Vice’s “The Invisible People: Why Asians Need to Be Better Represented in Video Games”

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Vice News posted an article by Khai Trung Le entitled “The Invisible People: Why Asians Need to Be Better Represented in Video Games” that discusses the the lack or representation and misrepresentation of Asians in video games. It’s an interesting subject that often doesn’t get brought up in the community all that often. Before we discuss the article, here are some important tidbits from the article:

The issue of representation is perhaps more difficult to confront because Asians have always occupied a significant presence in games history, culture, and production, creating the assumption of a non-issue. China, Japan, and South Korea are strong markets for video games with their own idiosyncrasies, studios and market influence, and are certainly as responsible for propagating these tropes as Western developers and publishers. Nor do Asian men experience the same career barriers within the tech sector and generally are not currently under the extremities of harassment and hate felt by others: not under threat of deportation or assumptions of terrorist sympathies, nor under fear of trigger-happy law enforcement. Fortunately, there has been no organized social-media movement against Asians—although some of the coarser language certainly focused on ethnicity—but rather a continuous disregard.

Nevertheless, 49 percent of Asian American respondents to a 2015 Nielsen survey “strongly disagreed” with the statement of “all races have ample representation/inclusion in video game characters.” This is more than twice as high as Hispanic and African American respondents, and similarly more than twice as high than women that “strongly disagreed” with the same statement toward gender.

I think the reason representation in video games doesn’t often get brought up in regards to Asian communities is that there is a misconception that Asian characters are being well represented in video games, primarily due to Japanese characters having a good deal of representation in the medium. There in lies the issue; the terms Asian is such a broad term referring to such a vast number of cultures and people that one population within the umbrella term receiving representation in no way should trivialize other groups’ lack of representation. One Asian community does not represent all Asian communities, and nor should representation be looked at as a form of checking of groups.

The article is pretty articulate in regards to the problems of representation in gaming, but it should be noted that the article’s focus seems to be arguing more so for representation of Asian Americans within gaming, rather than Asian communities outside of the United States. Perhaps this division goes without saying, but the article doesn’t make the distinction which will perhaps lead viewers to extend his viewpoint to more communities than just Asian Americans. Regardless, representation within the Asian American community in general is a subject matter that extends to many forms of media and gaming is no different. As the author puts forward, we’re seeing some positive portrayals in recent games but a significant portion of Asian Americans feel that video games are underrepresenting or misrepresenting their communities. With more emerging game development communities forming in Asian countries like China and S.Korea, hopefully we’ll begin to see other Asian communities better represented within gaming as a whole. Similarly, American developers need to be more conscious of representing the entire American population within their game, which needs to include the various Asian American communities that call the United States home. More diverse characters with more diverse backgrounds mean for more interesting games.

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

New Study Suggest Video Games May Be Enforcing Racism

They did it everyone. They found the link between playing video games like Kirby and being a bigot…Well, not really. However, A recent study coming out of Ohio State University has found some interesting findings regarding racism and video games. This study may make your reconsider your next gaming choices.

In Saints Row you can be a thug of any race or gender! Or not, I haven’t played it.

Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science the study questioned what  happens when white video game players find themselves playing as black video game characters in violent video games. The first experiment had 120 white students play the violent video game Saints Row. Participants were randomly given either a white protagonist or a black protagonist in the game. Furthermore, players were given one of two missions – break out of prison or go to a chapel without harming others. After each play sessions participants were given the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to reveal any hidden biases they may have had by having participants link white and black faces to either negative or positive categories. The results found that players that were using black avatars were more likely to link negative categories to black faces than those who used white avatars. Similarly, it was found that players who played the more violent mission were more likely to agree with the statement “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”.  Yeesh, that’s harsh.

We’re getting into some scary findings here kiddos, but it doesn’t stop there. A second experiment was conducted to further these findings. In this follow up experiment, 141 more white college students were asked playing either WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 or Fight Night Round 4. As in the previous experiment, participants were assigned either a white or black avatar and then given the IAT to measure their biases. However, after each play sessions participants had the opportunity to give their unseen partner (presumably their opponent) a punishment in the way of hot sauce, which the participants knew they disliked. The results found were inline with those of the previous experiment; players who played as black avatars were more likely to associate negative categories with black faces than those who played as white characters. In regards to the hot sauce portion of the experiment, players who played as black avatars gave their partners 115% more hot sauce than those who played as white avatars. Clearly, something about playing as black avatars makes white players want to dish out some hot sauce.

What this suggests is that something about playing as black avatar characters, especially in violent scenarios, reinforces negative stereotypes about the black community in white video game players and makes them more aggressive towards others. While it’s a general perspective to believe that more minority characters will make general audiences more empathetic to people of colors, this study suggests that negative and unbalanced minority characters may only fuel further racism and bias. Regardless of this study’s findings or not, clearly there is a lack of balanced and progressive minority characters in the video game industry.

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One thing the study does not do is offer reasons why this may occur, other than their go-to embedded racism. Embedded racism may be the perpetrator, but one must consider that there may be something more at work. It would be interesting if the same experiments would be done with a control group of only black video game players: would the same results be found or would the results be flipped. One consideration the study does not offer is disassociation: players could potentially be more likely to be more aggressive when they have a further distance between themselves and their character. Not relating to their character on race may be making players relate less, and thus become more aggressive and more likely to act out. Of course this doesn’t offer a solution as to why they would be biased towards racial stereotypes, but it’s a consideration.

This study tells us something that we already know: negative characters lead to negative attitudes and actions. Playing as a violent killer is negative, regardless of the race of the character or player. I’m not suggest we pacify or censor our games, but instead me more conscious of the media we’re consuming and how it effects us. It often is more fun to be violent in a video game than not, but perhaps we should only be giving our gaming palettes opportunity to be violent.

Racist Games: Custer’s Revenge (Atari 2600)

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Warning: If you’re offended by crudely pixilated genitalia, look no further pass this sentence! Honestly, it’s nothing more than blocks in this scenario. Literally. 

In chronicling the games from Racist pasts, one has to start at one of the very first. Even before game’s could tell much of a story there was some pretty heavy racism in video games. Thus, we look back at the most racist games of the Atari 2600: Custer’s Revenge

Oh God! No! What am I even looking at!
Oh God! No! What am I even looking at!

Amongst racist games, this is probably one of the most well known titles. The game receive a huge backlash upon release because of it’s sexism, racism, and down right digusting nature. Released in 1982 as an adult title for the Atari 2600, the game has carried several titles over the years: Custer’s Revenge, The White Man Came (That’s one’s silly) and Westward Ho.  I should mention, there are actually several more adult video games on the Atari 2600, but Custer’s Revenge is arguably the most graphic and offensive.

How could anyone not want to play?

So what’s offensive about these 10 blocks walking into those other 10 blocks? Well, the game puts you in the role of General George Armstrong Custer. For those unaware of who General Custer is and for sake of back story to this atrocious game, General Custer was a notable general during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. His most famous and last  battle “The Battle of Little Bighorn” involved his cavalry fighting a coalition of native American tribes rebelling against the treatment of native American tribes (You know, the whole killing most of them and putting the rest on reservations. that treatment). General Custer and his men were killed at the  Battle of Big Horn,  which later came to be called Custer’s Last Stand. While I don’t want to get into which side was at fault, as certainly American History is favorable to Custer and the American cavalries , it doesn’t take a activist to know that there was much more to the battle that American history overlooks for the sake of favoring Americans. With all of this, you may be asking: What does this have to do with this horrible video game?

Well…That’s where the game comes in. We are to assume that General Custer, famously known for being slain by native American rebels, has come back from the grave to get his revenge on the people who killed him. How does he do that? Rape of course!

The point of the game is  to get a naked General Custer from the left of the screen to the right of the screen where a naked native American woman is waiting, all the while dodging spears that are being thrown.  That’s it It’s a simple, stupid game. There’s honestly not much to say about the game that can’t just be visually seen from a screenshot of it. Upon getting to the right of the screen, Custer has sex with the Native American girl up against (presumably) a cactus. Terrible. Just terrible.

 

That’s essentially all there is to say about the game. It’s horrendous and completely and utterly racist and sexist. It has grown to one of the more famous racist games to the point that there is actual fan art for the game, and a fan remake was released several years ago that depicts the racism and sexism in much greater graphics. I’ll leave you to find that fanfare if you really desire, though I highly recommend you do something more stimulating like watching paint dry or licking your shoe.

For better of worse, this game will forever go down as being of the most racist games of all time.  It’s also worth mentioning that Custer’s Revenge is the second thing you find when googling  General Custer.

 

 

Racist Games: Spanish for Everyone (DS)

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It’s time once again to look into the vault of Racist games that haunts our dreams every night. With the Holiday season in full bloom, perhaps you’ll find the right racist game for the racist in your life!

Today’s installment: Spanish For Everyone (DS, 2007)

From the looks of it “Spanish For You” looks like a harmless educational  DS title that will teach your kids Spanish. I’m sure that’s what the developers of this title intended it to be, but the result is anything but.  Let’s start with the game’s story.

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The game starts with you taking the role of a boy named Shawn. He’s a seemingly normal kid, playing his DS outside on a nice day (That kid is playing a DS Phat outside during the day? He must not enjoy seeing the screen! AMIRITE!?….Lets move on). The plot starts rolling when Miguel, a random kid who Shawn seemingly doesn’t know, ask to play Shawn’s DS in Spanglish. What proceeds will sound completely made up, but keep with me: it’s not. Miguel’s father rolls up in Limo and insists that Miguel comes with him, which he does. In the moment Miguel forgets to give Shawn his DS back and as the Limo squeals off Shawn begins to panic.  The plot thickens when two cop cars chase after Miguel’s father’s limo. A few minutes later, Shawn’s aunt, who he seems to barely know, arrives and ask you if you’d like to follow them to Mexico to get your DS back. She can “teach you many things, including Spanish”.

Rule of S4E # 1: When a strange older woman ask you to go to a foreign land to retrieve a device worth less than 150 dollars, you go without asking your parent permission.

Okay, so at this point the game just has a questionable premise to take the game’s character to Mexico to teach the player Spanish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Upon arriving to Tijuana, Shawn’s aunt abandons him on a truck with a talking bull. The Bull, the strangest character in the game, believes Shawn to be some sort of Messiah. He agrees to teach you Spanish, as it’s obviously a animalistic language that even animals know.

Rule of S4E #2: Abandoning kids in the backs of pick-up-trucks with dangerous animals is an okay thing to do in Mexico.

After traveling in this questionable pick-up-truck, Shawn arrives in a town that looks completely abandoned.  A man, who is apparently his uncle, is the only one to be found in this town. This is where the game get’s even more racist. Shawn’s uncle, who looks like a pedophile, tells you that he’s an exporter to the United States and that he is seeking a wealthy man for some unfinished business. The wealthy man turns out to be Miguel’s father, as he is the only man in Mexico to be able to afford a limo. He tells you that the town is dangerous a night and that you’ll need to get in his jeep to avoid getting attacked. What the hell is going on.

Rule of S4E #3: If you’re wandering the streets of a dangerous Mexican town alone, as you will obviously find yourself doing, get in the Jeep of the shady man claiming to be your uncle. He’ll protect you with “adult words” if your Jeep gets attacked.

Just to clarify. At this point, the developers of this game, are obviously insinuating that Shawn’s uncle and Miguel’s Father are mixed up in the drug trade. Their view of Mexico up until this part in the game are the following: Deserting Family members who may or may not be a pedophile, overly religious cows that are as intelligent as the other Mexican natives you’ve encountered, and drug cartels.

THIS IS LOCO! (I learned that word from the game!)

Now we’ve reached the conclusion of our strange journey. Shawn finally reaches the house of Miguel’s father. After your uncle tells you that he’s going to hold back until you leave, you go and knock on the door to find the swindler Miguel holding your DS. Fortunately he feels bad and he gives you back your DS and also gives you a plane ticket to your next adventure: France. The final scene shows multiple cars coming up to Miguel’s house as you walk away with your DS, eluding to the fact that shit is about to go down at Miguel’s house.

Let’s step back and look at what we just witnessed. This seemingly educational game relies on nothing but horrible stereotypes of Mexicans while it progresses you through meaningless mini games aimed at teaching you Spanish words, not proper Spanish speaking.  At no point in the game do you learn any conjugation or difference between masculine and feminine nouns. Worse even is that the game features numerous mistakes in both Spanish and English, making some parts of the game virtually unplayable. All in all, the game is racist, terrible, and horrendous to look at; what more can you ask for the holiday list for the racist in your life?

This is one of the instances in which I recommend emulation. If you want to check this terrible title out, please emulate and do not give money to the developers or Activision for publishing this horrendous game. To my knowledge, “French for Everyone” has never been made, and I sincerely hope it never does.