Tag Archives: video games

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: the Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft [Conference Notes]

by Latoya Peterson

These are the notes for “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft.” The notes are for the keynote presentation given by Dr. Nakamura at the Texas A & M University Race and Ethnic Studies Institute’s Symposium exploring Race, Ethnicity and (New) Media.

The full paper is available on Lisa Nakamura’s research site. The abstract is as follows:

This article examines the racialization of informational labor in machinima about Chinese player workers in the massively multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft. Such fanproduced video content extends the representational space of the game and produces overtly racist narrative space to attach to a narrative that, while carefully avoiding explicit references to racism or racial conflict in our world, is premised upon a racial war in an imaginary world—the World of Azeroth.

This profiling activity is part of a larger biometric turn initiated by digital culture’s informationalization of the body and illustrates the problematics of informationalized capitalism. If late capitalism is characterized by the requirement for subjects to be possessive individuals, to make claims to citizenship based on ownership of property, then player workers are unnatural subjects in that they are unable to obtain avatarial self-possession. The painful paradox of this dynamic lies in the ways that it mirrors the dispossession of information workers in the Fourth Worlds engendered by ongoing processes of globalization. As long as Asian “farmers” are figured as unwanted guest workers within the culture of MMOs, user-produced extensions of MMO-space like machinima will most likely continue to depict Asian culture as threatening to the beauty and desirability of shared virtual space in the World of Warcraft.

Notes

  • People don’t hold video games accountable for racism; however they do hold them responsible for violence. Gaming has to constantly defend its portrayals of violence, but almost never discusses how it reinforces racism.
  • More people play Warcraft now than were on the internet in 1995. There are a significant number of players in China and S. Korea. Digital games are one of the only platforms we had that were transnational from the inception. People who would never think of trying out Japanese media has actually been engaging for a long time without being aware of it through the gaming world.
  • Nakamura starts her presentation off with a clip from South Park from the episode Make Love, Not Warcraft. In the segment she plays, the following conversation happens:
      Cartman: “I am the mightiest dwarf in all of Azeroth!”
      Kyle: “Wow, look at all these people playing right now.”
      Cartman: “yeah, it’s bullcrap. I bet half of these people are Koreans.”

    With that, Nakamura starts the discussion on how Cartman’s off-handed comment reveals how many think of Asian players – specifically Korean and Chinese – as “not real” players in this online world and begins to explore how racial bigotry is manifesting itself in the World of Warcraft.

  • Continue reading

    City Councilman Promoted Violent Anti-Immigrant Video Game

    by Guest Contributor Cara, originally published at The Curvature

    comic 3

    I just came across a post at Sociological Images about an outrageously racist flash video game called Border Patrol. They note that in the game, “you try to keep three types of Mexicans from crossing the border: drug dealers, Mexican nationalists, and ‘breeders.’” Video game site Kotaku — which thankfully also calls the video game racist — gives a highly similar description. As you’ll notice in the image above, which is of a heavily pregnant and barefoot caricatured woman crossing the border, she is also on her way to the welfare office.

    But you may also notice something else. Looking at the image, there are bullet holes in the sign that says “Welcome to the United States” (with a picture of a flag that seems to indicate an anti-Semitic message that the country is run by Jews — am I missing something?). The woman in the game also looks like her head is in the cross hairs of a gun.

    That’s right, in this game we’re not “stopping” Mexican immigrants from crossing the border without documentation by, oh, calling the police. Or by using another horrific and degrading option like catching them in a net to send them back over the border.

    No, players are shooting them dead. Continue reading

    “Expert” Consulted on RE5 Racism Issue: Not an Expert on Race After All

    by Guest Contributor Regina (Brinstar), originally published at Acid for Blood

    Recently, VideoGamer.com interviewed an “expert” to ask him whether the imagery in Resident Evil 5 was racist. The academic expert they consulted was Glenn Bowman, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. Bowman said that Resident Evil 5 is not racist in that interview. Bowman even went so far as to dismiss views that Resident Evil 5 contains racist imagery as “silly”. Major blogs like Joystiq are running wild with the VideoGamer.com interview.

    There’s a serious problem here, though. None of these major gaming media outlets have done their homework. Joystiq and the other big games blogs like Kotaku and Destructoid are merely reporting verbatim what VideoGamer.com published, without engaging in actual, investigative journalism. Doesn’t journalism include fact-checking sources?

    Let’s take a closer look at Bowman’s academic credentials, experience, and research:

    His doctoral field research was carried out on the topic of Christian pilgrimage in Jerusalem between 1983 and 1985 and gave rise to further regionally based interests in shrines, monumentalisation, tourism and – with reference to the Palestinian people – nationalism and conflict, diasporic and local identities, and secularist versus sectarian strategies of mobilisation. He has subsequently carried out a longitudinal study of the mixed Christian-Muslim town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, which had played a substantial role in the Palestinian intifada (uprising). At present he is continuing his work in Beit Sahour as well as continuing work on art and identity in contemporary Serbia. He is developing comparative work between the Middle East and the Balkans, manifest in ‘Constitutive Violence and the Nationalist Imaginary’ (below), and is currently working on a project investigating historical and contemporary uses of shared shrines in Western Macedonia, Kosova and Albania and in Israel/Palestine.

    No mention of Africa, race, or racism. Continue reading

    Race & Video Games Update – Animal Crossing and Black College Football

    by Latoya Peterson

    As I have mentioned before, I am behind on my game related reading. So luckily, reader Tony sent in this item from Game Politics, as it would have slipped under my radar:

    Louisiana game publisher Nerjyzed Game Studios is readying the launch of an Xbox 360 version of its Black College Football Experience game, reports The Advocate. The release of BCFx will mark the first-ever publication of a console game by an African-American owned studio.

    A national ad campaign for Black College Football Experience will kick off today during the Bayou Classic as Southern University and Grambling square off in their 35th gridiron tilt.

    I had read about Nerjyzed a while back in Black Enterprise so I was pleased to see that their game has finally made it out of development and into rotation.

    However, I should have known that racism patrol was going to come out in full force. Continue reading

    Mirror’s Edge: Pixilated Beauty, Race, and Stereotypes

    by Latoya Peterson

    I’ve been checking for the game Mirror’s Edge for a while, since the first stills dropped a few months ago. There are a lot of things that excite me about the game: tapping into the parkour experience, rolling through a first person landscape without it being a shooter, a provocative plot.

    However, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was geeked about a woman of color protagonist – and one who has a character design which reflects the environment she works within.

    However, I haven’t yet played Mirror’s Edge because of what I am calling the If You Give a Gamer a Cookie New Console conundrum.* So, I’ve been keeping my gaming excitement on a low simmer. Well, I was, until I clicked over to Feministe.

    And as always, Hollyhas got the gaming goods.

    Mirror’s Edge is at its heart a game about parkour, the athletic art of moving between two points as rapidly as possible, using nothing but your body and features of the environment. The game’s protagonist is Faith, an Asian-American courier with a knack for hurling herself into harm’s way. Like a lot of parkour enthusiasts, she spends a lot of time on rooftops, and Mirror’s Edge is largely about jumping, vaulting, climbing, pushing off of walls, rolling as Faith falls from great heights, and other almost-impossible seeming feats of gravity defiance.

    I swear, I have to bite my finger from screaming at this gameplay. But Holly’s post also sheds some interesting light on a racial nuance in the conversation surrounding Mirror’s Edge:

    Even when you do see her in ads, mirrors, and cutscenes, Faith has a wiry, androgynous form suited to someone who runs and climbs for a living. Her clothing is utilitarian, not decorative, and her style of movement is closer to the efficiency of parkour than the aesthetics of free running. Tom Farrer, the producer of the game, was recently quoted about her character design:

      We’ve spent time in developing Faith. And the important thing for us was that she was human, that she was more real.

      We really wanted to get away from the typical portrayal of women in games, that they’re all just kind of tits and ass in a steel bikini. We wanted her to look athletic and fit and strong [enough] that she could do the things that she’s doing.

      We wanted her to be attractive, but we didn’t want her to be a supermodel. We wanted her to be approachable and far more real. It was just kind of depressing that someone thinks it would be better if Faith was a 12-year-old with a boob job. That was kind of what that image looked to me. [...] To be honest, I found it kind of sad.

    Continue reading

    Music, Perceptions of Muslims and the Little Big Planet Delay

    by Guest Contributor Shawna, originally published at Islam On My Side

    Recently, the Little Big Planet PS3 release was delayed. This peeved many, including my husband, who had pre-ordered it and eagerly anticipated its arrival. The next day, it came out that the delay was due to the presence of Qur’an verses within one of the songs in the game. The song was written by an Emmy winning Muslim musician who explains that it’s normal in his home country (Mali) to include Qur’an or words of the Prophet (pbuh) in music in order to show the inspiration of Islam. Sony decided to strip the song from the game instead of risking offense. They’ve been through this before with the Catholic church. No need to reenter the arena.

    What surprised many was the response by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. On their behalf, M. Zuhdi Jaffer, M.D. released the following in a statement:

    “Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted. The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive. But to demand that it be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.

    “…We [the AIFD] do not endorse any restriction whatsoever on the release of this videogame but would only ask those with concerns to simply choose not to buy it. We would hope that the producer?s decision not be made in any way out of fear but rather simply based upon freedom of expression and the free market.”

    Continue reading

    Diversity in Mass Effect

    by Guest Contributor BomberGirl, originally published at Girl in the Machine

    I’ve recently been replaying Mass Effect, Bioware’s 2007 action RPG, and I’m totally in love. Though there’s plenty of things I could babble on about, I want to discuss the first thing I noticed when I brought the game home back during the holidays.

    Women and people of color. They aren’t invisible . . . in fact, in this game, they’re all over the place! Just like, you know, real life! Way too often, sci fi falls into the trap of showing us a universe where PoC and women have been sucked into a black hole or something and no longer exist. Mass Effect introduces a galaxy that’s truly diverse, an experience we don’t often get in video games.

    An interesting facet of Mass Effect’s immense cultural salad is the absence of racial tension among humans. Humanity’s discovery of advanced Prothean artifacts is only quite recent; their technology jumps two hundred years, and thus all contact and interaction with alien races is relatively sudden. These aliens all look down on the human race and treat them as lesser beings. As the first human member of an elite agency called Spectre, the protagonist Shepard must combat prejudice and bigotry as well as your typical monsters and other foes.

    Mass Effect pitches humanity into a situation where all racial tensions seem to vanish in order to unite against the prejudice of the alien races. Now, I realize that Bioware did not craft this game for the purpose of social commentary, so I don’t blame it for not directly addressing human racial interaction along with the new problems presented by alien prejudice. It’s a fascinating thought, though: could humanity put internal racism aside when all of us, collectively, face the same from an outside source? Continue reading

    Expectations: Sheva Alomar

    by Guest Contributor Bomber Girl, originally published at Girl in the Machine

    There’s been a veritable dry spell in survival horror games as of late, and I’ve definitely been suffering. Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS was a huge disappointment, and Silent Hill: Origins left me with only a cynical apprehension for September’s Homecoming. This year’s E3 provided a smattering of goodies for gamers to ooh and aah over, and we were fortunate enough to get a preview of some sorely-needed survival horror titles. Probably the most notorious is Capcom’s Resident Evil 5.

    I enjoyed RE4, although I’m more of a Creep Around And Get Scared Oh Shit What Was That? kind of gal, as opposed to Mow Down Hundreds Of Zombies And Jump Through Windows action-star wannabe, so it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. It was a wonderful game regardless of my personal preferences, so Capcom is clearly sticking close to that formula for its sequel. Also part of the formula is the good old survival horror hallmark, the secondary character, this time in the form of a woman named Sheva Alomar.

    I’m as shocked as anybody that not only is one of the main characters a person of color, but a woman of color, to boot. Sheva comes to protagonist Chris Redfield’s aid as a member of the West African BSAA, or Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. In another shocking twist, she’s not a squealing, floundering idiot a la RE4′s Ashley, but a competent, well-trained agent who does her share of the combat. Be still, my heart! Continue reading