In response to "Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores" from The Escapist Forum: When I think of latinos/latinas in games, the first thing that comes to mind is Grim Fandango. I was a little puzzled that the author didn't mention it at all, but maybe that was deliberate given Grim Fandango takes place in a very fantastic setting. Even so, no mention at all seems like a significant oversight.
In general, games like Grim Fandango seem like a mighty fertile ground for looking at culture/race/ethnicity/whatever. Instead of wading into the quagmire of real world issues, perhaps more game could do something similar to what Neil Gaiman did with African myths in Anansi Boys.
In response to "Punch-Out!!'s Black Eye": Indeed, Soda Popinski's bottle is a vodka bottle. His original name in the arcade version of the game was something along the lines of 'Vodka Drunkinski'. Stereotypes used to be a lot more common, but I don't think they're as bad or damaging as some would believe.
Watch a few old Looney Tunes cartoons and you'll see plenty of borderline racist jokes...only they aren't really racist at all, even when Bugs Bunny dons black face and starts playing a banjo. Why? Because it's a cartoon. You're not meant to take it seriously, and the same goes for Punch Out.
If we set aside races, what else could have been done? Silly fat characters, like Disney is so fond of? Well I'm fat, and what if I take offense to that? The young teenage boy and old man with a cane? That's age discrimination. What about an Irish boxer? I'm Irish. Doesn't my opinion count too?
When you get down to it, the only way to guarantee that no one will be offended is by excluding them, and the only way to avoid making inappropriate jokes is to never make any jokes at all.
I call this the 'midget problem'. If you have a midget character, then some people will say that you're exploiting him. On the other hand, if no one includes a midget character, then they aren't represented at all.
Considering that Little Mac is practically a midget himself, I'd say that Punch Out was actually quite progressive, simply because it included so many minority characters in any shape or form. I'm not saying that stereotypes are good, but is exclusion really any better?
Compared to the latest WWE wrestling game, where white characters outnumber minority characters by about 30 to 1, I'd say Punch Out isn't so backwards after all.
- Robert Max Freeman