Forums > Off Topic > Identity, Diversity & Stereotypes In Gaming

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ETJB (428) on 1/14/2011 5:56 PM · Permalink · Report

Talk about home video games and computer games have (or currently do) dealt with identity issues; i.e. race, religion, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic class, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation. Do games promote prejudice and stereotypes? What can be done about this? Should anything be done about this?

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Pseudo_Intellectual (66423) on 1/14/2011 6:55 PM · Permalink · Report

Do games promote prejudice and stereotypes?

Undoubtedly! Any more so than literature or film? Maybe not, but that isn't a free pass.

What can be done about this?

Make better games. Get more people from minority backgrounds to design games reflecting their life experience (eg. Space Spy)

Should anything be done about this?

Without a doubt.

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Pseudo_Intellectual (66423) on 1/16/2011 2:37 AM · Permalink · Report

Undoubtedly! Any more so than literature or film? Maybe not, but that isn't a free pass.

And it should be less so because as a new industry continually built off the backs of the young, there shouldn't be the calcified old boys' network at the top dictating their retrograde values every step down the ladder.

But the marketing divisions are old boys' networks, and if they dictate to the publisher what needs to be made in order to sell according to the tired old paradigms, the publisher will make very tired demands.

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MichaelPalin (1414) on 1/23/2011 5:50 PM · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--]Do games promote prejudice and stereotypes?

Undoubtedly! Any more so than literature or film? Maybe not, but that isn't a free pass. [/Q --end Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--]

Maybe not? You and me don't play the same video games.

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Pseudo_Intellectual (66423) on 1/23/2011 6:29 PM · Permalink · Report

Or watch the same movies? In mainstream film, any failure to play up to a stereotype is often treated as a gag unto itself.

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Zovni (10504) on 1/14/2011 11:03 PM · Permalink · Report

Do you want us to write your term paper for you? lol.

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piltdown_man (242093) on 1/15/2011 1:06 AM · Permalink · Report

I started off writing a reasoned reply to this post that contrasted the cross gender & cross race & co-operation between dwarves, elves & clerics in many MMORPGs, against the non confrontational games like Sims and games of conflicting belief systems, I chose GDI & NOD in the C&C series as examples, where I'd play both sides to get value for money from the game. Then, when it started to feel like a homework project (around 15 minutes in), Zovni's post struck home. So, to summarise;

Do games promote prejudice and stereotypes?
No game has decided or changed any point of view I have on any race, creed or gender.
I am not prejudiced against any of the following

  • aliens,
  • elves,
  • trolls,
  • Mr or Ms Pac-man,
  • the japanese or the Romans of the Total War series, or
  • the Knights Templar in the Broken Sword or Indiana Jones games.
  • e.t.c.
What can be done about this?
Nothing, which is as it should be. A game is a form of entertainment, when playing it I am fully immersed, when not playing it I am still the same 'me' that played the game and set it aside
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Indra was here (20752) on 1/15/2011 2:02 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Edward Brown wrote--]Do games promote prejudice and stereotypes? What can be done about this? Should anything be done about this? [/Q --end Edward Brown wrote--] No. Games don't do that.
People do.

Prejudice and stereotyping is in our source-coding. We relate to what we are familiar with and instinct really isn't that smart to begin with. It's an issue only if someone makes an issue out of it. It becomes an issue of prejudice if you want it to become an issue of prejudice. An issue of stereotyping if you want it to become one and so on. The only real question worth asking is why should you bother? Is it worth the time and effort of making it into a big deal?

Does it involve boobies?

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Zovni (10504) on 1/15/2011 10:52 PM · Permalink · Report

Well its obviously his asignment for the week. But anyways, you can't really dismiss the whole issue. The fact is that most videogames are produced by and for a particular demographic (white, north-american males) and it doesn't take a lot of digging to pick up on some serious stereotypes:

I mean, just a few off the top of my head:

  • Main characters will be white or cleary caucasian inspired.
  • Minority characters might tag along as sidekicks in the classic diversity token fashion. (ie: funny black sidekick) -No female character can have a strong, assertive personality (or a significant starring role) unless she is also a hot babe. (ie: supermodel journalist/scientist/support officer/etc.)
  • Everyone speaks english regardless of where they live or what country they are in. (country? what's that?)
  • Black characters are gangsta rappers, because that's what black people are into.
  • Latin americans will have mustaches and be sleazy douches that try to bone the main character's girl.

etc. etc. If this sounds like something out of motion pictures then you are not mistaken, as the videogame industry has been copying Hollywood's playbook for a while now. Whether this is an evil discriminatory act or merely the commercial savvy of an insular society out of touch with the world is something that bears further discussion.

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Indra was here (20752) on 1/15/2011 11:12 PM · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Zovni wrote--]But anyways, you can't really dismiss the whole issue. The fact is that most videogames are produced by and for a particular demographic (white, north-american males) and it doesn't take a lot of digging to pick up on some serious stereotypes. [/Q --end Zovni wrote--] Like I said. Games don't. People do.

In this case, game developers. If the majority of the designers just happened to be white dudes, then I suppose they'll follow whatever cultural indoctrination they're used to: white rules, others don't. If you were another race, you'd do a similar approach for your own race.

Why aren't there any Indonesian protagonists running around in the majority? Because there aren't any Indonesian game developers making the majority of games. Not really much of a brain twister. :p

So the whiteys have the upper hand in cultural indoctrination. Good for them. So what have the other races been doing in the mean time? Buying the white man's product. Serves you right then. So let's play some blond geek RPG hero and move on.

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Unicorn Lynx (181769) on 1/16/2011 5:29 AM · Permalink · Report

The majority of the designers are white? Must be a pretty small majority - what about all those Japanese developers?

Japanese designers also make games with white-looking male protagonists and female characters that must be young and sexy. In fact, they do it more.

I actually think Western developers have shown much more mature approach to all the issues that have been mentioned here. Non-white protagonists, female characters that exceed the "boob factor", convincingly portrayed gay characters, etc., might still be rare -but at least there are examples of this in Western games.

Japanese designers, on the other hand, embrace the stereotypes with joy. I could point out hundreds of examples for ethnic stereotypes in Japanese games - not to mention their sick treatment of women.

So I don't blame the "white dudes". I think there are deeper reasons here.

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Indra was here (20752) on 1/16/2011 9:07 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

[Q --start חד-קרן·山猫 wrote--]So I don't blame the "white dudes". I think there are deeper reasons here. [/Q --end חד-קרן·山猫 wrote--] You would be disappointed. There isn't one. Just retrace the first dudes on introduced selective marketing. Try talking to an Anthropology professor. He'd/she'd probably tell you the same thing as me, just more diplomatically. I tend to state things bluntly. Don't ask sociologists though, their field of study is a bit...stupid.

--

Asians on one oddly prefer white dudes than any other dude. White as in white. White with a tan doesn't work either. If you weren't white in China, you'd probably tell the discriminatory difference.

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Pseudo_Intellectual (66423) on 1/16/2011 5:41 PM · Permalink · Report

Just retrace the first dudes on introduced selective marketing.

This is reminding me of a podcast from NPR this week about differences between surveys when people are asked what they want and what they think the people around them will want.... even if the developers want progressive games, if they're not convinced that the market does, then they won't make them.

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Indra was here (20752) on 1/16/2011 6:47 PM · edited · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--]This is reminding me of a podcast from NPR this week about differences between surveys when people are asked what they want and what they think the people around them will want.... even if the developers want progressive games, if they're not convinced that the market does, then they won't make them. [/Q --end Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--] Gah. Surveys and any form of quantitative research is the biggest fraud scheme since Adam Smith's the Invisible Hand theory. Boy, do those companies make a fortune making up stuff.

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Unicorn Lynx (181769) on 1/15/2011 4:35 AM · Permalink · Report

Do games promote prejudices and stereotypes?

Depends what kind of stereotypes. Ethnic and religious - rarely; mainstream games usually simply stay away from such issues. Gender stereotypes - all the time.

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Starbuck the Third (22602) on 1/15/2011 4:03 PM · Permalink · Report

Predjudice - no. Stereotypes... in terms of people who play games, I would have to say yes. The big one I call it the WoW stereotype. If you don't get why i call it that, I'll take it as a good sign.

In terms of actual games, there are tons of stereotypes. The bald muscle bound space marine, scantily clad elf maidens and Lara Croft all spring instantly to mind. A pity really, as there are a myriad of less stereotyped and varied characters out there.

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Patrick Bregger (303232) on 1/15/2011 4:06 PM · Permalink · Report

Is Lara Croft really a stereotype? I don't think it was back then when she was introduced; at least not in video games.

I also wanted to make a joke about the stereotypical flying, cursing skull but it somehow doesn't work.

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Starbuck the Third (22602) on 1/15/2011 4:15 PM · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Patrick Bregger wrote--]Is Lara Croft really a stereotype? I don't think it was back then when she was introduced; at least not in video games. [/Q --end Patrick Bregger wrote--]

Ok, maybe the weak example, but i doubt someone could bring out a game with a well endowed female lead without the good Ms. Croft being brought up in various review, previews, discussions or so on.

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The Fabulous King (1332) on 1/16/2011 12:48 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

I'll just try to ingore what Indra said and point out that I especially like Zovni's and Pseudo's posts.

I think Bioware is an interesting and kinda sad case here. They're obviously very progressive politically. It even influences how they create their good&evil paths in games. For example, the good choices in Kotor were obviously left-wing progressive and the evil choices somekinda distorted parody of extreme objectivism.

And they actually made an rpg without white people, and you know me - the less white people in my rpg's the more happy I am.

And they at least try to make some "normal" gay characters. I think Sky from Jade Empire is their best effort actually.

Jade Empire is actually quite under-appreciated come to think of it.

But then we come to Mass Effect poster boy - some angry white boy. Which is funny, cause internet forums say that most ME characters are supposed to be this mixed cosmic non-racial future race... but they all look white to me. I guess I my color shaders were off or something.

At least it seems they're trying. But Shepard don't look like Vin Diesel to me. Just saying.

Oh yeah, and about gay characters. Bioware lately has turned into something truly vile and horrible. Just take a look in Bioware forums.... and you'll start to think that Twilight is a healthy normal film liked by healthy normal people. It's just... ain't nothing good gonna come from there.

And Bioware women characters are all just beta male "I'm a nice guy" fantasies... if I just listen to her problems and let her cry on my shoulders and hug her and pay attention to her unlike her former jerk asshole boyfriend then I get laid and find true love, hooray!!! Just like in real life :D.

The problem is gamers. We're just horrible horrible people with horrible sad little lives and pathetic little unimaginative fantasies and all we want is wish fulfillment of those... and those wish fulfillments are just as sad and pathetic like we are. And they (the game creatores) aim to fulfill our fantasies. And are quite succesful too apparently.

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Pseudo_Intellectual (66423) on 1/16/2011 2:34 AM · Permalink · Report

And they at least try to make some "normal" gay characters.

Is it possible to make a top-10 list of sympathetic homosexual characters in videogames who aren't ridiculous flaming caricature punchlines or kinky deviant fetishistic monsters? (Anna Anthropy seems to be doing a good job of flying the freak flag high in a celebratory rather than mocking fashion, but who else does?)

In any case, Bioware's steps in even including normal gay characters was a tremendously bold move, addressing an absence that must have been silently conspicuous among the gaming press. Nobody calculates that they will move more units if they confront heteronormativity in their games, even though statistically there must be lots and lots of non-cis folks working in the game industry. (Quick, start looking for subtext in Dani Bunten Berry's ludography...)

And Bioware women characters are all just beta male "I'm a nice guy" fantasies...

Just because we're willing to give equal time to homosexuals doesn't mean we're not still living in the patriarchy. Male privilege entails a feeling of entitlement, and what they feel entitled to is fan service.

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The Fabulous King (1332) on 1/16/2011 4:10 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--] Just because we're willing to give equal time to homosexuals doesn't mean we're not still living in the patriarchy. Male privilege entails a feeling of entitlement, and what they feel entitled to is fan service. [/Q --end Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--]

I don't really see the patriarchy. Then again, I might just not understand your post which often happens. But if it's about how males are still dominating all the culture, which makes it unfair for women and yadda-yadda... then no, I don't really see the patriarchy.

Frankly modern western world has perverted all the old great ideas of equality and fairness of late 19th century and early 20th century into something truly petty and selfish. Modern social democracy is not the old social democracy that actually ended feodalism in some countries, and modern feminism is far cry from the old feminism that actually was about something... these days it's all just self-delusional verbal masturbation by neurotic people.

And what about female entitlement? You ever noticed how women pick men? Or just pick on other women? It's not all just patriarchy or male privilege, some things are because we're still an animal species in the natural world, dictated by our biology.

And bringing it back to games. A lot of Bioware fan service is to women also... and judging by current Dragon Age 2 forums... most of fan service is to women users. Or fangirls like they call them.

Edit: The picture's too distracting, I'll just link it. Context: Bioware announces new male characters and fangirls are fantasizing all kinds of scenarios about them. I'm just thinking here that fan service is not male only.

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Pseudo_Intellectual (66423) on 1/16/2011 6:55 PM · Permalink · Report

And what about female entitlement? You ever noticed how women pick men? Or just pick on other women? It's not all just patriarchy or male privilege, some things are because we're still an animal species in the natural world, dictated by our biology.

And bringing it back to games.

I didn't intend to evoke the greater patriarchy, but rather the games industry as symptomatic of it. Outside the patriarchy, it might be enough to have a game populated by strong female characters without their also being a potential harem.

A lot of Bioware fan service is to women also... and judging by current Dragon Age 2 forums... most of fan service is to women users. Or fangirls like they call them.

Then this makes me wonder to what extent the fan service is being made by women for what women are interested in, or if it's a projected masculine fantasy of what they would fantasize about if they were women (it being not enough to own women, but to also need to set the terms of what women want) : naturally, this generally is exactly the same as the male fanservice, with all (or most of) the genders reskinned. Admittedly some men are very good at this, cf. Joss Whedon. (This also brings to mind the anecdote about Clive Barker's veto on Undying's first draft of protagonist, demanding a male character he'd like to sleep with.)

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The Fabulous King (1332) on 1/16/2011 7:11 PM · edited · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--] Then this makes me wonder to what extent the fan service is being made by women for what women are interested in, or if it's a projected masculine fantasy of what they would fantasize about if they were women (it being not enough to own women, but to also need to set the terms of what women want). [/Q --end Pseudo_Intellectual wrote--]

But wouldn't the fact that this content is created by women suggest it is being made for what women are interested in?

Though the particular character the women are creating artistic content about is itself probably created by men. But still. If there wouldn't be interest, then there wouldn't be this content.

Or can I possibly now paint you as a closet misogynist by suggesting that you are suggesting that women are inable to create content that interests them, because they're unable to create at all? :D Cause nerdy romance novel reading women are still... well women.

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Zovni (10504) on 1/18/2011 12:41 PM · Permalink · Report

The fact alone that content is being made specifically for women in a medium such as ours is something to celebrate. If its made by hopelessly out of touch men or sensible women is something that I think can only be properly judged from a female perspective.

Somewhat related: anybody heard about the mild controversy with the black guy on Thor? What's your take there?

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GAMEBOY COLOR! (1990) on 1/18/2011 1:53 PM · Permalink · Report

I heard about that on Penny Arcade a while back. I don't really have a problem with it, but it's pretty odd. Aren't all the characters in Thor Norse or something? (I've never read any Thor comics.)

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Indra was here (20752) on 1/18/2011 2:16 PM · Permalink · Report

Equality for the wrong reasons. Hate it when they do that. A Nordic god who is black to me is as disturbing as a Nordic god who is white and has an Australian accent and changing Thor's hammer to a spoon. Hell, why not? It's still a blunt object. Duh. :p

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Starbuck the Third (22602) on 1/18/2011 2:59 PM · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Indra was here wrote--]Equality for the wrong reasons. Hate it when they do that. A Nordic god who is black to me is as disturbing as a Nordic god who is white and has an Australian accent and changing Thor's hammer to a spoon. Hell, why not? It's still a blunt object. Duh. :p [/Q --end Indra was here wrote--]

Tell ya what, Indra, next time you get angry, you should try bludgeoning someone with a spoon. Just do me a favor and take a camcorder and record it, I'm always up for a good giggle.

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Lain Crowley (6629) on 1/18/2011 8:45 PM · Permalink · Report

This is almost as offensive as a white Jesus.

I can't for the life of me understand why someone would take it upon themselves to preserve the ethnicity of a fictional character. Plus the character is a god. Who's to say he didn't just become black over time? They can turn into swans and horses, but not change race?

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Indra was here (20752) on 1/18/2011 9:18 PM · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Lain Crowley wrote--]They can turn into swans and horses, but not change race? [/Q --end Lain Crowley wrote--]Swans and horses for Nordic gods, yes. Kangaroos and orangutans, no. Might as well give them all machine guns while we're at it, why stick with old rusty hammers?

But that's not the point.

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Slug Camargo (583) on 1/19/2011 2:07 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Zovni wrote--] Somewhat related: anybody heard about the mild controversy with the black guy on Thor? What's your take there? [/Q --end Zovni wrote--] Well we're talking about the land that apparently feels so dirty about their past they have to overreact political correctness to insane levels.

You're Argentinian, right? I'm guessing you know about Los Simuladores, and you may have heard about the American rip-off, Leverage, which changes the characters to include a black guy, a couple women and I haven't watched it but I'd dare to guess also a Chinese and a wheelchair-bound guy; because you know, God forbid someone notices the original protagonists are all middle-aged white males :panic:

Funnily enough, I hadn't gave that particular issue much thought (or any to be honest) until I saw this ridiculous "Benetton version" Americans did :P


Edit: In other black viking-related news, as so many other things this also has been analyzed by the geniuses at Old Man Murray some 100 years ago (see green side column).

I feel just as bad about the way blacks have been treated as anyone. If there was I a way I could make reparations - say by annexing Quebec and giving every African American family three French Canadian slaves - I'd do it. I firmly believe that both Jesus and Jennifer Lopez are black. But for God's sake, the one place where I think all of us can get behind a strict whites-only policy is the casts of Viking movies.

Man, motherfuck the Bible, those guys were the true prophets.

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The Fabulous King (1332) on 1/19/2011 2:48 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

Methinks it's more of a Kenneth Brannagh trademark thing than an american political correctness thing.

And my opinion? Don't care. Norse Gods didn't look like something out of Flash Gordon either, and a true to myths presentation would actually be something low-key and depressing. Something that really puts the fear of winter into your bones. Something born from lack of proper sunlight. And this is just a comic adaption.

Then again, a point could me made that they had white kids playing asian kids in Avatar: Last Airbender, meaning that this whole PC colorblind casting thing is just horribly confused about itself.

Edit: I'm actually browsing through TVTropes Black Viking page, and the majority of that seems to consist of british productions. So... it is a Kenneth Brannagh thing.

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Slug Camargo (583) on 1/19/2011 2:28 PM · edited · Permalink · Report

Sweet mother of all that is good and pure, what the FUCK is that movie? I never even heard of it and I already hate the guts of everyone involved in it and their mothers. How can you get together Beetlejuice, Dr. Wilson, Neo and Father Eli and turn such reunion into that drivel?

It may be Dr. Wilson's fault, come to think of it. I kinda like him, but the man is undoubtedly a fag.

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Unicorn Lynx (181769) on 1/19/2011 2:34 PM · Permalink · Report

It's a very good movie, actually. Really brings those charming Shakespeare characters to life.

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Slug Camargo (583) on 1/19/2011 9:07 PM · Permalink · Report

Oh, will you look at that. I just realized I never knew that play's original title, so I didn't know what I was looking at. I guess it's okay then, carry on.

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Lain Crowley (6629) on 1/19/2011 9:31 PM · Permalink · Report

Political correctness? This is what you get for listening to cable news networks/supermarket tabloids. This has to do with audience demographics. Avatar was recast to make it friendlier to parents and part of the Thor casting decision was that it could help bring in more black viewers, who are a big part of action movie audiences.

Of course these are the reasonings. They're not necessarily true, as there is a lot of magical thinking that goes into marketing. But so long as Hollywood is run by old white jewish men, this is what we'll see happening.

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Slug Camargo (583) on 1/20/2011 2:47 AM · Permalink · Report

[Q --start Lain Crowley wrote--]Political correctness? This is what you get for listening to cable news networks/supermarket tabloids. This has to do with audience demographics. Avatar was recast to make it friendlier to parents and part of the Thor casting decision was that it could help bring in more black viewers, who are a big part of action movie audiences. [/Q --end Lain Crowley wrote--] So, according to your view, when they cast Brad Pitt or Leonardo Di Caprio for a a romance movie they're aiming to the narcissistic hot guy demographic. Interesting.

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Indra was here (20752) on 1/20/2011 6:21 AM · edited · Permalink · Report

Not that harsh. It's just that the American idea of segregation is the equivalent of a political scientist who has an IQ of a burnt marshmallow. Instead of making differences less apparent, they prefer to make it more apparent, and make a big deal out of it every time, ironically by both sides - more or less, the political structure is to endorse it.

That's what happens when you listen to sociologists. :p

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Zovni (10504) on 1/22/2011 5:17 AM · Permalink · Report

Amen.