster than movies or mainstream TV. Gamers as a group are just as stupid as any other group, but there are younger and generally more socially liberal elements to the group than within the general population. Like foa, though, I have not been playing enough modern games lately to be able to comment specifically.

Sephex
06-28-2012, 11:56 PM
This video I saw awhile ago kind of talks about this subject. I thought it was an interesting perspective:

The Escapist : Video Galleries : The Big Picture : Relics (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/the-big-picture/5465-Relics)

Shiny
06-29-2012, 06:28 AM
The new Assassin's Creed for Vita stars a black chick.
She's mixed. She's half French and half African. They couldn't even make Connor fully Native American. No he ALSO had to be half white as if it's too much of a risk to make a main playable character completely of a different race.

Mirage
06-29-2012, 12:24 PM
Yep. Risk is probably the biggest "problem". Game companies want to make money, and (at least they think) white guys are going to be less likely to buy a game with a black character as the main character. I don't know if they're right, and I don't know if they've even got statistics showing this or if it's just a hunch they've got, but as long as they think a black (or whatever other race) main character won't earn them as much money, we won't see many of them.

Maybe if there was a way for us whiteys to convince them that we'd buy the game regardless... I don't know how we could do that. Make a facebook group?

Although the real question isn't if less white people will buy the game, but if this reduction of white buyers is going to be greater than the increase in nonwhite buyers. I doubt it would be.

KentaRawr!
06-29-2012, 12:36 PM
I feel like if developers went out of their way to include minority characters, there would inevitably be a lot of developers trying to make the character's personality fit the stereotypes associated with their minority. In that sense, diversity wouldn't necessarily be good if they just end up perpetuating stereotypes. (Or if a minority is represented by a single token character. Barret.)

Huckleberry Quin
06-29-2012, 01:15 PM
"I don't like Jews. Or colored folk. Or natives, now that you mention it...I bet you like Catholics. Can't stand them either. Nor women, Fabians, Socialists, homosexuals, Asians, or British." - Herbert Moon, gaming's greatest equalitist.

Seriousness aside, I long for when the entertainment industry disregards character models in favour of character traits. Write a character, then roll a dice to decide its race, gender, moral alignment, religious views, hair colour, and the extent to which they love bacon.

blackmage_nuke
06-29-2012, 02:59 PM
The kid in Ico is the only darker skinned Asian I can think of in any game at all NPC or PC.

krissy
06-29-2012, 04:24 PM
i didn't even realize he wasn't white
what does that say about me

DMKA
06-30-2012, 07:50 PM
The vast majority of developers are white and asian, as are the vast majority of gamers, so naturally, the majority of protagonists end up being white or asian. You pander to your audience, racism has little to do with it.

What I find baffling is all the Japanese games that are full of European/White looking people, with not a Japanese looking character to be found. Does that make the Japanese racist against themselves?

Shlup
06-30-2012, 11:44 PM
What I find baffling is all the Japanese games that are full of European/White looking people, with not a Japanese looking character to be found. Does that make the Japanese racist against themselves?

I vote yes.

Pike
06-30-2012, 11:52 PM
There's that Asian chick in Mirror's Edge

Chell in Portal looks pretty Latina to me (granted you pretty much never see her) but I don't think her origins are ever confirmed in the games. The actress she was modeled after is multiracial (Brazilian/Japanese).

Strategy games are the obvious easy way out because many of them allow you to play from several historical nations across the world. Even sci-fi strategy games are good this way (examples: CEO Nwabudake Morgan or Corazon Santiago in SMAC). Some strategy games are even set in specific parts of the world (Sengoku) or have expansions specifically devoted to them (CK2: Sword of Islam).

fire_of_avalon
07-01-2012, 12:36 AM
The vast majority of developers are white and asian, as are the vast majority of gamers, so naturally, the majority of protagonists end up being white or asian. You pander to your audience, racism has little to do with it.

What I find baffling is all the Japanese games that are full of European/White looking people, with not a Japanese looking character to be found. Does that make the Japanese racist against themselves?
i know, right! I think this is where the "pandering to the audience" part comes into play. White american kids have more money than they know what to do with so they're targeted to spend their money on the games with characters that look like them.

Steve
07-01-2012, 11:51 AM
Oh i just remembered something

The world of FF11 bursting at the seams with racism from NPC characters, and the galka race has a history of discrimination and hard manual labor, as well as living in the poor district of the predominantly human city of Bastok.

There's also an elvaan npc that called me a repulsable ball of fur! That is totally racist, only my tail and ears have fur.

I think that's one of the best examples of how fantasy games are actually in the unique position to highlight problems and issues like racism, apartheid-ism and discrimination. Consequentially, in exposing the player to the issue but removing it from the standard black v white/ white v black and showing it as differences such as elvaan and galka it can be used to educate a player on why something is wrong. Furthermore, if the player is suddenly in the minority and becoming clearly the victim of discrimination on the basis of their race they learn that it is not funny or harmless and in turn it will educate them to think of others before they speak.

Old Manus
07-01-2012, 01:59 PM
I bet the guys who drive the cars in Gran Turismo 5 are black (or as foa so brilliantly puts it, 'people of colour').

Mirage
07-01-2012, 03:33 PM
I'm more apalled by the fact that all the GT5 drivers are men. There's not a single girl, and that is sexist!

Old Manus
07-01-2012, 04:10 PM
But everyone knows that women can't be easily modelled in a 3D moving environment due to their upper body physique

Jinx
07-01-2012, 04:56 PM
Someone brought up the fact that Japanese always have white people in their own games.

Which makes me wander about anime. Most anime actually takes place in Japan, but I seriously don't think there are that many blonde haired, blue eyed women in Japan.

Sylvie
07-01-2012, 04:59 PM
Japan is creepy and idealistic towards the Western world. It's a whole organism in and of itself.

Nice
07-01-2012, 05:07 PM
Tings Mash: Gamer Review: Race in Video Games - Are Video Games Racist (http://traviscarroll.blogspot.com/2010/11/gamer-review-race-in-video-games-are.html)

A little something I wrote a whole back on this very subject. Tell me what you guys think.

Mirage
07-01-2012, 05:19 PM
Someone brought up the fact that Japanese always have white people in their own games.

Which makes me wander about anime. Most anime actually takes place in Japan, but I seriously don't think there are that many blonde haired, blue eyed women in Japan.

Japanese people actually think anime characters look asian. Not because of their hair color or eye color, because those are highly unnatural all through all sorts of anime. If a blonde character is western because he is blonde, where does a purple haired character with red eyes hail from? Colors don't necessarily play an important role when discerning where a character is from in animes. What makes Japanese people think anime characters look asian is actually the shapes of their faces. Anime faces are generally pretty flat, just like what is common in asians.

Nice
07-01-2012, 05:26 PM
Some characters who I find a bit too much on the racial profiling.

FFVI - General Leo
Leo's sprite was white with blond hair, but his character portrait was black. Which was he and why wasn't it consistent?

FFVII - Barrett
What could be said about Barrett that a Google search can't? He looks like Mr.T.

Street Fighter - Balrog
Mike Tyson.

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Drebin
A monkey follows him. A monkey follows him.

Can't think of anything else right now.

Sylvie
07-01-2012, 05:31 PM
Barrett is one of the most concerning racial stereotypes I can think of. Every single thing about him can be backed by a very common stereotype of black people in our world. Then you may even take a look at Yoshitaka Amano's drawing of Barrett; it all speaks for itself. Barrett Wallace is a great joke.

KentaRawr!
07-01-2012, 10:13 PM
Lol His name is censored. Yoshitaka.

Madame Adequate
07-01-2012, 11:03 PM
I remember reading an article about this standard for women and minorities in movies which measures the occurrences of, say, two women talking to each other for more than X amount of time on a subject that doesn't involve a man (or two black people on a subject that doesn't involve a white person). Megan or Miriel might know what it's called, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

The Bechdel test. I see how you assume that only a WOMAN would know it :colbert:

Also yeah the representation of almost anyone in videogames as a whole is pretty horrendous. I can provide counterexamples, some of which have been raised in this thread already (Faith :love:) but those are exceptions to the rule.

Pike
07-01-2012, 11:39 PM
Someone brought up the fact that Japanese always have white people in their own games.

Which makes me wander about anime. Most anime actually takes place in Japan, but I seriously don't think there are that many blonde haired, blue eyed women in Japan.

That's because all the women in Japan have bright blue hair and big shiny purple eyes.

Vyk
07-05-2012, 04:50 AM
I like this thread, because I'm trying to think of a game where I played as a person of color who could NOT be confused for a white person, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And aside from Asian characters, I honestly can't think of any. Beyond Good and Evil and Xenogears are good examples of games I've played where the characters are most likely asian. But I don't really think that should count in this argument, as that's like the second most common character type. And even that is ambiguous enough to be relatable to white folk. Plus Japan sort of originated the grand master gaming experiences. So having asian characters is hardly surprising. Indian, mexican, and black charcters are a lot more rare. Interestingly, its a lot easier to relate to an alien, robot, or other life-form (dog [Okami], plant/bug [Botanicula?]) than a black man in a video game for some reason

Interesting personal observation: I hate Grand Theft Auto. Always have. Tried almost all of them, and it never stuck. Yet I had even LESS interest in San Andreas because I would have been forced to play a stereotypical black man I'd have trouble relating to. Of course I made my Saints Row character white. But this argument could be a couple of combined factors. My hate of GTA being prominent already. And the fact that it was a stereotype and not a real character. I don't think my love of Mass Effect would have waned very much had I made Shephard black.. I'm going to have to try this and conduct this test on myself

Markus. D
07-05-2012, 05:57 AM
You just need to branch out your gaming selection. It's arguably uncommon, but certainly not rare.

Mirage
07-05-2012, 11:50 AM
Give some examples, then

Vyk
07-05-2012, 02:44 PM
Agreed. I'd be interested in broadening my horizons and trying GOOD games with out-of-the-ordinary protagonists

Loony BoB
07-06-2012, 01:57 PM
While not a heavily mainstream game, The Mark of Kri features an entire cast based on the various Polynesian cultures/races. I haven't played the sequel - Rise of the Kasai - but I imagine it's similar.

Vyk
07-08-2012, 06:10 AM
That made me think of Jade Cocoon, which furthers your point. I'm not sure they were specifically designed to portray a certain culture or ethnicity and were just some fantasy tribal type, but its still not "just some white guy".

GhandiOwnsYou
07-08-2012, 09:04 AM
This has been bothering me for YEARS now. I see several points that keep popping up over and over. First, there's the lack of racial minorities in lead roles in video games. This is usually quickly rebutted with a list of games. Then the camp of "All the ethnic characters are always stereotypes!" and the camp of "The ethnic characters are always just recolors of a white guy" show up. Sometimes I'm seeing both in the same reply.

No one will ever be satisfied with the racial aspect of video games because of those two statements. To get a completely believable racial character, you have to walk a very, very fine line. That line is in a different place for pretty much EVERY person. Anytime you attempt to include racial topics in a game, you're going to fall into "That's so stereotypical, you guys are racists" or "That guy is acting so white." I don't get it. What does a black guy act like? How does he differ from a white guy? If you drop an african, a russian, a japanese man, a korean, a mexican, a canadian and an american into an alien infested city, is there really going to be a cultural difference in the way they blast their way out of it? I think it's a step FORWARD when you can say that you could change the white character into a black character or vice versa, it shows that we've advanced enough as a society to not need to have a character acting in a stereotypical manner to denote his race.

If you want to see factors like racism, slavery, prejudice, or government injustice played out I think we've got those covered in spades. Everything from Fallout to The Elder Scrolls to Final Fantasy to Grand Theft Auto has played into the topics of racism and injustice over the years. I don't see what we're really missing unless we want an affirmative action simulator or a game where your character loses 5 points of morale when a random old lady on the street hugs her purse closer to her chest.

Jinx
07-09-2012, 04:49 AM
God, I wish PG was here.

Old Manus
07-09-2012, 09:35 AM
This isn't a thread about how it's a right to have a 17 year old girlfriend though.

Mirage
07-09-2012, 09:46 AM
Let's turn it into one.

Madame Adequate
07-09-2012, 04:28 PM
It is not only right, but a moral imperative, to have a 17 year old girlfriend.

Mirage
07-09-2012, 04:40 PM
I had a 17 year old girlfriend once.

When I was 17.98 years old.

Good thing I wasn't a week older, then I would have been a pedophile.

Old Manus
07-09-2012, 04:43 PM
[disjointed post about ephebophiles and conservative dogma, followed by a comparison between girlfriend selection and the free market]

Del Murder
07-09-2012, 05:36 PM
Good to know PG can still derail a thread even when banned. Let's get back on topic please.

Miriel
07-09-2012, 08:47 PM
The vast majority of developers are white and asian, as are the vast majority of gamers, so naturally, the majority of protagonists end up being white or asian. You pander to your audience, racism has little to do with it.


What is with this assumption that pandering to your audience is mutually exclusive from being racist? It can be both and it probably IS both.

Sylvie
07-09-2012, 09:02 PM
I'm not sure if "racist" is the right word.

Actually, it probably is. People just like to assume that racism = deadly hatred towards one or more races. It really can be as shiny and innocent as naturalized bias.

Huckleberry Quin
07-09-2012, 09:28 PM
Prejudice would be a more accurate term than racist.

Dark_Firion
07-09-2012, 09:31 PM
So...video-games are also homophobic if one is to follow this logic.
And I'll also point out that I have no idea why there aren't so many non-stereotypical black people in games...Lazy devs?

Sylvie
07-09-2012, 09:33 PM
People like to slide "prejudice" down on an infectious spear in the same way that they do with "racist" so I don't see any hope for anyone getting over the simple fact that people who make games are a bunch of white people and asian people who have no fucking idea what it's like to be a cultured black person. Do you want some cracker's interpretation of a black-ass motherf***er? We got it with Barret Wallace and his character was a huge racist joke thanks to Japanese guys wanting (probably required and half-assedly encouraged by management) to be diverse.

Let's call it racist when Bioware or some shit releases a game where you have to capture wild African savages in cages and then keep your funds above the bar by selling them to rich white people; a true quest without virtue.

Huckleberry Quin
07-09-2012, 09:42 PM
I'd play that game.

Sylvie
07-09-2012, 09:56 PM
Me too.

Madame Adequate
07-09-2012, 09:57 PM
I want more games where you can be entirely, horrendously malevolent. Not evil because of some greater good, not some historically contextualized thing or something on an alien world where it's okay, just to be sociopathically vile to the point where even people like Pike and I hide playing this game IRL because of the stigma attached. But not just stupid gorefests either.

Sylvie
07-09-2012, 10:11 PM
Japan has plenty of rape simulators. I've been wanting to get in on it but apparently installing it and pirating it properly are giant pains in the ass.

Huckleberry Quin
07-09-2012, 10:33 PM
As if you need a sim for that, Sylvie.

Sylvie
07-09-2012, 10:39 PM
I do need a sim for it if you plan on living comfortably with your loved ones.

Del Murder
07-09-2012, 10:39 PM
Japan has plenty of rape simulators. I've been wanting to get in on it but apparently installing it and pirating it properly are giant pains in the ass.
Pun intended?

Sylvie
07-09-2012, 10:45 PM
It comes naturally.