Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Problem with Video Games: 5 Games out of Many Which Insult My Sensabilities - A Rant


I've been meaning to do a post like this for awhile, as video games are something very near and dear to me (Yes, I know exactly how sad that sounds). However, recently my beloved hobby has taken a turn for the worse, or perhaps I'm just now starting realize it. No, that's not entirely true either. I've known for years that POC portrayals in video games are lacking at best. Maybe I simply tried to ignore it so I could enjoy my escapism.

Regardless, I've finally reached my breaking point. I can no longer support the gaming industry as it currently stands, replete with homophobia, sexism, and racism as it is. There are several reasons for this, but I thought I'd first start with a list with the most heinous offender to my sensibilities.

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Resident Evil:

More specifically Resident Evil 5. From "Tribal" Sheva to the Ndipaya, this game couldn't be anymore offensive. As stated by Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead, "it plays so blatantly into the old clich├ęs of the dangerous 'dark continent' and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s" and "there are even more outrageous and outdated images to be found later in the game, stuff that I was honestly surprised to see in 2009." The article adds that the addition of the light-skinned Sheva "compounds the problem rather than easing it." And I know some durpa durp is going to bring up that one anthropologist from that one university. Well guess what o' ye of little scholarly learning, that's just one anthropologist's opinion. As an anthropology major I could just as easily assert that the game is racist as all get out, because, guess what, just like other sciences (social or otherwise), one individual does not represent the whole field of study! So to those who thought to make that argument I would like to offer you a nice, big DURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

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Street Fighter:

A childhood favorite of mine that was largely enjoyable during my naive years of pre-pubescent semi-bliss. However, this is number 2 on my list of racist video games, primarily due to it's international popularity. Yes, SF Fanboys, you heard me right. This game is so offensive in terms of its characterizations that I couldn't even bring myself to look at Street Fighter IV, much less work up the fortitude required to shell out 60+ dollars for it.

Now I know someone, or quite a few someones, is going to say, "WTF? Dumb fuk is dumb! Street Fighterz PWNS!" or something to that effect. Just so you know, I'm officially ignoring you starting...now.

As I was saying, all one needs to do is take a look at the character roster and you'll understand my sentiments. Take, for instance, your heroes in the form of Ryu, Ken, Chun-li, and Guile. Ryu is obviously one of the more fleshed out characters as he's the title's mascot, but Ken, Chun-li, and Guile are not without their depth either. While Guile is definitely a stereotype concerning white, western military men from the States, he at least looks somewhat badass despite his ridiculous hair cut. Similarly, other fairer skinned characters are at least neutral on the characterization scale. However, their browner counterparts? Meh, not so much.

From Balrog/M.Bison to DeeJay (Yes, that's his actual name) to Elena to T-Hawk (Once again, yes, that is his actual name) to El Fuerte, all of these characters are ridiculously offensive stereotypes, and in a game practically comprised of ridiculous stereotypes that's saying quite a bit. Well start with DeeJay if for no other reason then the fact that these are his "Likes"-Shouting, singing, dancing, watching TV, and cooking shows. Yes, that's right, he likes shouting. What. The. $%#@!?

Oh, and in case you wanted to know his "Hates"-Silence, harsh people, and people who lack rhythm. Yes, that's right my rhythmically challenged readers, DeeJay is going to whoop your ass up and down the block because you can't clap on beat, because that's exactly what happy dancing blackies from Jamaica do.*

Next up is Elena. I'm not going to comment too much on this one, but I just want to highlight two things that seem to be really salient points about her character. 1) She looks like this-Those Body Proportions! and 2) That Family Photo! My GOD!**

As it concerns Balrog, T. Hawk, and El Fuerte...well the less said the better. Actually, a point of clarification on T.Hawk. Apparently the Street Fighter development staff and Capcom do not realize that those indigenous groups within Mesoamerica have vastly different cultures than those found in the Southwestern United States (which is to say nothing of the diversity to be found among those groups as well). I say this because T.Hawk has stereotypical elements of "Mexican" cultural heritage attributed to his character on top of the grossly offensive and stereotypical "Native American/American Indian" character attributes. Also, just in case you were wondering what, exactly, was so offensive about the T.Hawk link (other than the obvious) it's because the poorly enunciated thing he says at the end is, "How". Someone shank everyone on the SF IV development team with the dulled end of a "peace pipe" please...

Anyway, this could go on forever, but I'm going to move on to el numero tre.

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Mass Effect:

I'll make this simple. While Mass Effect is indeed a great game with a decent, if not entirely predictable, narrative, it suffers from the same ills of most science fiction. Those ills, if you do not already know, are the relative lack of POC and the lack of truly dynamic character attributes for those that do exist. Sure you could bring up good ol' boyscout Cap'n Anderson, or, in the second installment, Jacob Taylor or Kasumi, but that's what? Three out of God knows how many? Seriously, there are more POC in the world than there are white people, but somehow, in almost every sci-fi space narrative, white people manage to remain the visible majority. Go ahead and take a look around the game world and tell me I'm wrong; if you can count the number of POC on two hands, let alone, one then that's probably a hint that something's wrong...

Also, Kasumi and Jacob are, at best, nice ship and combat scenery. Jacob has all the character of a brick wall with a boyscout logo painted on it, and Kasumi...well I'm not even going to talk about her, but I will raucously laugh in the face of anyone who was dumb enough to actually buy that DLC.

Now I know someone's going to bring up the aliens, but you know what? **** you! I mean, really! Aliens! You're going to use aliens to explain why POC are largely underrepresented in the game world? Don't make me laugh.

Also, if you were going to suggest something about the gaming demographic or what have you, you can have a **** you too. There are enough POC gamers that Bioware could have done a little bit better with diversity. Heck, Fallout 3, while problematic in its own right, at least had a diverse cast of characters! So forgive me if Yvonne Strahovski doesn't do it for me as far as a RO (romance option), and if I prefer someone who looks a little more like this. Granted I usually play the renegade, lone wolf jackass whose only interest is pissing off his comrades and everyone else around him-What can I say? It's the misanthrope in me-, but the option would be nice.

Also, forgive my LGBTQ friends for wanting a little equal opportunity loving. To be quite honest I think it's absolutely ridiculous how much this game caters to white, heterosexual, cisgender males. If someone wants their FemShep to get it on with Miranda, Jack, or Tali, then who am I to tell them no way? Similarly, if someone likes a little strapping MShep on Jacob action (though given the fact that Jacob is just about as 3-D as a piece of cardboard I don't know why they would) or Thane, so be it. If you don't like it, don't romance them, duh? It's not complicated...

Now these complaints are leveled at the some of the fanboys and girls just as much as they are at the developers, because I can't even remember the number of homophobic bull**** I read concerning gay/lesbian romance options on various threads.***

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Final Fantasy:

F***. Final. Fantasy. (F*** the first one because he's a cooning Mr. T ripoff. I believe the second and third ones are rather self explanatory, but if not I'd like to add that he too is a coon.)

NEXT!

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Dead or Alive:

Zack. 'nuff said.

*Edit: Not enough said. I almost forgot the mind boggling sexism! Let us not forget the blatant male fan service that is so beyond creepy that those who actually bought the volley ball title(s) (I wouldn't dare to suggest that they were actual games) should be drawn and quartered without some much as a fair trial. Really, those "women" (using the term loosely, especially since I'm discussing nothing more than animated frames/pixels/etc.) are constructed in such an anatomically impossible way that one would have to wonder if the whole series was based on the creator's wet dreams...wait, never mind, that's exactly what the series is: one big wet dream after another. *Shudders*

Now don't get me wrong; I love the female figure (tall, full, skinny, athletic, etc.), but the objectification found in this series just makes me feel dirty, and not in a good way.

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And I think I'm going to cut it off here. I'm starting to get a headache. However, there are countless other games I could list where POC are either 2-D characters, scenery, or nonexistent. I'm not even going to start on the homophobia, and transphobia doesn't even come up in discussion (except maybe in the case of characters like Flea from Chrono Trigger). Regardless, you can give me the excuse that gave developers are white or Japanese if you want, but that still doesn't make them any less guilty of the offenses listed and then some.

Anyway, feel free to comment with additions for the list, possible counter arguments, or what have you.

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*It's a ****ing national past time next to having the IMF and the United States cripple their economy.

**Now I may not know much about the distinct Kenyan tribes, but Elena's family looks more like a Native American stereotype than anything remotely "Kenyan"-which is near impossible to define given the nation's diversity. Now, I admit I may be wrong, so if someone has any information on peoples from Kenya that contradicts my assertion feel free to share.

***I did notice that a lot more people were pro-lesbian ROs, however. But given the demographic (hetero, cis, white males) I guess that was something of a given...

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