Mafia III Will Utilize Racism as a Gameplay Mechanic

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The upcoming 2K game’s/Hanger 13’s “Mafia III” has some interesting gameplay elements that may change the way gamers think about racism in America. Set during the late 1960s, Mafia 3 places players in the role of Lincoln Clay, an African American Vietnam War veteran who is returning to his home after serving overseas. The game’s narrative has Clay seeking revenge on the Italian Mafia for the deaths of several of his childhood friends. To enact revenge, Clay will form his own mafia in the hopes of achieving revenge for his friends and earning himself a better life.

For anyone who has played a Mafia game in the past, this doesn’t sound far off from standard fare. However, this will be first time the series has introduced a character of color as the main protagonist for the game. For the developers, this isn’t a cosmetic change they wanted to make lightly: creating a character of color set in the world of  the 1960s means that the character would interact with the world differently than a white character. As a result, the developers decided to make how characters and area react to the protagonist’s skin color a part of the gameplay itself.

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Haden Blackman and Harms, creative director and lead writer of Mafia III respectively, shared some insight with IGN on how they’re making Mafia III reflect the turbulent times of the 1960s:

The behavior of pedestrians and NPCs – certainly not everywhere throughout the game, but in large sections of it – there are places where if Lincoln looks out of place and seems out of place, people will react to that…There are places you can go that just being there is an offence and will elicit a police response. ..We aren’t so naïve to think that a single game could cure racism, but if we can get the player to think, ‘Why am I being treated differently here than in other parts of town?’ then I think we’ve done something worthwhile.”

It’s an innovative design element, one that could potentially open some eyes to hardships that many people of color face in their every day lives. We’ll have to see how it’s fully implemented when Mafia 3 comes out in the fall, but it’s great to see a developer be cognizant  enough to  realize that their characters and action have to reflect the world in which they are set. As Haden Blackman eludes to, if the game can change the way people think about privilege and make people even slightly more sympathetic to those who have to deal with everyday racism then the game will have accomplished something great.

Check out IGN’s piece on Mafia III

Fans Disappointed With Ubisoft’s Lack of Gender Choices in Upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity

Fans Disappointed With Ubisoft’s Lack of Gender Choices in Upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity

It’s been a fun week of demos, conferences, and mostly announcements for First Person Shooters. Between announcing games in which people shoot each others’ heads off, Ubisoft announced the newest entry into their Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game is the first game in the franchise to offer co-op play, allowing up to 4 players at once. That’s all fine and dandy, but fans are disappointed with Ubisoft for something besides them announcing another AC game; fans are upset that the game will feature no playable female characters. Alright, you may be saying “Hey, dingbat. Lots of games don’t feature female characters”, but it’s pretty silly when other games in the franchise have featured playable female characters. With 4 main protagonists in the game, surely they could have put one in.

So what’s Ubisoft gotta say about this lack of gender choices?

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets…Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.”

DOING THINGS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN IS HARD. I get it, it’s true that having to animate, design, and whatever else a female character would add production time to the game, but really? For a company like Ubisoft, who has been releasing an Assassin’s Creed game almost annually, to play the workload card is a little absurd. How about spacing the games out a little more to add this one customization in? The company went on to explain that designing a female character is increasingly difficult because they  don’t have a”female reader for the character” at their disposal, nor do they have “all the animations in place.” A spokemen went on to explain that designing a female character is different from a male one, because they look, act, and walk different. After he said that, the world smallest violin was played for him.

It’s not only fans reacting to the statements of Ubisoft either, as other game developers have added their voice to the subject matter.

Jonathan Cooper of Naught Dog calling  them out for being both lazy and…incorrect? This one  from Tim Borrelli from 5thcell is in response to female characters looking and acting different.

One last one from industry types (I forget who they are with)

All in all, fans and developers aren’t happy with Ubisofts response and laziness on the matter. Come on Ubi, you’re not an independent developer struggling here; the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a huge one and we expect more out of they. They should probably use some of that Babyz and Dogz money to fix this fiasco, but we probably won’t see that happen. Who knows how this will change future Assassin’s Creed games or ever the upcoming Unity.

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Update: Nintendo Reaffirms Stance on Same-Sex Relationships in Tomodachi Life

 

Last year Nintendo responded to a glitch found in their popular Japanese 3ds Title “Tomodachi Collection” that allowed players to enter into same-sex relationships with a patch. We discussed the issue a bit on here and it was admittedly a strange case, as the glitch enabled occurrences such as male Miis becoming pregnant and only allowing for same-sex male relationships.  After the patch was released the response to Nintendo’s action seemed to die down, however the argument has since resurfaced upon Nintendo announcing the game (Tomodachi Life) for North America and Europe. Since then an online petition and miiverse community movement called “Miiquality” have been created to move Nintendo to allow for same-sex relationships in the NA/EU versions of the game. Community members have taken to Miiverse, twitter, facebook and most social media outlets to let Nintendo know of their desires. This week, a representative of Nintendo responded with this statement:

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life…The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation ….We hope that all of our fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.”

TLDR: “We’re not trying to be progressive here”.  Unfortunately this is just another strike in Nintendo’s list of things they’re behind the times on.  This could have been a momentous move for Nintendo to show that they are progressive, but instead they chose to show that they are behind the times once again. With other family oriented companies like Disney making strides in representing the LBGT community, it’s unfortunate that Nintendo isn’t following suit. Even from a financial standpoint, the publicity and buzz Nintendo could have created by responding to requests positively could have extremely helped sales of the upcoming. Instead, they’ve only served to anger and disappoint a growing population of their community. They’ve handled this situation like they’ve handled to Wii U  (HAHAHAHAH GET IT. BADLY)

It’s a bizarre world in Tomodachi Life

Then again…Maybe a bizarre, strange experience like Tomodachi life isn’t the best place for Nintendo to make such a stance….or any statement. Regardless, Nintendo needs to step into the modern day.

UPDATE EVEN MORE!!

 Nintendo has released an official apology regarding the subject:

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

Meh. Seems reasonable enough. To be fair, the original patch that Nintendo released for the Japanese version wasn’t removing the ability to have same sex relationships, it was a patch released to fix a glitch that occurred when players brought over a Mii from another 3ds that inadvertently marks those miis as the wrong gender. They were REALLY trying to not take a stance either way. Perhaps this movement may see the fruits of its labor in future installments of the game.

Tropes vs Women in Video Games – Part 3:Damsel in Distress

The third installment in the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series has been released today. I’m not going to say anything about it,  but here’s a brief description:

This is the third installment in our three part mini-series exploring the Damsel in Distress trope in video games. In this episode we examine the rare Dude in Distress role reversal and then take a look at the use of “ironic sexism” in retro inspired indie and mobile games. We conclude with an investigation of some titles that attempt to subvert or deconstruct the traditional damsel narrative.

Nintendo and Racial Under Representation

This is a picture of the character select screen from Super Smash Brother Brawl, a fighter featuring many of Nintendo’s main characters. You may notice it, but something is certainly lacking in this picture (No..It’s not MegaMan)

Nintendo has been in the video game industry for well over 30 years, and the number of franchises and characters they have created is unrivaled in the industry. However, Nintendo certainly has been slow to change on certain issues (Wi-Fi, DLC, Account Systems, hardware, etc). They’re by no means the most dynamic developer out there, despite revolutionizing the industry many times over. One issue that they seem to be trailing behind is that of racial representation in video games.

Let’s think for a moment: How many non-white Nintendo characters can you think of? How many characters of color? I can think of two: Doc Lewis from Punch-out, and maybe Ganondorf.

What gives Nintendo? Two characters out of hundreds, neither of whom are playable and one of which is a villain. There may be some characters in the Fzero universe, but who knows the characters outside Captain Falcon from Fzero? So we’re essentially left with zero, and there are certainly no protagonist who are non-white.

Another concerning issue comes from their lack of customization to include non-white players. For example, the recent Animal Crossing allows players to customize nearly every aspect of their character and city. One feature lacking is the ability to change or choose your characters skin tone. Gamers of colored have asked “Why can’t my character’s skin color match my own”?

It’s only recently that Nintendo has allowed players to choose between male and female, so why has an option for skin tone been missing from most games? Mii’s skin can be darkened or lightened, so why not in game? This isn’t isolated to Animal Crossing either, as games like Pokemon lack this ability as well.

Reasons Given for the lack of diversity:

“Most of Nintendo’s characters were created in the NES days, non-white characters would be more difficult to distinguish”

This excuse may have worked when Nintendo was first developing for arcades, but certainly the NES was powerful enough distinguish non-white characters. As I mentioned, Doc Lewis and several of the punch-out casts were characters of color, so it was certainly possible. Even McKids featured a non-white playable character. Is Nintendo really unable to do what McKids can? Regardless, Nintendo has had 20+ more years to make more characaters, and with expanding universes like the Zelda universe there’s no reason why Nintendo can’t create more diverse characters.

“Japan isn’t as diverse as we are”

I understand that Nintendo is a Japanese company, and racial diversity isn’t as big of a concern in Japan as is it here, but being one of the foremost worldwide gaming developers Nintendo has to consider a wider audience. Being a Japanese company hasn’t stop other developers from creating characters of color. Likewise, Nintendo’s mascot is an Italian plumber- I don’t think they’re letting region dictate their characters.

So there you have it. While I am singling out Nintendo, this issue goes far beyond the big N. Characters of color have traditionally been very underrepresented, and often misrepresented, in video games. Varying studies have been done on the representation of race in video games, and they hardly even come out too positive. As the video game industry progresses, it’s important that we demand diverse and interesting characters. Children who are non-white need positive heroes and protagonist just as much as their white peers.