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 →
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 IndustryGamers.com
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.
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.
“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?
DMG|BurnYourBra: At tournaments players talk [crap] to each other. That’s just the way tournaments are. People get hyped. Players get salty when they lose, which is fine. But there is a difference between trash talking and calling other players disrespectful names. For me, I’ve been called a dyke, a butch, a slut, a bitch… I was even called a black bitch to my face along with being called a lesbian, a gorilla, and a monkey. Now I know people are going to say that as a player in the community, you have to have a thick skin. I do, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t speak up about the names I’ve been called. Because these names refer to my sex, but most of them refer to my race; which to me is racist. I think some of these people are blurring the lines between trash talk and disrespectful trash talk. And again, this is just my experience on the matter. I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience. So I wrote a note on my Facebook, made it private, and got the opinions of several other black female gamers. They all have had somewhat the same type of experience as I, some have seen it and others have heard of it.
DMG|jason24cf: Another topic you had mentioned in your post was about “not having the look” could you go into that further?
DMG|BurnYourBra: I would love to *laughs*. Well, I don’t feel that it was like this 10 years ago but there is what I call an “Asian Aesthetic” (as in meaning beautiful) in the fighting game community. There is almost an invisible rule in the way male gamers see female gamers in terms of looks. I’ve read and I have come across a lot of individuals who think because a certain person or persons are of Asian descent that they’re automatically good. Now, I will admit, Japanese players are really good, that can’t be denied. But when it comes in terms of females, it feels to me like it’s almost a written rule that if you aren’t Asian, and if you don’t have the look that fits into this beauty hierarchy, then you’re just not good. So, for me, I feel like it’s a double standard that I really can’t fight. I’m not Asian and I don’t have the Asian Aesthetic look. I’m an African American female, so I am looked at as trash by some people. Also, it is a male dominated community, I know of a few girls who have told me they don’t have “the look” or “don’t fit that ideal.” This ideal shouldn’t be used as a rule for females who want to play. So for me, and this is my own personal experience again, I want to be judged by my play. You can say that I suck. And I’m fine with that. But when you base it on my looks then that’s when I have a problem. I’m not there to please the males at the tournament with looks. I’m there to play and to get better. Judge me on my play rather than on my looks. – From an April 16 interview in Dominion Method Gaming Image courtesy of Kotaku
Over the past few weeks I’ve been preparing myself for the release of Dragon Age 2, which is set for release on 11th March. I only managed to get my hands on the demo today, but already there are a few problematic elements bubbling away in the background.
I’ve been buried in work for the Public Media Corps – the program ends December 17th, so there is a lot of work to accomplish between now and then. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to provide as many updates as I would have liked to on the program, so I am planning a series after I finish to talk about the things I learned over the last six months.
However, I did want to share one quick thing.
Back in September, I helped my co-fellows Brittany and Danielle with their social media club mixer at Anacostia High School. The mixer was one of my favorite parts of the program since it allowed me to do what I like best – to engage with people. The kids who came to the mixer were funny and high spirited, just as interested in tech as they were in pizza and trash talking. I met Tony, a sweet kid who decided he was ready to be the next Jazze Pha and used my help to create his own beat using GarageBand, which he then attempted to convert into a ringtone for his cellphone. One kid, named Robert, wanted to start a blog but did not have an email address. So we worked through that process. A girl named Tiny said she wanted to be a teacher, but later decided she wanted to start a blog to showcase her poetry.