In response to “Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores” from The Escapist Forum: 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.
In response to “Punch-Out!!‘s Black Eye”: Indeed, Soda Popinski’s bottle is a vodka bottle. His original name in the arcade version of the game was something along the lines of ‘Vodka Drunkinski’. Stereotypes used to be a lot more common, but I don’t think they’re as bad or damaging as some would believe.
Watch a few old Looney Tunes cartoons and you’ll see plenty of borderline racist jokes…only they aren’t really racist at all, even when Bugs Bunny dons black face and starts playing a banjo. Why? Because it’s a cartoon. You’re not meant to take it seriously, and the same goes for Punch Out.
If we set aside races, what else could have been done? Silly fat characters, like Disney is so fond of? Well I’m fat, and what if I take offense to that? The young teenage boy and old man with a cane? That’s age discrimination. What about an Irish boxer? I’m Irish. Doesn’t my opinion count too?
When you get down to it, the only way to guarantee that no one will be offended is by excluding them, and the only way to avoid making inappropriate jokes is to never make any jokes at all.
I call this the ‘midget problem’. If you have a midget character, then some people will say that you’re exploiting him. On the other hand, if no one includes a midget character, then they aren’t represented at all.
Considering that Little Mac is practically a midget himself, I’d say that Punch Out was actually quite progressive, simply because it included so many minority characters in any shape or form. I’m not saying that stereotypes are good, but is exclusion really any better?
Compared to the latest WWE wrestling game, where white characters outnumber minority characters by about 30 to 1, I’d say Punch Out isn’t so backwards after all.
– Robert Max Freeman
In response to “See No Evil” from The Escapist Forum: I don’t think there would be away to humanize Nazis without making it look like you’re defending them. I think that’s the main reason no one has done it yet. Any sane person can reason that Nazism is evil and despicable, but people fail to realize that while they had to suspend their humanity at times to believe the things they did, they were still human. Very much so.
I also think portraying them the way we do demeans the significance of WWII in a way. It’s easy to have them be faceless, mindless mobs with varying scales of difficulty- it’s hard to portray them as people. I think it’s easier for people to think of them as non-human as it further justifies their hatred.
As a Jew, I am quite aware of the horrors of the Holocaust. I know that my generation will be the last to actually meet Holocaust survivors and hear their stories. I understand the importance of preserving those stories.
I also recognize that trying to tackle the Holocaust in a video game is a dicey prospect. But it could be done. The article suggested a game wherein you play as a Jewish freedom fighter. That might be too narrow for a whole game. But you could definitely make a game about World War II resistance fighters in general. Similar to Call of Duty, you would fight for various resistance groups, one of which could easily be Jewish partisans. The gameplay might be closer to Metal Gear Solid, with stealth a vital component.
Also, there is one upcoming game that may involve the Holocaust. The FPS “Darkest of Days” involves traveling to historical tragedies to rescue people that weren’t supposed to die. The website mentions Pompeii, Antietam, and World War I, but the trailer also includes a 3-second shot of what I am damned sure is a train car headed to a concentration camp. The website says that players will also be able to use futuristic weapons. The prospect of assaulting Auschwitz with a plasma rifle has kept me interested in this game.
In response to “Native Resolution” from The Escapist Forum: This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, though I never would’ve been able to write an article that was nearly as in-depth as this. As a writer, artist and would-be game designer, it distresses me that so much history, so many stories and so much potential for new ideas, are dying away simply due to lack of mainstream interest. Who knows if a Cherokee fable, an Aborigine creation myth, or an Inuit folktale could form the basis of a fantastic new movie or game? We as a creative species suffer an unimaginable loss every time some part of our history, or some long-handed-down story, is forgotten.
My applause to Don Thornton in his efforts to preserve Native American ways and lore, and I hope that other cultures pick up on this to keep their own history alive.
There’s a reason only 65 people in five years want to learn Cherokee: to whom will they speak?
Hebrew made a comeback due the fact that there was a large Jewish community that used it for religious purposes and scholars willing to bring it into the modern world and a (relatively) powerful nation willing to adopt and enforce it as their governmental tongue. And yet, advertisements in Israel are still being made in Yiddish, Arabic, and Russian. The Cherokee Nation doesn’t even have it’s website available in Cherokee, let alone use it as their primary language. No website, no newspaper, no television broadcasts are in Cherokee. All that is going to have to change if Cherokee is going to have a future.
Also, I resent that notion that “resource gathering and territorial conquest” are somehow “Eurocentric”. Does no one recall the Aztecs? Mongols? Chinese? Incas? Ottomans? Mughals? Native Americans were neither noble nor savage, but people who built, fought, lived, and died no better or worse than their brethren in Europe.
In response to “Diversity, One Dragon-Punch at a Time” from The Escapist Forum: There’s another reason why fighting games are still popular: You only need one console to play them.
More and more “high-end” games, especially shooters, are moving towards exclusively online play. Most shooters today literally do not have splitscreen capability. The reason for this is obvious: Four players playing on one console only spent $60 bucks on the game and $300 on the console. If you force each player to get his own console and copy of the game, they have to spend $1,440 to do so, plus the fees for the online play.
No fighting game, as of yet, has ever done away with living-room multiplayer.
There is a good reason besides all the fan favorite characters that Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of the best-selling games: It allows four people to play one copy of the game on one console.
Real human contact isn’t overrated, it’s underrated. No anonymous fratboys screaming incoherent, drunken racial slurs at me over a headset, no twelve-year-old stranger insulting my sexuality using every key on his keyboard except the ones with letters on them, no sitting around in a lobby waiting for a match to open up.[/soapbox]
But I’m meandering. Well, the article meandered a bit too, but I agree with its basic premise, so there’s not much more to be said.
Excellent article. I can think of two more reasons that the fighting game community is historically diverse.
First, the mass-market popularity of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat introduced a lot of people to the idea of competitive gaming without the PC knowledge required to discover Counterstrike or Starcraft. The modern analog is Smash Bros. whose scene has grown organically from a large base of casual gamers who don’t fit the usual son-of-privilege demographic profile.
Second, the nature of the arcade machine brings players together by pure geography, instead of a console owner and his friends, or a PC owner and his like-minded online comrades. Because players compete one-on-one, there is little opportunity for group discrimination, and a hierarchy of player skill can be objectively determined. In Street Fighter, people really are judged purely on their merits.