In response to "Muslims in my Monitor" from The Escapist Forums:

Bad guys in FPS games set in modern times tend to be Muslim because the biggest threat of violence directed against Americans and Europeans at this time currently comes from people who are Muslim (this is NOT to say that all Muslims are violent). It's probably not PC to say that, but I believe it to be true. If a game developer is trying to go for "realism," they'll make the targets of their FPS members of the group most likely to shoot at the protagonist in that setting. And not too many American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan are being shot at by buddhists right now.

If a neo-nazi faction goes on a massive terror campaign in the western hemisphere, expect to find yourself shooting aryans shortly thereafter in an FPS. The same for an extremist christian sect going on a killing spree.

First Person Shooters are also not a place where you're likely to find a whole lot of character development or deep discussion regarding the motivations of antagonists, because it gets in the way of the purpose of such games: shooting things. If you want characterization or a deep discussion of issues, look for it in a BioWare RPG or a game like Assassin's Creed (as mentioned in the article), not Modern Warfare 2 or this latest Medal of Honor game (my dog in Dragon Age had more character development than all the characters in MW2 put together).

That being said, there are ways to balance things out in these games while not diminishing gameplay.

I think that developers are missing an opportunity by not having a FPS where the main character is a member of the Iraqi or Afghanistan military fighting to save their country against extremists. The character could even be tasked with missions that American forces can't do (clearing insurgents from a mosque, for example). The beginning of MW2 had a brief tutorial on shooting and throwing grenades by having your character demonstrate these for Afghan recruits. They could have had you PLAY one of those recruits instead.

Another area where there's probably room for improvement would be providing balance or contrast in subtle ways in these games, like having an allied, Muslim soldier praying to Mecca before picking up his rifle and going out on a mission with you (and, if any game developer reads this, please please PLEASE don't have that character turn traitor, okay?). The sequence could take less than ten seconds, and could happen while you're selecting your loadout, and the point doesn't have to be driven home with a hammer. I wouldn't mind some balance in a FPS, but I resent it when I feel like I'm being preached to. Or YOUR character could be saying the prayers. (That popping sound you hear is Pat Roberton's head exploding.)

Hell, even a mission where you're pursuing a group of Sunni Muslims that just launched several RPGs into a Shiite mosque (or vice-versa; I'm not about to take sides in a Sunni/Shiite argument) might help drive home that the bad guys are evil because they do evil things, and not because they're Muslim.


Hey folks. This is my first Escapist article after being a longtime reader. So thanks for all the feedback, both critical and supportive. A few points:

1) A number of people have pointed out that Germans, Japanese, Russians, etc. have also been stereotyped in games. Um. Yes. But I'm not sure how this makes things any better. "Other people have gotten crappy treatment" isn't really an argument for crappy treatment being ok.

2) Re: Mafia II and the Italian gangster stereotype: While this, too, is offensive to some folks, I think there's a pretty huge difference (as some here have pointed out) in being the HERO, even when the hero's a criminal. Nowadays when moviemakers want a mobster they rarely go to the Italian American stereotype (there's a reason Mafia II's historical). Usually now we get the Albanian/Serbian/Russian etc. mob. But while Niko from GTA IV is a criminal and thus fits this new stereotype, he's also the POV character, the one we're rooting for and controlling. We get the moving story of how he got to be the way he is. We laugh at what he laughs at, get pissed off by the things that piss him off, etc. That's a huge difference. Similarly, Altair from Assassin's Creed is a cold-blooded killer trained by a fanatical sect -- on the surface, a Muslim stereotype if ever there was one. But he's humanized and fleshed out b/c he's the protagonist. That's different than an endless horde of might-as-well-be-orc towelheads who exist just to be mown down and deserve it because ... well, they're *bad guys.*

3) A number of comments seem to basically start "Well, until Muslims stand up and refute the extremists ... " So let me ask you: if you're White, do you feel the need to constantly apologize for the actions of the KKK? If you're Christian, do you feel the need to constantly apologize for the nutjobs that bomb abortion clinics? If you're American, do you feel the need to constantly apologize for the actions of a few soldiers at Abu Ghraib? Probably not. (See

4) The idea that this is 'just entertainment' is both wrong and right. Of course I realize that most gamers are not so zombiefied that they totally confuse the images of gaming with the real world. I mean, even *I* played the *hell* out of Metal Slug 2 back in the day, blowing the little SNK Ay-rabs to kingdom come and didn't feel compelled to then go blow away my relatives. But anyone who claims that videogames don't have any effect on our culture, or that media doesn't help in subtle ways to shape our perceptions about who's a good guy and who's a bad guy is just not paying attention to reality.

- Saladin Ahmed


Comments on