Tag Archives: video games

Colonization: Fun n’ Games

by Guest Contributor Plasma Rit, originally published at Girl in the Machine

Sid Meier’s Civilization series comprises of turn-based strategy games with a focus on growing a budding nation. Begun in 1991, the games take place in a variety of eras–you can build an empire as far back as 4000 BCE and nurture it long enough to witness World War II. The series has proven to be very popular over the years, gaining a loyal fanbase and even winning a few awards along the way. In 1994, Sid Meier released a game called Colonization: Create a New Nation. Players choose from four European nations–England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands–and set sail for the Americas (or “The New World,” as the game calls it). The object of the game is to foster a colony and eventually gain independence from its mother country. Sid Meier is preparing to rerelease this game in the form of a Civilization IV standalone expansion sometime in 2008.

I was a bit taken aback at the sight of a game about colonization, although I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. The idea of a game about conquering other civilizations and stealing their land is pretty tasteless to me, but unfortunately many Americans don’t view colonization that way. I found that most people tend to see it through an Elementary School History Lens–you know, when you were taught how the plucky, pure future Americans who could do no wrong went on a journey for freedom and were buddy-buddies with the Native Americans?

The original Colonization game handles Native Americans in a very interesting way. Players can choose to either befriend the natives (who in turn teach them skills and help defend the colony) or wipe them out entirely. Continue reading

Five Not-Impossible Things Before Breakfast

by Latoya Peterson

As I wrote last week, my inbox was filled with so many tips I didn’t have time to tackle them before the week was out. So, here are a few of the ones we can get done quickly:

Rachel Ray and the Paisely “Islamic Jihad” Scarf

Rachel Ray is wearing a scarf. She is not sending a message for Islamic Jihad!

Will someone please tell that to Dunkin’ Donuts and Michelle Malkin?


Jehanzeb says:

This is nothing but shameless racism. I really hope more people speak out about this because it is not only outrageous, it also reflects the ridiculous amount of paranoia and xenophobia that’s tarnishing our society. Yesterday morning, I heard about Rachael Ray’s new commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts getting pulled because of complaints from the right-wing blogosphere, specifically from the notoriously anti-Islamic and xenophobe Michelle Malkin. What were the complaints about? Well, according to Malkin, the black-and-white colored scarf worn by Rachael Ray in the commercial heavily resembled the keffiyeh, which she defined as the “traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.”

Are you kidding me? The commercial was yanked because of a black-and-white patterned scarf with paisley designs? The bigots from the right-wing were so offended and worried that Dunkin’ Donuts was “promoting terrorism” or “Palestinian jihad” because their sponsor wore a scarf?

Continue reading

I’m Sure You’ve Got Plenty to Say

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

Natan: …

Remember the good ol’ days after the first world war when European vampires still embarked on sabbaticals to the American south-west, cat-people ran Hollywood from behind the scenes, and cheeky teenage detectives could break into high-security compounds like Alcatraz without consequences?

Oh wait—that’s not real life. It’s Shadow Hearts: From the New World (thank goodness).

There’s something about this irreverent video game series that I find incredibly appealing, but sometimes it leaves me scratching my head. The way the developers choose to represent characters can be a little disingenuous. In particular, minority characters have their differences from the mainstream magnified one hundredfold. Whether it’s the swishy Magimel tailors or the so-Mexican-it-hurts mariachi singer Ricardo, everything is so overblown that it’s difficult to take it seriously.

While discussing the game with BomberGirl and PlasmaRit, we became interested in the “strong and silent” Native American character Natan. We wondered how much he actually had to say throughout the course of the game, and I honestly couldn’t recall. It’s been a while since I’ve played it.

To investigate our suspicions, I combed through one hundred and ten pages of the Shadow Hearts: From the New World script. From beginning to end, the script is 30,324 words long.

Natan says 768 words. Continue reading

Racialicious in the Boston Globe

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

There’s an interesting article in The Boston Globe about race in videogames, and it name-checks Latoya and Racialicious! Here are some excerpts:

Karen Dill, a psychology professor at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, told the congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection in September that video games blatantly stereotype minorities. A recent study she co-wrote, “Playing With Prejudice: The Prevalence and Consequences of Racial Stereotypes in Videogames,” analyzed the representation of minorities in photographs used to promote stories in the top video game magazines published in 2006. The study found black and Latino men were more likely to be portrayed as athletes or aggressors. Black men were less likely to wear protective armor or use technology than whites. Asians were often portrayed as intellectually superior but physically inferior…

Deadline Games CEO Mottes, a South African who worked in the anti-apartheid movement, took particular offense when his games Total Overdose and Chili Con Carnage were panned for their stereotypical depictions of Mexicans. Mottes’s post on gamedaily.com last year delved into the issue of racism and the video game industry: “We have to find the nuances other than to accept that there’s no place for these kind of stereotypes or storytelling methods.” In an interview, Mottes defended the use of stereotypes as a form of comedy. “I can’t think of a comedian or comic movie that doesn’t play on stereotypes,” he says.

To some, Mottes’s argument for the use of stereotypes fails to provide the nuance he accuses his critics of lacking. Latoya Peterson, an avid gamer who wrote about Mottes’s post on the blog Racialicious, doesn’t think stereotypes can ever be seen as positive. “They say, ‘Oh it’s just a game, don’t worry about it,’ ” Peterson says. “Wait a minute. The game also is a part of entertainment that . . . informs how you look at things and reinforces mindsets.”

Suggestions for Talking About Race and Video Games

by Pat M., originally published at Token Minorities

I spent the last few days away from this blog, commenting occasionally and picking a few fights on Internet forums. What makes me far, far more upset than the actual RE5 trailer is the systematic dismissal of this kind of conversation across the ‘net. The best conversation I’ve managed to find on this topic was actually in the Select Button forums, though even they’re prone to a decent amount of idiocy. Even after all this time, reading pages and pages of ignorant garbage makes me feel angry. I suppose that’s a good thing, after all – that I’m not jaded, and that this stuff still motivates me – but it always feels kind of pointless to be angry on a forum. So I thought I’d spend a few days duking it out and see what I came away with, in the hopes that I could come up with a set of general guidelines for race-and-video-game discussions. A long overdue FAQ, if you will, for people to refer to when race issues crop up in generally unprepared communities.

Step 1: Be Open To Discussion

The vast majority of the material people have written in regards to the Resident Evil 5 debacle have been repressive in nature:

“This is stupid.” “You’re seeing things that don’t exist.” “Talking about things like this only makes race issues more prevalent.”

These types of responses are, frankly, immature and counterproductive. Where else in life do we routinely say, “if you ignore it, it’ll go away”? Certainly I can say that, as a person of color, if it were so easy to simply ignore race, I would have done so a long time ago if I had thought that it would make the racial problems go away. But we cannot ignore it. “Ignoring race” is really something only white people get to do – an element of “white privilege”.

CubaLibre at the SB forums posted (in the context of the RE5 discussion) a very succinct and readable explanation of the flaws in the “colorblind” way of thinking, which tends to be at the heart of any attempts to quell discussion:

The problem with this blithe wishful-thinking approach of fighting racism is that no actual fighting is happening. In fact, theoretically it is no different from saying that if we ignore it, it will go away. I’ll admit as much as the next guy that specific, person-to-person racism is, in the modern world, properly stigmatized and marginalized. No pudge-bearing, bull-chested Birmingham city officials are rising out of their swivel chairs and boldly announcing “We ain’t gon let no niggers go to our schools.” People who do say such things are reviled approximately as much as pedophile cannibal rapists. Which, perhaps, is actually overdoing it, but compared to say Jim Crow, I say bravo.

But then, no one is accusing Capcom of subscribing to the Klan newsletter. Continue reading

Of Race and Resident Evil 5

by Latoya Peterson

Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa. This was done intentionally, according to producer Jun Takeuchi, as Africa is considered the birthplace of civilization.* Since that is where humanity began, the development team thought it would be interesting to explore the origins of the T-Virus basing the plot in Africa.

And just like that, another twist is added to the increasingly infuriating puzzle that is Resident Evil 5.

The game is not even scheduled to be released until 2009 and already the controversy has raged on for close to a year.

In a fifteen minute video,
(h/t Ikue) the Capcom blog features game producer Jun Takeuchi explaining some of the ideas surrounding the plot and updates to the gameplay. (Note: Resident Evil is the US title; the game is called Biohazard in Japan.) Unfortunately, there still is not much insight to be had. Chris Redfield is still the main character and this is definitely his story playing out against an exotic backdrop.

Nothing close to the kind of insight I was looking for from Capcom. As such, I am still withholding a judgment call on the game until I actually play. (Which, dear readers, will actually be a huge struggle for me – I am not great at first person shooters and I have never been a fan of survival horror. While I enjoyed watching the past few games, playing them will be an exercise in frustration.)

However, I was directed to a wonderful article on the MTV Multiplayer blog, in which N’Gai Croal of Newsweek’s Level Up blog spoke very frankly on images, racial history, and gaming.

Here’s an excerpt:

There was stuff like even before the point in the trailer where the crowd turned into zombies. There sort of being, in sort of post-modern parlance, they’re sort of “othered.” They’re hidden in shadows, you can barely see their eyes, and the perspective of the trailer is not even someone who’s coming to help the people. It’s like they’re all dangerous; they all need to be killed. It’s not even like one cute African — or Haitian or Caribbean — child could be saved. They’re all dangerous men, women and children. They all have to be killed. And given the history, given the not so distant post-colonial history, you would say to yourself, why would you uncritically put up those images? It’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, they shot Spanish zombies in ‘Resident Evil 4,’ and now ‘black zombies and that’s why people are getting upset.” The imagery is not the same. It doesn’t carry the same history, it doesn’t carry the same weight. I don’t know how to explain it more clearly than that. Continue reading

Immigration Game Attacked, Publisher Fires Back

Originally published by the GamePolitics blog

In recent months, GamePolitics has been tracking the development of ICED [I Can End Deportation], a serious game designed to publicize the issues faced by immigrants in the United States. The final version launched earlier this month.

Published by human rights organization Breakthrough, ICED examines immigration issues from the perspective of the immigrant. This is, of course, a hot-button political issue these days, so it’s not surprising that ICED has generated some controversy.

An article on Alex Jones’ InfoWars trashes ICED, terming it “an illegal immigration training game:”

An Indian woman, Mallika Dutt, has released a video game that essentially trains illegal aliens how to sneak across the border and avoid border patrol agents and cops…

For the casual observer, Ms. Dutt comes off as your garden variety liberal “human rights” advocate with a useful penchant for technology. But it is a bit more sinister than that…

As the average Mexican or Latin American does not have access to a video game console, let alone a television, the game is more practically geared toward an effort to inculcate middle class Americans into the belief that illegal immigration is a human rights issue, never mind open borders and the influx of third world people is a globalist plot to turn the United States, soon to become part of a North American Union, into a feudal slave labor gulag based on the China model. It has absolutely nothing to do with human rights.

Asked by GamePolitics to comment on the harsh criticism, Breakthrough’s Mallika Dutt pulled no punches in her response:

ICED – I Can End Deportation is a video game about the lack of due process in the immigration system as it applies to legal permanent residents, asylum seekers and people who are here on valid visas – it’s not about illegal immigrants – as anyone who’s actually bothered to play the game would quickly realize.

One of the characters, Marc, is a war veteran – and many vets, who have legal resident status, have been deported because of unfair immigration laws. Current detention and deportation laws hold people, even legal residents, in detention indefinitely with no access to a judge. Legal residents can be deported for minor crimes – without the opportunity to make a case before a judge.

It’s interesting that those who claim to be supporting the American way of life, are the very ones who are ripping apart due process and fairness in our legal systems…

GP: The immigration issue is surely a controversial one, and there are valid points to be made on both sides. But, frankly, the InfoWars piece smacks of prejudice and stereotyping.

Making it a point to identify Mallika Dutt as “an Indian woman” and asserting that “the average Mexican or Latin American does not have access to a video game console” pretty much show where the article is coming from.

And, note to InfoWars: ICED is not played on a console or a television. It’s a PC game.

Moving Gaming Forward: Having Meaningful Conversations About Social Issues

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson, originally published at Cerise Magazine

Watching some of the carnage unfold in the blogosphere conflicts surrounding the released trailer of Resident Evil 5, one thought kept echoing in my mind:

This conversation is going nowhere.

A few members of the gaming community, while pondering a very valid point about the issue of racism in gaming, inadvertently raised the hackles of developers and designers alike when taking on one of gaming’s best loved franchises.

Jason over at Microscopiq ended up with 365 comments on his dissection of the released RE5 trailer, where he asserts:

After all, in RE4, you spend the game shooting equally out-of-their-mind Spaniards. But, then, the Spanish haven’t been so egregiously misrepresented as blacks through the ages, have they? Not even close.

From Birth of a Nation to Black Hawk Down, black folk are apparently responsible for some of the most mindless and evil activities you got. Rape, murder, satanic voodoo. With bulging eyes, simian super strength, and a room temperature IQ, we’ve been portrayed as savages beyond redemption. So, when we see images like these, it doesn’t just resonate with the long lived zombie genre, it also triggers memories of so many awful stereotypes — and what those stereotypes have been used to justify past and present. Put down the crazed negroes before they take the white women! And so on…

But perhaps the most troubling part is that these scenes seem to be set in Africa; the “dark continent.” With all the positive steps being taken of late to raise awareness of the good things happening in Africa as well as the urgent need in some parts of the continent, we really can’t afford this kind of step back. We need to find ways to humanize Africans, not dehumanize them.

Valid points, but they still raised the ire of some gamers, who wrote things like:

Resident Evil 1 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil 2 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Code: Veronica – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Survivor – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Gaiden – white people are zombies
Resident Evil: Survivor 2 Code: Veronica – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Zero – white people are zombies
Resident Evil: Dead Aim – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Outbreak – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil 4 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles – white people are zombies Continue reading