Category Archives: video games

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Danny Trejo

By Andrea Plaid

If I could create a starry constellation of badassery, I’d create one of Danny Trejo.

I caught the feels for him when I saw him in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado. (Come to find out those two are cousins.) Trejo’s assassin, Navajas, moves like a leather-vested wraith through the Mexican streets to hunt down Antonio Banderas’ El Mariachi, and then he pulls back the vest to reveal one of the slammingest tats (the woman is Trejo’s moms) and the throwing knives…::swoon::

Courtesy: And So It Begins...

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Gina Torres

By Andrea Plaid

To me, GinaTorres is the Nichelle Nichols of 21st century: she shows another generation of people of color—especially girls and women of color—that we rightfully belong in the future.

Courtesy: Venus, Rising

Of course, she’s known as a wonderful—and gorgeous!—actor who can move through comedy (the only reason I suffered through Chris Rock’s damn-divorce-your-real-life-wife-already flick I Think I Love My Wife is her) and drama (she has guest roles in Law & Order, 24, and Gossip Girl) and from live-action TV and movies to animation (Boondocks) and video games (DC Universe Online). However, she’s known and beloved for her sci-fi work: reaching back to Black-man-superhero series M.A.N.T.I.S., Cleopatra 2525, Alias, Firefly–and the movie sequel Serenity–and, yes, the Matrix sequels, to name some of her roles. (And some folks give her extra Black Love daps for marrying Morpheus, a/k/a Laurence Fishburne, and their daughter Delilah.)

The R’s Arturo García said this about Torres:

I think it speaks to her on-screen presence that she was, for a long time, a popular choice among Whedonistas to take up the mantle of playing Wonder Woman. So much so that she’s been tapped to provide not only Diana’s voice in the “DC Universe Online” online game, but her evil counterpart, Superwoman, in the “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” animated film.

However, Torres herself holds a slightly different view about sci-fi and her role in it:

Having done two of the “Matrix” films as well as your role in this film, would you say that you have a passion for the sci-fi genre?

Gina: No. It’s just worked out that way. (Laughs). I like good movies. Not to say that there aren’t wonderful sci-fi films out there, but it’s not where I go first. It’s not where I go first in the rental aisle I should say.

And she has this to say about women-in-charge roles, as few and far between as they are:

There seems to be a fascination with Hollywood to either put a female in a distressing view or in leadership position such as Ripley from “Aliens”.

Gina: Yes, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot in the middle. Here’s the thing. Once given an opportunity, we absolutely show and in many cases surpass many people’s expectations of what a woman in charge can do. As long as it’s cast well, and as long as the right woman is in the role and we feel we can follow that woman anywhere, then there’s no problem. Sanaa had an authority. Sigourney (Weaver) had an authority. Linda Hamilton (from The Terminator) had an authority that was indisputable, and I’m told that I have some of that as well. I’m very excited about seeing Geena Davis in her next show, “Commander-in-Chief”. I think it’s exciting. I think it’s wonderful. We are capable of a great many things and to portray or see that on the big screen, it’s not a lie or a fantasy. It’s just showing another aspect of what is very real.

And what’s also wonderfully real about Torres is she’s an Afro-Latina (her parents are Afro-Cubans who reared her in New York City) in a society–especially in image-making Hollywood–that acts like “Afro” and “Latin@” should be separate identities.

The headline at Angry Black Woman says it all:

Gina Torres: Actress, Gorgeous, Badass (At Least Her Characters Are)!

She’s rocks pretty hard in real life, too. Check out this interview excerpt on the R Tumblr!

Why I Don’t Feel Welcome at Kotaku

By Guest Contributor Mattie Brice, cross-posted from Kotaku

Tamagotchi. Remember those?

They became popular when I was in 4th grade. Sometimes my mother took me to a nearby Target to pick a toy- she told me it was for good grades, but I knew it was because I got bullied often at school. One of these times, I raced to find a Tamagotchi, as all of my friends were getting them. I liked the idea of something with me at all times, to take care of it and make me feel like something needed me.

And there it was, a whole wall of glittering purple eggs. I remember that exact, uncreative display panel to this day, and my mother stopping me. She told me to wait, that my aunt wanted to get that for my birthday when she visited. I protested, but the answer was the same: be patient, you’ll get it soon enough. We went a week later and all of them were gone, sold out from every toy store in our area. For some reason that memory is lodged in my brain. I brought it up to my mother recently, but she’s forgotten.

The stray times I visit Kotaku, it’s like I’m seeing an empty panel that the reward for my sitting, smiling, and internalizing should be. I was supposed to find somewhere to escape to, maybe even a place that needed me a little. You told me to wait, and I did. Where’s my Tamagotchi?

There is only a wrong way to go about this. So let’s just get to why I’m here:

Me too.

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The Tits Have It: Sexism, Character Design, and the Role of Women in Created Worlds

Lightning, drawn by Jonathan

This panel is all about titties and I feel like its my fault!  – Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete

There are many things I expect to see in a panel called “East Meets West, Art Direction for a Worldwide Audience.” I expected to hear Isamu Kamikokuryo, the art director for Final Fantasy XIII-2 discuss how Japanese artists focus on creating new worlds, Norse mythology and its influence on the game, and drawing inspiration from Cuba for some of the beautifully rendered backgrounds. I expected to hear Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete, the art director of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, talk about influences like Andrew Loomis and Metal Gear Solid. I had hoped for an interesting back and forth between the two designers on how technology influences artistic development as well as what happens to geographic differences in artistic influences in our increasingly connected worlds.

I did hear all of these things, but also something that pinged my feminist gamer radar.

In describing his influences, Jacques-Bellêtete mentioned he was heavily influenced by Metal Gear and Final Fantasy. Then he went into a two minute riff about “always trying to have very beautiful female characters,” noting that these were characters he would want to sleep with. After making a semi-disparaging remark about female characters drawn in a North American style, he concludes “I’d rather have female characters from Final Fantasy or Soul Caliber to sleep with.” This draws chuckles from the crowd.

And there it was, the truth about character design that so many players know but most designers wouldn’t usually articulate: most of the egregiously sexist character designs are based on fuckability, rather than playability. Continue reading

Quoted: Chris Morris on Deus Ex Human Revolution

Take a look at Square Enix’s official comment on the matter: “Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a fictional story which reflects the diversity of the world’s future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. While these characters are meant to portray people living in the year 2027, it has never been our intention to represent any particular ethnic group in a negative light.”

See what’s missing there? The same words that Sony avoided for so long: “We’re sorry.” (Also missing is something along the lines of “We screwed up,” something else Sony didn’t want to acknowledge initially.)

Certainly, the issue of perceived racism and the compromise of sensitive personal information are two entirely different beasts. But they’re both issues that people take very seriously and personally. And by trying to defend their actions rather than immediately apologizing for them, both Square Enix and Sony risked alienating part of their audience.

Time’s Evan Narcisse wrote a spot-on look at the problems with the character of Letitia. Though he was careful to note that he was not calling Eidos Montreal or Square Enix racist, that’s what many people inferred from the column.

That’s easy to understand, given that Letitia’s speech patterns are reminiscent of something you’d hear in a minstrel show. And while voice acting is hardly the high point of this otherwise widely embraced game, Letitia’s patois is particularly hard to defend.

– From “Square Enix’s Handling of ‘Racism’ Case: A Page from Sony Playbook?,” on

Slavery: The Game is a Hoax – But Still Worth Discussing

Above is the trailer circulating for a game based on slavery – but it appears that this is fake, despite all the attention it’s been attracting.

As Jessica Conditt explains in her post for Joystiq:

These are lined up at the bottom of the site, right next to the overwhelming sense of relief we felt when we realized neither 360 nor PS3 release AO titles. Further, the ESRB doesn’t list a rating for anything called Slavery the Game and the proposed developer, Javelin Reds Gaming, doesn’t exist. One YouTube version of the trailer credits The Creative Assembly with making Slavery the Game, but it isn’t mentioned anywhere on The Creative Assembly’s site. We’ve contacted The Creative Assembly for clarification.

A lot of people are rightfully horrified at a game predicated on the slave trade from the slave master’s perspective – specifically glorifying the dehumanizing nature of slavery for cheap amusement. However, even though the game is fake, I hesitate to fully condemn the premise, probably because of one of my other favorite games: Age of Empires: The Conquerers.

A game can do anything we program it to do – and AoE:TC allowed me to rewrite history, by allowing the people of Tenochtitlan to defeat the Conquistadors. Continue reading

Native American Images in Video Games

Minority representation in video games just straight up sucks. Over the last few weeks, two new projects debuted that focus specifically on Native Americans.

The first is a short video. Directed and narrated by Irish, Anishinaabe, Metis writer Beth Aileen Lameman and edited by Beaver Lake Cree filmmaker Myron Lameman, the video looks at really common stereotypes being deployed in game narratives. Lameman points to the common framings of “cowboys vs. indians,” guides, and “wise old Indians” and heavy doses of the white savior narrative and the “half-breed hero” trope.

Native Representations in Video Games from Beth Aileen Lameman on Vimeo.

The second is an essay over at Project COE that tackles the politics behind representation:

“How many kids will play this game and then carry what they’ve experienced into their interactions with real, live Apaches and other Native Americans?” the Association for American Indian Development asked video game publishing giant Activision in a public letter accusing the company’s 2006 PC and console title GUN of containing “some very disturbing racist and genocidal elements toward Native Americans”. The AAID went on to launch an online petition demanding that Activision “remove all derogatory, harmful, and inaccurate depictions of American Indians” from the game and reissue a more culturally sensitive version, threatening to campaign to have the game pulled from store shelves internationally. Although Activision thereafter issued an apology to anyone who may have been offended by the game, they justified the content of their product by pointing out that such depictions had already been “conveyed not only through video games but through films, television programming, books, and other media”. The AAID’s subsequent attempts to have the game recalled were barely acknowledged.

As evident in Activision’s defense of GUN, many negative stereotypes about Native American culture are so ingrained in mainstream media that the near-genocide of an entire culture is rarely treated with the same sensitivity with which we regard similarly tragic occurrences like the Holocaust, or African American slavery. The AAID argues that video games like GUN undermine the severity of the atrocities committed against First Nations tribes by the European settlers and marginalize this violence in a way that negatively affects the image of contemporary Native Americans. Millions of people play video games, and entertainment can leave long-lasting impressions on consumers, making it important to be able to criticize misconceptions and separate fantasy from reality. The impact of media on our mentality towards people and events certainly cannot be underestimated, so it is understandable that an organization such as the AAID should be concerned about what kind of images audiences are exposed to, but were their claims about GUN‘s potentially damaging effects warranted?