The Racism Blame Game

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Otaku World Order:

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?

I haven't played that game (Mirror's Edge) so I wouldn't know if it is any good or not.

But yeah, for that "Last Guardian" game, they could have easily put a female protagonist in pants or have her wear shorts under her skirt.

I agree with you... But not entirely.

I think there are lots of closeted bigots. Many of which you may interact with on a daily basis. There is such a stigma associated with being a bigot (as there should be no question) that many people won't out right tell they are uncomfortable with Women and Minorities. They value their community (online and otherwise) and don't want to alienate themselves from it with comments that may get them driven from the herd.

But while buying a game has social aspects to it it still is a very personally driven experience (at times more than seeing a film at theater) and often times more expensive. And in that space those types of people are free to allow their more questionable preferences to take hold.

That's at least the fear from the corporations. And I wouldn't be surprised to find it holds some truth.

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

Agreed, the subject is getting old. However, it's getting old dealing with it... so no, we can't drop it.

UnderGlass:

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.

The thing is that I *do* recognize the dangers involved, and really don't care. I feel that trying to avoid the unpleasantness of breaking down cultures due to all the violence and murder that would ultimatly be involved, actually leads to more problems as issues go unresolved. It's something I believe beyond video games.

Above and beyond any issues with subcultures in the USA, understand that globally I believe that the only real hope for humanity is for everyone to be unified into one goverment and culture, meaning all others will need to quietly merge into the main one, or be destroyed. Despite how this sounds I do believe that a lot of this will happen through the simple spread of ideas, and that we already see it happening to an extent, we're just not willing to speed up the process where nessicary. Of course there are entire civilizations that will ultimatly wind up needing to be exterminated as they will not join a global unity under any circumstances (and to be blunt, while everyone will say they would die before disbanding their nature to join a global goverment, the truth is that far more peoples would than you realize if it was ever presented as a viable option). The thing is that killing billions of people is horrible, but in the long run you have to look at how more people will benefit through future generations, and of course at the rest of the equasion which is simply that the current state of affairs can't continue and most people know this, which is why a lot of the merger would happen surprisingly peacefully. This is long enough so I won't go into why the current system won't work,

Thus in the US, you have to understand that with that overall perspective I am willing to be extremely ruthless when it comes to social order and getting our house in line. I would not push so far as to say we need to start in with the mass murder of subcultures and counter cultures immediatly or anything, but I do think that we need to dial back with the ideal of tolerance and work on forcing people to get with the program so to speak. That includes re-evaluating some of our policies involving free speech and the like, a point which I can defend by noting that the Founding Fathers themeselves felt that the constitution would need to be reviewd and revised every couple of decades. A lot of our problems exist by trying to hold to a set of guidelines and principles that are both out of context with the current state of affairs, and with the original intent of the people who wrote them by the guidelines listed. In the end my basic attitude is that as a society we need to be able to flat out tell subcultures and counter cultures that what they are doing in unacceptable, and to either get with the rest of society, get out, or expect to be treated as pariahs.

What I'm saying applies to this situation because of things like black culture in the US (which is one example) and how it affects things like the media, and why you see so few black heroes in the media... I mention it because of someone (before me) invoking Will Smith and the differances. That's because you have blacks being taught that the whole "angry black man" schtick is acceptable, and a policy of tolerance towards a subculture that frequently glorifies crime while villifying the rest of society and the authorities. The so called "git rich or die trying" mentality. Bill Cosby who has a PHD in Children's Education has also pointed out that black culture tends to associate things like education with selling out. Over the years you've literally had people lining up to give blacks things in terms of computers, books, nd other things, it's a popualr charity, but all of that stuff is destroyed or treated with scorn partially as a social statement. It's noteworthy also that this kind of angry populance that is encouraged to keep itself ignorant represents a powerful voting block and a lot of those black leaders intentionally want things this way so they can guide the populance and themselves become wealthy and powerful.At any rate, this leads to a situation where this culture produces very few people who are going to be able to step into the mainstream as actors and examples, the ones that do are those who have largely stepped outside of that culture, and as a result wind up being scorned as sell outs by "their" people in most cases.

The solution? Well it's not pleasant in some of the incidents it might cause, but you do things like make it so that blacks cannot choose to drop out of school as a right at 16, and have to finish High School (period). You also embrace a zero tolerance policy throughout society towards that subculture glorifying crime. Making a song like "Copkilla" or glorifying selling drugs, or brutalizing people or whatever should be flat out illegal specifically for those people. This DOES violate all kinds of excepted rights and morality, ans is going to lead to backlash which will get violent and very nasty in some cases. Stick to these kinds of tactics and over a few generations (and with current lifespans we're talking a century or so, it's not somehting we're able to say we'll be able to judge the results of within our lifespans... the children of our grandkids might though) your going to probably see results.

See, you have to weigh things like this in the long term as opposed to the short term. Sure, your pretty much making a group of people second class citizens on some levels, but it can be argued that they already make themselves second class citizens due to perpetuating this culture, as seen by how they wind up being ostricized from the media because of those points of view.

To some extent, a lot of the problems go back to guys like 'ol Honest Abe, you don't take a huge population of slaves and simply free them and turn them loose into society, and not expect anger, backlash, and counter cultures. This should have happened gradually with care being taken to slowly assimilate blacks into society rather than just dropping them into the country as free men and wondering why a divide and counter culture appeared. In the end we've created a problem that could be argued is harder and more morally ambigious to solve than actual slavery was.

Now understand, that I just use that as ONE example, the same thing could be applied to numerous other subcultures, even if that is one of the ones with the most baggage. See, when you get down to it, I tend to feel any subculture in the US where going into a neighborhood where those people live and it's like walking into another country represents a problem. Chinatown, Little Seuol, Little Italy, and numerous other names used for such districts. Of course depending on what your dealing with there might be less baggage involved than with the blacks. Truthfully I think a lot of these regions can be dealt with by just applying existing laws. Right now things like "chinatown disctricts" remain "chinatown" due to the people owning the property refusing to sell to people outside of their own ethnicity. Something that is overlooked for minorities, yet happens to be illegal (ie refusing to sell to someone just because they are black). Start enforcing the laws and watching property transactions and simple social inertia means that a lot of businesses are going to close and the shopfronts be sold to people of differant ethnicities who were shut out, and your gradually going to see the people in the region disperse into the rest of society over a period of time.

This is increasingly irrelvent to the point though, and I'm sure we're going to have to agree to disagree because what I am saying is doubtlessly anathema to you. In my case I put a lot of thought into it, and realize a lot of what I'm saying sucks and questions the very foundation of our society on some levels, however I believe we're looking at a situation where our society is already having problems and it's better to control the nessicary changes than see it fall apart. You already see issues like counter-cultures effectively excluding thesmelves from the media through their own beliefs causing problems with the same principles within our society. The big question is do you let things continue and grow increasingly worse and harder to solve, or bit the bullet, pay the horrofic price, and have a better tomorrow? There are no perfect solutions to issues like this.

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On the other point I will say there is proof of sorts to the trend of international acceptance. For good or ill China has been rising to prominance and along with it has come the acceptance of Chinese media, with Hong Kong movies rising from bizzare cult things to almost mainstream acceptance where just about everyone knows the tropes, and actors like Jackie Chan, Jet-Li, and Chow Yun Fat headlining movies intetnationally much like an American.

See, ethnicity is only part of it, the big issue is that it can be associated with specific cultures. In making a movie everyone knows that the US is the dominant global super power, thus having Americans be the ones who save the world, or fight off the invading aliens, or whatever else makes a degree of sense, as it would probably be decided by us as the most advanced and enlightened society on the planet (even if most people will deny this when it's said directly like that). The UK and France have gotten away with some success in the international media because both are world powers who have been dominant global super powers in the past, having literally battled each other for control of the earth. They can still be accepted in this role since it wasn't that long ago. China has had a huge empire but one that has generally gotten pwned by these other powers, yet it's rising to global dominance and might very well be replacing the western powers, and as a result it's media is becoming better known, and people are beginning to accept the idea of a Chinese hero, or how China might have a chance to save the world or whatever a bit more, though the nature of their culture has presented a bit of a barrier for reasons I won't go into. China is generally not known as being a benevolent nation, just one that is increasingly powerful and has to be dealt with. People tend to remember all the stuff about the Olympics (both the contreversy over the ages of their athletes and the cover up, and how they treated people in preparing for it) even if they tend to not pay attention to the robber economy, military build up, saber ratting, and other things. If china was a bit more enlightened overall it would probably be an even bigger force in the media right now.

The point is that the trends are there.

It should also be noted that even if the US does fall from being generally accepted as #1 (all anti-US rhetoric aside), the media is not likely to change overnight, largely because we're still probably going to be seen as more benevolent overall as the guys likely to replace us, and having BEEN #1 we're still going to be a major world power and one known to have held the fate of the world in it's hands. An American saving the world would become sort of like a Brit doing it (The Avengers, James Bond, etc...), perhaps not even that differant if the culture that winds up just doesn't have principles that make it well liked. Whether we always meet the ideal or not (and how viable it is) the US at least preaches tolerance, and makes an effort. A nation like China is kind of racist (in an actual sense) and tends to be pretty oppressive, the basic conceptional hype that justifies a character like "Captain America" at least as a theoretical ideal just doesn't exist there.

Oh and as a final point, while made fun of to an extent, you'll notice Bollywood (India) comeing onto the scene, being roughly where HK Action Cinema was a few decades ago. At the same time you'll notice it coincides with India's growing importance in world affairs, but at the same time they aren't yet at the point where the globe can universally accept an Indian hero, because India doesn't even make the same pretensions the US does.

To use the whole "Captain America" example (though Superman can work to, too an extent)... a movie which went over fairly well internationally by the reports I'm reading, an American ideal is quite heroic as even if he's into cowboy heroics the American ideal is to try and make the world better for everyone even if it comes at great cost sometimes. He's pretty much the (fictionally) ideal citizen of the country he calls home. You take Chinese culture to the same degree, and their ideal is going to wind up with some kind of militant ultra-racist out to avenge the "trivialization" of his home country. Needless to say it doesn't matter what country your from, that's a hard sell to put it mildly. As fantasy Captain America is all about the pro-humanity and defense of the weak rhetoric (and to be fair he sort of represents the US in the world's eyes, as we are viewed as being a group of cowboys who try and do the right thing even if we wind up messing other things up worse in the process... being an ideal everything comes up Aces for Cap though). The Indian version of their ideal citizen becomes touchy as soon as you realize they are heavily theocratic and have cities where monkeys and considered sacred and allowed to roam the streets and such, not to mention how much of the culture is based around being at war with Islam given that it's been going on for a very long time. Their "ideal citizen" is not something people can empathize with. Yet both India and China with their extremes could empathize with Cap to an extent because his motivation of coming to anyone's aid "because it's the right thing to do" works, he would step in front of a Chinese or Indian person to defend them... where it's not a given that the Chinese or Indian versions would have much investment in being willing to risk their lives for each other or anyone else outside of their own culture and it's idealogy.

Why'd you have to bring up Mirror's Edge?

I get sad when people bring that game up, it was so good and yet so unsuccessful..

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?

Anyways, there's actually a concept that for your movie to be successful, you either need a white protaganist or Will Smith. Let me grab where I found that... Here it is.

What sets Will Smith apart is that he's one of very few actors who can get roles that weren't specifically written to be African-American. If the role is an action hero who could be any race at all, Hollywood usually interprets that as "a white guy, or Will Smith."

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.

Ah, well now there's a methodological problem with this. If the people being studied are white, and they display a preference for an all-white cast, that doesn't tell you all that much.

Would the results have been reversed if everyone being studied was black?

While the results of the study certainly have some meaning in and of themselves, without a comparative study for other racial groups, all you're left with is that white people prefer white actors, and perhaps the associated result that if the majority of what you expect to be the audience for films is white, this creates a disadvantage for non-white actors.

Then again, if the same results would be observed in other racial groups, that only makes the nature of the problem more complicated...

CrystalShadow:

Zen Toombs:
[SCIENCE STUDY]

Ah, well now there's a methodological problem with this. If the people being studied are white, and they display a preference for an all-white cast, that doesn't tell you all that much.

Would the results have been reversed if everyone being studied was black?

While the results of the study certainly have some meaning in and of themselves, without a comparative study for other racial groups, all you're left with is that white people prefer white actors, and perhaps the associated result that if the majority of what you expect to be the audience for films is white, this creates a disadvantage for non-white actors.

Then again, if the same results would be observed in other racial groups, that only makes the nature of the problem more complicated...

I agree that the methodology is not the best, and that this subject requires more study. However, if you combine this study with other studies/extrapolations of other studies - the one that comes to mind is that Doll experiment. Let me look it up.... This talks about it.

The doll experiment involved a [black] child being presented with two dolls. Both of these dolls were completely identical except for the skin and hair color. One doll was white with yellow hair, while the other was brown with black hair. The child was then asked questions inquiring as to which one is the doll they would play with, which one is the nice doll, which one looks bad, which one has the nicer color, etc. The experiment showed a clear preference for the white doll among all children in the study.

Now this study has issues as well, but once again it makes a point.

Voltano:

Otaku World Order:

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?

I haven't played that game (Mirror's Edge) so I wouldn't know if it is any good or not.

But yeah, for that "Last Guardian" game, they could have easily put a female protagonist in pants or have her wear shorts under her skirt.

Well, I thought it was pretty good. Great visual style, great soundtrack and a unique premise. It could be frustrating at times but when you managed to pull off a perfect string of parkour moves, it was very rewarding.

Ickorus:
Why'd you have to bring up Mirror's Edge?

I get sad when people bring that game up, it was so good and yet so unsuccessful..

Yeah, I wish more people embraced it. It had some flaws, but it was ambitious and I thought it was great.

Ickorus:
Why'd you have to bring up Mirror's Edge?

I get sad when people bring that game up, it was so good and yet so unsuccessful..

I find it kind of funny personally, for some reason it seems like it's the "go to" game for trying to argue that a game might have failed due to an ethnic protaganist, yet asian girls have been being used to promote game franchise for a very long period of time.

While it's somewhat out of context to my other points in other responses I wrote, I do tend to notice that people who decry the casting of video games rarely bother to take notice of there being entire series of games where whites are a minority prescence. Two that come to mind being the "Def Jam" fighting games, and the ongoing "Yakuza" series, neither of which seem to use foxy babes in their cover art. Granted Def Jam hasn't had a new installment for a while but it did have a healthy success record (3 games in the series, not everything becomes an eternal franchise).

As far as Mirror's Edge itself goes, I think the problem with the game was that it just didn't have lasting appeal. It was based off of Parkour which had like five minutes of fame in the mainstream where it was everywhere, we even had the guy from the original Prototype having his acrobatics and wall crawling referred to as "Super Parkour" rather than by you know... wall crawling and acrobatics as one example.

The thing is that even as Mirror's Edge came out, interest was fading, it didn't have the enduring popularity or spawn the kinds of subcultures that things like Skateboarding did, even though people hoped it would. Also as Yathzee pointed out the storyline which was part of the selling point wasn't that good or paticularly well thought out, even if the art design behind the world was kind of cool. A timed first person racing simulator where you pretty much try and shave fractional seconds off your time (in the end that's what it ultimatly comes down to outside the kind of weak plot) was an interesting experiment, but it's easy to see why it didn't succeed.

A lot of people point fingers at Mirror's Edge and it's failure as an example of why the gaming industry doesn't experiment more often, BUT in reality it was never the experimental game it was promoted, or received as. It was an attempt to cash in on a fad of the moment, in hopes that it would wind up being the next big thing. If Parkour/Free Running wound up becoming the Skateboarding for the new generation like some people thought it might, Mirror's Edge would be positioned to potentially be the next "Tony Hawk", especially seeing as it was more or less the only game in town (literally). It was a marketing move, more akin to a movie tie-in game, than any desire to be experimental for the sake of trying something new. The "experiment" was motivated entirely by trends of the moment, and truthfully had the game come out about six months earlier it probably would have been a bigger success than it was because the interest in Parkour was higher, by the time it came out it was fading fast and what little success it did enjoy came largely from those last few dregs of public interest.

image

Well said, Mr Young. I have always thought that "It's what gamers can relate to argument" was stupid, but I could never have expressed it as well as you just have. I mean, despite being a gay guy, I have no problem relating to the almost always straight player characters of most videogames.

And I actually quite enjoyed Mirror's Edge. Sure, yeah I don't share Faith's gender, race or the fact she has a sister (I only have two brothers), but did that stop me? Hell no.

The preferred term is a world away from an offensive slur. As white or Caucasian. Or this an apple, what kind of apple is it. Red, green, etc. A cultural difference is also different from a lack of choice.

So you are plainly incorrect in saying "you're going to offend someone despite best intentions," but even if I gave you that point, an attempt is still a world better than blatantly not caring at all.

You spend 3 hours making a character, put a helmet on them, and never see their face again. BUT, you have the choice in making them look like whatever you want them to (or whatever many choices the game gives you) which obviously is important to you since you've spent 3 whole hours on it. Now you personally don't care about the skin tone slider option, well okay. That's fine for you. But in those 3 hours in creating a character, i sure would like all the options I can get, because hey, perhaps I won't throw a helmet on my character. Perhaps I want to see their cool hair, and blue skin.

snip, snip, by the way.

Libtards are angry point the finger and call white poeple racist like you always do fucking leechers...

Shamus Young:
The Racism Blame Game

Shamus takes on racism.

Read Full Article

The folks behind the projects, holding the purse strings, are chickenshit, that's definitely a big problem. Handling diversity is such a hard issue, and they're afraid to be the ones to tackle it (because while they're busy tackling it, all of the other play-it-safe studios sneak in behind them to snag the loot).

On the other hand, though, I think there actually is a bit of blame on our side of the cashier counter. Already in this thread, we've had comments made about your inclusion of Angelina Jolie and Will Smith as your examples of diversity in Hollywood. These comments boil down to one of two problems:

1. "But Angelina Jolie is white" (or white-ish, or similar comment). To far too many people, diversity must mean making the color different. And hey, it might just put a group on the defensive when they're hearing people yell, "Anything but white!"

If the diversity advocates could be a bit less specific about what they don't want (which tends to put that group on the defensive), and be more specific about what they do want to see (More women/less sexuality, more hispanic protagonists with realistic accents and personalities, asians other than ninjas, etc.) they might get better results.

Yeah, you'll still have those hyper-defensive people who still see it as an attack on Fort Whitey, but you'll thin their ranks considerably.

Corollary to 1: There are other ways besides race to increase the variety among protagonists. Just changing personality types, physique, gender, or age could also be a good step. Not every instance of "tackling diversity" must mean the same thing. That wouldn't be very "diverse."

2. "But Will Smith is an exception" (often the implication is that he's not "black enough" or something). This is where I can understand (though not agree) with the moneychangers. If you have two groups, one is huge, and the other is being impossible to please... well, damn, it's easy to see where you want to sell your product.

Now, again, I don't agree with that assessment. I simply think the "He's not black enough" crowd sounds bigger than it actually is, and the studios are allowing themselves to be fooled to make the easier buck. But you can see the problem, right?

There's a difference between saying, "This is a good first step. What's next?" and saying, "Because you didn't leap to my side instantly, I don't accept your offering." This is something I've learned as a teacher.

If a kid is doing wrong things, yes, you need to correct him. But also, you need to recognize and point out when he is doing it right, too. Otherwise, you aren't providing guidance toward what you want, but only away from what you don't. Program someone for "error avoidance," and they'll quickly learn the fastest way is just to stop trying.

And just like this teacher-student dynamic, it's easy for both sides to wait for the other to make the first move. I'm tempted to stand my ground and say, "Hey, when you do it right, I'll give you some praise. But not until then." But what reason am I giving that child to seek my praise? None. I'm giving them reason to avoid my derision.

Of course, the big problem is that "we" (the public) are not a singular Teacher entity. We are a Teacher with a bajillion heads and voices. It's going to be hard to unify our message, and even harder to get folks to accept the step-by-step offerings we'll get.

Of course, the easiest way to get the production companies out of their hidey-holes is to convince them to lower the cost of making games, thus the cost of buying games, and thus increase their own ability to take risks. THAT part is 100% not our fault.

Dastardly:

The folks behind the projects, holding the purse strings, are chickenshit, that's definitely a big problem. Handling diversity is such a hard issue, and they're afraid to be the ones to tackle it (because while they're busy tackling it, all of the other play-it-safe studios sneak in behind them to snag the loot).

They're chickenshit because of their estimation of US, the consumer. They think we won't get behind minorities. Now, whether it's us or just their perception of us is a debate, though I think we largely demonstrate this.

If the diversity advocates could be a bit less specific about what they don't want (which tends to put that group on the defensive), and be more specific about what they do want to see (More women/less sexuality, more hispanic protagonists with realistic accents and personalities, asians other than ninjas, etc.) they might get better results.

I've NEVER seen a better outcome from asking "why not more gay characters/black characters?" So I don't think this is true.

2. "But Will Smith is an exception" (often the implication is that he's not "black enough" or something). This is where I can understand (though not agree) with the moneychangers. If you have two groups, one is huge, and the other is being impossible to please... well, damn, it's easy to see where you want to sell your product.

Smith IS an exception. Not because he's not really black or anything, but because blacks don't get a lot of major leading roles, especially in serious roles. Hell, look at George Lucas talking about Red Tails. They had trouble getting that project off the ground because Hollywood really didn't want to fund a black-focused movie that wasn't a comedy.

Smith is still an exception in Hollywood. He may count as black in my eyes (and no reason he shouldn't), but he's hardly the norm. He's a minority in Hollywood, no racism intended.

There's a difference between saying, "This is a good first step. What's next?" and saying, "Because you didn't leap to my side instantly, I don't accept your offering." This is something I've learned as a teacher.

Did you learn not to lead or distort discussions? Because that seems to be an issue here.

This has been the state of Hollywood for like, 3-4 decades. It's not a "good start" scenario. It's a stagnant one. Will Smith has kind of been the "token" in Hollywood for over a decade now. That alone should be telling. In 16 years of Smith as an actor (post Fresh Prince), what has really changed?

Nothing?

But also, you need to recognize and point out when he is doing it right, too.

I hope you're not teaching your students that kind of false equivalence. At least, I'm assuming this is related to the topic at hand, despite the fact that neither Hollywood or the game industry are particularly doing anything particularly right.

And just like this teacher-student dynamic, it's easy for both sides to wait for the other to make the first move.

False Equivalence count: 2.

Of course, the big problem is that "we" (the public) are not a singular Teacher entity. We are a Teacher with a bajillion heads and voices. It's going to be hard to unify our message, and even harder to get folks to accept the step-by-step offerings we'll get.

We have no unified message, to boot. Many people don't give a damn about diversity in games or movies or anything else. Many others will defend this practice, either because it's what they want or just because they don't like what they see as accusations of racism. Even if they are not accusations of racism.

One of the big problems as a gaming community is that even when we do have specific affirmative requests (and they've appeared on here), people get hostile at the notion that things are anything but perfect in terms of games and women/minorities. You cannot mention or even allude to, unintentionally, racism/sexism without screaming fanatics.

Of course, the easiest way to get the production companies out of their hidey-holes is to convince them to lower the cost of making games, thus the cost of buying games, and thus increase their own ability to take risks. THAT part is 100% not our fault.

That's crap. We can stop demanding bleeding edge graphics, one of the big elements of the production costs. We can stop feeding into a system which has become so obscenely profit-driven that merely increasing your profits by 20% or more in a single year is not enough. That's one of the reasons games can be moderately successful and still see their developers shut down and sequels canceled. And even if we pulled those things off, they would probably still produce predominantly white male protagonists.

It may not be 100% our fault, but it is certainly not 100% not our fault.

I think in the first scripts for Alien(1) or whatever it was originally titled), the characters were identified by quasi-futuristic non-racial last names, leaving gender and race a matter of opinion in casting. Seems like a good way to go if your story doesn't require contempory social politics.

In the end though, they cast a female lead protagonist but alongside white collar white guys, a blue collar black guy and a shrill, over-emotional woman. Oh well, 30+ years ago.

This entire article is total straw-man.

The fact is that it is entirely our fault. Publishers don't care what's in games, all they want is maximum return on their investment - and that really is ALL they want. The bean counters will have the sales numbers etc, they know what characters and themes make the most money. If they accuse the collective gaming public of preferring 30 something white guys then they are almost certainly correct. If they are wrong they stand to lose millions of dollars.

Anyone who thinks otherwise should ask themselves this: If you had to invest $1M in a game and the only choices are AAA shooter with black guy or AAA shooter with white guy (and those were the only choices)- which one would you pick?

My favorite is...

Fall 2010: The Tea Party doesn't support a black man as President because they're racist!
...and then...
Fall 2011: The Tea Party supports a black man for President because they're racist!

I've never understood why someone needs to be the same race as a character to relate to them. How well written a character is and what emotions they express/feel affects whether or not I relate to them. All the generic protagonists are harder for me to relate to simply because I can't tell them apart and therefore have nothing much to go on.

Zachary Amaranth:
They're chickenshit because of their estimation of US, the consumer. They think we won't get behind minorities. Now, whether it's us or just their perception of us is a debate, though I think we largely demonstrate this.

And I agree, in a numerical sense. Most people feel comfortable with characters whose culture and appearance are similar to their own, and most people in this country are white, so the math tells folks that more people will buy "white things."

Also, most folks out there making games are white males. Maybe it's that they just default to this particular type of character, or maybe some of them just don't feel comfortable writing for a demographic group to which they don't belong... and maybe feel it'd be awkward to call up a black friend and say, "Hey, I'm trying to write a black guy. Tell me some black stuff..." (Or something more reasonable sounding. You get my point, I'm sure.)

I've NEVER seen a better outcome from asking "why not more gay characters/black characters?" So I don't think this is true.

And I have. So, I guess we can agree that purely anecdotal "evidence" doesn't really hold? You'll get more mileage out of asking for something specific than you will out of saying, "Anything but X." Why? Because the folks behind X feel that is an attack on them, and (as we've already agreed) they make up the majority.

I've already allowed that a vocal minority will always perceive any such request as an "attack." They're to be ignored. However, I think you misunderstand a key to my point: simply saying "more gay characters" is not specific.

In what ways should we indicate the character's sexuality? How "gay" should he be -- and what exactly does it mean for a character to "be gay?" (I mean, couldn't Admiral Ackbar be gay? We never see him in a romantic situation, so it's plausible.) What role should his sexuality play in the overall story, and in his characterization? How can we avoid making him a caricature of homosexuals, rather than a representation of a homosexual?

My point: People are sort of asking for these things, but they're not being clear about what they want. Since this is the kind of question it's very hard to answer without being offensive, the safest answer is often none.

Smith IS an exception. Not because he's not really black or anything, but because blacks don't get a lot of major leading roles, especially in serious roles. Hell, look at George Lucas talking about Red Tails. They had trouble getting that project off the ground because Hollywood really didn't want to fund a black-focused movie that wasn't a comedy.

You misunderstand. I know that Will Smith is an exception to the "most leading males are white" idea. I'm talking about those who feel he is an exception when he is cited as a black leading male. Instead of saying, "Will Smith is a good example, but he's just one," there's too often this sense that, "Will Smith doesn't count," for some reason. (Usually some variation of him being the "wrong kind of black.")

Did you learn not to lead or distort discussions? Because that seems to be an issue here.

Since you provided no support for this statement, we'll just assume you typed it accidentally somehow. Now, on to the point you've made:

This has been the state of Hollywood for like, 3-4 decades. It's not a "good start" scenario. It's a stagnant one. Will Smith has kind of been the "token" in Hollywood for over a decade now. That alone should be telling. In 16 years of Smith as an actor (post Fresh Prince), what has really changed?

Samuel L. Jackson. Cuba Gooding, Jr. Antonio Banderas. Denzel Washington. Zoe Saldana. Jackie Chan. Jet Li. We've made just a hair more progress than you seem to be indicating. Again, I'm not saying, "Look! We're there!" I'm saying that when we don't at least recognize the progress being made, we appear impossible to please... and that leads folks to stop trying at all.

I hope you're not teaching your students that kind of false equivalence. At least, I'm assuming this is related to the topic at hand, despite the fact that neither Hollywood or the game industry are particularly doing anything particularly right.

False equivalence?

The attitude you've expressed is exactly the problem I'm talking about: If you're going to fuss and fume that they've done nothing right, they're not going to bother playing your little game.

The "false equivalence" here is that you clearly equate "not doing enough" with "doing nothing at all." I agree that we haven't done enough. But nothing at all? It's untrue, and it's a counterproductive line of discussion.

And just like this teacher-student dynamic, it's easy for both sides to wait for the other to make the first move.

False Equivalence count: 2.

"You keep using that word; I don't think it means what you think it means."

Unless you're talking about my teacher-student comparison, in which case you're failing to understand how the market works. We, the consumer, "teach" (through our spending habits) producers what to produce. If we teach them that we won't buy minority-focused products, they learn that (as they already have).

And if we teach them that small steps in the right direction are not enough, they're not going to risk a huge leap (in light of what we've already taught them about our preferences).

If you want another analogy, consider training an animal. How do you think a trainer teaches a parrot to spin around, hop twice, and put a coin in a cup? Does he just berate the parrot until it does all of those things? No. He goes through a process called "shaping," in which he rewards the parrot for each little step the parrot makes in the right direction. Each time, he moves the reward back a bit, waiting for the next "step" to occur, and then immediately rewarding it. Eventually, the bird learns a complex behavior despite an incredible difference in intelligence and language.

We have no unified message, to boot. Many people don't give a damn about diversity in games or movies or anything else. Many others will defend this practice, either because it's what they want or just because they don't like what they see as accusations of racism. Even if they are not accusations of racism.

Yeah, I already said that. And those people can't be reasoned with, so there's no point even letting them pretend they have a vote. Instead of standing and screaming at the wall, we should be looking for a door.

One of the big problems as a gaming community is that even when we do have specific affirmative requests (and they've appeared on here), people get hostile at the notion that things are anything but perfect in terms of games and women/minorities. You cannot mention or even allude to, unintentionally, racism/sexism without screaming fanatics.

The world is full of jerks. The internet is the last place they can play freely.

But again, I have yet to see truly specific requests. People asking to see "more representation" for a particular group are making a few mistakes:

1. They assume every member of the group shares a common concept of the group itself.
2. They assume people in that group are currently in positions to make these products, or
3. They assume people outside that group automatically know how to handle the portrayal of that group in a way that pleases its members (see #1).

Ickorus:
Why'd you have to bring up Mirror's Edge?

I get sad when people bring that game up, it was so good and yet so unsuccessful..

I liked yahtzee's view of the game.

What other game lets you play as a terrorist as the protagonist?

I dunno, I take more offense that almost all games apparently need "generic dude" as their protagonist character design than that racism claim.

bLAZay00:
Generic white guy is a shield for a weak plot in most instances. If you take a look at a Japanese game the choice of a white character is a statement about what type of story they're getting ready to tell. Altair and Ezio were who they are because of the environment they were put in.

Games with better stories can use a character's ethnicity to add additional flavor to the game's world. Get better writers and I guarantee you'll see more diversity in game characters.

Sir, I must respectfully say that that is a bunch of bullshit. Ethnicity and gender don't determine the intrigue of a character. A weak plot is a weak plot regardless of which flavor of the pudding rainbow the protagonist's skin is and you'll find that the overwhelming majority of good stories do feature a white guy and could have been transposed with a minority/female and STILL would have been a good story.

Also, ethnic issues can easily lose focus when in games set outside of the modern era or combat heavy games because of either lack of racist context or the downplaying of racial differences because the color of someone's skin is irrelevant when, at any given moment, they may be red and in many places.

Also also, Altair was middle Eastern.

Grunt_Man11:

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.

I KNOW. People are fucking stupid. And not just fucking stupid. Fucking egotistical too.

If you're making a game, feel free to use whatever race, gender, age or species you want for the main character. What you absolutely shouldn't do, however, is shoehorn anything in in the name of diversity. That's how absolute dross is born.

krellen:
Y'know, funny thing: blacks are overrepresented in the military as a whole (by about 50%)*. You'd think, with all the military dudes we've got as protagonists, we'd see a lot more black soldiers.

*Blacks make up 12% of US population, and 18% of soldiers.

They do make an appearance, but usually as support character and have a habit of dying (e.g. Dom from Gears of War)...

I see where the OP is coming from and while his point is fair, it's also wrong. I will use bullet points for the why of it all (as I may meander). Please don't reply "Doesn't apply to me!"...whether you are special or not isn't for me to decide, I'm talking in broad terms:

- The generic white protagonist is not him/herself much more than a placeholder for the player to project onto. The "everyman" is widely used in literature and film as well. All movies have generic white male protagonist and hot female side-kick/love interest. Doesn't need to be that way, but it's the safest bet. Men want to project onto the hero, live the adventure and get the girl. Women want to be the girl, glamorous and desired.

- The relateable thing is understandable. It can't justify never using non-cookie cutter protagonists, but it's the same in most media. Look at any cover of any womens' magazine and it's an endless stream of airbrushed, idealised women. I agree that this isn't a good thing, but it is where the money seems to be.

- The point I'm ultimately making...if the protagonist is black, female, obese, ugly, homosexual, evil/cruel, a racist, an arab, an animal or an alien then the game/film/story will need to be about that fact. For example, why say the protagonist is homosexual, if not to explore his/her sexuality or otherwise make a point about that fact? If it's irrelevant to the story, why even mention it?

There are many films with an all black cast and even if that's not the main point of the story, the fact that the characters are black is usually crucial to the plot. It implies different cultural norms, language and the rest. Why for example is there not a Call of Duty game where the protagonist is Russian and the enemies are American? Or controversially, an Afghan fighting US troops?

Freechoice:

bLAZay00:
Generic white guy is a shield for a weak plot in most instances. If you take a look at a Japanese game the choice of a white character is a statement about what type of story they're getting ready to tell. Altair and Ezio were who they are because of the environment they were put in.

Games with better stories can use a character's ethnicity to add additional flavor to the game's world. Get better writers and I guarantee you'll see more diversity in game characters.

Sir, I must respectfully say that that is a bunch of bullshit. Ethnicity and gender don't determine the intrigue of a character. A weak plot is a weak plot regardless of which flavor of the pudding rainbow the protagonist's skin is and you'll find that the overwhelming majority of good stories do feature a white guy and could have been transposed with a minority/female and STILL would have been a good story.

Also, ethnic issues can easily lose focus when in games set outside of the modern era or combat heavy games because of either lack of racist context or the downplaying of racial differences because the color of someone's skin is irrelevant when, at any given moment, they may be red and in many places.

Also also, Altair was middle Eastern.

Let's take a look at things objectively: let's take The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as an example. If it was just Blondie and Snake Eyes, it would be a rather forgetable story about the chase for gold. You throw in the wily Tuco and all of a sudden the movie has genuine heart and soul. And, well... since I'm on a western kick, what about the Wild Bunch? Again, we have the Mexican character and his village's plight elevating a bunch of shiftless hardcases to something almost noble.

Let's even take the example of Altair. Jerusalem becomes a kind of Casablanca as the nation in control is still relatively in flux. The antagonistic culture clash doesn't preclude an exchange of knowledge, but it makes it so that shifts in power can happen based on the most innocuous bit of lore. And yes, I know that Altair and Ezio were in different regions of the world, but parts of Spain have been invaded and held by Arabs around 711 a.d. There was already a basis of cultural exchange in place, which made the setting choice a little more interesting for people into that kinda thing.

The mise en scene of a story is crucial to the way the characters interact with one another. You set a story about the border between France and England in 2012 and you have a relatively boring trip on a highway. Go back a couple hundred years and things get a bit more interesting. A writer's job is to take into account things like cultural and temporal differences. Good writer's make this look easy. The Song of Fire and Ice series makes this point excellently. While there are noble knights, the vast majority of people are more interested in politiking for personal gain than forming ranks against an impending apocalypse. Ethnicity (genuine ethnicity not just whether a guy is a little browner than the other guy) should be a major aspect in any story. If you took out "dalish elf" and inserted "black guy" around the 1920's you get similar issues: a people removed from their land of origin trying rediscover what makes them unique in a world that doesn't really care about their trials. Context is everything when you are writing a successful character.

I frankly don't see what you're taking issue with here. If you're railing against bad writing, then I'm with you, but your argument isn't here with me.

Sorry about going on. I tend to keep things shorter than this.

Maybe a game should come out, where all of the characters are the colour of light tea, and are from a mixed background of all the former peoples of earth. Make it a sci fi game or something. All tea coloured, speak Chinese and hate the whitey white that remain.

Then after this, perhaps we can get back to making good games, and fitting ethnicity into relevant historical context and not giving a shit about it again.

Yay, another Shamus article where he complains about things and offers no solution to the problem! Wheeeeeee!

Racism? C'mon, Shamus. Racism requires effort. The reason why the white guy is always the protagonist has nothing to do with race and EVERYTHING to do with people being LAZY.

How much research do you do for a white male pro-tuh-gone-ist? That's right- NONE. He can say anything, wear anything, do anything. He's vanilla blahh... literally and figuratively. White people have no cultural requirements, no lingo to look up. White people are like Zombies. Call them white and call it a day - a gun and some choice catchphrases, and off he goes!

But a Turkish protagonist? Research, bro. You can't have a Turkish man shouting "Time to kick ass and chew bubble gum!" without the choice seeming superficial. Turkish culture, clothing, phrases, dialects, etc. need to be researched. And what is the game's goal with this move? To share Turkish culture? To say something unique about the Turkish place in society? If he's Turkish "just cuz," then congrats on a whiffed opportunity!

Variety for the sake of variety is a superficial diversity. Halo 4 could come out and show that Master Chief is Korean and then never touch the issue again. But would that really change how you interact with the game? Would it FEEL different? Nope. So for a Korean MC to CHANGE how you interact with the game, it can't be superficial. That cultural diversity needs to rise to the top. Which brings us back to our old friend... RESEARCH!

For an example done right, see Prey. They didn't make Tommy a Native American "just cuz." They built the culture and story around that concept. Work was done. Effort was put in. This takes time and money.

Diversity needs to be driven by the creative forces with a story to tell, not demanding the bald white guy concept vacate your lawn like some elderly hooligan. In other words, I think the solution lies more in bringing fresh blood with fresh new perspectives *INTO* the gaming industry. The narrative choices and perspectives will ORGANICALLY change as a result, not because people like you demanded it.

Writing articles that say "I am pissed about this. I have no helpful suggestions to contribute. I'm just pissed." isn't really HELPING. You are essentially beating your donkey for going the wrong way, whilst - and at the same time - shouting "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!"

That doesn't help the donkey find the right way. You need to, ya know, direct him. WITH LOVE.

Shamus Young:
http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/brown_hair.jpg

It's funny that the picture includes Shepard, given you can make Shepard any gender/color you want. You can even make him/her what ever sexual orientation you want, including xenophile. Why not include a white skinned, brown haired Revan or Dragon Age 2's Hawke. Go ahead and throw some white, brown haired characters from Sky Rim, Dragon age 1, WoW, or SWTOR in there while your at it.

being unable to distinguish between the two enough to realize that racism pretty much doesn't exist in countries like the USA

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHHAHHA. Good joke, you're way too obviously pretending, though, because nobody would truly believe the nonsense you wrote.

I mean, the USA is a country where a white nighbourhood watchman can shoot a black kid who did nothing wrong, and what the police will do is intimidate witnesses that saw what happened, and cover up evidence for the white guy killing an innocent black kid armed only with skittles (you know, the sweets). Nobody would claim such a country has no racism. The USA has racism in spades.

Turning the TV on gets you a lot of it. "Evil muslim invader from Kenya", for example. Or Arizona laws that end up costing the state money just so non-white people can be pushed around.

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

On the other hand, we have people saying this, so maybe you truly were serious. Oh dear.

Sticking a brown haired white guy as the lead pretty much avoids those kinds of risk.

However, this risks that people like me simply won't give them their money. I have other things to buy that weren't made by scaredycats. :)

I am pretty sure that if a black guy programs a game he can put in a black hero with no issue, just as when I program my game I put a hero in I ( ME , MYSELF ) can relate to personally.
I dont sit there and wonder if my character is politically correct, I am damn sure if I did try a black hero I would get into trouble with stereotyping... because my general knowledge of black culture is media driven and as such stereotypical.

Case in point, Barret from Final Fantasy VII has been under the spotlight because he doesnt speak the Queens english showing a lack of formal education, swears and is easily moved to violence... a typical ganger from the hood some say and a bad image to all blacks.
( Yet I personally only noted his emotions being hidden in his gruff manner, his wisdom and leadership abilities rather than his lack of formal education and admired his devotion to his friends and family )

I tend to get irritated with the why no blacks ( or other 'ist' target demograph ) topics, if you want a black in there put one in there yourself.

On a side note...

Its dangerous to try be politically correct and balance demographics around, I mean like balancing races in sports... does it really help the minority group if politics forces more selection from the minority group ?
I see it as demeaning to the minority group as any sportsman from that group will not be judged on thier own merits but seen as a token representitive, a political choice rather than the coaches choice.

TwistedEllipses:
They do make an appearance, but usually as support character and have a habit of dying (e.g. Dom from Gears of War)...

I was specifically talking about main characters, which is why I referenced "protagonists".

Ukomba:
It's funny that the picture includes Shepard, given you can make Shepard any gender/color you want. [..] Why not include a white skinned, brown haired Revan or Dragon Age 2's Hawke.

Hawke should be in that list, actually, for the same reason Shepard is (and Revan isn't). The reason Shepard is up there is because there is a default Shepard, and that default was/is widely used in marketing such that default Shepard became the face of the game (who's on the box of ME2 and 3?)

Revan was never given a default appearance, and while Revan's mask might be a strong icon of the game, Revan's face (and thus identity) is not. (This is also probably the only reason Hawke doesn't make the list; default Hawke is not plastered on the box.)

Zachary Amaranth:
I'm inclined to agree on most points, but when you look at the comments on racism and diversity on THESE VERY FORUMS, you see people saying they shouldn't have to play someone of a different race, or justifying the way pandering to the majority is good in a way I doubt movie fans would. I think actual gamers are the best argument against that point, Sheamus.

Yhea pretty much. Quite a few white straight males on this site seem to think the games industry needs to keep pandering to them, the sense of entitlement is alarming.

Edit: accidental double post. >_<

Shamus, you're snowflaking. Whether or not you personally are to blame for a lack of variety in protagonists, the fact of the matter is that people are more comfortable with their own group. Biggest group of consumers games are catering to is white males, and you can figure out the rest from there.

As others have said, it's also easier. Write what you know, and developers know how to be white if nothing else. Plus it can avoid potential silliness. For example, if you're going for a more realistic game, then the concept of "action girl" doesn't make sense.

It's something of a non-issue though. Protagonists can be interesting in more and deeper ways than ethnicity or skin color, like personality, amibition...pretty much anything that goes into defining a human being. And really, if you equate diversity with variance in race/gender/sexuality (certainly not the end-all be-all of humanity), isn't that pretty shallow?

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