Archive for August, 2006

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Mario = Osama

August 31, 2006

Here is a cute little flash movie that uses Mario and his genocidal war against all things Koopa to decry racism, Hitler, and Osama. (No mention of Bush anywhere here.) Baby Mario had a childhood Goomba playmate. Awwww.

Don’t miss the moral at the end:

Unfortunately, unlike the Mario World, we don’t GET second chances… The damages left by the likes of Adolf Hitler by war and Osama by terrorism are forever… Racism hatred and discrimination were the prime fuels to provoke and unite their Armies of death and mass destruction.

By the way, I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I found a GameSpot interview with Robert Parungao (of UBC-bachelor’s-thesis-on-racist-video-games-fame) from last month. While it doesn’t reveal any more depth to his thesis (Asians are stereotyped in video games) it does yield twelve pages of wonderful comments like:

g0t12ic3
whats wrong with stereotypes? I’m asian and I have a hard time living up to my stereotype doing Tae Kwon Do, drawing, getting good grades, and etc. It’s hard to keep up with it but whatever lol. As for other races I kind of feel bad for them having “bad” stereotypes but dude Asians are fine. It’s just when they have a gay accent is the only thing that ticks me off and that gay ass mustache they always put on certain characters.

Equilibrium_340
Racist in video games? Haha. This guys needs to get laid. And the fact that he has Filipino descent makes me even more ashamed of him.

DarknessOfFate1
I dont care anymore people need to get over themselves. rasicism isnt big anymore and nobody ABSOLUTLY NOBODY WITH A BRAIN CARES OR IS RASCIST. The bad stuff happened ages ago .

Sterotyping in games is often on purpose its meant to be funny and corny. This guy who thinks hes educated has no life experance and no sense.

And that’s only from the first page!

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On True Crime: Streets of LA

August 26, 2006

Well, I finally got to sit down and get a somewhat satisfying session in with True Crime: Streets of LA. I haven’t finished it, but I think I can safely say that the elements of the game’s plot that caught my attention – the strong presence of racial minorities in the game, including a biracial protagonist, set in Los Angeles – ended up more as a product of the mix of two film genres – a cop movie and a kung-fu movie – than anything else. Nick Kang may be half-Chinese, half-Caucasian, but lines like “It’s dim sum time!” don’t really hold a whole lot of progressive appeal. I do have a weak spot for Nick Kang, as Asian American men rarely get roles as cops who play fast and loose with the rules, but he doesn’t do a whole lot to redeem the game.

One thing that caught my attention was the focus on international organized crime. The main forces (possible spoiler?) in True Crime: Streets of LA are the Chinese Triads, the Russian Mafia, and the North Korean People’s Army, putting Nick Kang and the rest of his Elite Operations Division in the position of Saving America From The Rest Of The World. On one hand, that should establish the multi-colored EOD as the vanguard of America, disassociating the identity of ‘white’ with that of ‘American’. On the other hand, it’s not quite clear whether some of the characters are Chinese or Chinese American, Russian or Russian American, etc. Certainly, ethnic enclaves like Chinatown or Little Tokyo will have some kind of connection to China or Japan, as those places are often the easiest points of entry for new immigrants, but I can’t say I like how True Crime: Streets of LA seems to equate those centers as universally working against the good of America.

For a game that does invoke race, ethnicity, and nationality as often as True Crime: Streets of LA does, I’d think that they could have utilized the setting much more eloquently than they did. The only Los Angeles in TCLA is in the street names. Yes, we have Asians and Chicano/Latinos and African Americans working together, and I’d like to think that somewhere in LA is a police department that looks like the EOD. But they could have done so much with the racial tensions that historically have actually occurred in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t you rather play Nick Kang, a Korean American police officer fighting to protect Koreatown from the LA riots?

Maybe if I keep at this blog long enough I’ll have to design my own game, just to put my money where my mouth is.

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Race, Place, and the PSP

August 20, 2006

I suppose I should point out here, if it hasn’t been made clear already, that I’m a born American citizen, and my experience with race, racism, and media are all heavily influenced by that background. Of course, the dynamics of race relations and racial common sense are different everywhere, and occasionally, this leads to some pretty confusing situations, like the Sony PSP “White is coming” advertisement from early July, which was intended for distribution in Holland and ended up inciting the wrath of quite a few American bloggers, which in turn irked a decent amount of not-Americans.

I’m not going to discuss this advertisement in any particular length; personally, I found them offensive, but I think that the Americans screaming “racism” are making the not-Americans rather defensive. Clearly, the advertisement wasn’t designed with any overt racist intent; the PSP is not, as far as I can tell, ideal for choking black women. But to claim that the ad was designed without the intention of invoking race as a theme is ridiculous, and the people who argued that “the people who are calling this ad racist are racist because they see race” are just as ridiculous. The ad was obviously designed with race in mind, and I’m guessing that they probably just didn’t anticipate the American reaction; maybe, the degree to which they appealed to racial common sense was just enough to be inoffensive to the local sensibilities.

What confuses me is that the hubbub raised about the PSP “Hells Yeah” television spot, which appears to have been designed for American audiences. Corporate attempts to give their products street cred are, more often than not, heavily racialized (watch some late-night TV ads for ringtones sometime and you’ll see what I mean) but very rarely are they both pandering AND offensive. Sadly, the only commentary I ever found on the commercial came courtesy of a certain webcomic.

In other news, I still haven’t gotten anywhere in True Crime: Streets of L.A., but I did recently finish reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I got at Goodwill for a dollar. I’m thinking that overall it’ll be a better deal than True Crime was. I’ll leave you with this:

“If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound, and America hasn’t even begun to pull out the knife.”

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Status Update, 8/12/06

August 13, 2006

Everyone’s favorite rockstar video gaming journalist, Tim Rogers, has a recent post that touches on race and video games – specifically, Sony’s recent PSP/LocoRoco race debacle. Interestingly enough, he moves from a fairly legitimate criticism of a (non-video game related) art exhibit in Japan called “Africa Remix”, which unnecessarily conflates Africans with African Americans:

My family had never imported slaves from Africa, and I am by no means the type of person who’s ever felt uncomfortable around black people for reasons of guilt, even guilt by association, related to the slave trade. This is why I’m able to cross paths with a black man on the street in Chicago or Los Angeles, and not put my hand over my wallet, or look down, or even wonder if one of them has a gun or a knife. These are things I have never done, even that one time a black man did have a knife, and used it to get fifty dollars out of me. I’m putting this all out on the line right here: black people, just because one of your kind once held me at knife-point doesn’t mean I, by any means, have any dislike of you.

…to moving on to the PSP/LocoRoco issue, ultimately leading him here:

Man, it’s tough work being a white blogger every once in a while. This world we got here, I tell you — it’s quite the fixer-upper.

This burden!!

Some would call its tone “irreverent” or possibly “satirical”; towards the end of the article I’d think it comes closer to “painfully privileged”. It’s hard for me to read and understand, myself, because he tends to turn up the attitude in each successive paragraph until he ends up sounding appallingly negligent.

(It’s worth pointing out that he’s actually a contractor from Sony of Japan, but, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t do anything related to blogging or PR for them.)

In other news: I picked up True Crime: Streets of LA for $5.30 used from EBGames. We’ll see if this bodes well or poorly.

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True Crime: Streets of LA

August 9, 2006

Sorry if things have been slow here; I just flew back from Japan. And boy, are my arms tired.

The discussion on the Escapist article is still going, although it’s gotten kind of sidetracked into Carlos Mencia and sociology. A handful of people have mentioned it on their blogs, too, which makes me happy.

One of the readers on the forums, Lara Crigger, asked me what games I think have handled race well. While I don’t think there are a whole lot out there that have handled it “well”, there are a few examples I’m seeing out there that are starting to push the envelope.

True Crime: Streets of LA piqued my interest when it came out a few years ago; mostly, I’ll admit, because it appeared to be a Grand Theft Auto clone with Snoop Dogg as a playable character. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that our protagonist is one Nicholas Kang, a (possible spoiler alert?) Chinese American of half-Asian, half-Caucasian descent, voiced by Russell Wong of Romeo Must Die fame, and his partner in the “Elite Operations Division” of the LAPD is Rosie Velasquez, who self-identifies as Latina, and is voiced by Michelle Rodriguez, of S.W.A.T., Resident Evil, and Lost.

(Fun fact: I haven’t finished the game myself; I was supposed to review it for Applelinks.com, but it ran so poorly on my computer that I ended up passing on it. This was mostly gathered from a script text-dump)

The story itself is a mix between cop-drama and kung-fu movie: drugs and counterfeit money lead Nick and his teammates into a series of shootouts with the Chinese Triads, the Russian Mafia, and the Korean People’s Army, which in turn reveal the truth about a sordid tale of police betrayal in Nick’s past. Unfortunately, I never played far enough to figure out where Snoop came in.

To be sure, it’s rare that we see mixed-race individuals, especially protagonists, in any video game, so props to Nick Kang for holding it down. I could most certainly do without him and his brother knowing kung fu, but it appears that the game was designed as a very intentional cross between cop drama and martial arts flick; according to the Wikipedia entry, the operating title in development was “Nick Kang: Kung Fu Detective”. In this light, I’m guessing that our protagonist is intentionally mixed-race as a kind of symbol of this East-meets-West genre mixing and less as a willful statement on race, and somehow they seem to have accidentally stumbled on an acceptable portrayal of an Asian American man. Likewise, it would be nice to have a Latina that wasn’t involved in gang activity, but this is a story about the “streets” of Los Angeles and so I suppose as far as cop dramas go it’s about par for the course.

Anyone out there played it and care to comment? How about Romeo Must Die? (It’s one of my favorite movies ever.)

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New Article Drops!

August 2, 2006

I wrote an article on race and games in the latest Escapist Magazine called ‘You Got Your Race In My Videogame’. Check it out and don’t forget to comment in the forums!

One of the parts from the article was deleted, hopefully in the interests of space. I actually like this one more than the C-Note example that they kept for the Escapist. Consider this bit from the Director’s Cut:

Take, for example, the infamous Leeroy Jenkins of World of WarCraftfame; it’s fairly widely held that the entire movie was staged as a parody of the ‘nerdier’ guilds who meticulously plot out each of their guild events. While it does do what it set out to do, it also risks making an unintended racial comment on blackness (and perhaps the rarity thereof) in World of WarCraft. Certainly the popular YTMND.com tribute to Jenkins, which juxtaposed the audio from the game (“At least I have chicken”) with a Photoshopped image of Martin Lawrence from the Black Knightmovie poster (complete with a bucket of fried chicken) picked up on this. Look at this wacky black guy, it says, to perform as black (regardless of whether the player character or the player behind the character is, actually, black) in this generally white space is to comically get your entire guild killed. Now, the joke is no longer a cute poke at too-serious guilds; rather, it makes a spectacle out of being black in Azeroth. Blackness here is alien, a departure from the norm, and in this case, it gets a guild killed. At best, this can be laughed off as the beginnings of a ridiculous stereotype – something like “Black people can’t play role-playing games” – but at worst it cements Azeroth’s common sense; this space is for whites, and if you perform as anything other than white, you will not succeed. 

I seem to recall an interview where the real-life Leeroy Jenkins expressed an affinity for malt liquor. Discuss!