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  Recent Snippets of Sexism, Racism, Homophobia in Gaming  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A handful of stories related to society and gaming have caught my eye this week, punctuated by an event which occurred in a Storytelling in Games class I taught yesterday. I was showing the students some cutscenes from the recently-released Xbox 360 title Crackdown--one scene described a scantily-clad female villain as "hot" and "dirty." The males in the class chuckled uncomfortably while the sole female student in the class was understandably nonplussed. I pointed out that none of the male characters I'd seen in the game were described in the context of their sexuality. I felt embarrassed not only personally, but for the mainstream games industry, which seems to be slower to evolve socially than society has evolved in its capacity to thoughtfully criticize games--consider this a theme when reviewing the following recent excerpts:

Richard O. Jones, BlackVoiceNews.com: "Psychologists agree that if your race is always the thief or killer, then after a while you start to think that's how you should be, or you think that's how your people are... the games that are being designed unconsciously include the biases, opinions and reflections of their creators. And obviously, whites see Blacks and Latinos as criminals and gradually that's how our children see themselves and behave according."

tiny dancer, GayGamer.net, commenting on Jones' article (quoted above): "It wasn't a questionable article because Jones is wrong, it's questionable because he used only one example (when there are dozens). The recent Crackdown prison-reality-check themed commercials have had me thinking about this issue, because they seem very strongly biased in favor of promoting racial stereotypes."

Blair Cooper, GameCareerGuide.com: "'Gaymer,' one such variation [on the word 'gamer'], is used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) gamers. While the origin of 'gaymer' is hard to pinpoint, it’s clear that the term has garnered some attention. Many embrace it for its sense of community; others decry it as exclusionary."

Simon Carless, GameSetWatch.com: "[the term 'gaymer'] does construct a straight-gay binary that leaves no room for in-between space, fluidity, or alternate identities. The potential for exclusion is great. Furthermore, 'gaymer' is also used derogatorily."

Matt Cundy, GamesRadar.com, in an article entitled "Are they gay...?": "Kratos (God of War)--Sure, he's violent, full of rage and enjoys pleasuring generously breasted ladies, but he's still a buff, bald-headed, semi-naked Greek Adonis that isn't shy of flashing an inch or two of thigh. He also 'accidentally' killed his wife and daughter. Which probably means he's got a grudge against women. Or something."

Hassan Mirza, Gay.com, on Cundy's article: "While it's reassuring to know that gamers are interested in the sexual orientation of digital superheroes, Matt Cundy's 'Are they gay?' article relies on a series of juvenile stereotypes and clichés... it can be dangerous to suggest that looking 'camp' means gay, or worse, that gay men hold violent grudges against women... Cundy's facetious tone, dismissive of an impressionable audience, justifies making jokes about the LGBT community."

Super Timsy, GayGamer.net, on Cundy's article: "Goodness knows what was going through his mind, but I certainly don't appreciate it. If your [sic] going to out video game characters, try to do it with a little taste and sensitivity for the referenced group of people. Gay gamers are out there, this and other sites show that we're here and we're not going anywhere."

Personally, I'm very happy to be teaching classes to diverse groups of students in one of Canada's most multicultural cities. The older I get, the more I tire of the privileged, White, teenage-brained, male mindset that seems to dominate the games industry. In my experience, the freshest and most interesting game ideas and solutions often come from designers and developers outside of this very specific demographic. It's a pity that games like the just-launched Crackdown are still being made, and potentially turning newcomers to the games industry away.
 
     
 
   
 
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  4 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by csven
February 22, 2007 @ 6:48 pm
     
 
The ageism stuff is interesting as well. I'd previously mentioned how young people are more and more equating older gamers with pedophiles in the "post-MySpace" era. I continue to see that attitude on some game sites, perhaps as a result of more people giving up on the concept of anonymity and just being honest about who they are; starting off with their age.

On one forum I got a good laugh when one youngster argued he couldn't be fooled if a real pedophile was pretending to be a kid: a real kid would have a MySpace blog. Classic.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 22, 2007 @ 6:54 pm
     
 
Heh!

This seems like a variety of the "creepy old guy" syndrome. You know, when you're young, say at some rock show, and there's some creepy old guy standing around the mosh pit. You can't fathom that someone substantially older than you could possibly share your interest. I'm pretty sure I am that creepy old guy at this point.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Brace Coral
February 23, 2007 @ 1:31 am
     
 
"It's a pity that games like the just-launched Crackdown are still being made, and potentially turning newcomers to the games industry away."

Ok.. so what happened to Africa the upcoming MMORPG?

All the links I have are busted.
______________________________

And yah I feel for the females in your class. I rember reading something back when Tomb Raider first came out - a LOT of attention was being focused on getting Lara's boobs to be (1) bouncier , (2) rounder and less angular (polygon or pixel problem?).

I was like hmm ok. I had thought those movies/games were supposed to be next generation's Dora the Explorer. You know a female kickin ass and takin names with more style and panache than Indiana Jones.

Oop I guess not.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 23, 2007 @ 12:57 pm
     
 
Dora pwns Lara, fo sho. I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map!

Rapid Reality's products page still lists Africa in pre-production, so I think it's still being developed.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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