Thursday, August 1, 2013

Isms in Gaming 2: Just How Blatant Do We Have To Make It?

        The examples I laid out previously are only a few in recent memory. The message behind the media gets so terribly lost on some people, and for this reason I wonder what kind of role models they've had in their own lives that they think the thugs of Arkham city, the crazed cultists of Tomb Raider, or the sky-borne racists of Bioshock Infinite are the ones they should be identifying with. None of these characters are meant to represent a positive point of view, none of them are meant to be the audience-identification character, and certainly none of them are the developer's way of saying "Racism is good, and you should beat up women in alleyways." It would be if one of you were to read the article I've written, and say that the preceding sentence was my entire message. It's not, by the way, not that I'd have to tell any of you that. I used to pride myself on my empathy, being able to put myself in someone else's shoes, but I can't for the life of me figure out how someone looks at one of these characters and thinks to themselves "Yes. This. This is the character that best represents the point of view that the writers and developers most want me to feel." 

It's like you have to go to the lengths that Gearbox went to, making a character such an over-the-top comedy sexist before people realize you aren't supposed to agree with them.

As I said earlier on, there are some legitimate problems. Resident Evil 5, for example, took an otherwise strong and competent female character gave her several bikini-esque alternate costumes, and the majority of the game was a white dude shooting brown people. Call of Jaurez: The Cartel has a level where you're facing off against Mexican gangs. No problem, right? There's an achievement for killing enough Mexicans. Dead Island accidentally leaked a development build where one of the female characters (otherwise a balanced portrayal of a woman, if not a touch hot-headed) had a skill called “Feminist Bitch.” There is a vital, key difference between the examples listed above and the ones listed previously: the mechanics are portraying a group in a negative light as opposed to specific characters. You look at Fink in Bioshock Infinite, in the space of a minute saying “The prettiest white girl in all of Columbia” to handing the player character a baseball to throw at a mixed-race couple and you can tell that Fink is no role model, but when you're handed a gun and told to shoot your way through this third-world village of Africans, that's where your 'problematics' begin.

I should probably stop beating up on Resident Evil 5 now. Capcom's never been the strongest of storytellers.

In closing, it's a good thing to be more inclusive and accepting of different points of view and ideas when making games, whether those points of view match yours or not. But when you're playing a game and something offends you, stop and ask yourself: “Is the idea being presented as a good thing? Or is this a representation of a real-world idea that is being shown in an educational or critical light? Are there actually people like this in the real world?” Disallowing sexism and racism to be portrayed is as harmful as discriminating yourself, as society needs a mirror to see its own flaws. I can't help but feel the people railing against these sort of things just want to cover their ears and go “LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU” instead of experiencing a story that might have some unpleasant moments.


  1. Here, let me google that for you:

  2. Honestly, I look to HBO to tell me stories. You look at Rome, and you see a balance portrayal of fact against stereotype. As far as BSI goes; well the portrayal of racism, populism, and all that jazz is extremely balanced.

    You struggle through the racism, you get told a story. Gonna say that To Kill A Mockbird is an unpleasant film? That any number of films have unpleasant parts, and therefore are unworthy?

  3. I still cant go through Little Haiti without mounting the curb and running them down, then backing up, then doing donuts with the pretty red tire trails.


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