Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

July 15, 2009 -

Yesterday's edition of the Houston Chronicle's Game Hack blog ponders whether racism is becoming a norm in video game design.

Blogger Willie Jefferson expresses concern over 2009 releases Resident Evil 5 and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (pic at left) as well as the in-development Left 4 Dead 2. RE5, of course, has already been the subject of much debate over its depiction of African villagers as zombies. Jefferson writes:

I am disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games.

One of the games that comes to mind is "Left 4 Dead 2." ...Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies - with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

The game that really inspired this blog entry was Ubisoft's "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood." The game starts out with players assuming the role of Ray, a Confederate officer... the Confederacy, as far as I am concerned, wanted to keep their cheap slave labor and the like. I can not stand the Confederate flag... To me, the flag represents hate -- and offends me and many others to no end. [It] made me wonder how much research Ubisoft did for this game...

As a minority, had the South won, I wouldn't be in this position I am today...


Comments

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Now you have me curious what Capcom put in there.

 

 -P, never played RE and no interest either

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Best way to summarize is to point you to Gameoverthinker.  It's also on youtube.

 

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

All these people crying about racism in games are forgetting that for a very long time, black people had no representation AT ALL in games. Now, more and more black characters are showing up and IT'S RACISM!?

GTFO, seriously. This is exactly the opposite: gaming companies are spreading their wings a bit. It has nothing to do with racism, they're trying to include more people.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Before we all roll our eyes at just another knee-jerk mainstream guy (edit: too late), there's actually a valid discussion to be had here. I think the issue is that games are typically affirmative of all player actions. "Yeah! You killed those Yanks! You beat the level! You got an Achievement! Go you!"

So, whenever you do something in a game like, say, shoot a black person, even if it's historically or contextually appropriate, the fact that the game is cheering you on the whole way can make people uncomfortable.

--

http://craigostrin.com

@scribl

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

There is an interesting conversation there, but the guy who wrote the initial blog post isn't having it.  Unfortunately, his reactions are completely knee-jerk and baseless.

However, I completely agree with you about the reward system of games - we are consistently considered "winners" if we kill whoever or whatever we're supposed to kill and there are generally neither repercussions nor degrees of "uncomfort."  That's not necesseraly a bad thing, though.  Most throw away action movies (like most throw away action games) present violence as the driving conflict in a sanitized way because it's entertainment.  However, that also allows certain movies and games to turn the system on its head by doing exactly what you suggest - making it uncomfortable.  Oftentimes that uncomfort is enahnced when it is contextually appropriate because it hits home that there is a solid factual basis for what you're seeing or doing virtually - ie somebody actually did these horrible things that I'm uncomfortable pretending to do.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

You're right that action movies do the same thing, but the difference between games and movies, at least for the moment, is that the movie industry has its Rambos and its Saving Private Ryans. Games only have the former, and we haven't yet shown that we can take on the themes of conflict as seriously as films can.

And let's face it. Call of Juarez is not trying to provoke any serious thought or discussion about what it was like to be a Confederate soldier. At the most, they probably thought it would be cool to stir up a tiny bit of controversy to generate some buzz. Also, you barely play as a Confederate. It's just a prologue, at the end of which, the two protagonists desert the army and are hunted by them for the rest of the game.

--

http://craigostrin.com

@scribl

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Apparently Craig, you never played Call of Duty 4. We've had a few "Private Ryan"s and "Thin Red Line"s. Maybe you just haven't played them. And I do agree with you about the Confederate bit, it's just a small piece a much bigger story and not worth raising cain about.

 

I hate broccoli/ and think it totally sucks/ Why isn't it meat?

I hate broccoli/ and think it totally sucks/ Why isn't it meat?

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

 

I agree with Craig on this point. COD4 really really doesn't approach the issue of war all that deeply, its certainly on the Rambo side of things.

1: Havent played it in a while but all I can remember is the 'witty' comments such as "Are we shooting the good Russians or the bad Russians?" Not to mention the ridiculous comm-arab-terroist enemies with the red hammer and sickle flag, but moddified to be two Persian swords or something. I Really couldn't take the game that seriously.

2:More to the point COD4 still rewards you for killing people which pretty much garuntees that its on the Rambo side of the fence. Granted Saving Private Ryan contains entertaining action scenes (I think Full Metal Jacket or Apocalyspe Now are better examples) but these are used to complement the more serious issues it tackles. It's pretty much the opposite for COD4.... It has a few 'engaging' scenes to complement the true purpose of the game which is to have fun killing people.

Im sorry but IMO anyone who thinks that COD4 is some really engaging war commentry is just shitting themselves.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

I loved Call of Duty 4, but I think there were only a few moments in that game that achieved something on the level of a Saving Private Ryan: The nuke and the gunship. Maybe the execution at the beginning too. However, I'm not entirely convinced that it was on purpose, since the rest of the game is more standard video-game action.

Also, from what I've seen and heard about Modern Warfare 2, it seems like they're not necessarily going to follow up on the more provocative parts of CoD4. I'll be happy to be proven wrong though.

And if there are other games out there that expand on the best parts (in my opinion) of CoD4, please fill me in.

--

http://craigostrin.com

@scribl

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

There are dozens of games where you can play as Nazi Germany, and very few people seem to care.

The Civil War is an important and interesting part of our history.  People make movies and books about it, so it's not surprising that video games are made, too.  And most war-based games let you live out both sides of the conflict.  I think treating this any differently, just because slavery's involved is a bad thing.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

If this bothers you, it should bother you for the fact that the game is cheering you on for killing people, NOT because you kill someone of a certain race.  This is what Jack Thompson, the Eagle Forum, and several other anti-game entities are afraid of.  It's the fact that we can distinguish fantasy from reality that keeps us sane and not shooting people in real life.  Something that anti-gamers don't understand.

 

I find your comments on the killing of certain races instead of killing in any way highly disturbing and disgusting.

---

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

I didn't say it bothers me, I just think there's something to learn here.

Though you do make an excellent point. If we call a contextually appropriate game "racist," because it applauds you for killing minorities, shouldn't we be even more uncomfortable with the simple fact that the game cheers you for killing?

However, I think you miss the point when you try to bring the Thompson angle into this. Willie Jefferson, the blogger, wasn't saying that he thought these games were conditioning us to hate minorities; he was uncomfortable because he thought they contain a racist message.

--

http://craigostrin.com

@scribl

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

With the racist message being what here? That minorities are not immune to a zombification virus, much like the rest of the "majority"? I'd say that not having black zombies at all is more racist than having a large mix of zeds of all races.

I'm sorry, it seems that people are really stretching to label things as racist if it has even one minority that you can kill, regardless of the context of what and where the storyline is taking place. If people would take just one brief moment to look at the context of the story (zomg frakkin' zombies in populated areas!) then you can determine whether or not the actual thought behind them is racist.

 

Black zombies in africa? Holy sh*t! Say it ain't so. Black zombies in New Orleans? Omg, both of those are so racist. On the other hand, black zombies in Salt Lake City would be a bit of a stretch....

 

I hate broccoli/ and think it totally sucks/ Why isn't it meat?

I hate broccoli/ and think it totally sucks/ Why isn't it meat?

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

I seem to have mis-spoken.  What I meant is that it's disgusting for one to think that its wrong to kill one race while its alright to kill another, and I was not trying to point you out in any way or form. 

When I brought up Jack Thompson I only used him as reference since he is an avid anti-game legislator (albiet a bad one).  I only brought them up because it was important to note that the thoughts that you had posted coiencided with the thoughts of these groups, and although it may effect people of certain youths (though this has yet to be proven, I still think it's a bad idea to take a ten year old to an R rated movie or let them play something like Gears of War) most of us know the difference between fantasy and reality, thus such things that were racist in terms (though I have yet to see one) would only appeal as a form of satire with massive sterotypes, or to those who are racist.

But to see something where one person shoots a black person in a region where black is NOT a minor ethnic group but instead a major one, is disgusting and disturbing on more than one level. 

Also note that my comment wasn't intended for Mr. Jefferson who I consider, for the lack of a better term, an blind moron who's learned to use a keyboard (insulting but when someone posts something stupid, it makes me think they themselves are stupid), but for you Mr. Ostrin cause your take on the situation was interesting and different.  I apologize if you felt insulted in any way, but was merely interested in your take on the conditioning that could appear in games.

---

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

How is killing black people in an area where a lot of black people live racist?  That's like saying playing an FPS game that takes place in Minnesota is racist against whites, or one that takes place in Japan is racist against Japanese.

To prove my argument about people who say this is racist are morons, I present the following:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/2/18/

This is probably the most unbiased look at "racism" in gaming.

---

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

If that was a comment about me, then I'm afraid you misinterepreted.  I said pretty much the same thing and went on to say that if it bothers a person that they are shooting a certain race instead of the fact that they're killing people, then there is something seriously wrong here.

---

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

I, meaning, that's an account for yourself. Not everyone else's personal reflection. He is clearly feeling offended because he is a minority.

Satire works in the same way. If it's satirizing the Iraq war, families of war victims may be offended. If it's satirizing toilets, maybe someone knew a relative who died in a freak toilet-related accident and he would be offended. There are few things, if any, that you can talk about, that will not have anyone saying it hits 'too close' to home.

GameSnooper

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

This guy doesn't even understand that doing the exact opposite would be racism to a worse degree (not that I believe that those games are racist to begin with).

 

It should also be noted that slavery was only a small part of the war as it was also about trying to keep the South from Succeeding from the Union and to keep the United States whole.  But than again it is probably easier to look at a part instead of the whole picture and complain about inane ****.  *sigh*  There is no equality, just a pleasent illusion.

---

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Because context doesn't matter and in reality, there are no black people in Lousiana or anywhere in the world, thus there cannot possibly be black zombies and that means they were inserted as zombies just so people can have fun shooting them for no other reason but that blacks are meant to be shot?

Seriously, what the hell?  It's like black people can't exist in any form that can possibly be construed as negative without it being seen as an issue of race, regardless of any context.

And the remarks about the Confederacy don't seem to have any real basis except that the guy just takes umbrage at seeing the design of the Confederate flag.

This smacks of a "Politically Correct" mentally gone too far into the concept and diving into the fucktard end of the pool.  Good show!

Maybe I should write a note of complaint to him about how his last name is Jefferson, which happened to be the first name of the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, Jefferson Davis.

How dare he have that name, the son of a bitch!

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

It's only racist 'cause you MAKE it racist..

Yes.. in New Orleans some of the population will amazingly be African-Americans.. and in a fictional zombie war world.. it's possible that some of them might be effected by the reanimation plauge just like anyone else of any skin color..

I swear.. some people need to grow thicker skin, just 'cause there are black enemys in a videogame dosent mean the next step is slavery.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

So Left 4 Dead 2 is racist, but are Nagin's comments about how he envisioned a chocolate Nawlins racist?

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

The answer my good sir, has been there all along. Don't play the game.

And Call Juarez takes place during those times as I recall. What do you expect them to do? Pretend that certain parts of history never happened?

 

 

And honeslty, I don't mind it. It kind of roots out some people who don't realize they are racist, and thatis those who are bitching about it and calling attention to it. In fact if they never mentioned it no one would likely think about it.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Pretend that certain parts of history never happened?

Sadly enough, a lot of people would like that.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Does the fact that there are also Black people playing the protagonists in L4D2 mean nothing?

 

Is Violence only accepted when it's White people getting shot? Now who's the racist?

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Everyone knows white people are the only people on this planet allowed to be shown in video games in a negative manner. Get a clue you fucking stupid racist.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Apparently it's racist to assume that black people can be infected by the zombie virus.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Actually one wonders if the carrying of one of the genes that cause sickle cell anemia might grant someone immunity from the virus in L4D. Not that all African Americans are carriers but that mutation is more common amongst African Americans.

 

I think it's just plain odd to include L4D2...

 

Also, Louis is the "everyman" in L4D if you ask me. 

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

well, since the common wisdom is that for every pathogen there is at least 1% of the human population having some form of immunity/resistance factor, it is possible that such a genetic trait could make a person unsuitible as a host.

(This science moment brought to you by coffee!: *BOING BOING BOING*

Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

So black people can't become zombies?  Does this pertain to a certain black community in a certain location (African-Americans/Italians/yougettheidea) or is it just those that live in Africa?  And what about those who are mixed with other races?

---

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

We do seem to be getting onto this idea that "black people as the bad guys" is racist, are we ever allowed to let black people assume the role of villian, doesn't it then become racist not to allow them to become villians. The article points out that some of the zombies are black, so the rest must be white then, but how comes it isn't racist against white people that there are white zombies?

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Imaginary violence against any minority is wrong.  Placing any minority in the role of a villain is wrong.

If a game has either of these, it is racism.

If a game lacks a minority protagonist, it is racism.

Any minority role that resembles a sterotype, despite the fact that stereotypes are, on occassion, accurate, is racism.

Of course, constantly protraying older white males as evil, corrupt CEO's is perfectly acceptable.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

By that logic: Unless we place all the Minorities as the main star. Then were racists.

I swear those who whine about racism from their arm chairs are often racists themselves

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

  Don't forget, you have to be careful with how you portray them as the main character... otherwise it can come off as racist. They probably can only be portrayed as being the nicest most non violent people you'd ever meet and not stereotypical in anyway...

So if you want a violent character as a main hero... he can't be a minority... though with all the above given points, then minorities don't get a role in the game... and to exclude minorites is probably racist...

 

Conclusion... all games that do not have a really nice minority main character are racist!

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

Of course they are racist, they just don't realize it.

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

THIS ENTIRE COMMENTS SECTION IS RACISTS!!!

 

 

(Yes... that hypocrisy is obvious.)

______________________________ Because I have NO Life... :P I introduce the following. PSN User ID: FirebirdXR (Yes, I use that moniker often) Xbox Live ID: FirebirdLR (Don't bother, It's a Silver Membership) *Limited Time Only* I put both because I

Re: Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

BAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWW

Remember children, everyone who fought for the confederacy was evil and owned multiple slaves all of whom they constantly beat and starved.

 

Why isn't this guy upset by twenty years of hex and turnbased strategy games that let you pretend to be a southern general?

Oh wait, this is just another misinformed hack who wants to bitch about something.

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
SleakerWest End Games - Areal developers just got their Kickstarter suspended. Might want to dump that 'fully funded' status.07/22/2014 - 12:08pm
MaskedPixelanteHas anyone who bought it gotten their Sims 2 Ultimate Edition upgrade yet? Still waiting on mine, especially since they're supposed to be out by today.07/22/2014 - 10:45am
IanCDynasty Warriors 8 for the PS4 finally has the option to turn off the OTT depth of field that made the game look like a blurry mess. Only a few months behind the JP version patch...07/22/2014 - 10:17am
NeenekoI see nothing in Section 111 that would exclude IP transmission. It even explicitly includes 'other transmission methods'07/22/2014 - 9:28am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/07/19/ruling_aereo_is_not_a_cable_company07/22/2014 - 8:13am
ZippyDSMleelul what?07/22/2014 - 7:53am
ZippyDSMleehttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/07/bungie-cross-generation-destiny-wouldnt-be-fair-to-low-res-players/07/22/2014 - 7:53am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/22/wii-u-update-adds-system-to-system-transfers/ The latest Wii U update allows you to do the system transfer between two Wii Us. Still not true accounts, but getting there.07/22/2014 - 7:39am
Papa MidnightSpeculation from PC Gamer. Don't hold your breath. http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/07/21/microsoft-job-listing-says-nice-things-about-pc-gaming-isnt-clear-if-it-means-them/07/21/2014 - 5:58pm
MaskedPixelanteI dunno, it's probably Vevo powertripping.07/21/2014 - 5:52pm
Andrew EisenMP - Makes you wonder what the intention behind the removal was. Stop the RickRolls? Yeah, like removing that one video is going to make a difference.07/21/2014 - 3:27pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.billboard.com/articles/business/digital-and-mobile/6165313/youtube-blocks-original-rickroll-video Moment of silence, the original Rickroll video has been blocked in many regions.07/20/2014 - 3:53pm
PHX CorpUseless DLC news: Killzone Fart Pack http://ps4daily.com/2014/07/killzone-fart-dlc/07/20/2014 - 12:56pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU1mK2ig_GU They did their research beforehand.07/19/2014 - 4:41pm
Sleaker@james_fudge - are you sure the FCC can pick and choose? the general rules I read as passed in the act don't really indicate that, but I didn't read through the entirety.07/19/2014 - 4:19pm
MaskedPixelanteOf course, Saban's entire point hinges on them not knowing what the tokusatsu genre is.07/19/2014 - 1:57pm
lomdrLink to where you saw this, Sora-chan?07/19/2014 - 1:50pm
MaskedPixelanteThis is just... confusing to me... They're not being sued, but it looks like extortion, but maybe now the devs can make demands of Saban? I dunno...07/19/2014 - 1:47pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/18/chroma-squad-dev-agrees-to-royalty-split-ultimatum-from-power-ra/07/19/2014 - 1:43pm
Sora-ChanSo apparently, Towns is updating again. Not sure what that means, since last we heard it got abandoned.07/19/2014 - 5:42am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician