184: Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores

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Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores

When it comes to portrayals of Latinas in videogames, most characters fall into one of three stereotypes - and none of them are particularly flattering. Christina González probes the game industry's limited perspectives of Hispanic women.

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Good article, and I agree that latinas are unnoticable in games, and that they are often criminals in games.

Speaking of Latinas, isn't Chell from Portal a Latina? Of course, I'm gauging that entirely off of the color of her skin and hair, since even her name isn't entirely identifiable.

Is perhaps the real problem that some games try too hard to focus on race an identifying element? Does 'identity gaming' have all the pitfalls of identity politics?

I'd argue that she is (well Half Latina) because she's based on Alesia Glidewell who is half Brazilian, as is Zoey (also based on Glidewell) from Left4Dead.

I tend to think of making female characters in games as sexy as not being a problem, but you can't really say that Chell is particularly sexy because you mostly are her and don't see her. (Now, GLaDOS, on the other hand rrowr...)

mattaui:
Speaking of Latinas, isn't Chell from Portal a Latina? Of course, I'm gauging that entirely off of the color of her skin and hair, since even her name isn't entirely identifiable.

Is perhaps the real problem that some games try too hard to focus on race an identifying element? Does 'identity gaming' have all the pitfalls of identity politics?

I really don't think games per se focus on a specific social segment. I think people that take things waaaay too serious and write long winded obvious editorials.

I believe that Miss Gonzales is taking the GTA franchise and characters way too seriously, besides, if the game developer company makes fun, or uses a certain stereotype is to make the story go forward, nothing more. The companies do NOT focus on the ethnical traits, people that have a bone to pick do. Nothing wrong with expressing the author's opinion on that. But, as a Guatemalan (latin american, and proud of it), a gamer and a consumer... i think its great that people that make games take the time to feature at least the tip of the iceberg of a culture, even if it's just a stereotype.

Besides, i really do *hope* the author is of enough age to recognize that parody and comedy do go hand in hand, and its a huuuuuge feature in the GTA universe. Please do not write Editorials that lower the intelligence of the gamers and consumers to people that cannot recognize the difference between a game, and a social issue.

Tolerance and acceptance are not skills acquired in video games, these are acquired at home, at an early age, and enforced with some studying and personal experience.

The "think of the children" attitude does not apply, because *gasp!* the game has a label that makes it exclusive to be bought and expected to be played by people older than certain age.

If the author chooses to be offended by a game... sorry to put it this way, but it is the choice of the author. If you ask me, GTA IV is a fun game, and the stereotypes, situations, locations and other details make up for replayability of the whole experience.

Elmaxx:
I didn't think the tone of the article was all that indignant about the whole thing. The impression left in me at the end was that nobody had really noticed, not even the latina writer, nor the developer.

Which brings me to another thing, the point of this article. I remember having this kind of dicussion before about black people in games. (I thought of calling them African American but games aren't always set in America so I needed a wider term than that. It's a shame I feel the need to write such an explanation to be politically correct at all really.) And this article didn't really bring anything new to the table I think.

Southern Americans make up a large part of the total amount of Americans, so do African Americans, both are portrayed stereotypically in games, if at all. It's only been about ten years since actual characters have been introduced to games though and this is a medium that thrives on stereotypes. In America main characters are white Americans, in Europe white Europeans, in Japan white Japanese, etc, etc. Slowly other groups are creeping in. I wouldn't think anything of it.

But you can bet that whenever a game comes up that has a Dutch element in it my interest is peaked. I grinned like a maniac when I first saw Capcom vs SNK's Kinderdijk stage for example.

Maybe if more "minorities" made video games, there would be more characters in games that are to the liking of the author of this article. I get a little sick of people writing articles like this complaining about racial inequality in games, movies etc. If you are so worried about it, don't just complain, do something about it. Make your own game staring latinos or whoever you want. You can't force writers and developers of games to make what you want. In order for them to even finish a game that is playable, it needs to be something that they want to invest all that time, effort and money into.

Besides, there also needs to be some feedback from the consumers in the form of buying the games too. There have been games staring "minorities" in recent years like Brave, Prey, Gun etc. but none of them sold very well. It's hard to pitch a game idea to publishers if previous games along the same lines did poorly.

This was an interesting article. Now that I think of it, I don't believe I've ever actually read something examining the roles of Latinos in video games.

Really? have we reached a Zeitgeist in the world where we start applying equal opportunity to video game characters? If that's the case, I'm going to start a campaign to challenge the racist language on the Equal Opportunity disclosure forms given out by all employers and government agencies in America. I want them to change 'White' to 'European-American'. Jesus.

Video game studios are kinda like what Hollywood studios were some 50 years ago when it comes to dealing with non Caucasian characters. There are some pleasant exceptions though like Zoe and Domasi Tawodi.

When games become mainstream people will start noticing ^^

Until then, yah, broken stereotypes are always nice.

There was an article a while ago about black males in video games..

I can't think of very many female characters of ANY race who aren't sexualized to some degree or another. Weak defense, I know.

For that matter, I can't think of many game characters who don't fall into these archetypes. The fact that we know virtually nothing about Maria Santiago aside from "Dom's wife" is hardly surprising, not just because she's a Latina but because she's a character in a macho fantasy game. Isabela Keyes? The character art of every female character in games involves them striking a "come and get it" pose. What's new about all this?

I notice a lack of Swahili people in games nowadays. I'm thinking something should be done about this, especially in Britain where 95% of the population are white and British. That means for every 100 unique characters in a game we should only expect 5 to be from any minority group at all.

On a (slightly) more serious note (yes that was sarcasm/irony) if we're talking about under-represented groups, what about the Welsh? 5% of the UK's population are Welsh but when was the last time you heard a Welsh accent on any game?

With or without ethnic diversity, people will still buy games. I would bet that if you had a wildebeest in a suit with a nice variety for guns and a challenging task, the game would sell. Lets not kid ourselves that the game industry is picking on or using a specific group because it believes a game will sell. The main issue is the people you have making Video Games. You want to see Latinos in a better light, have more Latinos sign up for game design. This is why most heroes in games are of the backgrounds of those that make them.

There really is a fine line to tread when considering what the next best step is with this. While I do think that humans are equal in right and all that crap, in games, striving for political correctness is not really something that should be focused on. Sure, do not discriminate on the development level, but if the character is to be a racist bastard, don't flare up on the game because of that.

There are a myriad of stories out there and not all of them are politically correct. I would dare to say that most are not politically correct. But they are still great stories and it would be a pity if they were not told. Sure, developers could go on research stuff to portray different classes of different people in different lights, but in the end what is the point? If it does not really help the story in any way why would it be necessary. How would you put a university degree [insert minority here] in GTA Y. It's absurd. The game is about gangs and the way they murder each other.

In the end most people (and I'm talking about an overwhelming majority here) do not notice these things. I would rather game developers spend the research money in diverse cultures that are not the point of the story, into actually improving said story, optimizing the game, optimizing gameplay or adding more content. Sure, if you have something to spare or have made a point of portraying some group or other in whatever light go for it.

The train of political correctness is picking up even more speed on a track which had its top speed limit passed a while ago.

Using Grand Theft Auto as an example threw your argument out the window. The series is designed as a satire towards stereotypes. Should all Irishman complain because their characters are thugs, robbers and corrupt cops, while the female Irish are good-natured, peaceful folk? Of course not.

Political correctness has a habit of getting ahead of itself nowadays, attacking and thrashing out at idle, misunderstood comments. Even if we begin to make 'less stereotypical characters' some of it will still be seen as offense. I personally think it's all up to the designers to choose what they want to do with their game.

elmaxx:
[quote="mattaui" post="6.83637.1170777"]
Besides, i really do *hope* the author is of enough age to recognize that parody and comedy do go hand in hand, and its a huuuuuge feature in the GTA universe. Please do not write Editorials that lower the intelligence of the gamers and consumers to people that cannot recognize the difference between a game, and a social issue.

Tolerance and acceptance are not skills acquired in video games, these are acquired at home, at an early age, and enforced with some studying and personal experience.

It isn't an editorial. Nor does it lower the intelligence of anyone, the article is just pointing out the good and bad of latin characters in games. If talking about this so troublesome that you feel the need to post the view that it isn't necessary in not one but two articles, perhaps you should question why it makes you so uncomfortable.

And last time I checked, video games are played at home. Why should they not encourage tolerance and acceptance?

Why does it matter?

Why would someone go out of their way to examine if this race is as equal to this race in a video game?

Isn't it the goal of all anti-racist communities that "Race, Skin color or nationality does not matter"? Isn't that what you would call "Equal" ?

And for the record, in GTA4 I remember clearly that an "Hispanic-sounding" cop was shouting at me. But then again, Rockstar have always been a little "ahead".

Wow. Talk about flying off the handle, guys.

Much as I hate 'bitching' or political correctness articles, I really don't think this was either. It was just a "Hey, now that I think about it..." article and why not? Minorities are this week's theme, after all. Interesting that she hadn't even noticed til lately.

If I have any complaints it's that a couple of important positive role-models are missing from the list - Jade from Beyond Good and Evil for one (though I confess I'm not entirely sure of her origin either, given there's no Earth in the game). Smart, capable and if you like sexy too, though the sexual angle is never actually pushed.

Anyway, let's call a spade a spade, shall we? This wasn't some political doom and gloom piece, so let's save the trash talk for then.

When I think of latinos/latinas in games, the first thing that comes to mind is Grim Fandango. I was a little puzzled that the author didn't mention it at all, but maybe that was deliberate given Grim Fandango takes place in a very fantastic setting. Even so, no mention at all seems like a significant oversight.

In general, games like Grim Fandango seem like a mighty fertile ground for looking at culture/race/ethnicity/whatever. Instead of wading into the quagmire of real world issues, perhaps more game could do something similar to what Neil Gaiman did with African myths in Anansi Boys.

elmaxx:

mattaui:
Speaking of Latinas, isn't Chell from Portal a Latina? Of course, I'm gauging that entirely off of the color of her skin and hair, since even her name isn't entirely identifiable.

Is perhaps the real problem that some games try too hard to focus on race an identifying element? Does 'identity gaming' have all the pitfalls of identity politics?

I really don't think games per se focus on a specific social segment. I think people that take things waaaay too serious and write long winded obvious editorials.

I believe that Miss Gonzales is taking the GTA franchise and characters way too seriously, besides, if the game developer company makes fun, or uses a certain stereotype is to make the story go forward, nothing more. The companies do NOT focus on the ethnical traits, people that have a bone to pick do. Nothing wrong with expressing the author's opinion on that. But, as a Guatemalan (latin american, and proud of it), a gamer and a consumer... i think its great that people that make games take the time to feature at least the tip of the iceberg of a culture, even if it's just a stereotype.

Besides, i really do *hope* the author is of enough age to recognize that parody and comedy do go hand in hand, and its a huuuuuge feature in the GTA universe. Please do not write Editorials that lower the intelligence of the gamers and consumers to people that cannot recognize the difference between a game, and a social issue.

Tolerance and acceptance are not skills acquired in video games, these are acquired at home, at an early age, and enforced with some studying and personal experience.

The "think of the children" attitude does not apply, because *gasp!* the game has a label that makes it exclusive to be bought and expected to be played by people older than certain age.

If the author chooses to be offended by a game... sorry to put it this way, but it is the choice of the author. If you ask me, GTA IV is a fun game, and the stereotypes, situations, locations and other details make up for replayability of the whole experience.

I dont see how shee wrote as offended. It seemed more like she was calling some thing to attention.

Also by how she writes I would have to say shes more hispanic and less latina. Remeber hispanics arnt a race, we're an ethnic group.

CPLWeeks:
Really? have we reached a Zeitgeist in the world where we start applying equal opportunity to video game characters? If that's the case, I'm going to start a campaign to challenge the racist language on the Equal Opportunity disclosure forms given out by all employers and government agencies in America. I want them to change 'White' to 'European-American'. Jesus.

That would be awesome.

i never noticed how many racist stereotypes are in videogames untill a couple days ago...

I'm not going to buy a game based on how well or how poorly they act on racial stereotypes because by thinking about it in the first place you are wasting gameplay energy.

Christina Gonzalez:
Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores

When it comes to portrayals of Latinas in videogames, most characters fall into one of three stereotypes - and none of them are particularly flattering. Christina González probes the game industry's limited perspectives of Hispanic women.

corect me if im rong arent Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores the most likely charecters to meet in a video game
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and if you notice that arrent you thinking to much in terms of race

At the turn of the millenium, I noticed a vast exodus of people watching UPN. If you've heard of that channel, you might have memories of it being called the new B.E.T. because of at the sheer onslaught of black themed shows cropping up. Some people had qualms about saying the truth, that since the characters weren't like them (i.e. black), that they didn't want to look at the shows.

Most of the time, anyone going to the theater to see a Tyler Perry movie, 90% of the audience will be black.

What's all this to mean? Basically the fact that people like to be represented in what they shell out money for. Taking on a completely different role is fine every now and again, but when it's your only choice... it gets taxing. Mass Effect showed that it's not only possible, but seamless to create and represent yourself in a game. Speaking as a non-white male gamer, I can't help but to find it presumptuous and ego-centric when designers speak on their interviews how they'd spent a good deal of time creating a character that players can identify with, when the character himself is stock-square jawed white male action hero #13245.

Again, even Yahtzee himself spoke about it, as he was describing the disconnect he felt with the heroes of Left 4 Dead. The only one he felt some relation towards (and please tell me if I'm misunderstanding) was Louis, a semi hapless middle management type who just happens to be immune to a virus that turns everyone into Infected Murderers.

Then at the end, he mentioned that he was a black guy, so basically throw out the whole idea of relating. Why is it ok for others to say this about non white characters, but some people roll their eyes go "Here we go again" when non white players make the same and true comments about being misrepresented in games which causes a disconnect?

Making a list of 10 NPCs and 3 Playable Characters to represent an entire group of gamers does not match up the the virtual hundreds of Represented Playable characters.

Lastly, to those few that say that it shouldn't matter, I agree with you. But you shouldn't just say it when the non white players speak up. It should start at the design phase of the game, when the team gets together and tries to shape the Player's Character. When they start drawing him (and yes, it's mostly a him), and they start designing him to be white, you can put your hand on that pen and say the same thing: "It doesn't matter what color he is, as long as the game is good".

how the hell do you exspect me a white midle class nerdy type guy to relate to a super cool white action hero type guy if i where to meet him i wouldent know what to talk about i whould problably make an inaproprite comment about a mole on my pecker
i sereously dont care about the race or gender of a characther in a game

My feeling is that game designers just feel like they should toss a few minorities in, but that they don't really tailor the roles towards those minorities. In other words, if a video game needs 8 gangbangers, 23 victims and 17 whores, they will say, let's make a few black and a few Hispanic. So I don't see much point in talking about how the game industry portrays Hispanics, because I don't think it's appreciably different from how they portray everyone else. In terms of film, this sort of discussion makes sense, because there are such a range of personality types in films, but I could easily write an article on the characterization of white people in video games called "Gangbangers, Victims and Whores."

Still, as I writer I understand the need to write about *something* so you can get a paycheck, and the article takes a balanced tone and is far less shrill than some comments on it that appear to have been written by people who read the title and decided to comment without actually reading the article.

It's amazing how many people think the author is whining about race. She's not. She's merely stating that perhaps we should move out of sterotypes sometimes and perhaps a Latina woman can take the place of the all American white as milk male protagnist scientist instead of sucking on lollipops on the corner.

Personally, I agree. After a while I start noticing the objectification of women, especially minorities and it's fustrating. It wouldn't bother me at all if all the characters where this way in the game but there not. She's right, in Dead Rising the male lead is fully dressed. I mean really, he's in the middle of a zombie smackdown and he's also an idot - it can't be that hard for him to lose clothing along the way and match his sexy counterpart.

This does go into gender roles and while I am far from a flaming feminist burning my bra on the street corner screaming 'Down with men', I do feel that we really need to drop a lot of these sterotypes. In some games they are called for, and in some stories they have a place but they shouldn't be occuring all the time.

It's tiring to see and makes me think that the designers lacked originality, not that they're racist. Chell and even GlaDOS were refreshing to see not because they were female, but because it was so different.

I think sterotyping just gets us in a rut - it's one of the reasons so many bad games came out last year and most likely will plague the games this year. It's bland, it's old, for me it's unexciting unless there's a true reason behind it like a plot twist etc, and it needs to be dropped period.

I say to fix this, make a game with: a Mexican President, a Muslim V.P. and make Canada Supreme rulars of the Universe.

It's the same thing you see in Hollywood movies that, regardless of the level of violence, drug use, sex and profanity, still appease the casting call of "Dashing Dark Handsome White Hero," "Emotionally Hostile and Fragile White Woman Who, Despite All Odds Pulls Though In The End," "Shit-Talking Sidekick of Indeterminate Ethnicity Who Dies And Gives Heroes Further Motivation," and "Black Guy." Games are like movies in that they appeal to our steriotypes about others. Say "Criminal" to white kid and the first thing that, steriotypically, comes to mind is some big black dude. Say "Hooker" to the same white kid and she's probably Mexican or of other Spanish Diversity.

It reminds me of an interview with the creator, of all things, "Cops" I saw a few years back. The interviewer asked him why the show was endless episodes of white southern sherrifs arresting drugged up hookers or black gangstas, and why there wasn't more footage and stories of corporate crime - white collar stuff like insurance fraud. His answer was simply that that does not play into the large percentage of TV viewers' preconceptions about crime. The image of crime most people have is armed robbery, murder, prostitution, and drug dealing, all at the hands of people who aren't white, and to appeal to that notion "Cops" could only report on crimes that match that vision.

talking about he sexualacion of women did you notice you can nerley see down the bra of the women loking at the computer screen that i find ironic

I'm torn on this.

On one hand the author seems to have listed characters from games where one has to expect to find negativity regardless of race.

Yes, the Latino community is portrayed in less than favorable terms in the GTA games but so are the Polynesian, Asian, Caucasian and African communities.
It's a game about interacting with the criminal element and there's very little room for altruistic benevolence in a game about organized crime.

Same with the Silent Hill series, yes the Latina characters in those games are "victims" but it's a horror game. You'd be hard pressed to find a character in any of those games who isn't a victim.

On the other hand outside of games where racial diversity becomes a cartoonish parody of itself. (Such as the GTA series, Street Fighter and Sega Soccer Slam) I can only think of a handful of Latino characters apprearing in any significant heroic role in any other games.

Carlos Olivera and Luis Sera from their Respective Resident Evil titles are the only ones that spring to mind.

At the end of the day I suppose I would like to see some sort of diversity in games but really hate the idea of diversity just for the sake of it, especially when it obviously comes off as forced.

My squad of alien/mutant busting bad-ass marines does not NEED to consist of the asian guy, the black guy, the latino guy and the guy in the wheelchair just so everyone feels invited to the party.

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