56: You Got Your Race In My Videogame

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"'Actually, it's an allegory of race relations in the United States - the white woman is using the brown man to keep the black man down.' Blank stares all around. I tried again." Pat Miller explores the curious reluctance of gamers to address the racial divide in You Got Your Race In My Videogame.

You Got Your Race In My Videogame

I enjoyed this article. It's not that characters like Balrog and Fei Long can't be included in games, its that there needs to be BALANCE within the video game design community. This is also true of other forms of media representation, especially television.

I'm not sure it's fair to compare the races in fantasy games like World of Warcraft and D&D to real world race. In fantasy games the term race represents what seem to be different species or genus that have certain advantages or disadvantages when compared to the other "races." In the real world race is only skin-deep (I say race, and not culture) existing only as differences in pigmentation and a hand-full of associated cosmetic traits. What I'm trying to say is that race is largely imagined. The differences between peoples comes from society and culture, not the color of their skin or their genetic heritage.

This was a fascinating piece, Pat. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Presumably, your race doesn't matter in most games, even on the Internet itself. But as you point out, what actually happens is that your race (and, I'd add, gender) is treated like some initial condition, pre-set to "white male" the moment you log on. (It's not totally unwarranted; games and the Internet are about total anomynity, and confronted with a lack of information, it's human nature to fill in the blanks in your knowledge with an assumption of some kind.) But should you say or do something that challenges that pre-conception of "white maleness", then unintended, undesirable consequences result. This is a phenomenon that's well-documented when it comes to gender, but I hadn't heard anything about the race aspect of it before.

You're also correct when you say that race is only allowable in certain packages: the Asian kung-fung fighter, the black gang member, the hispanic... uh... Border Patrol participant. Should you move outside those roles, it also has unintended consequences. Perhaps an ideal situation would be where I could describe myself as an Asian race-car driver, a hispanic scientist, or a white kung fu sifu and nobody would bat an eye. That is, it would just be a fact, rather than an issue or point of discussion.

I'm curious, what are some games that you think handle race in a positive light?

I was reading an article in the Escapist this morning entitled: You Got Your Race in My Videogame by Pat Miller. It is a well-written piece about some of the sociological aspects of videogames. This particular piece focuses on race, which is one of the age old subjects that anyone who has even taken Sociology 101 knows a little about. I don't claim to be a sociology expert or anything, but I do have a minor in the field. I don't think race is the most important divider among the real world or a videogame world. Pat makes the following statement: All of a sudden, the internet is looking less like a colorblind haven and more like second grade, where everyone thought the two Asian kids in the class knew kung fu, could speak Chinese and were related.

That may be how the author perceives the world of the Internet, but I believe it a little differently. Class is way more important in today's society than race, although we hear about race-related incidents happening in the United States and around the world. It isn't that nothing is racially charged, but that class stratification should be what people focus more on. Max Weber, one of the father's of modern sociology, places more emphasis on class stratification than stratification by race. I tend to agree with that view. I am sure people can point out racial stratification, and I don't disagree that it does exist and it does happen. My contention is that stratification by class is more important. A good example of this is World of Warcraft. I am making the assumption that the level of your character is correlated with class- higher level means access to better areas, better loot, etc. If I am a low level character, I can only hang out in certain areas for obvious safety reasons- I don't have the gear and weapons to be able to participate in the fun that the higher level players are having. From my personal experience, most of the high level players tend to hang out with other high level/class players. On the other hand, most low level characters tend to hang out with other low level/class players.

Once again, I am painting with a broad brush, but the point is that whether a character is an orc or an undead, the more important aspect of the game is the player's class. Class is associated with the time spent playing the game, so there also may be a correlation between the player's level and their amount of real life leisure time. The problem with games like WoW is that one has to spend a lot of time to get to level 60. High level/class characters in the game may also speak of the class of the person behind the character. I am not saying that everyone who plays WoW is a rich, high class person in their real life, but what I am saying is that it does show a lot of leisure time. Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class could help support my argument here. Whether that leisure time comes from being a student or even someone who neglects other areas of their life to play WoW, it shows someone who has put in the time to level up their character. Now, I know that some people could play a few hours a week would eventually level up to 60, but from my experience with WoW and knowing several friends who play, I feel pretty safe in making the assumption that high level/class in the game shows at the very least a certain level of leisure time in real life.

So while race relations is an important aspect of the real world and the videogame world, class relations, in my opinion, are more important. You rarely see any racially charged name calling in WoW, at least I didn't when I played... even when the Horde and Alliance got together to fight. I did, however, see a lot of class name calling... various forms of "noob" and such.

I am hoping that this makes some sense. Most of the time when I debated sociological topics, it was with Professors of sociology or sociology students. I could just say Durkheim doesn't agree or according to the Sociological Imagination, and like-minded people would automatically know what I was referring to. If I had access to more resources, I could maybe make a few more points here, but I am just writing this piece for personal enjoyment.

-Yad

I don't see the default avatar as white male. As far as I can tell that is your personal bias. Japanese players don't play Ico and think "that guy is white or brown", they see him as a little Japanese boy, Yorda as a Japanese girl and the baddies as demons. Nor do they play most of the other games out there that don't have some very specific racial stereotypes in them and think the default is white male.

As for the idea of bringing race into other games and getting crap for it. Some of us would like to live in a world where race never mattered and doesn't now. We sometimes get this chance in a game world so when someone pulls in those issues we get upset. I don't think of my best friends as Japanese, Chinese, German, Korean, Mexican, Italian and English. I think of them as my friends. The more people that can think that way the better IMO.

RE: "Yadam Siegfried"

You bring up an interesting point with your description of class dynamics: most MMORPGs require that the game be stratified into different game zones for different levels of experience, but I never thought of that as a "class" distinction. To assume that the level of one's character correlates with someone's class doesn't seem to be quite accurate, though; I might not have enough free time to get myself a level 60 character. But there are plenty of other reasons why I'm not at level 60 yet; maybe I just don't like the game that much, or I just bought it, or blah blah blah. Still, an interesting post. You might want to take a look at Guild Wars, which, I believe, requires a lot less grunt work and leveling to get to the interesting PVP stuff. Just a thought.

To say that class stratification in video games is a more important issue based on the WoW example alone is a bit of a stretch, I think. With all due respect, I don't think saying "Max Weber thinks class is more important" is enough for an argument, especially considering Weber's background as a German sociologist in the late 1800s/early 1900s would have put him in a situation where class, particularly in the Marxist sense, would have been much more academically and socially relevant than race was. I could go on and on about the flawed applications of sociology to race, but that's another story. Suffice to say that the sociological perspective on race is one that I respect but I don't really employ.

Ultimately, when I see racialized images showing up in video games or any other media, my immediate concern is how the conceptions of race that people taking in this image have are changing. So far, I don't think calling people "noobs" has quite the same impact on the real world. But! Feel free to prove me wrong; ideally, in the pages of the Escapist. :)

re: Greggman

If this is the case, then you seem to be one of the few individuals on this world truly capable of seeing the world without seeing color. Personally, I can't help but notice that the player-characters in video games have white people - particularly white men - in vast abundance. I don't think I've ever come close to finding a video game character that I think could look like me, or how I want to represent myself in the game, with the possible exception of Second Life's incredibly detailed player model editor.

Furthermore: If you think that by ignoring race we can make it irrelevant, you're welcome to try. I would love to see someone explain to me how it is purely coincidence or sound logic that American prisons are disproportionately populated by African American males, why crack cocaine has ten times the legal penalty than normal cocaine, and so on. Likewise, I'd like to see someone explain to me why it makes perfect sense that the only Chicano/Latino individuals I've seen in video games are Lucha Libre wrestlers or "Border Patrol participants". But until that happens, I'm convinced that ignoring the race-elephant in the room is not going to help us clean up our house.

RE: Lara C.

This is a topic that I'll probably broach in greater detail in my blog at some point. I'll make sure to drop by this thread again when I have a minute. =)

Everyone else: Thanks for your comments! Keep talking!

I'm glad the Escapist published this article, as racial issues in video games is an important topic to discuss and has for far too long been buried. I think we need more talk about how political messages are in our games.

My first take on the topic is that this is just how capitalism works. If people are racist, it is inevitable that consumer-driven media will be racist as well. And if a richer group of people are racist, then it's inevitable that more racist media will be produced for them than for poorer groups. There's simply more money to be made.

Most video gamers in the USA are white conservative males, and so games often cater to white conservative male interests. Do most white conservatives want to play a game about black people that is similar to the film "Barbershop"? Do they want to play a game about the Civil Rights Movement, with the player in the role of Dr. King? No, not really. But they don't mind seeing black people in the passive, politically apathetic athlete role (sports games) or the Ghetto Warrior role. These roles conservatives see as realistic and believable. Anyone remember the Medal of Valor game? That game took a lot of flak from white conservatives on BluesNews.com for purposefully featuring a black male character as the player character. What's the big deal, you say? Well.... unlike most war games, this game actually pointed out your character's black skin, and had white characters make racist comments at your character. How many white conservatives really want to play a game that has such a racial situation occurring? Not many.

What most people want is to be constantly patted on the back. To be cheered on, and to not be criticised in any way. It's the nature of the entertainment industry. Games may be "interactive", but few are interactive in a way that, say, a political science classroom might be at a university. But games aren't there to make people better citizens, more moral or ethical. They're their to entertain you. In a way, games are similar to prostitutes. You pay it money, it pleases you without question.

My prediction is that as the decades roll by, racism and other forms of bigotry in games will continue to increase, not decrease. My reasons..
1) the gradual removal of democratic government power over the market in nations across the globe
2) the predicted "Hispanic" majority of America in the 21st century. Most white conservatives feel that America's "greatness" will evaporate as soon as the white majority is removed. As such, this will encourage white conservatives to further weaken democratic politics and give more freedom to market forces, which naturally benefit wealthy minorities over poor majorities.
3) the growing wealth gaps within America's cultural groups and on a global scale as well

Btw, much of this is inspired from my reading of Robert Kaplan's "Was Democracy Just a Moment?" article from the Atlantic Monthly, written years ago. It's a good read, and Kaplan is a very popular speaker for the US government agencies..

shihku7:
Most video gamers in the USA are white conservative males

I'd be inclined to disagree with that. The white male thing, yes, but conservative? Gamers are young, for one thing, and one of the strongest correlations in politics is that people tend to drift right with age. More to the point, I don't think we're using the same definition of "conservative" the way most gamers respond to any perceived attempt to censor their pastime for reasons of morality or decency.

Your post here seems pretty laden with other straw men - Conservatives think America's greatness is tied to its whiteness? Conservatives feel threatened by minorities? I think there's a different term for the people you're referring to (hint:"racist") - but I don't want to turn this thread into an abstract political flame war.

--------------------------------------------------

On to the article. If any market forces are responsible for a regressive presentation of race, it would be not so much racism in the market, as the expectation of developers or publishers that there will be racism in the market. This is an expectation that's never been tested - has there ever been a mass-market video game that presented a challenging view of race? If so, was it successful? And if it was not, was it strictly racism on the part of the audience that caused it to crash, or was there some other reason, such as feeling preachy, or not being well-designed? The default state of a creative work these days is to feature the mix of stereotypes (racial or otherwise) that the current era considers either funny or adequately accurate. Games, being extremely expensive, have been demonstrated to deviate from "default" in as safe a manner as possible.

If I am talking to a person online, and they describe their house, my first instinct is to imagine the layout of their house being identical to mine (or one of the houses I've lived in, anyway). This is usually wildly inaccurate, but that's the assumption I make first. In the absence of details about a situation, a person believes the situation to be similar to other situations with which s/he is already familiar, in as many ways as possible while still conforming to the known details. In the United States, most of the people that an average person interacts with (especially in suburbia) are white, simply because most of the people are white. Accordingly, in the absence of details to the contrary, your average person is going to assume that everyone they can't see (and who does not act in a manner similar to one of the dominant stereotypes if the day) is white. The same thing happens with gender, class, sexual orientation, age, and intelligence. Similarly, if all you know about a person is "an asian male who uses the Internet for gaming," you're going to fill in the blanks with details borrowed from the nerdy middle-class Asians you've known or seen. And if you don't know many, then it's the dominant stereotypes of the day that are going to be used.

I don't mean to make stereotyping out to be evil, here. We have to use stereotypes simply because we don't and indeed can't know everybody on a personal level, and so in order to think of them, we need a generalization (which is a statistical tool and nothing more) to keep things straight. The problem is not stereotyping, but rather inaccurate stereotypes and stereotypes based on the wrong criteria.

In a given society, racism exists as a direct and immediate consequence of the belief that race is in any way predictive of a person's behavior (which it is, but only to the extent that there is a loose correlation between ethnicity and culture). This is the core of the argument that ignoring race can make racism go away. The problem is that everybody has to do it in order for it to work. It's not really viable as a solution on a national or global scale, but it's effective enough for a single person's life.

All of this is the deeper social issue, however. If you want to deal with the race issue in games, this is how you do it: next time you're making a game whose characters resemble humans and who don't have race as an important part of their character, color one or two of them a different kind of pinkish-brownish-freckledy-orange, and tweak the nose a little. Maybe the main one, it doesn't matter. Pick them arbitrarily. Keep their writing and behavior the same - nothing belies a forced and insincere commitment to diversity than a minority character whose minorityhood is at the core of their character - but draw them differently. Just draw them differently. Do nothing else. Make the whole game with all of them being white (or Japanese, or purple wireframes), and then when everything is finished, change the model (and voice actor, if needed - voice is, after all, a part of race).

To spread by example the notion that race is something that doesn't deserve a second thought any more than eye color does, unfortunately, does require giving a second thought to race - but the best example to give is with a non-contrived situation. If your characters' races don't matter, then obviously it doesn't matter if you change them. It's unfortunate that what should be solely an aesthetic decision has to be a statement, but if you have to make a statement, then that, I think, is the statement to make.

I'm probably not making sense any more.

Pat,

Thank you for your reply. I am going to try to address some of the points you raised.

RE: "Yadam Siegfried"

You bring up an interesting point with your description of class dynamics: most MMORPGs require that the game be stratified into different game zones for different levels of experience, but I never thought of that as a "class" distinction. To assume that the level of one's character correlates with someone's class doesn't seem to be quite accurate, though; I might not have enough free time to get myself a level 60 character. But there are plenty of other reasons why I'm not at level 60 yet; maybe I just don't like the game that much, or I just bought it, or blah blah blah. Still, an interesting post. You might want to take a look at Guild Wars, which, I believe, requires a lot less grunt work and leveling to get to the interesting PVP stuff. Just a thought.

I admit that some of the correlations I was trying to establish were slightly flawed. I have written several papers on Race versus Class stratification, but in those I used more academically accepted examples of my key points. It is actually pretty hard to write an intellectually sound piece using video games, yet every week the staff and contributors at the Escapist pull it off. I applaud you for your hard work and effort. I thought it would be easier to do... I thought to myself, hey I love video games, and I love Sociology... this will be easy. It wasn't.

Anyway... I was thinking yesterday about some of the things I said in my OP, and I think there are some things I should clear up. In WoW it is hard to say level= class, since everyone starts out equally. The Three Component Theory of Stratification talks about three main things: social class, status, and party. In WoW, everyone starts out at the same place, but then can do things to improve social class (I still think higher level equates to higher social class...), status (WoW has the built in honor system for PvP, which could allow users to rank others by status), and party (Guilds). I should have developed this a little better yesterday before posting it, but you know how it is, the boss sometimes expects some productivity.

In the real world, we all know that people do not start out at the same place, so class, status, and party may be a little more important out here. Maybe I shouldn't have made the claim that class is more important that race in videogames, but it is an opinion I hold of the real world, so I thought maybe it was true of the videogame world. Using all three components of Weber's theory, I could maybe have a stronger case, and instead of coming out with another half developed theory written at work, I may try to develop this argument a little more before jumping to my conclusion. After doing this, I may find my hypothesis isn't true at all.

To say that class stratification in video games is a more important issue based on the WoW example alone is a bit of a stretch, I think. With all due respect, I don't think saying "Max Weber thinks class is more important" is enough for an argument, especially considering Weber's background as a German sociologist in the late 1800s/early 1900s would have put him in a situation where class, particularly in the Marxist sense, would have been much more academically and socially relevant than race was. I could go on and on about the flawed applications of sociology to race, but that's another story. Suffice to say that the sociological perspective on race is one that I respect but I don't really employ.

I have been in many arguments about which is the more important and meaningful method of stratification- whether it be race, class, gender, hair color, or shoe size. I am firmly entrenched into the class camp, but I know people who are equally as entrenched in the race camp. There is evidence of both obviously, but deciding which one is more important requires lots of shouting and throwing around lots of big words and theories. I guess it is like the Pepsi or Coke argument, although the implications of beverage choice are a little less important than sociological issues.

Ultimately, when I see racialized images showing up in video games or any other media, my immediate concern is how the conceptions of race that people taking in this image have are changing. So far, I don't think calling people "noobs" has quite the same impact on the real world. But! Feel free to prove me wrong; ideally, in the pages of the Escapist. :)

Touche.
I was trying to think of examples that people tend to group more by class than race, and all I could think of was "noob" and all of the deviations of that word. I am not saying calling someone a "noob" proves my point, but I don't see how C-Note saying "nigga" proves yours.

-Yad

Bongo Bill:

shihku7:
Most video gamers in the USA are white conservative males

I'd be inclined to disagree with that. The white male thing, yes, but conservative? Gamers are young, for one thing, and one of the strongest correlations in politics is that people tend to drift right with age. More to the point, I don't think we're using the same definition of "conservative" the way most gamers respond to any perceived attempt to censor their pastime for reasons of morality or decency.

Your post here seems pretty laden with other straw men - Conservatives think America's greatness is tied to its whiteness? Conservatives feel threatened by minorities? I think there's a different term for the people you're referring to (hint:"racist") - but I don't want to turn this thread into an abstract political flame war.

--------------------------------------------------

On to the article. If any market forces are responsible for a regressive presentation of race, it would be not so much racism in the market, as the expectation of developers or publishers that there will be racism in the market. This is an expectation that's never been tested - has there ever been a mass-market video game that presented a challenging view of race? If so, was it successful? And if it was not, was it strictly racism on the part of the audience that caused it to crash, or was there some other reason, such as feeling preachy, or not being well-designed? The default state of a creative work these days is to feature the mix of stereotypes (racial or otherwise) that the current era considers either funny or adequately accurate. Games, being extremely expensive, have been demonstrated to deviate from "default" in as safe a manner as possible.

If I am talking to a person online, and they describe their house, my first instinct is to imagine the layout of their house being identical to mine (or one of the houses I've lived in, anyway). This is usually wildly inaccurate, but that's the assumption I make first. In the absence of details about a situation, a person believes the situation to be similar to other situations with which s/he is already familiar, in as many ways as possible while still conforming to the known details. In the United States, most of the people that an average person interacts with (especially in suburbia) are white, simply because most of the people are white. Accordingly, in the absence of details to the contrary, your average person is going to assume that everyone they can't see (and who does not act in a manner similar to one of the dominant stereotypes if the day) is white. The same thing happens with gender, class, sexual orientation, age, and intelligence. Similarly, if all you know about a person is "an asian male who uses the Internet for gaming," you're going to fill in the blanks with details borrowed from the nerdy middle-class Asians you've known or seen. And if you don't know many, then it's the dominant stereotypes of the day that are going to be used.

I don't mean to make stereotyping out to be evil, here. We have to use stereotypes simply because we don't and indeed can't know everybody on a personal level, and so in order to think of them, we need a generalization (which is a statistical tool and nothing more) to keep things straight. The problem is not stereotyping, but rather inaccurate stereotypes and stereotypes based on the wrong criteria.

In a given society, racism exists as a direct and immediate consequence of the belief that race is in any way predictive of a person's behavior (which it is, but only to the extent that there is a loose correlation between ethnicity and culture). This is the core of the argument that ignoring race can make racism go away. The problem is that everybody has to do it in order for it to work. It's not really viable as a solution on a national or global scale, but it's effective enough for a single person's life.

All of this is the deeper social issue, however. If you want to deal with the race issue in games, this is how you do it: next time you're making a game whose characters resemble humans and who don't have race as an important part of their character, color one or two of them a different kind of pinkish-brownish-freckledy-orange, and tweak the nose a little. Maybe the main one, it doesn't matter. Pick them arbitrarily. Keep their writing and behavior the same - nothing belies a forced and insincere commitment to diversity than a minority character whose minorityhood is at the core of their character - but draw them differently. Just draw them differently. Do nothing else. Make the whole game with all of them being white (or Japanese, or purple wireframes), and then when everything is finished, change the model (and voice actor, if needed - voice is, after all, a part of race).

To spread by example the notion that race is something that doesn't deserve a second thought any more than eye color does, unfortunately, does require giving a second thought to race - but the best example to give is with a non-contrived situation. If your characters' races don't matter, then obviously it doesn't matter if you change them. It's unfortunate that what should be solely an aesthetic decision has to be a statement, but if you have to make a statement, then that, I think, is the statement to make.

I'm probably not making sense any more.

Bill-

I know exactly what you are saying. I took a class last semester entitled "Race/Ethnic Relations", and one of the first things we discussed was how our society labels people. In a movie it is "the fearless detective and his black sidekick", or numerous other examples where the race of the minority is pointed out. A lot of people thought this was a BIG DEAL. I said it wasn't a big deal at all. I expected someone in the class to call me a Nazi, but I just got some glares. I went on to make the this point: If I was in a situation where I was the white guy among a group of Hispanics, they would call me the white guy when pointing me out to other people. Considering that the United States is 70% white, it doesn't seem like a big deal to use someone's race as a describing term. I have been the "white guy" before, and I have pointed out a friend across the room to someone as the "black guy". I don't think either one is a big deal.

Yadam Siegfried:
Touche.
I was trying to think of examples that people tend to group more by class than race, and all I could think of was "noob" and all of the deviations of that word. I am not saying calling someone a "noob" proves my point, but I don't see how C-Note saying "nigga" proves yours.

Because 'noob' has a tenuous connection to actual class and real-world class dynamics, and 'nigga' has a very real connection to real-world race relations, particularly in the United States. To be honest, while I think the class dynamics of virtual worlds - as well as race dynamics - my worry is less on the internal dynamics of the virtual worlds and more on how those issues in the virtual world reflect, and in some cases come back to influence, the real world.

Keep talking!

Bongo Bill,

I suppose I should've used "Republican" instead of "conservative", as that brings up thoughts about social conservatives. I think most gamers are white male Republicans. Republicans that are socially liberal ("leave me alone, I'll do whatever I want with my life"), and fiscally conservative ("leave me alone, I'll do whatever I want with my money"). I can't imagine white male Democrats fueling the mass production of games such as NASCAR, NFL, NBA, NHL, Need for Speed, Call of Duty, Deer Hunter, Medal of Honor, and so forth. Sports and war games are some of the biggest sellers in America, and neither sports or war media are favorites amongst Democrats or liberals, so it's gotta be Republicans who are mostly buying these games. (I work at one of the biggest game companies and I get the impression that everyone around me is a Republican.)

Game companies must prioritise certain demographics over others in order to maximise profits. It's the nature of capitalism. To me, it's obvious that white male Republicans are the most important market demographic to any game company. Prioritising the Republican demographic over the Democrat one doesn't mean these games are Republican propaganda machines. It just means they care more about pleasing Republicans, than they do about pleasing Democrats.

Yadam,

my view on the importance of race is that race does in fact hold more value to people than economic class, and that this has been proven time and time again throughout history. And that the political elites of various societies have often exploited this fact in order to maintain their power. Societies that are racially AND economically diverse always become more right-wing than societies that are more monocultural. Race, I believe, is the primary reason America is the sole country in the world without a labor party/movement of any kind. Check out Amy Chua's "World on Fire: How Democracy and Free Markets Lead to Ethnic Conflict" book for more info. The idea is that Europe and other nations underwent socialist movements precisely because of their lack of diversity, while nations like America and Brazil leaned more towards capitalism due to major ethnic divisions. Because American blacks are so poor, and so many fiscal conservative whites believed them to be culturally attached to poorness, the idea of having a government that encouraged strong community ties (socialism) became weaker and weaker. In other words: one's desire for socialism is directly linked to whether or not you believe your fellow citizens are really your friends or not, and if they can be expected to improve their lot after getting tax-funded assistance. Very few people think that black or Native Americans are capable of pulling themselves out of their ghettoes, no matter how much money you give them, but they do think that Chinese or white Americans are capable of making huge leaps in wealth.. and so, they don't see how class is more important than race.

Pat M.:
my worry is less on the internal dynamics of the virtual worlds and more on how those issues in the virtual world reflect, and in some cases come back to influence, the real world.

Keep talking!

I often think that the popularity of games like The Sims and World of Warcraft comes straight out of people's desire for "Conspicuous consumption". These types of games are so devoid of objectives outside of... well.. getting better "stuff". In other games, better stuff is used to better destroy some kind of evil force. In Sims and WOW... better stuff is all there is.

Who knows how all of this is influencing people. My paranoid conspiracy theory of the day is that this is all turning people into Ayn Rand Libertarians. Or at the least, Thomas and/or Milton Friedmans.. :-P

shihku7: I have to completely disagree with you and your tin-foil hat Sociology. I would like to share a book written by a respected sociologist that you should read: The Declining Significance of Race : Blacks and Changing American Institutions by William Wilson.

Well a few things, I haven't read all the comments yet, but re: class I feel WoW is going to pretty balanced as everyone playing it has a good PC and broadband, so there is a minimum level of income involved. In the UK I would imagine that MMOs are going to be pretty middle class, but that's a different story, and doesn't involve money so much.

And as for the CSS guy whether he is actually black or not is irrelevant, it's the same humour as Ali G, about people who act in this bizzare way due to race/culture. He could have gone round saying "I say! A musket Goshdarnit!!" in the manor of the English gentry. It's humour.

bob_arctor:
Well a few things, I haven't read all the comments yet, but re: class I feel WoW is going to pretty balanced as everyone playing it has a good PC and broadband, so there is a minimum level of income involved. In the UK I would imagine that MMOs are going to be pretty middle class, but that's a different story, and doesn't involve money so much.

And as for the CSS guy whether he is actually black or not is irrelevant, it's the same humour as Ali G, about people who act in this bizzare way due to race/culture. He could have gone round saying "I say! A musket Goshdarnit!!" in the manor of the English gentry. It's humour.

I think you missed the boat here Bob.

I think the sad aspect of the Counter Strike example noted in Pat's article is that the guy wasn't trying to be funny. He was just being himself, but what he didn't realize was that being himself made him sound so out of place in that society that it was humorous to the mid-class white guys around him. The problem wasn't with him, it was (and is) with them.

Were he actually a gentrified English land-owning noble I don't think the reaction of the other players would have been the same. And the episode surely wouldn't have been circulated around the net with scorn.

"Hey, look at this smart, rich, white guy who thinks he's one of us! What a clueless smart, rich white guy!" Don't think so.

Um. You haven't been to the UK then have you? Clueless rich white guy is one of the national stereotypes.

Sorry I just posted that while my mind was on it. I am about to print the rest of the responses, can't stand reading them all on a CRT monitor.

So the guy on CSS was actually being serious? I thought it was a joke. Some black guy just being himself? I guess it is kind of funny, as it's hard to take someone who says "c-walk" seriously. But that's not to do with race specifically; more to do with culture, as a lot of white kids talk like that as well. I think black people who are not part of that culture would find it funny as well.

bob_arctor:

So the guy on CSS was actually being serious? I thought it was a joke. Some black guy just being himself? I guess it is kind of funny, as it's hard to take someone who says "c-walk" seriously.

I took it to mean it was a joke, too. But it's still a pretty racist one, kinda like the minstrel shows of old. Which isn't to say it can't be funny (internet comedians have managed to fall short pretty regularly on this one - C-Note and Leeroy Jenkins were just stupid), but it's still racist.

But that's not to do with race specifically; more to do with culture, as a lot of white kids talk like that as well. I think black people who are not part of that culture would find it funny as well.

Fair point, but making fun a culture isn't exactly kosher, either. Cracking jokes about Eastern European culture or British culture or Chinese culture or gay culture isn't any more appropriate than making fun of a race of people. Really, it's semantic anyway - "race" has taken on strange connotations in the 21st century to the point where it expands beyond geneology and into culture.

But really, we're splitting hairs in an article that really demands more attention to its whole rather than focusing on one example.

gdf

Ignorance is bliss and we as gamers like to ignore issues of race in games so that we might blissfully enjoy the game itself, free of such concerns.

TheMonkeysAteMySoul:
longest run on sentence ever

I'd be curious to read some of your sources for that information. Could you cite a study that claims black people specifically have faster reflexes than white people and thus require more food? Or that 'asian' eyes are better at keeping particulates out of the cornea? Seems like that information would be readily available if true, but I've never heard any of that before.

Yadam,

I looked up the Wilson book on Amazon.com. It was published in 1980. Are you sure it's as relevant as you think it is, 26 years later? 26 years ago, 30% of black males weren't in jail, going to jail, or have been in jail. 26 years ago, I don't think 25% of Ivy League students were of Chinese background. 26 years ago, there were a lot more liberals in America than there are now, and our welfare system was much larger. Things have changed quite a bit, because society has changed quite a bit.

I think one of the main reasons why race isn't brought up in video game analysis too musch is because it's yet another tool people like Jack Thompson and all the US Senators who are introducing legislation against games can use against us.

They already attack our hobby for violence and sex, when it's absolutely the same as in other medium, so adding race into the equation just complicates it further.

And you can't tell me that the race problem has been solved in other media. Movies and television still don't deal with Asian people very well, and let's not begin to talk about Muslims. Anyone who watches MTV will have a very twisted view of who black women are. Racial profiling is becoming increasingly prevelant on TV and in newspapers.

Until race is addressed and criticised and recognised in the more popular media, why should it be any different in the world of gaming?

Anyone up for an iMob? I'm spamming that address even if no-one else is.

FunkyJ:
I think one of the main reasons why race isn't brought up in video game analysis too musch is because it's yet another tool people like Jack Thompson and all the US Senators who are introducing legislation against games can use against us.

They already attack our hobby for violence and sex, when it's absolutely the same as in other medium, so adding race into the equation just complicates it further.

And you can't tell me that the race problem has been solved in other media. Movies and television still don't deal with Asian people very well, and let's not begin to talk about Muslims. Anyone who watches MTV will have a very twisted view of who black women are. Racial profiling is becoming increasingly prevelant on TV and in newspapers.

Until race is addressed and criticised and recognised in the more popular media, why should it be any different in the world of gaming?

I'm not so sure about that. The ability of a medium to handle provocative themes like race, class, and sexuality are an indicator of a maturing medium.@I wouldn't say that the "the race problem has been solved" in film, but we trust that film can handle themes like race. Sure, a game that handles sex, violence, and race immaturely would be held up as an example of bad video games, but a game that can begin an insightful conversation about race would, on the other hand, certainly build the medium's credit as a legitimate forum for artistic expression - and thus, protected speech.

shihku7:
Yadam,

I looked up the Wilson book on Amazon.com. It was published in 1980. Are you sure it's as relevant as you think it is, 26 years later? 26 years ago, 30% of black males weren't in jail, going to jail, or have been in jail. 26 years ago, I don't think 25% of Ivy League students were of Chinese background. 26 years ago, there were a lot more liberals in America than there are now, and our welfare system was much larger. Things have changed quite a bit, because society has changed quite a bit.

Okaaaaay, try: Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks.

bob_arctor:
Um. You haven't been to the UK then have you? Clueless rich white guy is one of the national stereotypes.

Sorry I just posted that while my mind was on it. I am about to print the rest of the responses, can't stand reading them all on a CRT monitor.

So the guy on CSS was actually being serious? I thought it was a joke. Some black guy just being himself? I guess it is kind of funny, as it's hard to take someone who says "c-walk" seriously. But that's not to do with race specifically; more to do with culture, as a lot of white kids talk like that as well. I think black people who are not part of that culture would find it funny as well.

Bob- I was taking a sociological look at the in-game aspects of WoW, and you came back with a broad generalization about the income levels of people playing the game and how fast their internet connection was. That has nothing to do with what anyone was talking about in this thread. I said there could be a generalization made about their lesiure time, but that has nothing to do with income level.

Pat M.:

FunkyJ:
I think one of the main reasons why race isn't brought up in video game analysis too musch is because it's yet another tool people like Jack Thompson and all the US Senators who are introducing legislation against games can use against us.

They already attack our hobby for violence and sex, when it's absolutely the same as in other medium, so adding race into the equation just complicates it further.

And you can't tell me that the race problem has been solved in other media. Movies and television still don't deal with Asian people very well, and let's not begin to talk about Muslims. Anyone who watches MTV will have a very twisted view of who black women are. Racial profiling is becoming increasingly prevelant on TV and in newspapers.

Until race is addressed and criticised and recognised in the more popular media, why should it be any different in the world of gaming?

I'm not so sure about that. The ability of a medium to handle provocative themes like race, class, and sexuality are an indicator of a maturing medium.@I wouldn't say that the "the race problem has been solved" in film, but we trust that film can handle themes like race. Sure, a game that handles sex, violence, and race immaturely would be held up as an example of bad video games, but a game that can begin an insightful conversation about race would, on the other hand, certainly build the medium's credit as a legitimate forum for artistic expression - and thus, protected speech.

I have to agree with Pat here, and I also have to point out that racial profiling is decreasingly prevelant on TV and in movies. Look at the Mind of Mencia. That show is built on stereotypes and racially charged jokes. Yet when I look at the studio audience, I see people of every ethnicity laughing at it. I don't think you would have seen anything like that 30-40 years ago.

I'd be very careful about judging the state of race relations (or anything really) based on something you see on a TV show. Even the studio audiences are hand-picked by producers with agendas. If I were to attempt to judge the current state of race relations in the US based on TV, I'd probably have a pretty rosy poicture of where we all stand these days. But I live in the South, and all I have to do is go outside and walk around a bit to know that's not true.

fun fact: carlos mencia isn't really mexican.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_of_Mencia

Wikiality FTW!

Fletcher:
I'd be very careful about judging the state of race relations (or anything really) based on something you see on a TV show. Even the studio audiences are hand-picked by producers with agendas. If I were to attempt to judge the current state of race relations in the US based on TV, I'd probably have a pretty rosy poicture of where we all stand these days. But I live in the South, and all I have to do is go outside and walk around a bit to know that's not true.

I'd be very careful about judging the state of race relations based on your personal experience.

Pat M.:
fun fact: carlos mencia isn't really mexican.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_of_Mencia

Misleading. He is 1/2 Mexican.

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