184: Punch-Out!!'s Black Eye

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Punch-Out!!'s Black Eye

The controversy over perceived racist undertones in Resident Evil 5 may have made Capcom seem culturally insensitive, but it's nothing compared to the Most Racist Game of All Time: Punch-Out!! for the NES.

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Well, since Punch-Out!! is a Japanese game the developpers also make fun of themselves. I think they were fully aware of the stereotyping and did that intentionally. I'm curious how the Wii version will be.

I think that game developers have more pressing issues than stereotypes and political correctness, like deadlines or make the game actually work.

Also i think that the art department in charge of presenting the game's content is much to blame, if we're heading into this direction.

Honestly, i will not buy a game where you have to raise ponies for marshmallow lucky charms, or have to solve mysteries along side of Scooby-Doo...

I will share one thing, i didn't buy Mirror's Edge because of the female Asian protagonist, i didn't buy it because the game didn't appeal to my tastes.

I love playing the Drunken Scottish Cyclops in Team Fortress 2. Because its fun, and i think the way he screams out loud there are "Bloody Spies!" around is hilarious.

I still play Assassin's creed, that's a good example of an unbiased characters, he kills Crusaders and Saracens as equals. Fun for everyone in my opinion.

Regardless of color, sexual orientation, and other traits, games deliver a story to engage the consumer in an experience, and the characters give it a little bit more depth so hopefully you are not only farming or hack/slashing your way through a game.

And nowadays there are notices that state the games are based on fictitious settings, circumstances and characters. I mean, come on guy, its just a game... i think that if you see too much into it, and begin taking things *too* personal, AND, by chance you might be missing the art of "parody" the problem isn't the game, it might be *you* mate.

Srsly,
Me.

The example the comes to mind for me would be the utterly fantastic GTA: San Andreas. Like all GTA games it contains vastly exaggerated stereotypes of everything. But one of the main reasons I really liked it was that it essentially was a (unrealistic) game about black gang members in the 90ies LA. While there are much better portayals of African-American culture out there it felt really nice to have something new to play.

All cultures are diffirent and that should be celebrated by gaming. Even if the main gaming demographic is presumeably white/male I like to believe that exploring other cultures would be greatly appreciated. One of the factors of Far Cry 2 that I was really looking forward to was the rural african setting, give me more variety dammit!

Imagine a game were you played as a Mujahideen soldier fighting the soviets in the 80ies, with fully voiced arabic/pashto/persian cast. Here we have a story about goat farmers in one of the worlds poorest nations (with the help of the CIA) defeating one of the most powerful armies in the world. Naturally there would be raised voices, but imagine the posibilities.

Respecting cultures is not about turning them into a huge homogenised mess but portraying their diffirences in a positive manner.

As soon as I read the tag line I immediately knew everything this article would say; that's only because I could remember every character so quickly and remember joking with friends about the stereotypes the game employs.

Punch-Out is funnier, quirkier, and (to me) less offensive since it mainly makes fun of Europeans, who have been making fun of each other for centuries; also, it's Japanese racism, which is a bit different than your American version. Even the Street Fighter series has some racism going on, but the demographics (Southerners, blacks, military) aren't going to get upset about Balrog, Guile, or the most stereotype-based characters of all...Ken and Rufus.

Interestingly, the Japanese often make themselves worst and last; Piston Honda, E. Honda, Ryu, Akuma, Sakura, and Dan are all the best and worst of what is Japanese.

Odlly enough, I still don't think anything in RE5 was really that bad, and I very strongly disagree with all the emotional hurt and outrage that we've seen across the interwebs because of it. Much more interesting was the hating on the nation of Haiti, than any racial overtones. I do applaud the "no hard feelings" gesture of including a black sidekick, but frankly I think everyone should be able to utilise some level of intellectual detachment when playing a game about an american agent shooting zombies in Haiti. The idea of a Haiti full to the brim with white zombies is what I'd consider TRULY offensive.

If I recall correctly, wasn't Soda Popinski's original name "Vodka Drunkinski" in one of the arcade versions?

Actually, Abe's Oddysee had you saving slaves from rupture farms because the owners planned to sell them for food. Abe's Exodus had you saving slaves from the soulstorm brewery, a completely unrelated place.

"But this brings up a bigger question: Is it OK for games to confront issues that might make some players a little uneasy? If videogames truly are art, isn't it a necessary evil to make some people uncomfortable?"

True but the thing is, RE is one of the biggest selling franchise for Capcom and there is no way they were going to risk it's liability for "art". Those big players are not in the business for art, they are for the money. If you look for games tackling hot issues, look toward indie, just like in the movie industry. Sure, some big budget movies tackle those issues but remember that movies have an over 100 years old history and experience to back it up, videogames barely have 50.

I think the racial sensitivity issue is itself a double-edged sword. On the one hand, stereotypes are boring and quite possibly harmful to players. On the other hand, they are instantly recognizable, which is important to making a game accessible.

However, insisting that games address race can quickly cause it to become a game about race. For example, there was nothing in the game of Assassin's Creed that made huge references to race. Sure, the protaganist was black (or East Indian?) and the antagonist was white (which is a complete reversal from many games), but in the setting of the game there were people of many colors. It wasn't one race fighting another, it was a group of people fighting another. In fact, I'd say they did a good job of not making it about race. That is, until they started the game with a big disclaimer saying that it was made by people of various cultures and beliefs. Now the player is walking into the game expecting some major racial and/or religious contraversy and will read one into it even if it doesn't exist. Suddenly a game that was about warring religious orders just dragged in some huge message of non-discrimination. Did they forget this was a video game? People aren't thinking about whose religion is more correct; they are trying to jump rooftops and complete mission objectives. It may be art, but it's also a game.

Like so many other measures of political correctness, trying to look for and eliminate discrimination puts us in a mindframe to see discrimination, even where none was intended. Instead of eliminating the issue, it makes it more pronounced than ever.

I just cannot resolve these two conflicting ideas: 1. Do not see racial differences, 2. Racial differences are constantly highlighted (for example, the reactions to the election of Barak Obama in the USA, being a great racial victory). As a white person, I have to walk a tight-rope whenever talking to a different race; so much so, it makes me not WANT to becuase of the effort that goes into having to parse everything I say just in case it may come off racist.

Everytime someone makes this an issue, every time someone fails to take a light-hearted jibe seriously (I mean Punch-Out?!), every time a developer has to make sure to include white people in a country dominated by a black population, every time a developer deliberately has to include a minority group, the amount of time that racism will remain on the face of the earth is lengthened.

There is a very important distinction that needs to be made here: the difference between intentional and incidental use of stereotypes and, arguably, their propagation as a result. It seems clear to me that the use of stereotypes in Punch Out was intentional and, in fact, absurdist really -- nobody with two neurons to rub together is going to look at Vodka Drunkinski and think 'Wow, all Russians are alcoholics.'

I think we need to very, very careful here: pursuing a reduction in stereotypes (and a more enlightened portrayal of people in general, not just minorities) is a good thing, yes, but such initiatives have the potential side effect of squelching innovation and boundary-pushing in our favorite medium. After all, the informative debate did not arise until the RE5 trailer was released, right? What if Capcom had self-censored and that trailer never saw the light of day? Would we even be enjoying this edition of the Escapist? You may not like it, but all media uses stereotypes. The way to handle them is not to prevent them from ever seeing the light of day, but having a rational and intelligent dialogue when we do encounter them.

Many objections people are raising are actually addressed by the article, which I mainly agree with.

That said, I don't think games are going to take the step of being bold regarding race the way TV, movies, and books have because they are already a scorned or dismissed medium in many circles.

Gears of War 2 is a nice exception; you have standard white-tough-guy, a Latino, a black guy, and snarky/sarcastic/funny/negative white guy; all are hugely stereotypical, but most everyone has a favorite.

Yeah I really dont get the Oddworld reference. I mean why is it when people think of slavery they IMMEDIATELY jump to the pre-Civil War America, like that is the only place slavery took place.

As far as stereotypes in PunchOut? You saw that much into it? Heres what probably REALLY happened... Designers realized "Hey, we have only 8-bit graphics, how are we going to make individual characters stand out?" I highly doubt it was part of some conspiracy to enforce stereotypes, I mean why would they use a Kaiser German over a Nazi German if that were true?

I dont see the RE5 trailer problems. It appears the setting is that of a 3rd World Country. What you call subconscious stereotyping I would call realistic immersion.

"the Japanese are sneaky and untrustworthy"

Newsflash: The game was developed by Japanese developers. So none of your arguments hold any water. You're a dumbass for not doing fact-checking and your article is garbage.

Try not to be so butthurt about race/nationality and write about something interesting.

The Oddworld thing definitely does not fit in for me either. As someone who has played through each game and has a great affinity for the series, I feel I've got a fairly good understanding of it. Overall, if one was to take a message from the game rather than enjoying its endearing characters and unique gameplay, it would not focus on slavery. I feel the message is more a humorous jab at corporate misconduct and immoral business practices regarding treatment towards workers and the environment rather than reshaping the plight of persons kept as slaves.

Each game has a native creature working against a large, soulless conglomerate to restore some sort of environmental equilibrium. The near-extinction of the of the America Buffalo from pioneers over-hunting them would be a closer message than that of slavery in my opinion(scrabs, paramites, etc.)

Regarding Punch-Out, it seems to me a stretch to look back at the game with anything other than fondness. Yes, the characters are outlandish caricatures, but that was part of what made the game enjoyable and memorable. At some point, you have to discern malicious intent from good-natured jabbing at what makes people different.

Regarding the RE:5 trailer, I'm of the opinion that it's essentially racist at this point not to include dark-skinned persons as zombies. It's alright if predominantly European people kill predominantly European looking zombies, but crosses a line when you include another race?

Resident Evil games may not have great dialogue or the most compelling storylines, but changing a location to have new enviornments and a new storyline should be accused of pointless milking of a franchise rather than racism.

Yes, Soda Popinski was definitely Vodka Drunkinski. Also, just look at what he says between matches:

"I can't drive, so I'm gonna walk all over you!"
"Would you like some punch to drink? Ha,ha,ha!"
"I'm gonna make you feel punch drunk!"
"After you lose, we'll drink to your health! Ha,ha,ha!"
"I drink to prepare for a fight. Tonight I am very prepared!"

Individual characters being stereotypical is not a stereotype, blanket statements about all people of some group is.

I have read through the article and the link as well as all the comments here (no way I am reading 400+ from the other article) and I still don't understand 1 thing with the whole RE5 "controversy". In RE0-3 you are killing American townsfolk in an American town and the majority appear white. No problem. RE4 comes out and you are a white guy slaughtering Spanish ppl in a Spanish town in Spain. No problem. RE5 trailer pops up and it has an American white guy killing a bunch of infected Africans in an African village in Africa and that is racist? The only thing I can agree with in that entire interview is "it is just a game" is not an excuse.

Also it is quite clear in the trailer they attacked him first. Chris was just walkin along minding his own business, admiring the reflection of himself in his shiny gun. All of a sudden some guy with a megaphone orders what I can only guess is ATTACK (prolly said KILL WHITEY but I can't be sure) and they charge him.

Terazeal:
Individual characters being stereotypical is not a stereotype, blanket statements about all people of some group is.

Very true, and nowhere in the game does it say, "All French people are like Glass Jaw," or, "All blacks are ignorant jackasses." If that was the case, then I'd agree that there is racism, but it's just like how some Latinos claimed that the Taco Bell dog was racist; it doesn't make a shred of sense.

I find it funny that people care so much about being politically correct about video games because the flaw with forcing other cultures and people to change their vision to create a video game is that the assumption of the person crying for changing the game to be politically correct is that they do not understand this.

VIDEO GAMES COME FROM JAPAN!

2/3rds of the console market are owned by japanese companies and there are a lot of gaming companies that are based in japan and that is where they are created, IN JAPAN!

Most people crying for politically correctness are in the states not realizing that the outsider is THEMSELVES. Descartes Discourse on Method states that to understand another culture is to acknowledge that their culture is not universal. They are just changing a game to make themselved feel better which in the end makes no difference but to alter the designers original idea so he can please a minority(not the race but the group of dissenters).

Besides sterotypes are NOT meant to be taken seriously. Satire and sterotypes work so well hand in hand in the art of comedy. While most people should know that sterotypes are based in only small facts the extremity they are taken to is what makes them so hilarious and corny that people love them no matter how much people will complain.

I loved having matches with the cast of Mike Tyson's Punch out. From the french man Glass Joe, to King hippo and Don Flamenco, and Piston Honda because he was the one boxer to make a comeback. All of these boxers represented not only a sterotype but also a nation and I would not have it any other way.

I certainly did notice a lot of racist undertones in Punch-Out!! Very unflattering to some of the nationalities, of course, with the surrender-monkey, Glass Joe, the fat Samoan, King Hippo and most prominently, Soda Popinski.

I do love the irony in the fact that Aran Ryan from Ireland, the only potential target which likely would have escaped everybody's attention, appeared to completely avoid targeting by virtue of being in the sequel, Super Punch-Out!!. The Irish would have likely taken a portrayal of a drunken Irish boxer quite well; one need only look at our Olympic success at boxing to see that we appear to have a talent at it, and there are few complaints about our characterisation as a land of drunks, for we do excel at that as well. You could have put the Irish bloke in as a substitute for Soda Popinski and far fewer people would have raised objection.

That was an excellent article. With most of the world becoming less xenophobic and more educated about the world and everyone in it, things will continue to get better. Not that all games (or any other medium) will have to be some shapeless, colorless, undefined gauntlet but people will be able to appreciate its artistic and entertainment value.

Thank you Sumantra Lahiri! (^_^)

no wonder so many people are rascist, they grew up playing games with racial content with put knowing it!!!

I loathe the vehement anti-racists, and think that anti-racists are racist in themselves. We're supposed to live in an equal opportunity world where women can wear pants and vote, and people who aren't white can work in whatever job they like. Why can't people damn well realise that - you can't expect equal treatment and opportunity while still crying 'racist!' when a developer creates a game set in a predominately non-Caucasian country including non-Caucasian zombies to kill.

If that's the case, then I would like to take every developer, director and writer to court for all the previous history of white people being killed in books, movies and games!

The first part of this article, talking about how the gaming culture has advanced as the years have gone by, this was pretty interesting.

However, it's on page two that things start to fall apart.
FTA
"Abe's Oddysee's approach is characteristic of the industry's at large. Whenever there was an opportunity to have a valid discussion about race, their answer has always been the same: Let sleeping dogs lie."

OK, my first problem is that there is a very, very long tradition of approaching sensitive cultural issues in science fiction through allegory and metaphor.

Second, the inclusion of the Oddworld series falls through because as previous posters have mentioned, the storyline in those games while similar, doesn't match up with history very well. If anything, Oddworld wanted to talk about the relationship between the wealthy and the poor and how one is enslaved to the other when it comes to goods being made.

Not that one couldn't involve race in this discussion, but the Oddworld games were-I thought-more about economic conditions than racial ones.

As for Resident Evil 5; I think part of the problems came when someone said; You know, that makes me uncomfortable--and instead of people having a discussion about it that actually does talk about race in America, the overwhelming response was STFU. Now, it's not RE5, or any game's responsibility to be politically correct. It is our responsibility as people to hear each other out though. (Usual reasonable caveats apply)

Suddenly putting a black character in the game doesn't fix the issues that someone might have; knowing you've been heard, that might.

squid5580:
I have read through the article and the link as well as all the comments here (no way I am reading 400+ from the other article) and I still don't understand 1 thing with the whole RE5 "controversy". In RE0-3 you are killing American townsfolk in an American town and the majority appear white. No problem. RE4 comes out and you are a white guy slaughtering Spanish ppl in a Spanish town in Spain. No problem. RE5 trailer pops up and it has an American white guy killing a bunch of infected Africans in an African village in Africa and that is racist? The only thing I can agree with in that entire interview is "it is just a game" is not an excuse.

Also it is quite clear in the trailer they attacked him first. Chris was just walkin along minding his own business, admiring the reflection of himself in his shiny gun. All of a sudden some guy with a megaphone orders what I can only guess is ATTACK (prolly said KILL WHITEY but I can't be sure) and they charge him.

You should read the man's points about the trailer this article links you to. It's not about 'killing whites is fine, killing spaniards is fine, killing blacks is bad!' It's about the colonial imagery that can be found throughout the trailer. Now, understand that it probably wasn't intentional at all, and indeed I'm sure Capcom had many discussions about the racial aspect. The problem is that they didn't spot the Great White Man, wandering in to lowly, horde-like blacks, who are a hidden, inhuman menace, then killing them all. It's like Zulu or something.

As he says, it has to be contextualised. Europe did not come in and slaughter spaniards. Britain fought Spain, hated their guts, but never truly dehumanised them. The earlier REs are based purely upon Romero films and whatnot, no true history there. But is is the naive, innocent ignorance of those who made that trailer that is offensive, or can be offensive.

To be honest, I actually don't think it's that important. To me, Conrad's Heart of Darkness (not the game!) does more or less the exact same thing. But we need to understand why, at least, this is offensive. It's not because black people are being shot.

Speaking of boxing, ever notice how white people get really WEIRD about that scene from Raging Bull. Seriously, they curl up in a fetal position and just repeat 'Never got me down' over and over while crying and vomiting.

"Racist undertones" in RE5 are no different than those in RE4 against Spanish peasants

the only discernible difference is the stink raised by the "White video game makers are racist crowd" and the UCLA. (watch Hillary Clinton descend from her seat and condemn the game for being racist, along with AL Sharpton and Jessie Jackson)
all they want is money from the court and air time on CNN, they don't give two shakes and a crap about racism.

Even if it WAS racist and it was meant to BE racist, who cares? they have the freedom of speech like the KKK and the Black Panthers and the Triads and the Mexican Mafia.

None of those groups raised any kind of hell for RE4,
why not?
its because they don't care about the Spanish all they care about are themselves. The self-righteous bimbos that go along with that are just tools that are exploited.

RE5 was never made to spread hate against Africans, at least not anymore than the previous one was spreading hate against Spanish peasants.

If I could I would get on national TV and tell them to take a pill and get over it.

This article to me represents the overall mediocre quality of the writing on The Escapist.

What N'Gai Croal has to say in a few sentences is much more powerful, relevent, and coherent than this ham-handed drivel.

"Punch out is the most racist game ever"? Statements like that just smack of a total ignorance about the history of the medium and demonstrate a total lack of research about the subject at hand. Its painfully obvious the author never did a ANY research for the entire article, other than playing Punch Out for an hour, which is all too typical for the contributors here at The Escapist.

Racism is discrimination based on the color of one's skin. Thats not whats happening in Punch-Out. As well as conducting some actual research, you might want to consider consulting a dictionary as well.

Its a shame, because the topic is important and it is very relevent.

Also, its a shame that what was once an excellent online publications has devolved into a mess that finds such flimsy drivel fit to print.

I would point out that Sega Soccer Slam and the entire Street Fighter series would show that things haven't really progressed THAT much.

Okay so I'm probably the only person who owns a copy of Soccer Slam but everyone knows Street Fighter and characters don't get much more stereotypical than that group of palookas.

In all seriousness though.
Let's use the RE: 5 issue here to raise a hypothetical.

Let's say that the story doesn't take place in Africa.
Let's say the main character isn't Redfield but some new addition to the cast, a British special agent tasked with tracking and containing down a bio-terror outbreak in...oh let's say Northern Ireland.

Would anyone have cried foul as loudly as they did when the first footage of RE5 came out?

I would pretty much assume that no, nobody would have even batted an eye at how potentially offensive that might be to a whole bunch of people.
Why is that?

For what it's worth I think the whole thing is a non-issue, and a bigger deal was made about it than it really needed to be.

Actually Capcom have openly stated that they haven't made a single change to the game at all. And that african sidekick and all those other deterrents of racist accusations were there to begin with, they just weren't there in the beginning trailers and screenshots.

Locque:
Odlly enough, I still don't think anything in RE5 was really that bad, and I very strongly disagree with all the emotional hurt and outrage that we've seen across the interwebs because of it. Much more interesting was the hating on the nation of Haiti, than any racial overtones. I do applaud the "no hard feelings" gesture of including a black sidekick, but frankly I think everyone should be able to utilise some level of intellectual detachment when playing a game about an american agent shooting zombies in Haiti. The idea of a Haiti full to the brim with white zombies is what I'd consider TRULY offensive.

You missed one of the main points. Why on earth is the main character white in Hati? Why did they need an American? They could have removed much of the imperialism if they made the main character black.

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