184: Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores

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"[...] there is a degree of responsibility shared among all media to represent people of different backgrounds fairly [...]"
- from the article

No there is not! This is America (the writer's from New York, so I'm speaking from an American's perspective), and our economy is based on Capitalism! Purveyors of media have absolutely no responsibility other than to seek their profit in a legal manner. Stereotypes are both entertaining and easy to digest. Those two qualities are somewhat important in a video game.

Let me tell you how you can make a difference in a Capitalist society: Call the video game publishers, and tell them that you will not buy a game from them unless it features a moderately attractive, modestly dressed, good-hearted, responsible Latina who at some point in the game gets a nice promotion at her office job. If you can get enough people who agree with you to do the same thing, the publishers will feel their wallets getting lighter and immediately bend to your will.

I didn't like the way this article was heading and I couldn't place it until I read:

"The good news is there are some characters that are portrayed positively, or at the very least, with more realism and nuance."

That, right there, is part of the problem. How would portraying them positively be any better than the current stereotypes? The stereotypes are bad all the way around and the best achievable would be with more realism and nuance. Otherwise we'll have the opposite problem.

It's not like there's that many character roles in computer games to begin with.

Another day, another minority group exposed as being stereotyped by the games industry.

I should write an essay about how skinny, pale, pubescent men are always portrayed as nerds and never as a genuine, serious hero. Or how marines are only portrayed as fighting machines - how do you think that makes marines feel? There are plenty of marines that aren't unstoppable killers.

Seriously though, everyone just stop writing these.

On a related note...

http://bitsofjoy.net/?p=139

I have to say I don't agree with a lot of this article.

I'm Irish and if our stereotype was tall, dark, sexy rebels like those two siblings from Dead Rising I'd be delighted lol!

Imagine how we have it... having an uneducated psychopathic drunkard pub brawler as your stereotype!! :D(packie anyone????)

Yes, Isabella is objectified to an extent but not as much as the blonde caucasian agent with massive boobs whose skirt frank can take photos up.

Isabella's brother is objectified in exactly the same way she is, her clothes and look are no more sexual or revealing than his.

as for GTA, EVERYONE is those games is involved in crime and debauchery!!! not just the latin characters!

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.

Naw, they already beat you to it. It's not "white", it's "Caucasian"

My reaction to this article was a solid "meh". I wasn't surprised and didn't find it strange that I haven't played, and likely never will, any of the games listed, including any of the tiresome Croft series, or GTA. I've no desire to play punks or thugs, I'd rather be the one killing punks and thugs. Oh, wait, GTA is both, right? I'll never know . . .

Frankly, the more "anti-PC" and fringe the game is the more I often enjoy it. Let journalists and television wrestle over political correctness and do their best to sanitize their offerings (they've already ruined 90% of cartoons). . . . and leave my computer games alone. Diversity for diversity's sake is not more interesting or entertaining.

I don't think racism and/or race is really much of a big deal in videogames, certainly far less than in cinema, for example. Stereotyped characters and poorly written dialogue are pretty commonplace in most games, and while there may well be a racial element to the stereotyping, I don't think it could really be classed as racist.
In the specific latino example raised in the article, surely there have been enough positive examples raised now? Grim Fandango especially stands out, with virtually the entire cast hailing from this descent. Another good example could be Carla Valenti from Fahrenheit.

"Game producers need to recognize that people will buy games with character portrayals that are more diverse and less stereotypical."

Yes, this is very true, gamers will buy games with more diverse characterization in a heartbeat... but the people who write the dialogue and storylines for games are complete hacks, incapable of stringing together anything other than cliches and things they saw in movies during the 80's.

I do not think it is an intentional slight against any group, I mean men are just as poorly defined in video games, always the gun toting action badass and generally a complete womanizing misogynistic prick. We have one Harry Mason, and the rest are faceless, nameless bags of bulging muscles with a hardon for mass genocide.

Game writers and hacks, pure and simple... Games did not start out requiring well written dialogue and a detailed 60 hours story that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. They started with a few pixels bouncing a few other pixels around and grew from there, and in today's modern age of gaming, the story feels tacked on in most games, because it is. The story facilitates the action and gameplay, the action and gameplay do not facilitate the story, and the few games that did have a decent set of writers at the forefront of the action stand out.

Bioshock, Planescape: Torment, VTM: Bloodlines. Knights of the Old Republic.

The list is few, and far between.

We need better writers, and more emphasis on story and character development, and less focus and zots on who can make the best looking trees.

she forgot about Colonel Corazón Santiago from Sid Meier's Alpha Centuri.

I dont see why every one think she is complaining about how hispanics are being portrayed. Shes simply pointing out the fact. Most of the political correctness id derected at blacks. So other minorites tend to fly under the radar more.

Also Hispanics are tricky, were an ethnisity not a race. We only share a language and a history that predates the discovery of north america.

Becuase theyre only an ethnic group, you can take any induvigual from any place in the world and rasie them in the country, at which point they will be jsut as hispanic as some ones whos family has been there for over two hundred years.

Dispite this they are costantly being physicaly represented as south american natives. Many of us are agrivated by this, we come in every skin tone that exist. If they want a hispanic character all they need to do i take any stock character and make them speak spanish.

Meh, who gives a damn?

EDIT: Pretty much every non white american nationality or race is badly depicted in video games, and are nearly all burned down into a stereotype. Eg; the Australians are all Steve Irwin types, the British are always rich and evil, black people are gangsters, latinas are all sexy, blah blah blahdy blah blah. Blah.

Blah.

Its an excellent read. I salute the maturity in the article in handling this sort of topic.

I suppose its a type of condoned racism like the depiction of indians and middle eastern people in particular roles.

Sometimes the imagery is so offensive people simply care very little to purchase products.

I'm not exactly sure how to repsond without stepping on some toes, though I agree with all the examples you portrayed in the article.

The few points that come to my simplistic mind are:

1) Most game developers are either from North America, Europe, or Japan and since most of the console gamers reside in these regional areas, I suppose developers market games to these segments and not directly to South American or Latino markets. Taking that one step further, I'd say most game developers are conditioned from an early age, just like everyone else with very broad strokes on ethnic cultures (whether it's correct or not is beside the point....it's how it is perceived). Since most comic books, tv shows, movies, plays, and music portray the majority of hispanic cultures as struggling migrant workers, uneducated, financially limited, etc., it only seems logical that most people will design characters to follow along those lines. Similarly you'll note most sword wielding games have asian chracters, terrorist games have middle eastern opponents, and espionage based titles gernally have some eastern bloc ex-KGB agent or dictator so I'm not sure this should be a surprise.

2) The fact that Lara Croft was going initally named Cruz is great trivia...I didn't know that, but I can understand why it changed. The fact again is that both North American men and I imagine European men can identify better with a British woman with her educated background and James Bond-esque traits than they could with a hispanic person, and since they are the ones buying the games..well......

3) While you make a great some good points and ponder the question "Why are all these women characters cast in a somewhat questionable light or sterotypes?" I suppose I would counter then if you want that perception to change, perhaps instead of asking why developers perpetuate these stereotypes here, ask latin developers why they don't make games that place an emphasis on 'good' stereotypes. Maybe the onus should be on latin developers (and sadly I can't name any) to change our perceptions or take the first step in improving female characters.

4) Finally, I guess I'll say while I can name plenty of poor american and european role models and derogatory stereotypes, sadly no positive hispanic women roll models leap to mind other than maybe Eva Peron to me either, and Jenifer Lopez and Eva Mendez don't count....they may be good singers and actresses, but are they truly represntative of how you want hispanic women to be portrayed in games and sterotypes?

My mother informed me that the reason people stereotype people was for a simple reason. "It works."

That being said, if one racial group feels they are being unfairly singled out, LEARN TO PROGRAM AND MAKE YOUR OWN GAME! Quit whining and do something. It's kinda like complaining about someone being able to eat, because they bought seed, planted a field, weeded it, harvested it, and canned it.. and you did NOTHING and complain because they are eating....

Heaven knows the game industry can use some more diversity... I do not even the last game I played that didn't have a number after it.. (oh wait actually I do, Alpha Centauri, by Firaxis but still)

Interesting article where it concerns Latino's roles in modern video games, but quite honestly I'm sick and tired of hearing how women are sexualized in videogames as if they weren't everywhere else in entertainment. I would argue that women are probably less sexualized in videogames than they are in any other form of visually-oriented entertainment.

I'm beginning to understand that the only difference between sex in videogames and other forms of entertainment is the way it's critics receive it. In TV, movies and music, sex (and sexualized women) are considered 'artistic' or 'cultured' elements included in order to create a compelling narrative. This perspective propogated by it's snobby, upper-crust, more-important-than-thou critic crowd. On the other hand, sex in videogames is considered simple and crude, the product of teenager's dirty minds, regardless of how it's presented in the game. This point of view is accepted and propagated by videogame critics.. In reality when you look at sex and the sexualization of women in entertainment there's very little difference between the different types of media, just the way they're accepted.

The same goes for violence by the way.

I don't think there's anything of note here.

The problem is with the representation of women in games, not latino women. Singling out latino representation smacks of racism.

Carla Valenti from Indigo Prophecy is up for consideration while we're on the topic. I don't see any race-driven stereotypes in play there.

i honestly would like to see some italians who arent in the mob or plumbers

As a Latino I instantly understood and sympathized with this article, and find a lot of the responses here both predictable and telling. It's not an issue solely with how women are portrayed in videogames (though other posters are right in that, by and large, the situation isn't very good). There is a real problem here, and if you can't see that, the chances are that you're part of it.

When you see Latinos in popular entertainment, it is almost always in the context of a stereotype. If they don't have a funny accent, or aren't committing some kind of petty crime, or working in some white person's garden, then it's like they don't exist. If you don't exhibit some of these stereotypical behaviors, then you must not be a "real" Latino.

I can't speak for the author, but I find it a little alienating at times. You work hard, you get a degree, you find a good job, and you stay out of trouble and your reward is to be denied membership in your ethnicity. You don't fit the image, so you don't count. Popular culture still shovels the same set of stereotypes: Hispanics are simple, servile, or criminal. Sometimes all three. If you're a woman, then you get hit with all the sexist baggage as well. And when you point out how screwed up that is, you're told to quit whining.

Flitcraft:

When you see Latinos in popular entertainment, it is almost always in the context of a stereotype. If they don't have a funny accent, or aren't committing some kind of petty crime, or working in some white person's garden, then it's like they don't exist. If you don't exhibit some of these stereotypical behaviors, then you must not be a "real" Latino.

In case you haven't noticed, popular entertainment is in the business of stereotyping people. Geeks wear out-of-style clothing and thick-rimmed glasses. Soldiers are filled with irrepressible violent urges. Journalists are brave soldiers fighting for the truth. Politicians are evil. Lawyers are good. Latinos are either in a gang, performing some kind of manual labor or acting as sex objects (Latino men and women both). Middle-aged women are either shown as strong-willed and intelligent authority figures or conflicted housewives. I could go on and on. Long story short, stereotypes are what the entertainment media does.

Flitcraft:

I can't speak for the author, but I find it a little alienating at times. You work hard, you get a degree, you find a good job, and you stay out of trouble and your reward is to be denied membership in your ethnicity. You don't fit the image, so you don't count. Popular culture still shovels the same set of stereotypes: Hispanics are simple, servile, or criminal. Sometimes all three. If you're a woman, then you get hit with all the sexist baggage as well. And when you point out how screwed up that is, you're told to quit whining.

Exactly who is doing the discounting? Who's making that decision? Maybe you're hanging around the wrong people or giving too much credit to the popular media which most agree is completely insane anyways.

You could just replace Latina with any woman in a video game. Overall, the "gangbangers, victims, and whores" is pretty much all women in games. Oh a few break out, but they are brutalized for trying to be something other than fantasy fodder. The portrayal of the women you cite has far more to do with their gender than their race. Their ethnicity is probably more due to a effort to make the game appear "diverse" than any attempt to represent said ethnicity.

That's it, I'm writing an article on the stereotyping of Dutch people. WE'RE NOT ALL TOKING CLOG-WEARING JOHNS AND IT'S TIME I SPREAD THE WORD. I was SO offended by the movie Austin Powers in Goldmember. We don't talk like that!

RRRRAAAAGE.

PopcornAvenger:

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.

Naw, they already beat you to it. It's not "white", it's "Caucasian"

My reaction to this article was a solid "meh". I wasn't surprised and didn't find it strange that I haven't played, and likely never will, any of the games listed, including any of the tiresome Croft series, or GTA. I've no desire to play punks or thugs, I'd rather be the one killing punks and thugs. Oh, wait, GTA is both, right? I'll never know . . .

Frankly, the more "anti-PC" and fringe the game is the more I often enjoy it. Let journalists and television wrestle over political correctness and do their best to sanitize their offerings (they've already ruined 90% of cartoons). . . . and leave my computer games alone. Diversity for diversity's sake is not more interesting or entertaining.

Caucasian doesn't make any sense since none of my people are from the Caucasus Mountains. Hence the term is completely incorrect and racist because it claims that we all come from the region of Georgia and love Stalin. :P

I never really paid attention to the race of characters in video games. I have always been much more concerned with them being fun. I think that the author should be concerned with Blizzard and the Diablo franchise because it may suggest that hispanics are the devil. I think its funny how some people look WAY too far into the ethnic backgrounds of fantasy characters. I am a Jew and it has never bothered me that there are almost no openly Jewish characters in video games (the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the lawyer from GTA:VC and GTA San Andreas) who is crooked and very much a drug addict. Doesn't bother me because that is not the point. The point is the game is art; for good or bad.

I don't think we need Assasin's Creed's disclaimer that games are developed by multi-ethnic, religious, and racial groups. I think it hurts art when we need to be mindful that we represent every minority (even though very soon Hispanics will be the vast majority in North America). We need good art and entertainment created for EVERYONE; REGARDLESS of ethnic, racial, religious, or lifestyle background.

I am really hesitant to call the writers who created characters like Catalina (GTA) and Violetta (Crackdown) racist. Rather, I would accuse them of an economy in their writing that perpetuates well-established associations (stereotypes, if you must), and I'm not even sure I can fault them for that.

Yes, most Latinas in video games are brash and fiery, but that is because the second you see them hold up a cautionary finger and call someone a pendejo, you essentially do the rest of the character development yourself. Instead of using a relatively innocuous character and giving him/her a personality through story events, the writer calls upon an established archetype, and through thirty seconds of dialogue, gives that character motive, background, and idiosyncrasies. It's just as effective as putting spiky hair on an effeminate teenage boy in a Japanese RPG.

It's easy to condemn writers for this, but would you really want to change Elizabeta (GTAIV) to Elizabeth and spend an extra three minutes watching her character develop? I don't, and I spend a whole lot more time digesting the story than most.

Consider, also, that many of the games cited in the article and in the comments are either gameplay-driven more than story-driven (Dead Rising) or the mentioned characters are fairly minor (Maria in Gears 2). It would be another story altogether if Carla from Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit had been so cookie-cutter.

The real issue here is whether these associations are racially motivated, and whether they perpetuate ignorance and prejudice among those who use them.

Oh, and this is purely a response to the above comments, not the article. I felt González was trying to be thought-provoking. Not axe-grinding.

It's pretty obvious. everyone wants a bigger piece of the pie...
I'm not saying I dislike the author of the article, but I am actually not that sympathetic to her 'cause'.
How much do you want to bet that most people who support her article are latinos?
And most people who disagree aren't.
Everyone just wants 'more', and it's simple as that. If complain about latinos, why not other minority groups? like blacks? Asians? etc. etc.
now that I think about it, there's a gigantic black stereotype, and I feel that is more pressing; the president helps though

PS: In Saints Row 2 (playing it now), there's a character called Carlos where they give him major 'rep' by making him a major attachment for the main character.

Thanks for this. A well-considered, articulate piece which was more concerned with examining a phenomenon than with pointing fingers or laying easy, simplistic blame.

Of course, this being the internet, people will no doubt twist your points as an excuse to sound off on their own particular prejudices or points of view -- or just to hear the sound of their own voice saying "I'm smarter than all of you, and I'm always right" -- but I appreciate the points you made, and the way you chose to make them. Thanks again.

I have liberal guilt up to my eyeballs, and one of the things that irks me is the still stereotypical portrayals of non-skinny, non-white people in media. It's so easy for some white 16-year-old on this board to say "MEH, it doesn't matter in the end," then they go back on Xbox Live find another player with a hispanic accent and yell "BEANER, MOW MY LAWN, BEANER HUHUHU." We are constantly barraged by miniature messages that fuel our perception of the world. If you don't believe me, just look at the kids that will say something like, "but my ALL of my Latino friends think there's no problems with how they're portrayed." Stand on your head if you think he's telling the truth about his "friend" and he'll let you meet his girlfriend in Canada.

Anyhow, this is going to be a problem for a while, and that's one reason: Nerds. I hate nerds because they tell me Woody Allen movies suck because there isn't action or shock-laughs, while they shove drivel like Wanted and Aeon Flux down my throat cause, like the action's cool, and they like, fight fascism and stuff. I've read original drafts for game scripts that made Citizen Kane look like a grocery store-aisle Barbie movie, but end up as just another crappy blast-em-up with cliched characters, because subtlety doesn't exist in their world. You can't have a character with a Spanish name, and not have that character speak in an exaggerated accent, with a fiery attitude, or a black guy who acts like a bang-baby retard.

Good piece, but could have benefited vastly from developer interviews to understand how it came to be. This article has potential to be an eye-opener for a lot of people.

I think that game developers should first focus on just creating characters that are multi-layered and complex - many games don't feature very deep characters at all.

Once video game characters are more developed than cardboard cut-outs, I think more attention will be paid to issues like the way races are portrayed in games.

At the moment, though, we have to remember that video games are a very young medium.

I think the issue is more of women than "latinas". To me this article was a major whine. Women are misrepresented in videogames as tight clothed and horny. She is whining about Dead Rising and it comes from an Asian country. Culture is different over there and you need to understand why women are portrayed so. They are also making RE5 and guess waht people did over that game. Whine. There was nothing wrong with killing Sanish but killing Africans as a white guy is bad.

RE4 revolved around killing Spaniards who dressed as if they were extra's from a Grapes of Wrath film.

... i'm not sure what to say. I want to try to bring up my opinion but i think my opinion walks the line of rascism like a sober guy at a police station. Probably better for me to just leave it there.

I'm not even sure that race is much of an issue. I think game developers, for the most part, don't really care about these sort of things. For example, the author mentions how the few latina's in GTA had some sort of negative aspect about them - MOST women in GTA have negative aspects about them. Most women's rights groups don't like that game in the base case because it degrades women. In fact, it could be argued that GTA is simply a degrading game, and shouldn't be used in this argument anyways.

Having said that, many of the game developers don't have Latina's in their games because it's irrelevant, or simply doesn't make sense in the story. Japanese style RPG's are an example. They had different "races" of humans (FFX is a good example where one race was banished to an island), but they were all based on white skin, blue eyed people. This could be racist, or it could be the directors vision of the game. The point was the pit-falls of "Sin" in humanity as a whole - you don't need multiple races to tell that story.

Then there's games like the Legend of Zelda that occur in a small Kingdom with different species... it's a medieval-style game - how many non-caucasian people made it to prominence in medieval Europe?

Lastly there's games like Fallout - which really could care less about your race. The color of your skin (or what ever) is less important compared to the matter of whether or not you even HAVE skin (Humans versus ghouls).

Although it would be nice to see some games more inclusive of different races (for the sake of varying storylines, not political correctness), I think people should stop caring so much about who and what people put into games, and just focus on the general entertainment of games. If you really wanna change it, become a game developer. Otherwise all of this is irrelevant anyways.

As a European, I find the focus of this article on a US-centric minority patronizing and discriminating.

I think this comes down to a matter of Money Talking. Latin American countries are left behind sometimes in gaming culture, because they're not all able to take part. Most of the Indian characters in games are caricatures too.

My favorite politically incorrect video game character of all time was Catlina from GTA. The only way San Andreas would've been better is if she was the protagonist.

A little late to reply to this one but oh well,
I think the author should be happy to see her minority in games at all, there are tons out there that very rarely make appearances at all, take the native americans for instance, or the innuits of norhtern cannada and alaska. When was the last time you remember playing a GOOD game with innuits??
Anyway, i agree with Diddy_Mao, diversity for diversity's sake is retarded, not unlike all the retarded kids/adults we DONT get to see or play in a positive heroic role in video games.

PS: LOL, when was the last time you said to yourself [insert hill-billy accent] 'gee-golly, I'd sure love to play a game where the protaganist is a tripple amputee with NO awesome bio/mechanically enhanced replacement limbs. And it would be dandy if the amputee was portayed in a positive light'

Just saying.

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