#1 Posted by xSeanZx (199 posts) -

For our second paper in my English 1C class, we are dealing with the issue of racism.

Having just finished Bioshock Infinite, and seeing many of the racist themes and undertones presented in that game, I was compelled to write the paper about racism in video games.

I plan to focus on the sort of history of the medium, and why it is such an effective way of portraying these themes, and the changes with the emergence of much more advanced technology which allows for a lot more theme portrayal.

I will definitely talk about Bioshock Infinite in the paper a lot, and plan on exploring it a bit deeper in regards to research that has been done, etc.

I post this to ask for your guys' experiences, and information about the topic. What have you encountered in a game that struck you? What do you remember being a very race driven theme and story?

I would appreciate feedback, as it will help shape my structure of the paper, and where exactly I will go with it.

If someone posts their own original thoughts on the concept, and I really like what you have to say, I will of course ask for permission to use you in the paper, and will properly cite in the works cited.

I am looking forward to an interesting discussion!

#2 Posted by Kidavenger (3582 posts) -

Dragon Age: Origins had some racism towards elves, I think most of it was explained/displayed in the city elf origin but it does pop up throughout the game.

#3 Posted by gaminghooligan (1465 posts) -

Elder Scrolls has it here and there

#4 Posted by Dagbiker (6978 posts) -

I am on a phone right now and so cant really wright a whole lot. I also think you should write from your own perspective, but use other posters, assuming others dont just troll you, to open your eyes to new view points. Also look up custers revenge.

#5 Edited by Inkerman (1452 posts) -

Skyrim has it a fair bit, the way Nords view Dark Elves. The racism towards the Elves in Dragon Age: Origins also really struck me, mostly because Elves are usually the 'higher' of the races.

#6 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

just about any game where you're human future military fighting aliens / monsters.

halo has some racial slurs towards to covenant.

gears. all the soldiers calling locusts grubs and such.

ect.

Fantasy RPGs have a ton of it lately, the elder scrolls games (morrowind, skyrim in particular). the witcher series has alot of racism. Dragon age has alot of racism.

i assume of course you're talking about any racism, not just against real world races right?

#7 Edited by xSeanZx (199 posts) -

I am definitely going to be writing from my own perspective, but I find it useful to get insight from other gamers, since you guys are the ones who are experiencing it.

Also, I can find stories and games from you guys I can take closer looks at

#8 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

Final Fantasy is racist in that they have characters I would consider to be offensive stereotypes.

Witcher has a pretty strong racism thread. Skyrim's got a lot of major threads around racism. Mass Effect has a bit too. Dragon Age: Origins has a good bit of it, especially against elves (one of the elve-

and that's how long it takes for me to talk about Dragon Age before I have to just go play it. So I'm going to go do that.

#9 Posted by xSeanZx (199 posts) -

just about any game where you're human future military fighting aliens / monsters.

halo has some racial slurs towards to covenant.

gears. all the soldiers calling locusts grubs and such.

ect.

Fantasy RPGs have a ton of it lately, the elder scrolls games (morrowind, skyrim in particular). the witcher series has alot of racism. Dragon age has alot of racism.

i assume of course you're talking about any racism, not just against real world races right?

yeah, Games like these definitely can find parallels to what we have experienced in the real world, and would actually be an interesting way to connect concepts of the paper (imo)

#10 Edited by MonetaryDread (2074 posts) -
#11 Edited by Winternet (8025 posts) -

I'm guessing you're gonna say Bioshock Infinite a lot.

#12 Posted by mrcraggle (1954 posts) -

There was a lot of controversy about RE5 when that came out as you played as a white man shooting a large percentage of Africans.

Although it may not tie into your theme of racism, maybe you could look at a game such as Deus Ex: Human Rev as it has a large focus towards prejudice against the people who are different.

You could also incorporate the Mass Effect series. Ashley Williams is clearly racist (or rather speciesist).

#13 Edited by jgf (393 posts) -

Just look at CoD and shooters in general.

The bad guy is usually a russian male or some form of arabic terrorist. Also evil characters almost always have some kind of "Mark of Cain". Like a bad eye, a scar or something similar.

How often is your hero a south-african female that shoots cowardly acting white american males that behave "dumb as f***" ?

#14 Edited by audioBusting (1619 posts) -

Be careful of the Sarkeesian mistake of not providing cultural/societal context to the argument, like how our sensitivity towards racism and political correctness change over time and how that affects video games. It's probably not a coincidence that films like Lincoln and Django Unchained, which also has themes on America and racism, came out pretty near Bioshock Infinite too.

Other games that deals with racism.. off the top of my head I can only think of Dragon Age: Origins.. It does talk a lot about discrimination in general. Generally (in the game), men discriminates against women, humans discriminate against elves, templars discriminate against mages etc. The city elf origin gets the double whammy by having human lords rape a female elf.

#15 Posted by Mezmero (1965 posts) -

I really liked Dust: An Elysian Tail. I thought it was a very well done narrative about racial cleansing. The Warhammer 40K Dawn of War games are rife with racism and xenophobia.

#16 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

#17 Edited by mosespippy (4285 posts) -

Lots of games have racism but I don't think any of the games mentioned so far use it as a major part of the plot. Or at least the posters haven't said why the racism matters in the context of the game world and I suspect that it's because it doesn't matter at all.

I'm going to refer to Valkyria Chronicles. It's an allegory for WWII. It's got racial tensions from beginning to end, including enemies burning down a concentration camp as they retreat. It's not as simple as the enemy army being racist either. Members of your squad are racist towards other members of your squad. It's not just in the story scenes either; it's implemented in the gameplay. On the battlefield if you put a racist next to someone of that race then it will drastically reduce their performance. If you put these minority members together they will generally get bonuses.

Edit: The racism within your own country is so great that it even results in a civil war that is the premise for the entire second game.

Online
#18 Edited by MariachiMacabre (7099 posts) -

In Resistance: Fall of Man, the second player in co-op was a black guy. He was never acknowledged by anyone. It made for some hilarious cutscenes. "Thanks for saving us, Nathan. I don't how you do this alone. With no help from anyone at all."

Other than Bioshock Infinite, Valkyria Chronicles, Dragon Age, and Dust: An Elysian Tale I can't think of a game where it's a central theme. The Witcher series has some pretty heavy racist themes too, I suppose.

#19 Edited by expensiveham (293 posts) -

@mrcraggle said:

There was a lot of controversy about RE5 when that came out as you played as a white man shooting a large percentage of Africans.

There was nothing racist about RE5 and i hate Capcom for changing the game due to the reaction the early footage got. It takes place in Africa, most of the people in Africa are Africans and thus most of the the zombies are also Africans. Nothing more to it then that.

People are so scared of appearing racist and feel the need to be as politically correct as possible that they get upset over things that are not actually racist at all.

@mariachimacabre said:

In Resistance: Fall of Man, the second player in co-op was a black guy. He was never acknowledged by anyone. It made for some hilarious cutscenes. "Thanks for saving us, Nathan. I don't how you do this alone. With no help from anyone at all."

That is just lazy co-op implementation. The fact that he was black had nothing to do with it.

#20 Edited by Brodehouse (10072 posts) -

What's important to mention in Dragon Age is that it actually goes to lengths to ground racism in reality. It's not your usual tyrannical oppressors versus innocent victims, both sides of almost every issue exacerbate the situation in almost every case. The humans call the city elves knife-ears and belittle them for being almost entirely poor and uneducated, but they actively fear the Dalish and feel threatened by them. And for good reason, the Dalish are violent and are as actively racist and hostile as the worst humans (or as they call them, shems). Then there's the dwarves, who don't really care about humans or elves, but do see themselves as infinitely wiser and their society much more stable. Even though their society is a brutal caste system which classifies the lowest rung as being less than sentient, with no purpose other than to die eventually. The qunari religion accepts all races and yet the only race that may hold the ruling offices are the kossith (the tall horned guys), and the language of the qunari is in fact theirs. Familiar? The nationalism is also very accurate. The world sees Fereldan as a backwater that just happened to give birth to the Maker's chosen bride, whereas Ferelden thinks the rest of the world are primped wusses. Orlais is the world's superpower and believes the rest of the world to be uncivilized, the rest of the world thinks Orlesians are ignorant of anything that isn't Orlesian. Familiar?

#21 Posted by mrcraggle (1954 posts) -

@expensiveham: Yes, you're right. I worded that poorly. I meant to say that he could mention the controversy and peoples reactions that came out because of the first trailer rather than the actual game itself.

#22 Edited by Canteu (2821 posts) -
#23 Posted by pyromagnestir (4326 posts) -

Fire Emblem Path of Radiance. Filthy subhumans are all over the place taking all our Beorc jobs.

#24 Posted by xSeanZx (199 posts) -

Thanks so much for the feedback guys!

I am going to wade through the beefier posts later when I am off of work.

#25 Edited by SexyToad (2760 posts) -

As the others said... Skyrim is a good example. The nords in the game, as I remember it, are racists towards the elves and want them out of Skyrim.

#26 Edited by ArtelinaRose (1856 posts) -

Pretty much every fantasy setting since The Witcher came out has been horribly racist towards non humans. Start there.

When people cite Skyrim and not the Witcher I just get frustrated because it seems like Bethesda just took the racism from that and get away with not citing sources because they are more popular.

#27 Posted by MikeJFlick (443 posts) -

@canteu: Racism doesn't only cover race, it's usage has generally been broaden to: discrimination based on difference.

#28 Edited by Brodehouse (10072 posts) -

No, Canteu is right. There's a word for discrimination and it's discrimination. It can be argued that the MW are racist against Arabs, or that they're jingoistic or nationalist, but 'racist against Muslims' doesn't pass muster.

They're not even critical of Islam to qualify as being anti-Islamic, so the Muslim thing is a complete misnomer.

#29 Edited by BillyTheKid (486 posts) -

Modern Military Shooters seem to be stuck in the Cold War with constant pestering of the Russians. Look at the Modern Warfare series in particular with the Russians still being some kind of "big red threat" for the United States. These games just kind of jack off the US Military while stomping on Russia as if they still intend to fire nuclear weapons at the United States.

#30 Posted by Canteu (2821 posts) -

@mikejflick: Racism is discrimination. But discrimination is not racism, it's discrimination.

#31 Edited by EpicSteve (6492 posts) -

Unless we're counting racism or discrimination against fictional factions or races, I really haven't noticed any.

Someone above mentioned the RE5 thing. Don't cite that. My opinion is that whole "controversy" was misguided and I've never ran into anyone on a forum or in person that said they were the one offended. That's like saying a game taking place in Japan is racist because everyone in it is Japanese. I read someone's tweet that Medal of Honor was offensive because the only people you shot were brown. Well, that's the people's skin color in that part of the world.

For the Muslims getting offended by Modern Warfare, it was one kid on Youtube that could actually translate the arabic language. The problem was there was arabic writing in the bathroom that cited the Quran (their Bible basically). It's offensive to them for that writing to be in a bathroom. That isn't racism, that's just a game developer not being totally fluent in Muslim culture. I spent a year in Afghanistan, my Afghan interpreter said the conservative people in that part of the world are offended by everything. And based on my experience that's true. They don't care that someone may not be well versed in their culture, and will be insulted over simple mistakes like that.

#32 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (5801 posts) -

While being a detestable part of society, racism is a great tool to flesh out a fictional setting. In Bioshock Infinite, the racist themes helped to establish a very sinister tone in Columbia. It's also served as a justification for Booker's/Comstock's past.

When Booker took the baptism and became Comstock he rationalized all of his killing by creating an extreme religion that justified his past wrongdoings. It was okay that he killed all the people he did because he didn't see them as sins, he saw them as acts of Holy purification. He saw himself as a hero.

#33 Edited by hencook (180 posts) -

Everyone's citing only good examples of racism in video games. Bioshock Infinite acknowledges racism as a problem from that time period. So what? That's GOOD racism.

Here's some "bad" racism that you should include!-
RE5- People took issue with it. Was the game racist? Probably not. Even if the game wasn't racist, the controversy surrounding it was!
GTA Vice City Haitian Controversy.
Token black characters that check the "racial diversity" checkbox.
XBLA Halo Voice Chat- There was a good piece where I remember some guy on XBLA telling people "What if I told you, I'm black?"
Marketing Trends- Video games were created after MLK, so all the video game stories that you're running into are likely to be free of racism or addressing racism in a good way. But that doesn't change the fact that the industry itself is racist. The character you last played is likely to be white. If the character was female, then she'd have some pretty striking features (sexism is more prevalent than racism in video games imo), and actually video game devs have been creative enough to allow you to just play your own race by creating your own character.

Bottom Line: You're not going to find dirt on racism in the stories of video games. If you concentrate on the concept of video games itself, as a media, you'll find the good dirt.

#34 Posted by DarthOrange (3867 posts) -

I recommend you also point out how the race of most protagonists in video games are white guys or if they are another race then they are antiheroes. The only game I can think of that stars a character that happens to be black is Starhawk and that game tanked. Coincidence?

Killzone has racism between the Helghast and the humans throughout and at one point Hakha calls Rico (a black dude) a monkey.

#35 Posted by evilrazer (489 posts) -

I think every BioWare game has racism involved in some for or another.

#36 Posted by dr_mantas (1979 posts) -

The Witcher games have some fantasy racism.

Also, I think it's better to separate two distinct things. If something has racist themes, you're saying the product is being racist against someone, somehow. I think Bioshock Infinite would be more accurately described as portraying issues of racism and other kinds of discrimination in a turn of the century society.

#37 Edited by Gaff (1814 posts) -

@xseanzx said:

For our second paper in my English 1C class, we are dealing with the issue of racism.

Having just finished Bioshock Infinite, and seeing many of the racist themes and undertones presented in that game, I was compelled to write the paper about racism in video games.

I plan to focus on the sort of history of the medium, and why it is such an effective way of portraying these themes, and the changes with the emergence of much more advanced technology which allows for a lot more theme portrayal.

I'm not sure if this angle is going to work as such. I'm guessing you're going for the "interactivity / player participation leads to more envolvement / empathy from the player"? Anyway, your paper, etc. Not going to stick my nose in it.

Some examples I've played:

  • Valkyria Chronicles: the story itself is a thinly veiled metaphore for the Second World War, with the Darcsen people a parallel for the Jews. While it's a disturbingly sanitised version of WW2, thinking about it now makes me realise the "more realistic" portrayal of racism: your squad members, from the minor ones to the main protagonists, aren't free of the prejudices against the Darcsen. Of course, up until a certain point in the game where the main protagonists are washed clean from all prejudices.
  • Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together: again, a plot based on real world events, this time the Yugoslav Wars in the 90s. Rather unique in its portrayal of racism, since the branching storyline allows the player to combat the racial oppression (thereby, unwittingly continuing the cycle of hate and violence) or take the high road ("racism is bad in all forms, mkay?"). Also, one of the few titles that tell the story of the politics behind it.
#38 Posted by xSeanZx (199 posts) -

Im not taking that angle at all.

What I am going to try and do is show where racism exists in these games. I am going to link examples of this racism, with research and studies done about it.

When I say they are effective at portraying themes, what I mean is that over the last 20 years, video games have become a very effective medium for portraying stories, thoughts, themes, etc. Like film, this industry can now effectively communicate with great stories, and especially with the advancements in technology and modeling which make the games more interactive.

One of these themes happen to be racism, and I plan to dive deeper into that. I have been super bogged down with work these past couple days so I plan on taking a closer look at this stuff tonight as well as tomorrow.

#39 Edited by Bob_Toeback (308 posts) -

The Army Men games... Sarge's Heroes and the likes.