The Racism Blame Game

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Zen Toombs:

Hollywood isn't the most diverse place on the planet, but even the big studios aren't foolish enough to kick Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, or Angelina Jolie out of their film to make room for Mark Wahlberg

Angelina Jolie isn't white?

So you think Angelina Jolie is a dude? Because that was the second half of that descriptor being tossed around. White DUDES, not whites.

Therumancer:
To be honest I'm not entirely sure what your point here is Shamus [/snip]

I think the point was very clear. The situation doesn't bother him. The excuse given to us does. Developers accuse us of racism. He's not walking on any fence, take your time to read the article next time instead of assuming it's about something and writing an essay on it.

And I agree with Shamus. Developers have developed this trend in which they make unoriginal, bland, generic, ridiculously short and plain bad games and they blame us for their shortcomings. Check for instance how Capcom is mad at people for not accepting their disc-locked content and make increasingly ridiculous excuses, all of which blame the users. Or how Ubisoft blames PC users for the stupid DRM they make.

Let's be fair: JRPGs feature mostly *teenage* white males. Sometimes the female lead has Asiatic features, but even then you usually have to squint a little bit and it ends up being a close call.

...I'm still pissed there aren't more orcs as main characters. I declare: humie-ism!!

SharedProphet:
Supposing the relatability of the protagonist (in the sense of having the same race/gender as the player) actually affects sales, having the overwhelming majority of protagonists be white males seems like it would reduce the number of gamers overall. That seems like exactly the opposite of what the industry should want.

but see it's not just being relatable. It's what people idealize that matters.

I was watching a show on NatGeo about some Kenyans who visited New York. When he brought a picture of Obama to his village leaders saying that a blackman ruled the country, they scoffed at his suggestion and said, "he is not black, he is clearly white."

It really has nothing to do with the color of your skin - it's more the perception that white=wealth... or at least a better position in society.

There was another study I read about that flashed the picture of white and blacks for a fraction of a second - fast enough for your subconcious to make a judgement of "good/bad" but not fast enough for you to perceive the face you saw. 76% of whites had a negative reaction to colored people. What was most significant was that blacks had the same negative perception to colored people!

It seems to be cultural that white = better regardless of the truth in the statement.

It's true there isn't a lot of diversity outside of games where you have the option of picking your race. Being a filthy whitey that's what I tend to play but recently I began to play a large black man in a suit and reading glasses in saints row. I thought the mix of sometimes stereotypical voice acting and refined attire was amusing but not totally unrealistic for new money.

I play a lot of Japanese games, and the contrast is kind of interesting. Ten or fifteen years ago, Japanese fantasy games had graphics that looked unreal enough that it wasn't clear what race the protagonists were (here I'm thinking PS1 era, with FF 7-9, Chrono Cross, etc). I kind of assumed they were whitish, but other audiences probably interpreted them differently (except Barrett, who was obviously black).

As graphics improved, they had to make choices. Usually, that meant that the characters would have bodies typical of Japanese people (like Yuna, Tidus, Lightning, Hope, and Vahn from FF X-XIII). To my Scandinavian-American eyes, this makes the men look about 10 years old, and the women about 12 (they're usually about an A-cup). When you're 6'8" tall (as I am), it makes the "power fantasy" element of these games seem kind of ridiculous.

Sometimes they do it the other way, and make characters who look like Caucasians, and specifically like the Caucasians seen in bodybuilding magazines. Huge biceps, improbable chest. Chris Redfield and Bayonetta, I'm looking at you. This seems to happen more in horror games, because the remoteness of the locale (from Japan) makes isolation seem plausible.

The difference, I guess, is that Japanese developers know that the US is a major market, but don't want to alienate the home market.

...even the big studios aren't foolish enough to kick Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, or Angelina Jolie out of their film to make room for Mark Wahlberg.

Good thing, if a studio would kick out Angelina Jolie for Mark Wahlberg then I doubt the bikini scene would be quite the same. Aaaaaaanyways... that whole "We're not racist. You are!" bit is a little annoying. We didnt make the game, they did. I wont find it any less relatable to play a non-white hero, or a female, or an alien. If i could play a game like Mass Effect and be an Asari (being a blue female alien, i'd cover all three) for the main story, then i would have just as much fun as playing as shepard (actually that would be interesting, to see how the different aliens would react to you if you were something other than a human)

Chirez:
The argument that the generic white male protagonist is needed to appeal to consumers does contain the implicit assumption that the majority share of the games market is white and male.

I'm pretty sure that's simply not true.

Why would that be false? Key word YOU used is majority . I am assuming you know what majority means , therefor i ask , what is the major demographic of gamers? ( remember keyword being majority).

Meh people are closed minded . This is why customizable characters are best .

Chirez:
The argument that the generic white male protagonist is needed to appeal to consumers does contain the implicit assumption that the majority share of the games market is white and male.

I'm pretty sure that's simply not true.

You could think its not true, but you would be wrong (atleast on one count).

http://edugamesresearch.com/blog/2008/07/23/esa-survey-malefemale-gamer-ratio-is-6040-average-age-is-35/

Not sure if there has ever been a study on ethnicity in gamer culture though.

krazykidd:

Chirez:
The argument that the generic white male protagonist is needed to appeal to consumers does contain the implicit assumption that the majority share of the games market is white and male.

I'm pretty sure that's simply not true.

Why would that be false? Key word YOU used is majority . I am assuming you know what majority means , therefor i ask , what is the major demographic of gamers? ( remember keyword being majority).

Meh people are closed minded . This is why customizable characters are best .

Honestly I don't see why more game don't do this, It wouldn't take too long to make 3-4 models of various ethnicity per gender then just at the beginning of a game say "pick whichever you like."

Its not often that a characters skin color comes into play so it wouldn't effect the gameplay really.

Granted, I am a mid twenties white male, so I don't really mind the trend as much as some might.

/agree completely. I'm Caucasian, and my favorite character to play in L4D2 isn't Nick - he's a scumbag imo. It isn't Ellis - he's an ok guy, but I just don't relate to him.

My favorite character is Coach. "This used to be a NICE neighborhood!" That I relate to, so I choose him whenever I can. And I couldn't care less that he's on the other end of the skin color spectrum from me.

As regards the "Shep is a blank canvas" concept - why didn't they make his face a blank canvas in the face creator then?

Therumancer:
To be honest I'll also say that I think this issue, at least as far as it's come up on these forums is marred by ignorance, with statements being made based on a very narrow political position designed to empower specific people and representitives.

The issue we're increasingly seeing is less a matter of race, and more a matter of culture, and the problem is guys like MovieBob being unable to distinguish between the two enough to realize that racism pretty much doesn't exist in countries like the USA, but cultural conflicts do, and as cultures can be drawn along racial lines some confusion is possible.

I was wondering when someone would break out the 'Not racist but different colors and creeds are fundamentally different' argument.

I get what you're trying to say but an intelligent guy like you has to see the danger in the sort of conceptual segregation you're talking about.

The rest of your argument is the same as albino boo's and is actually a pretty interesting point. I don't really agree but either way it would be a difficult one to disprove.

albino boo:
The problem with argument is that the ethnic makeup of the major gaming markets vary hugely. Hispanics make a large percentage of The US population but are practically non-existent in Europe and Japan. The largest ethnic minority in Japan is Koreans, in France its Arabs, in Germany its Turks and in the UK its South Asians. You can't reflect the ethnic breakdown in all the major gaming markets because its just too diverse. So if make the hero a Latino what's that going to mean to German man of Turkish origin or Dutch woman of Indonesian parentage? If you start making a point of not having a white guy with brown hair as your lead, you going to annoy the ethnicities that don't get to be the lead. You will have never ending campaign groups lobbying for there own respective group. For every Indian lead are you going to have a Pakistani one? You could quickly find yourself on a pogo stick, in the minefield of international politics without even knowing it. The truth be told, the 30s something white guy is the lowest common dominator and the safest politically of the Europe and North America gaming markets. Thats why they are so common.

Voltano:
lead designer Fumito Ueda also changed the protagonist from a female character to a male one because he thought she would always be in a skirt, and he doesn't want players to look up her skirt.

What he SHOULD have done is replace all the "action" on the model with the internet smiley face, in the occasion that the player was able to look up her skirt.

image

How hilarious would it be if you were the nerd who spent two hours trying to get a digital upskirt, and you get this staring back at you. Or at least over there. WHERE IS HE LOOKING ANYWAY?

Gamers need to have a character they can relate to.

...need to have a character they can relate to.

This phrase ALWAYS pisses me off! It is constantly used as an excuse to shove some horrid, and poorly written, character into a show/movie/whatever. Of course what makes a character "relatible," (turns out this isn't an actual word by the way), is always based on superficial things like skin color (ugh), gender (sigh), age (*facepalm*), and so on.

Here are two franchises that have had quite the fan following even though they have characters that clearly don't fit the "relatible" profile, and have also suffered due to the "need a character they can relate to" nonsense: Tranformers and Sonic the Hedgehog

The first main characters are giant robots who transform into vehicles. Yes, there were human characters but they played a supportive role most of the time. People loved it despite the central characters, according to brainless executives, being "unrelatible."
What happened when they tried putting in characters with a more centralized role? We got the friggin' "Bayformers." Less Sam Witwhateverhisstupidnameissupposetobe trying to get laid and more Autobots versus Decepticons, please.

The second main characters are cartoon, anthropomorphic animals with highly inaccurate anatomy and fur color. The only human character was the bad guy. Characters here definitely don't fit that "need to have a character they can relate to" thing they claim has to be satisfied... yet Sonic is easily one to the most recognizable characters ever.
What happened when they put in human characters with a more centralized role? Elise in Sonic '06 and Chris Thorndyke in Sonic X... feel free to start barfing anytime. Really, simply mentioning those two is offensive to many.

It's a lame cop-out used by greedy people who are afraid to take even the smallest of risks because they might make 50 bucks less than their unrealistic expectations demand.

The problem is in your head. If you are spending time thinking about the races and sexes in the video games you play, you are the problem.

Zen Toombs:
The article also points out this study, which also contains things of note.

In the study, white undergraduates were given the synopses of 12 made-up romantic comedies. Along with the summaries, they got cast pictures and fake IMDB pages, which were manipulated so that each movie had six versions of the cast; an all-white cast, an all-black cast and four different versions in between.

Same plot, same characters, same everything -- just different cast members. And unfortunately, the whiter the cast, the higher the likelihood of the students wanting to see the movie.

True, except for the fact that previous experience with rom-coms with mixed/entirely black casts would, no matter what the plot is on paper, lead them to believe certain tropes and tones would be present. In order for this study to have as much bias removed as possible you would have to make the movies, and get actors with comparable talent levels to play the characters.

thomaskattus:

Danceofmasks:
You live in a world where people call Obama black.

He's mixed, you know.

If he lived in Kenya, he'd probably be considered white.

You are racist.

Actually I call him President of the USA.

And I call him an asshole scumbag chicago pol. Incidentally, the same thing I called Daley, Blagi, and Rhammy.

So here we go. I'm black. I play video games, I've been playing them since i was 3. Mega Man. Streets of Rage. Golden Axe. Pacman. I had an Atari 2600. You name it, I've played it. I'm also a big fan of Anime, and a grand lover of fantasy, Sci-fi, super power mega ninjas in outer space kind of things. The fact that for the grand massive most part of movies, games, and shows i love lack diversity have never stopped me from enjoying those things. However, would diversity be nice? Absolutely. Indian, Arab, Mexican, tan skin, blue skin, orange skin, and perhaps a character from a poor backround that doesn't fall by the waste side simply because they have come from that, while the cookie cutter white guy with no backround whatsoever in a game takes the main stage. Yes that would be nice.

So. what's the problem? The thought of TV, big media, shaping things for all, whatever people of whatever race you see on that screen, that is how they are exclusively in real life and thereby let's continue to promote that. It paints pictures that get translated into games. Can there be black characters? sure, just as long as it's something like True Crime New York, or a girl can be a main character too, yeah, in a game like Wet (get it. see what they did there in naming the game that). Is this racism or hatred, No, is it fear that the game won't sell to people (white guys) and that they won't see the movie if it doesn't star a white male, sure.

A narrow-mindedness simply cured by making the very safe assumption that people are people. You do not HAVE to set the game in a 1846 to have Mexicans in it. There's all different kind of Mexicans you know. They don't just make that ONE TYPE. The girl doesn't HAVE to be super hot deadly sexy assassin that does absolutely nothing sexy in the plot of the movie besides wear ridiculous get-ups on the field of battle.

Now not to toot my own horn but I'm a writer. And I very much so like diversity in my stories. Does that mean that every single scene, every single story, every single line, is said by a black person, or a white character talking to an Eskimo while a chubby Hawaiian girl fixes a computer? no. However, is it nice to have experienced enough of life that I can comfortably create whatever character i want and not have them have to live up to stereotypes for fear of alienating the audience that only accepts racial stereotypes, or god awful wanna-be witty banter to disguise such ignorance, yes, it is nice to be able to do that. I think ultimately, no matter what the concept of the story is (taking place on futuristic planet such and such) the thought of having diversity is so far from the mind of some game creators, and how to do it as if some phenomenal feat, that it shows just how small minded in one way, some of these creators are.

Big giant planet shaped like a crystal spider web that has been waging a six sided war for seventy-six years. Check, Lead Latina character that was come up with simply out of creative consciousness? It never even crossed their minds.

And for the record, cause there is another BIG rant besides mine on this here subject, there is no mainstream intention by blacks or black film makers to make anti-white films (whatever that is) and pro-black people garbage as it was called. This type of thinking is very much so a part of a problem which goes like this, if one of THAT race is whatever way they are, then assume (since you know not one of them)that they all act that way, or most do. Which is simply not true. The reason i know this for certain is (and i might sound bias here), I'm black. And I have met a mired of personas in my life.

None of what you are reading here is difficult to believe if you only stop and think for a second, and thereby, create a character, that whatever skin tone they are, they are certainly not, skin deep.

Well, the problem with casting a black transsexual woman with a missing arm and an ADHD diagnosis as your main character is that it'll inevitably draw criticism.

One the one hand, it'll draw criticism from people who're pissed that you're trying to cash in on some quick "diversity" scheme, rather than the merits of the game itself. Meaning you'd have to *gasp* spend money on good writers and game design that meaningfully incorporates each of the protagonists notable features into the story and game world. But unfortunately you just spent it all on better graphics, and some of them will never be satisfied anyway. In other words you'll be stuck with tons of whiners complaining how the portrayal wasn't meaningful to the game, and how it was hence nothing but a marketing scheme.

On the other hand, it'll also draw criticism from people who don't feel like you're doing enough to portray your minority protagonist in a positive light, that you're stereotyping the minority, or that you didn't portray some tiny detail accurately or with enough cultural sensitivity. In other words you'll be stuck with tons of annoying holier-than-thou whiners whining about how the portrayal itself wasn't good enough.

No matter what, it's going to be your loss. So yeah, straying from the in his 30's white dude is a commercial minefield of controversy, and the people who can't shut up about how diversity should be promoted have helped make it so.

Some companies do break the trend, like Bioware and their incorporation of same sex relationships. Thank god they've not attracted any media controversy, nor people criticizing the feature and/or how it fits with the rest of the games, eh?

So I'd say the industry still have good reason to thread carefully when it comes to special inclusion of "diversity", because of the hypersensitivity to it of friend and foe alike.

The Consequence:

(snip)

... or a white character talking to an Eskimo ...

(snip)

I think the preferred term is Inuit. :)

Which sort of illustrates the problem in trying to write characters outside your cultural familiarity. Even with the best intentions we tend to fill in the blanks with inaccuracies, stereotypes etc.

Most of the titles on my shelf are the kind where you spend 3 hours making your character's face, then put a helmet on them and only ever see them from the back, so they tend to be equally bland and generic regardless of where the color sliders end up.

Monoochrom:
While I agree with you. Can we drop the damn subject already? It's getting old.

We can drop it when there isn't any more racism in the video game industry.

NinjaDeathSlap:
This. So much of this. The thing about the standard C. Sheppard in that poster though is that the whole reason Bioware designed him to look as generic as possible is because they wanted people to make their own versions. So yeah, he may be a grizzled, white, 30 something male, but that's not because he's supposed to be a grizzled, white, 30 something male, it's because he's supposed to be a blank canvas.

That's kind of problematic in itself, though. Why is a white, 30-something male the default blank canvas? If you think about it, you'll see this implies that this is "normal" and everything else (non-white men and women of all races) are somehow "different" or "unusual". Why can't the default be something else - even something random?

albino boo:
You will have never ending campaign groups lobbying for there own respective group. For every Indian lead are you going to have a Pakistani one?

Oh yes, the old slippery slope. Look, at the moment it's incredibly unusual to see an Indian or a Pakistani character in mainstream games, let alone a main character. You don't have to want some kind of weird quota system in order to want to see more variety. Variety is fun. Plus, it helps send the message that you're welcome in video gaming, no matter your race, sex or background.

Mimsofthedawg:

SharedProphet:
Supposing the relatability of the protagonist (in the sense of having the same race/gender as the player) actually affects sales, having the overwhelming majority of protagonists be white males seems like it would reduce the number of gamers overall. That seems like exactly the opposite of what the industry should want.

but see it's not just being relatable. It's what people idealize that matters.

I was watching a show on NatGeo about some Kenyans who visited New York. When he brought a picture of Obama to his village leaders saying that a blackman ruled the country, they scoffed at his suggestion and said, "he is not black, he is clearly white."

This is one of those strange cultural situations. I have literally had black Africans call black Americans white people. Along with Asians, Indians, and Middle Eastern people. I always laugh when I think about it.

Like I said, look at most of the stories written with a scruffy white protagonist: would the narrative really be affected by having a character of a different ethnicity? In most cases no, because the story is an inch deep and a mile wide. Film suffered a similar issue with guys like Sidney Poitier. Producer's thought throwing a black man in and eliminating any hints of culture would make great films. Looking back on them today those films can be hard to get through simply because they are the same character.

Take for example the gay guy in ME3. His "big reveal" wasn't a big deal right? It added a dimension to the character, that he was tragically flawed. That the flaw could lead to instability even in the face of mass extinction. It also makes the background conversations in the bay a little more interesting as they banter with the occaisional Spanish slang thrown in. Magically the world of Mass Effect is a little more round, there's something else to grab your attention. And it didn't take making a huge statement about it.

Unfortunately, the production environment in games generally has the story being fleshed out around the time the modelers are on the job. Writing doesn't have to all important to the game, but it needs to stop appealing to the lowest common denominator.

ms_sunlight:

Oh yes, the old slippery slope. Look, at the moment it's incredibly unusual to see an Indian or a Pakistani character in mainstream games, let alone a main character. You don't have to want some kind of weird quota system in order to want to see more variety. Variety is fun. Plus, it helps send the message that you're welcome in video gaming, no matter your race, sex or background.

The point about India and Pakistan is not about quotas, its about politics. The two nations have fought 5 wars in the last 60 years and are one the leading candidates for fighting the worlds first nuclear war. If you have Indian lead characters but not Pakistani ones you are going to be used by politicians for their own objectives. You are also going to alienate potential costumers. How many of the Muslim Kashmirie diaspora are going to buy a game with a lead character which many regard as an occupying force in their homeland? If have the protagonist as Turkish, you are going to be forced to take position on the events of 1915 by Armenian groups. Companies are spending in the region of $50 million developing a game and guess what, they want a return on that money. You don't do that by generating controversy other than the ones with an upside. You make a game that is complained about for having too much sex and violence you are going to make sales to the average teenaged boy. You cant say the same for a controversy about the Israeli Palestinian question. Sticking a brown haired white guy as the lead pretty much avoids those kinds of risk.

I wonder if some part of this relates to the color and gender of the people in the industry...

albino boo:

ms_sunlight:

Oh yes, the old slippery slope. Look, at the moment it's incredibly unusual to see an Indian or a Pakistani character in mainstream games, let alone a main character. You don't have to want some kind of weird quota system in order to want to see more variety. Variety is fun. Plus, it helps send the message that you're welcome in video gaming, no matter your race, sex or background.

The point about India and Pakistan is not about quotas, its about politics. The two nations have fought 5 wars in the last 60 years and are one the leading candidates for fighting the worlds first nuclear war. If you have Indian lead characters but not Pakistani ones you are going to be used by politicians for their own objectives. You are also going to alienate potential costumers. How many of the Muslim Kashmirie diaspora are going to buy a game with a lead character which many regard as an occupying force in their homeland? If have the protagonist as Turkish, you are going to be forced to take position on the events of 1915 by Armenian groups. Companies are spending in the region of $50 million developing a game and guess what, they want a return on that money. You don't do that by generating controversy other than the ones with an upside. You make a game that is complained about for having too much sex and violence you are going to make sales to the average teenaged boy. You cant say the same for a controversy about the Israeli Palestinian question. Sticking a brown haired white guy as the lead pretty much avoids those kinds of risk.

I disagree. Any demographic or point of view is going to bother someone. It doesn't make it a good excuse to exclude huge swathes of the world's population. There are plenty of people out there who see white Americans or Europeans as oppressors. What about all those shooters that demonise Arab or Russian populations?

As someone who lives in a UK city with large populations of both Indian and Pakistani origin, I find your analysis absurd.

You don't protect people by excluding them or making them invisible.

The Random One:
The solution to this problem, as everyone from Scott McCloud to Zak Smith to Anna Anthropy has already said, is to hire more non-white, non-male people to create our games. Otherwise you're not really creating a game that stars (say) a black woman, but one that stars a bunch of white men's concept of a black woman. Instead we have this human centipede circle jerk thing were games only pander to white males, so only white males think games are cool and decide to make games, so they only make games for white males, and so on forever.

I can agree, somewhat loosely, with what you're saying. It is always nice to open up jobs for a diverse group of people. But an alternative idea that also shows here is developers could do some research on these characters that are not 30/male by talking with sociologists. Bioware games might be a good example with this as they have such alien races (Dragon Age, Mass Effect) interacting with one another, but they carefully plan out the relationships and the behavior for each one so that it is generally appealing. Well, maybe the Asari could be considered a nerd wet-dream, but that might be an exception. >.>

But, theoretically, if a game designer wants to make a medieval setting game with a female protagonist, they could do some research on how women were treated at that time and see how that could be put into the core mechanics of the game. I'm not talking something like "Dungeons & Dragons" or "Elder Scrolls" where both genders are treated equally, but having to get through actual prejudice challenges in order to reach a goal. For example, maybe the player needs to talk to the king but the guards at the gate won't let them in because "this is not a place for women." So the player may have to figure out a way to convince the guards in, or sneak on through.

ms_sunlight:

albino boo:

ms_sunlight:

Oh yes, the old slippery slope. Look, at the moment it's incredibly unusual to see an Indian or a Pakistani character in mainstream games, let alone a main character. You don't have to want some kind of weird quota system in order to want to see more variety. Variety is fun. Plus, it helps send the message that you're welcome in video gaming, no matter your race, sex or background.

The point about India and Pakistan is not about quotas, its about politics. The two nations have fought 5 wars in the last 60 years and are one the leading candidates for fighting the worlds first nuclear war. If you have Indian lead characters but not Pakistani ones you are going to be used by politicians for their own objectives. You are also going to alienate potential costumers. How many of the Muslim Kashmirie diaspora are going to buy a game with a lead character which many regard as an occupying force in their homeland? If have the protagonist as Turkish, you are going to be forced to take position on the events of 1915 by Armenian groups. Companies are spending in the region of $50 million developing a game and guess what, they want a return on that money. You don't do that by generating controversy other than the ones with an upside. You make a game that is complained about for having too much sex and violence you are going to make sales to the average teenaged boy. You cant say the same for a controversy about the Israeli Palestinian question. Sticking a brown haired white guy as the lead pretty much avoids those kinds of risk.

I disagree. Any demographic or point of view is going to bother someone. It doesn't make it a good excuse to exclude huge swathes of the world's population. There are plenty of people out there who see white Americans or Europeans as oppressors. What about all those shooters that demonise Arab or Russian populations?

As someone who lives in a UK city with large populations of both Indian and Pakistani origin, I find your analysis absurd.

You don't protect people by excluding them or making them invisible.

The most poisonous working environment I have ever worked was in an northern local government office. The boss of the section was a daughter of a senior retired Indian army officer and the floorplate Unite representative was the son of Kashmirie parents the whole floor was pushed into being on one side or the other. I have also seen extreme hostility between between Jamaicans and Nigerians while working for a south London council and between Hindus and Ugandans in another south London council. The most racist public statement I have ever publicly heard had come from an Indian woman council official during a tenants meeting in a north London council. She said "whats the point of the council spending money on renovating these houses when you Bangladeshis don't know how to keep your houses clean". I'm sorry to disappoint you but in the real world racism inst just between white and non white but all the colours manage to be racist pretty well.

Danceofmasks:

HobbesMkii:

Danceofmasks:
You live in a world where people call Obama black.

He's mixed, you know.

If he lived in Kenya, he'd probably be considered white.

You are racist.

Obama actually does identify himself as black, though.

Which makes him racist too. Good job.

That's not how it works. He identifies as black because visually people identify him as black. Prejudice doesn't stop to work out geneology.

Prototype 2 replaced the gruff brown-haired 20-something white guy from the first game with a gruff brown-haired 30-something black guy, and I'm still buying the shit out of it.

Make good games with interesting characters and I don't care what race, age, or gender they are.

ravenshrike:

Zen Toombs:

In the study, white undergraduates were given the synopses of 12 made-up romantic comedies. Along with the summaries, they got cast pictures and fake IMDB pages, which were manipulated so that each movie had six versions of the cast; an all-white cast, an all-black cast and four different versions in between.

Same plot, same characters, same everything -- just different cast members. And unfortunately, the whiter the cast, the higher the likelihood of the students wanting to see the movie.

True, except for the fact that previous experience with rom-coms with mixed/entirely black casts would, no matter what the plot is on paper, lead them to believe certain tropes and tones would be present. In order for this study to have as much bias removed as possible you would have to make the movies, and get actors with comparable talent levels to play the characters.

Yeah, I know this isn't the best of studies, but it does still show a point. But why would the movies actually need to be made? And if you don't, then why would you need actors of comparable talent to play the characters? In this study, they literally made up actors. The screen they showed participants included a fake IMDB page where the only difference was the color of the actor's skin - as said in what you quoted me:

Same plot, same characters, same everything -- just different cast members. And unfortunately, the whiter the cast, the higher the likelihood of the students wanting to see the movie.

Now, we know that saying "hey, I'd want to see that movie" doesn't mean that they would end up seeing it - but how many movies that you say "hey, I don't want to see that movie" do you see that you aren't dragged to by girlfriend/kids/parents/friends?
They could make the study better, and the topic deserves more study, but it still brings up interesting and valid points.

albino boo:

*snip*

I'm sorry to disappoint you but in the real world racism inst just between white and non white but all the colours manage to be racist pretty well.

That's a complete straw man argument. I never said that non-whites can't be racist - what has that got to do with this topic? I said that political tensions between groups is not a good reason to exlude either of those groups from representation in video games. There is no good reason to exclude any particular racial or ethnic group from representation, and lots of good reasons to be inclusive.

albino boo:

ms_sunlight:

albino boo:

snip

Companies are spending in the region of $50 million developing a game and guess what, they want a return on that money. You don't do that by generating controversy other than the ones with an upside. You make a game that is complained about for having too much sex and violence you are going to make sales to the average teenaged boy. You cant say the same for a controversy about the Israeli Palestinian question. Sticking a brown haired white guy as the lead pretty much avoids those kinds of risk.

I disagree. Any demographic or point of view is going to bother someone. It doesn't make it a good excuse to exclude huge swathes of the world's population. There are plenty of people out there who see white Americans or Europeans as oppressors. What about all those shooters that demonise Arab or Russian populations?

As someone who lives in a UK city with large populations of both Indian and Pakistani origin, I find your analysis absurd.

You don't protect people by excluding them or making them invisible.

The most poisonous working environment I have ever worked was in an northern local government office. The boss of the section was a daughter of a senior retired Indian army officer and the floorplate Unite representative was the son of Kashmirie parents the whole floor was pushed into being on one side or the other. I have also seen extreme hostility between between Jamaicans and Nigerians while working for a south London council and between Hindus and Ugandans in another south London council. The most racist public statement I have ever publicly heard had come from an Indian woman council official during a tenants meeting in a north London council. She said "whats the point of the council spending money on renovating these houses when you Bangladeshis don't know how to keep your houses clean". I'm sorry to disappoint you but in the real world racism inst just between white and non white but all the colours manage to be racist pretty well.

I agree with ms sunlight. You're getting further away from your point by focusing on this specific situation.

A. The sad truth is publishers are laser-focused on developed markets. So what the actual people of India or Pakistan or Russia for that matter (lol I know, I know but pretty sure most Western publishers consider ex-Soviet countries to be developing nations) think is of little concern. The white, male, action-hero stereotype isn't necessarily embraced in those cultures either yet gamers who want to play a game somehow manage to overcome the lack of resonance they may have with the protagonists; or the broad stereotypes often associated with their own nationalities or religion. I'm sure the majority of German gamers are resigned to shooting Nazis by now and Russians to their countrymen being the mustache-twirling villain.

B. You're assuming that the small portion of these populations in developed countries like the UK or the US, actually disposed towards buying this hypothetical game, are going to have the same strong prejudices as the examples you used. After all we're not debating a game taking a political stance or pitting two ethnic groups against one another here.

I think Ms Sunlight is correct that the inclusion of any race or gender different from what we see today would be seen as a positive and inclusive thing by the majority of non-white/non-male gamers in the world. Regardless of nation or creed. Although I think you're right that specific, politically-charged scenarios will likely always be avoided. A Pakistani lead, maybe not, but a South Asian protagonist of non-specific origin? Why the hell not? The heritage of short brown-haired white guy sure doesn't matter to the majority of developers.

Danceofmasks:
You live in a world where people call Obama black.

He's mixed, you know.

If he lived in Kenya, he'd probably be considered white.

You are racist.

Yeah, I'm sure in the 1960's-era South, he would have been able to drink out of the white fountains half the time. And half of the year, he would have gone to white schools.

Think before you say ridiculous nonsense, McFly. Race isn't just about the exact mixture of your genetic makeup. By that standard, we're all "mixed" to a degree.

I read this same type of article at IGN back when the first image of Robin came out for Batman: Arkham City and one of the points brought up there was that he looked like the same white guy with a crew cut that populates almost every other game currently (I'm thinking that may be the reason why he wears a hood in the final game). I posted a comment there saying, "You know what character type is woefully underrepresented as a main protagonist in video games? Black women."

I actually went back in my mind of games that I have and haven't played and tried to figure out how many of them had black women as main playable characters. I discounted fighting and sports games because you absolutely HAVE to have different varieties of competitors in those types of games. Otherwise you'd just have a Street Fighter game with 30 slightly different variations of Ryu or a Dead or Alive game with 20 variations of Kasumi.

I also discounted games based on other intellectual properties (movies, TV shows, comics, etc.) because the game developers aren't the ones that created this character for their game. They're bringing an established character from another medium to their game about that medium. So of course Storm is going to be a playable character in an X-men/Marvel video game. It's the same reason that Alicia Fox, Kharma and Layla are playable characters in a WWE video game and Niobe is a lead character in a Matrix video game.

Finally, I discounted games where you created the main character from scratch because that's not really considered being progressive. That's saying you can be progressive if you want to, but if you don't, then we'll accommodate you too. Imagine if movies functioned like that. "Don't like Denzel Washington playing the lead in The Book of Eli? Well here's a version starring Tom Cruise or Antonio Banderas or Jet Li or Angela Bassett or Julia Roberts or Michelle Rodriguez or SpongeBob Squarepants."

Taking all of those factors in I could realistically come up with two, and even those could be up for debate. The first was Sheva Alomar from Resident Evil 5. She's technically Chris Redfield's backup, but you can play as her in the second play through. The second is Rochelle from Left 4 Dead 2. Now I haven't played any of the Left 4 Dead games, but as I understand it, there isn't really that much to the characters beyond wanting to survive getting from point A to point B. Interestingly enough, I remember getting two responses from my post. One that completely agreed with me, and the other that said that black women were not considered "attractive enough" to be lead characters in a game. And I remember thinking to myself, "REALLY???" I might have missed some others. If you know of any using my criteria, fell free to let me know.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

But then again, there also has to be a right time and place for it. I also remember another IGN article talking generally about having more varied female characters in games. And while I agreed with the concept that the author was trying to convey in the article, I strongly disagreed with using L.A. Noire as an example. The point was made that even though the game is supposed to present a realistic depiction of the 1940s, female officers did exist then, so playing as a female detective would not be outside the realm of possibility. While I won't argue that little snippet of history and assume that it's true, it had to have been an extreme rarity. And if that was going to be presented in that game, that rarity had to have been ever present for it to be taken seriously. Otherwise, you have the video game equivalent of Strike Witches.

(For those that don't know, Strike Witches is an anime series that takes place in an alternate version of 1940s Earth. In it, an alien race attacks the human race turning what would have been World War II into a joint effort by all nations to drive the aliens off the planet. The primary attack force against this alien assault are the Strike Witches, a group of about eleven teenage girls from various countries who engage in aerial dogfights with these alien ships while each of them are armed with a machine gun, turbines magically strapped to their legs, and a magic shield that only comes up when they need to think about it. Oh, and apparently their uniforms require them not to wear pants or skirts.)

In fact, here's an idea I just thought of. Say EA Sports and/or 2K Sports would like to work on a WNBA game but are worried that despite their best efforts, no one would buy it simply because it's the WNBA (The general public has already proven that no matter how good a football video game is, if it doesn't have the NFL or NCAA logo on it, it might as well not exist). All they would have to do is take their existing NBA game and put a WNBA mode in it as an option.

goliath6711:

snip

Interestingly enough, I remember getting two responses from my post. One that completely agreed with me, and the other that said that black women were not considered "attractive enough" to be lead characters in a game. And I remember thinking to myself, "REALLY???" I might have missed some others. If you know of any using my criteria, fell free to let me know.

snip

Sorry, not exactly related to your question. I agree there are few games out there with black female protagonist and honestly can't think of any others off the top of my head. But this reminded me of something. Remember that vote Bioware held to allow the mouth-breathing public to choose FemShep's default appearance?

My vote went towards the one black woman who was in my opinion the only one who pulled off the right mix of baddass conviction and practicality while still being gorgeous.

The others all looked like anime wannabes or hairdressers.

Voltano:
I agree with Shamus in this article, but unfortunately the pointless variables of the protagonist (gender, hair, skin color, and age) do have an influence on games sold or even made. I remember Yahtzee bringing this up in his Extra Punctuation of Nier, and an article claimed that the developers had such radically different protagonists for that game in two different countries because the "Japanese developers would feel bad for not having a white, teenage, male protagonist." For the "Last Guardian," lead designer Fumito Ueda also changed the protagonist from a female character to a male one because he thought she would always be in a skirt, and he doesn't want players to look up her skirt.

Hey, it worked for Resident Evil 4. ("Leon! Stop that! Pervert!")

Or they could, y'know, put her in pants. Just sayin'.

Also, am I the only one here who actually liked Mirror's Edge?

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