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Posts tagged with "racism"

Jul 4

History Respawned: Assassins Creed

A historians and gamers thoughtfully delve into the depiction of Caribbean slavery, social hierarchy of people of color, and the proliferation of mixed-race people as portrayed in different Assassin’s Creed games. It’s a 40-minute video but it gives great, detailed information about how slavery in the Caribbean differed than the North American system we hear so much about and the history of laws about people of color in France. We also learn about how Assassin’s Creed stays truthful or strays away from how that history played out. The historian Jessica W. Luther also praised the game for its portrayal of the emotional experience of being a slave and a person of color during the 17th and 18th centuries:

"I did find there was one, some part of the video, where, she [Aveline] was dressed as a slave so she’s on a plantation and she’s trying to scout, she needs to go to the top of the big house on the plantation to scout the entire scene. And she walks by this [white] guy on the plantation and just like, I’m just watching a video of a video game and I felt tense cause you can tell that however they created her, her movement, she tenses, and I don’t know whether that’s you playing the game, but the way she moved around that man, and he looks at her, and I was just like ‘Don’t hurt her!’ And my feeling as I was watching it was like, that’s an amazing thing, to sort of see how prescribed even their movements in the street were, and this sort of ongoing fear…That’s amazing that that’s in a video game, I have to say…That’s the kind of thing that you teach students about slavery, that’s the kind of thing that’s really hard, it’s an intangible, that’s hard to portray to them just through language. You have them read slave narratives and watch sort of recreations of that, but there’s something about the experience of the video game allowing you to see it.

May 6

So, Is Bioshock: Infinite Racist?

I’m glad you asked!

So after playing through the game, the best answer I can give you is: Um, yes and no but it’s more complicated.

How is it more complicated? There’s a ton of racist imagery in this game that is abhorrent. Of course that makes it racist!

image

Well, yes and no. The racist imagery may trigger someone and offend many, and they have every right to be. However, the racist imagery is there to present a stylized world in which white supremacy is rampant. For example, in one sequence of the game, you have to go through two hallways in a racist museum: One portraying Wounded Knee, the other the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. In both of these hallways, you hear and see pop-out exhibits of Chinese and American Indian people when extremely stereotypical features and sounds and trying to basically kill whitey, both however culminating with the “Prophet” of Columbia, Comstock, the creator of the city and their leader/hero, defeating both the Indians at Wounded Knee and the Chinese of the Boxer Rebellion. Both accounts of the events are of course racist propaganda, and gives the player an idea of just how godlike Comstock is to the people of Columbia and how actively racist the society is despite projecting itself as a great utopia.

So you’re saying it’s not racist because the imagery and storyline serves a greater purpose of condemning racism and white supremacy?

Well, yes and no again. You see, the imagery is indeed reflective of propaganda and viewpoints of white supremacists for a society with a race-based system of hierarchy, and presents Columbia as being so racist to the point of disgust in many cases for the player. Players who are not actively anti-racist identify the messed-up, racist propaganda and language that litters the game and feel uncomfortable viewing it, and even more uncomfortable when they think about how normalized it seems in the society. However, Bioshock: Infinite never actually outright condemns racism and white supremacy. You meet people for it, and against it, but never reach any point in which it is laid out clearly that racism is bad. The character that you play, Booker, never has any intention to either end white supremacy or further it, he doesn’t care; white supremacy simply exists in the world around him, and it, along with the resistance that tries end it, are simply obstacles to him and his ultimate goal. This fact actually surprises me a bit. A trademark of Bioshock games is that they play with the philosophy of morality vs. self-preservation, so to not see how the privileges of white supremacy factors into that for a white protagonist feels like a missed opportunity.

image

So you’re saying it is racist because although it presents white supremacy, it never actually condemns it? You have a choice to support it?

Well you’re getting closer! Booker and Elizabeth sometimes talk about the white citizens of Columbia and their treatment of people of color but they are almost entirely neutral on the subject. You can make small choices regarding interpersonal racist encounters, but you as Booker never actively promote it or condemn it, either in words or action. At one point you begin doing an errand for the Vox Populi, a group of anti-racist, anarchist activists led by Daisy Fitzroy, a black woman who to some is a great hero, and to the white population is a terrorist and murderer. Now, Daisy would have been a great character to have as strictly an ally, particularly since we see very few black women trying to lead revolutions in games, and who are powerful. However, the more you work for her, the more you find that she is almost psychotic and that the Vox Populi is committing immense violence and other atrocities, basically positing her and the Vox Populi as being just as evil as the oppressive white supremacist society. And when you equate the actions of an oppressed group to those against their oppressors when they try to retaliate against their oppression, that’s a problem.

But I do want to add that in Bioshock, most of the enemies you ever face in the game are white. You rarely have to kill or shoot at a person of color in the game. The Vox are portrayed as a terrorist group with a psychotic leader, but the people of color in the group don’t try to constantly fight you like Columbia’s white police and citizens do, and you don’t see them as enemies you need to fight as often as the white society until later in the game. So if anyone was worried that this is a game filled with the white lead character constantly shooting at people of color, you can breathe.

So it’s not racist because you mostly kill white people?

No, but in a game where racism is very prominent, and the character you play is a white guy and your #1 comrade is a white woman, it helps that you don’t have to light black people on fire every two minutes.

image

But does it really matter if Booker and Elizabeth are white?

It does if racism is extremely prominent in the game! If your protagonists are white, if the characters you as the player are supposed to go on a journey with are white, how do you even know how racism actually oppresses people? You experience a glossed-over white perspective, in which you see racism around you, and you hear the laments of people of color, and you talk to black servants and revolutionaries of color, but you can never actually experience racism like you could if Booker or Elizabeth were of color. Players are automatically given a sanitized perspective of racism because racism doesn’t affect them, which just reinforces how little Infinite actually deals with racism. And this is definitely a racist trend in media: To have a story in which racism is incredibly prominent, but the audience or player never actually sees it through the eyes of a person of color who actually experiences racism.

Okay, so you’re saying that there are actually racist elements to this game, just not in the blatant way that people who haven’t played the game assumed? And you’re saying that you admire the lengths that the game go to in order to present a world with clear notions of white supremacy and racism? But by having two white protagonists who can’t actually experience the racism, and by presenting racism and white supremacy as more of a backdrop to the plot and never a thematic ethical/moral issue for the player, you can’t excuse the racist imagery and characters since they don’t seem to serve much of an anti-racist purpose? So the game makers tried to seem progressive and not racist but ended up making a game that didn’t say that much about racism at all and in turn, is extremely problematic in its portrayal of racism?

Yup, that’s what I’m saying.

- Aria

Apr 1

Bioshock Infinite and Criticisms of Racism

I’ve been hearing a lot of white people defend Bioshock Infinite’s depiction of racism after people of color decry its depictions. If you are a white player who does not see the racism that people of color try to point out, it’s time to take a step back before you start claiming that people of color and “social justice warriors” just have major butthurts over a silly video game.

If people of color play a video game and say that’s it’s racist and explain why, everyone should give the benefit of the doubt to them because people of color are far far far FAR more likely to point out what is racist than white people are. That is simply a fact. This idea is particularly important when analyzing media and entertainment because it is often viewed through a lens of “harmlessness” when media presentation is a great indicator of cultural viewpoints of race, gender, class, etc. by the people who create those media, and, by extension, the greater population of people who consume such media.

The Western gaming world and game creation is more than saturated with white players and white creators, so when a POC says that a game is racist, it’s time to take a moment and take a breath before we go huffing and puffing by proclaiming something is “accurate” because players of color will automatically be able to see nuances of race relations that white players and even white creators did not see or intend.

And let’s also all remember that the two main characters in Infinite are white, and that having white protagonists in a media form in which racism plays a huge part is generally written from a white perspective that glosses over the actual atrocities of POC, because the audience, and in this case, the player, is not allowed to experience the racism in the Infinite world as a POC. So we should keep that in mind when we play this game, judging on whether the “accuracies” of racism might simply be used as props for the white character’s growth and POV, not as an actual depiction of the manifestations of racism for the people actually oppressed by it.

Now I, who is POC and a gamer who has yet to play Infinite, will of course judge the game fully whenever I play it. However, I know that for the POC who have played it and say that it’s racist and have written why it is racist, I will trust their instincts and their commentary because POC more often than not have experienced enough racist bullshit to identify racist bullshit.

- Aria

Let’s all take a moment of appreciation at the fact that the major forthcoming games of one of today’s most popular video gaming franchises both feature people of color as the protagonists.

Fan art Whitewashing of Chell

The whitewashing of characters of color is something that is unfortunately common, not just within actual movies or shows, but in fan art. This trend doesn’t necessarily come from individual artists being racist, but from the idea that white people are subconsciously the “norm” or even the “ideal” canvas with which to portray a character. Although Chell’s brownness, however slight, is not essential to the plot or to her character, the fact that she is not white is important because, well, there are not a lot of game protagonist who are not white.

This is Chell in Portal 1:

This is Chell in Portal 2:

Of course, Portal 2 has, for whatever reason, seemed to incidentally whitened Chell herself in some ways. But the fact that Chell is not white is still something that can still be ascertained from her images. I originally posted one example as how even art that is really wonderful and good quality can perpetuate a racist trend such as white washing. However, I should have posted several examples to make that point. So here we go.

Of course, the individual fan arts are not as important as the collective trend of the whitening of features.

Assassins Creed’s Connor And American Indian Characters

[tw: racism, rape]

[image description: Connor, the Mohawk protagonist of Assassins Creed III, fighting off three British redcoat soldiers.]

Recent reveals of Assassins Creed III have so far been surprising, not only for the unique time period, but for the protagonist being an American Indian, Connor, born from a British father and Mohawk mother, and raised by the Mohawk tribe. Connor will certainly be gaming’s most high-profile protagonist of American Indian heritage to date, and with that acknowledgment comes pressure to make it right, as Connor will be under a scrutinizing eye to ensure he is true to representing a very marginalized group.

One of the trademarks in the Assassins Creed series is the attention to detail, and hopefully Ubisoft will not be skimping on that tradition when it comes to the truthfulness of the Native characters. Recent news has already demonstrated a few  positive steps that Ubisoft has taken, as according to Kotaku, there will be conversations completely between Mohawk characters in their native language, and the actor playing Connor is also half Blackfoot.

However, like all forms of media entertainment, video games have had many negative and stereotypical portrayals of people of color, including Native characters, very often in fighting games. The male Native characters are usually given overly-romanticized Indian names, dressed to show overt muscles and masculinity, and always connected to nature in some way.

[image description: Three characters dressed in stereotypical Native clothing, Nightwolf, Thunder Hawk, and Humba Wumba, the former two wearing vests, no shirts, and jeans, and all wearing feathers. Picture from Project COE.]

Recent games such as Prey have actually featured Indian characters as main characters in non-stereotypical ways while still incorporating different Indian cultures. Prey itself featured a mostly staff of creators and writers who were not Indian, but the mostly-positive feedback relating to the treatment of Indian culture within the game came from constant discussion and input from Indian people.

[image description: cover art for Prey. A cis male American Indian dressed in a leather jacket, jeans, and holding a futuristic weapon in his right hand.]

So how will Ubisoft incorporate Mohawk culture and against a backdrop of the American Revolution, in which Indians play a huge role during that time period? Would the game incorporate the displacement of Indian tribes that as a story point and even motivation for the actions of Connor? Will racism and colonialism be actual discussion points? As Connor is also noted at having a British father, I’m curious to see the nature of that couple, and if it is tied to the history of white soldiers systematically raping Indian women or if it is an example of an interracial couple, or something else entirely. There are several different roads and possibilities that could be addressed with such a layered period of history that at this point can only create speculation.

Personally, I am excited to see a game from this type of protagonist and in this time period, and I believe Ubisoft will go the extra mile to do it justice, and I forsee Connor being a vanguard for the proper treatment of protagonists of color, particularly in a game where race will most definitely matter.

- Aria

Dec 6

Dark Souls Review + Feminist Analysis

A review of general gameplay on its own, but also narrative and character reviews based on representation of race, gender, and body type.

submitted by enviablememory

The picture on top is currently being heralded as one of the best fan art depictions of Chell to date.

Unfortunately, the artist for this work seemed to lighten Chell’s skin and made her features far more more white than what is presented in the actual game, turning it into another case of a character of color being whitewashed.

TW: mentions of violence, racism, sexualization
[image description: A poster for Max Payne 3. At the foreground on the right is Max Payne, a white cis man with a beard, holding a whiskey a glass and wiping his mouth. In the background to the left is a dark-skinned cis man with most his face covered, holding an automatic weapon in one hand. To his right is a white cis woman with her hands behind her back, writhing in pain]
This is the newest cover art for the game Max Payne 3.
Let’s ignore Max Payne himself. Let’s ignore the game’s content, message, previous incarnations, et cetera. This post is just about the advertisement poster, and I do realize I am largely taking it out of the context of whatever kind of game Max Payne is. This cover art displays some very racialized, sexualized images that I’m actually surprised a game company would actually use.
Let’s start with the woman. Looking at her in the background is very discomforting. Although she appears to be held captive against her will, her post is almost model-esque, just teetering on the edge of looking like she’s in pain or in pleasure. It evokes both violence and sexualization at the time, a rarity, but not unheard of, in advertisements and posters and covers featuring women.
Now, let’s look at the dark-skinned man to the left of her. Max Payne 3 appears to be set in Brazil, so of course there are going to be brown people around. However, even without the context of the game, just take a look at that image. A dark-skinned, evil looking man taking hostage of a beautiful white, or at least light-skinned, woman. This is something I think we see all too often.
We can look at the presentation of the woman and the presentation of the dark-skinned man, but when you put them both together onto one cover art with Max, who many unfamiliar with the game will probably assume is the protagonist, at the foreground of the picture, how can anyone look at it and not see a sexualized, racialized image?
- Aria

TW: mentions of violence, racism, sexualization

[image description: A poster for Max Payne 3. At the foreground on the right is Max Payne, a white cis man with a beard, holding a whiskey a glass and wiping his mouth. In the background to the left is a dark-skinned cis man with most his face covered, holding an automatic weapon in one hand. To his right is a white cis woman with her hands behind her back, writhing in pain]

This is the newest cover art for the game Max Payne 3.

Let’s ignore Max Payne himself. Let’s ignore the game’s content, message, previous incarnations, et cetera. This post is just about the advertisement poster, and I do realize I am largely taking it out of the context of whatever kind of game Max Payne is. This cover art displays some very racialized, sexualized images that I’m actually surprised a game company would actually use.

Let’s start with the woman. Looking at her in the background is very discomforting. Although she appears to be held captive against her will, her post is almost model-esque, just teetering on the edge of looking like she’s in pain or in pleasure. It evokes both violence and sexualization at the time, a rarity, but not unheard of, in advertisements and posters and covers featuring women.

Now, let’s look at the dark-skinned man to the left of her. Max Payne 3 appears to be set in Brazil, so of course there are going to be brown people around. However, even without the context of the game, just take a look at that image. A dark-skinned, evil looking man taking hostage of a beautiful white, or at least light-skinned, woman. This is something I think we see all too often.

We can look at the presentation of the woman and the presentation of the dark-skinned man, but when you put them both together onto one cover art with Max, who many unfamiliar with the game will probably assume is the protagonist, at the foreground of the picture, how can anyone look at it and not see a sexualized, racialized image?

- Aria

atraeathing:


I remember the first time I saw those mods. It was maybe about a week or so after the game came out, and I had read the article about some of the msot popular mods at the time, so I decided to go to the Nexus and see what else they had.

And then I saw this.

I had never, EVER, been MORE disappointed in any fandom I’ve been apart of that I was when I saw this. The fact that this existed. As a person of color, I was glad that they made Isabela the way she was. It made sense.

She’s from Rivain, which is described as:
Its dark-skinned humans, the Rivaini, have a peaceful relationship with the elves. The city of Llomerryn is known to have a semi-permanent Dalish encampment on its outskirts. The Qunari settlement of Kont-aar is in northern Rivain.


She’s a pirate. She’s on a ship most of the time, under the sun. With her already being dark-skinned, it makes sense that she would only tan, not get a sunburn.
It should be noted that there is no “Light-skinned Duncan” mod, and he is Rivaini as well.
The Dragon Age fandom is easily one of the best fandoms I’ve ever been apart of, it’s the whole reason I got back into fandom after a hiatus that was years long. It is full of some of the most intelligent, talented, forward-thinking, and absolutely hilarious people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And after having been in the fandom for a few months now, seeing this again only pains me more, knowing that people who think like this are still lurking around. And, really, more importantly…

IT’S. A. GAME. I love and appreciate the writing, design, voice work, story, and characterizations that go into these that make it feel like less of a game and more of an experience. But at the end of the day, I still know that Kirkwall is nothing but an amalgamation of scripts, polygons, programming, actor’s voice recordings, and math (so much math…). What kind of mindset do you have to have that you can’t even shove away your prejudices for the sake of playing a role and enjoying a game. Who, WHO, is sitting at their computer, bothered beyond reason by the fact that Isabela is dark. 

Now, I may not be giving this person the benefit of the doubt, in that perhaps they don’t understand exactly why this bothers people so much. Perhaps they didn’t even think about it. For that reason, here is why it bothers me in particular:

Because regardless of what you may have meant, the message conveyed is that people of color, specifically those with skin darker than tone A or B, are not attractive, or not good enough. What’s worse is that you see her skin color as something so insignificant that you can just change it. Now, y’all have seen pictures of me I’m sure. I’m racially ambiguous at best. But what about those who are not? What about those who can’t change their skin with a mod, and have to go through life knowing that there’s a pretty large segment of the population that doesn’t find them attractive or good enough, simply because of the tone of their skin. 

Since I’m not dark skinned, I can’t adequately express how that must feel. I don’t have the foundation for it. But the girls in the trailer for “Dark Girls” do. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, the first few minutes does more than enough to drive the point home.

[trigger warnings, it’s a heavy watch].

For further insight on this issue (specifically how this mindset is subtlety implemented in the media to market popstars or television shows), look at this page on TVTropes.org: But Not Too Black.

I remember finding this mod, too, and the creator wrote something about how they were so “bothered” by how dark Isabela is, so they made the mod to make her more “attractive.” Are you serious? 
-gaminginpink

atraeathing:

I remember the first time I saw those mods. It was maybe about a week or so after the game came out, and I had read the article about some of the msot popular mods at the time, so I decided to go to the Nexus and see what else they had.

And then I saw this.

I had never, EVER, been MORE disappointed in any fandom I’ve been apart of that I was when I saw this. The fact that this existed. As a person of color, I was glad that they made Isabela the way she was. It made sense.

  • She’s from Rivain, which is described as:

Its dark-skinned humans, the Rivaini, have a peaceful relationship with the elves. The city of Llomerryn is known to have a semi-permanent Dalish encampment on its outskirts. The Qunari settlement of Kont-aar is in northern Rivain.

  • She’s a pirate. She’s on a ship most of the time, under the sun. With her already being dark-skinned, it makes sense that she would only tan, not get a sunburn.
  • It should be noted that there is no “Light-skinned Duncan” mod, and he is Rivaini as well.

The Dragon Age fandom is easily one of the best fandoms I’ve ever been apart of, it’s the whole reason I got back into fandom after a hiatus that was years long. It is full of some of the most intelligent, talented, forward-thinking, and absolutely hilarious people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And after having been in the fandom for a few months now, seeing this again only pains me more, knowing that people who think like this are still lurking around. And, really, more importantly…

IT’S. A. GAME. I love and appreciate the writing, design, voice work, story, and characterizations that go into these that make it feel like less of a game and more of an experience. But at the end of the day, I still know that Kirkwall is nothing but an amalgamation of scripts, polygons, programming, actor’s voice recordings, and math (so much math…). What kind of mindset do you have to have that you can’t even shove away your prejudices for the sake of playing a role and enjoying a game. Who, WHO, is sitting at their computer, bothered beyond reason by the fact that Isabela is dark. 

Now, I may not be giving this person the benefit of the doubt, in that perhaps they don’t understand exactly why this bothers people so much. Perhaps they didn’t even think about it. For that reason, here is why it bothers me in particular:

Because regardless of what you may have meant, the message conveyed is that people of color, specifically those with skin darker than tone A or B, are not attractive, or not good enough. What’s worse is that you see her skin color as something so insignificant that you can just change it. Now, y’all have seen pictures of me I’m sure. I’m racially ambiguous at best. But what about those who are not? What about those who can’t change their skin with a mod, and have to go through life knowing that there’s a pretty large segment of the population that doesn’t find them attractive or good enough, simply because of the tone of their skin. 

Since I’m not dark skinned, I can’t adequately express how that must feel. I don’t have the foundation for it. But the girls in the trailer for “Dark Girls” do. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, the first few minutes does more than enough to drive the point home.

[trigger warnings, it’s a heavy watch].

For further insight on this issue (specifically how this mindset is subtlety implemented in the media to market popstars or television shows), look at this page on TVTropes.org: But Not Too Black.

I remember finding this mod, too, and the creator wrote something about how they were so “bothered” by how dark Isabela is, so they made the mod to make her more “attractive.” Are you serious? 

-gaminginpink