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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!

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2 comments

  1. Thank You! Amazingly, when I opened my email with the latest copy of The Escapist, I was in the middle of a rant about the Saint’s Row Demo. I’m an African American Developer, and one our biggest goals is to force some balance into this industry. I’m not really jaded about the racial stereotypes in games simply because I understand that “we”(the people being stereotyped) don’t really have a presence in this industry. I can recall the first time my company hit GDC, and the way teh word got around that there were a bunch of “Black Guys Starting an all Black Company”. True story. In reality, it was just a bunch of guys who just happened to be black that got together and formed a company. We obviously have similar likes and dislikes, and this of course does wonders for the comapny when it comes to creative thinking. But to everyone else, we were trying to start a revlolution. We have since made it a point to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of making the next Gangsta- Shoot-Em Up- Basketball-RPG, and that we handle the issue of race and sexism properly with our titles. I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll end this. I just want to say thank you again. This has been overlooked for far too long (came to my attention in FFVII), and I’m glad that its finally hit the table. I would love to discuss this with you, as well as some of the non-profit initiatves that we are building to help get the proper tools for developemnt into the hands of minorities and try to help bring some balance to this industry. Once again, Great Article, and Thanks for putting it out there!

    My personal blog :
    http://xphaqtor.1up.com


  2. First, I’d like to thank you for the Escapist article. Race in videogames is an issue that, among my peers, has been only tangentially discussed – before the topic steers (tellingly quickly) back to something less uncomfortable. We see it. All of us. From the under the breath cursing of the Asian ninja that just killed us, to the oh-my-gosh reaction to Rockstar putting gamers in a black man’s shoes, we notice. But to deny our escape into the world where our fantasies come true and our stereotypes are upheld by questioning and building on our personal values is (quietly) unpalatable to us.

    As your article mentioned, this has precise parallels in film. And music. And writing. As each reached a level of maturity where ‘what’ was no longer able to differentiate a work from the rest, ‘why’ becomes the defining question. This involves stories questioning, deconstructing, and at times reversing our assumptions. And I believe that this truly Mature content that this medium deserves will be produced. The questions you raise are on the tip of the industry’s tongue but no one is ready to speak.

    My concern is that any attempt to initiate the dialogue will be met at the end of the quarter with a loss and the conversation will halt. And along those lines, any game company deciding to directly confront our fears and beliefs may be seen by the industry as a noble failure even before launch. What would it take to produce content that pushes the boundaries, but will sell well enough to sustain itself? I don’t have the answer, but I see someone who might. Will brought up an effort to distribute tools to minorities, perhaps the clearest path I’ve seen to introducing cultural identity into videogames without reducing them to farce or diatribe.

    After this already-too-long ramble, I’d like to say thanks again for the article, and good luck, Will, on your efforts. I’d be very interested in hearing about them.



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