Who's the butt of the joke?

On the over-the-top offensiveness of God Hand (the game the above clip comes from), pat of Token Minorities says:

I don’t think this is accidental. I think this says something about us, as the kinds of people who enjoyed and got used to playing games like Final Fight, where we fed the machine quarters and yelled “Oh yeah?! I’m going to beat your ass!” during every boss fight and punched punk stripper transsexuals all day and didn’t give a fuck. God Hand is laughing at you because you love it, because it has translated all the gendered and racialized images of our games of yesteryear into actual goddamn dialogue and you still don’t really notice it. It’s bringing us back to the Old School, complete with everything that was kind of messed up about the Old School, and so I propose that perhaps God Hand’s inclusion of blatantly Bad Things is actually so pronounced and over-the-top that it actually has a point, a thought-provoking point, and not merely gratuitous, sensational stupidity. Maybe it’s gotten a few people to idly ponder the games they played when they were young, and what they learned from it. It’s messed up, but it’s closer to the Chappelle’s Show end of the spectrum (thought-provoking and possibly educational) than Indigo Prophecy (which is basically ignorant) or Border Patrol (which is actively messed up).

I’m not sure that I agree with him (and would have to play the game to fully form an opinion), but it’s something to think about.

For male gamers and readers, something embarrassing

The backstory: Assassin’s Creed is one of the most anticipated games of the year. When Yahoo! is talking about your game on the front-page, you know the buzz is pretty significant. The producer for this game is Jade Raymond who, like the lead-producer of every other game created in the modern age, gives a good portion of the interviews with the press. That is, if you’re a producer of a game and you’re noticeably articulate, you’re the one talking about it, you don’t tell the advertising executive or the intern to do that. As the game is being released, a comic/drawing surfaces, most infamously on the Something Awful forums depicting Jade performing fellatio on male fanboys (not to be confused with the photoshopped nude photos of Jade that are floating around). This comic is seen and shared by members of the SA forums at which point Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka of SA receives a cease and desist/threat of lawsuit letter from the legal representation of Ubisoft telling them to shut it all down and to let them know everything about where they get the image, who drew it, etc. At this point, the story becomes popular outside of SA and other blogs start picking it up, forming their own opinions (yes, just like me and just like this one). The story appears on digg and with it a rash of the most sexist comments (and some countering the sexist comments) appear.

The fact that someone felt the need to draw a pornographic comic of Jade Raymond is in itself is pretty disturbing. But what’s also mind-numbing is the consequent backlash you read from the blogosphere because Ubisoft dropped the hammer on SA. Reading some of the comments on SA, on digg and you start to see a trend. Most notably, the criticisms of Jade and Ubisoft go something like this:

1. It’s just a drawing. You made it a bigger deal than it was. By you making the lawsuit you just drew more attention to it so now more people know about it.
-Actually, no, I think it was SA who posted it on Digg saying that they were being contacted the attorney from Ubisoft so in fact they brought it to the public. It seems like Ubisoft wanted to keep this matter under wraps but Kyanka wanted to appeal to the public and get sympathy from the digg community (which, sadly enough, he actually seems to be getting). But getting back to the larger point, if someone draws something unbelievably offensive about you, you’re supposed to just ignore it? Brush it under the rug? Isn’t this what we tell women who get sexually harassed at work? “You don’t want to cause a fuss, it’s just going to take forever to fix it anyways to better to just ignore it.” If you ignore it then it implies that they don’t think it’s offensive. Ubisoft is doing what any employer should do when one of their own gets attacked like this: you stick up for your staff. Ubisoft is doing the right thing.

2. She’s just a pretty face who Ubisoft is using to “pimp” the product. She deserves what she’s getting because she’s just a show model for the game.
-Now, I didn’t think anyone would really be this stupid to actually say this publicly but alas, I am proven wrong again.

Quick history lesson. In prehistoric times, pretty cavegirls with cleavage hanging out sold rocks and sticks to horny cavemen. Sex sells. It’s always been that way and will never change. Everyone knows that. So when Ubisoft started pimping Assassin’s Creed, released this week for Xbox360 and PS3, they made pretty girl/producer Jade Raymond the poster child for the game. Whether or not she’s qualified to represent the game, or really had any involvement with its development is besides the point. To the jaded videogame nerd, she’s a set of breasts saying “Buy my game!”

It’s “besides the point”? Really? How is that besides the point? I think it very much is the point. If Ubisoft hired Jade Raymond and sold her as the “producer” and she has no experience or education whatsoever, then of course she’s there as a spokesperson, but Jesus H. Christ, look up her biography, she actually studied this shit as some people have figured out already. How are you going to dismiss the fact that this is what she does for a living? Have you seen one single interview of her talking about the game? There’s an obvious difference between a producer talking about a game and a spokesperson talking about a game and she very obviously is the former.

3. “That a surprise..Jade will act slutty to sell her game but can’t deal with the consequences of that.”
-Now, I haven’t been following this game obsessively since conception to release but since the story of this comic broke out i’ve been watching clips, interviews, reading stories, etc and i’m really struggling to see where this person gets where Jade acts “slutty.” She doesn’t pose for Playboy or Maxim, she doesn’t take “sexy” photographs (I mention these things becase they’re usually seen as indicators of one being “slutty”). I honestly think that his perception of “slutty” is Jade merely being in a stereotypically male-dominated space and simply being a woman, being attractive and having pictures of herself online where she’s smiling and looking happy and actually being confident, intelligent and articulate.

I can’t begin to imagine how something like this has to make a person feel after all the hard work they’ve put into something like this. After all the crap that she’s probably already gotten on the daily as a woman in the video game industry, to have this incredible achievement in her career marked by a select few idiots who decided to try and reduce her to a sex-object. Let’s make no mistake here, the men who do this are uncomfortable at the idea of women in power and women being in spaces where they see it being male-dominated. The men who do shit like this draw comics of women professionals performing oral sex on their “male fanbase” because it’s their literal attempt at inverting the actual reality: a woman producer is at the helm of an innovative game that is getting a lot of buzz and people are buying up in hordes. I don’t think these men can accept the fact that Jade is a success, I really don’t. I don’t think they can accept the fact that she did this without posing in Playboy or pandering to their ideas of what those Game Expos say women should look like and do to sell a product: wear practically nothing, smile, pose for pictures and just look pretty.

3 steps on how to attempt on fixing this mess:
1. If the comic is still around somewhere, delete the image of the comic, delete links to it, delete posts to it.
2. Apologize. To Jade. Whether you created the comic or spread the image or posted it on a forum.
3. Shut up about the game being some advertising ploy with Jade as the sex-tool. You’re going to make judgements about someone’s credibility as a professional when you don’t even know them? You’re going to base everything on her being a woman and you believing that she doesn’t belong in what you see as a “man’s space”? Really?

Japanese women are the biggest users of Wii and DS… ORLY?

From Nintendo’s women gamers could transform market:

Japanese women have overtaken their male counterparts to become the biggest users of Nintendo’s Wii and DS machines in a seismic shift that the company said would “transform the video games industry”.

This is tekanji’s total lack of surprise.

I see more women playing with their DS on the train then men. The genres that are aimed at women aren’t confined to crappy “girl games” (which in America all too often equal “simple because teh wimmins brains can’t handle real games”). Women game here, and they are much more recognized for the thriving market that they are.

Anyway, the article is worth a read, even though it ventures into bingo territory a few times.

Tekanji the video game design student

Yesterday I took my entrance exams for HAL, a famous technical school in Japan, and got in. Starting April I will officially be studying video game design and planning for the next four years.

I took a tour yesterday and the school looks really, really awesome and the guy who’s in charge of coordinating the international students was really, really nice and I’m so happy that I got in that I could die.

So, anyway, yeah, that’s one huge worry lifted of my shoulders. Now I get to worry about finding an apartment, changing my visa over, and getting all my ducks in a row.

ETA: I’ve put up a blog on Iris where I’ll be talking more about this: The Life and Times of a Video Game Design Student

Debunking rumours: Chinese MMO's anti-genderbending policy

Doubtless many of you have heard (from Kotaku or other sources) about Shanda Entertainment, a Chinese MMO publisher, requiring photographic proof of a person’s sex in order to allow them to play a female avatar.

This information is most likely false! Joystiq has done some digging into the issue and turned this up:

The source of story in the English-speaking world seems to be a painfully short, two sentence “editorial summary” on Asian business site Pacific Epoch. Besides containing scant details or supporting information on Shanda’s policy, the summary contains the eyebrow-raising assertion that players with female avatars would have to “prove their biological sex with a webcam.” While this isn’t impossible, we find it hard to believe that a publicly traded company would start encouraging its customers to send in pictures of their naughty bits for any reason. Besides being ineffective (what’s to stop a player from sending in a picture of someone else?) the system seems overly complicated when a National ID card number could easily provide proof of gender (much as it already does for age confirmation in other MMOs).

Pacific Epoch cites popular Chinese MMO web site 17173 as the source of its information, and while we couldn’t find the original article on their site, we did find a story about some obviously fake Halo 3 branded condoms, which 17173 presented as fact. Combine the questionable editorial judgment with the translation problems inherent in citing information from a Chinese site and you have a perfect recipe for an erroneous story to spread across the internet.

The moral of the story? Just because something looks official doesn’t mean that it actually is. Especially regarding areas in which there are language barriers where we can’t easily verify the source of the information ourselves.

Racial issues in Resident Evil 5: Link Roundup

Blog against racismSince today’s my long day at school, for day four of International Blog Against Racism Week I’m going to do a link roundup of some of the discussion that’s been going on about Resident Evil 5. The primary reason for doing this, of course, is that link roundups don’t take that much time so I can write it in the morning before school and set it to post when it’s the right day in the US. But I also think it’s valuable to see the various different points of the critiques in the same place.

In posting this roundup, I hope to make it easier for fans to see beyond the knee-jerk reactions to the word “racist” (and the implication that race-based critique of a game is implying that the game is racist) and actually understand what the concrete problems with the trailer, and by extension the game, are.

Please note: the following links are listed in order of which link I saw first.

Resident Evil 5 at Iris Gaming Forums, comment by Nashiko:

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good zombie game, but I found it a little strange that not only was RE4 a game full of Spanish cultists who where deemed as inhuman, but it was also the first RE game that had what I like to call the “super zombies”. Not the placid, growling, stumbling undead that we all knew and loved from RE 1 and 2, no, supper zombies. Crazily violent and able to speak. A little more humanized than I care to have my zombies.

On Race in Resident Evil 5 at Heroine Sheik:

Instead of battling zombies in an abandoned house or even in Spain, players will be now be blowing the heads off of the living dead in an African village. That’s right, we’re talking about black zombies. What’s more, you play a commando character who is white whity-ity white. Jesus, I couldn’t even make this stuff up. Even if we don’t play the racism card, there’s a whole mess of issues here: monsters and otherness, the paranormal as a manifestation of our anxiety about real-life conflicts like race.

Resident Evil 5 at Black Looks:

The new Resident Evil video game depicts a white man in what appears to be Africa killing Black people. The Black people are supposed to be zombies and the white man’s job is to destroy them and save humanity. “I have a job to do and I’m gonna see it through.”

This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people.

Resident Evil 5: White Man Shoots Black Zombies at The Village Voice:

Plenty of Resident Evil fanboys are standing up for the game by claiming that Africa is just a setting like any other. After all, why shouldn’t zombies be black? On one level, that’s true.

But looking again at the trailer, I see a different message: it’s not just that these zombies are black, but that the uninfected black villagers are zombie-like too. See all those spooky shots of the villagers before they get infected? It’s as if race itself were a disease. The white protagonist has to fight back or be infected.

Blackface Goes HD? The Case of Resident Evil 5 at microscopiq (x-posted to Racialicious):

With bulging eyes, simian super strength, and a room temperature IQ, we’ve been portrayed as savages beyond redemption. So, when we see images like these, it doesn’t just resonate with the long lived zombie genre, it also triggers memories of so many awful stereotypes — and what those stereotypes have been used to justify past and present. Put down the crazed negroes before they take the white women! And so on…

But perhaps the most troubling part is that these scenes seem to be set in Africa; the “dark continent.” With all the positive steps being taken of late to raise awareness of the good things happening in Africa as well as the urgent need in some parts of the continent, we really can’t afford this kind of step back. We need to find ways to humanize Africans, not dehumanize them.

Race in Games: Culture, Context, and Controversy at microscopiq:

I’m fully prepared to accept the possibility that Capcom is not intentionally drawing on painful stereotypes, but that does not mean they’re allowed to be oblivious to them or their impact. To the contrary, as a company that sells into many markets worldwide, it is very important for them to be aware of cultural issues. If they fell down anywhere, it seems likely to be here — understanding stateside racial sensitivities.

Of course, a trailer is not a full, playable game. But trailers are a way for game companies to manage impressions of their games. If a game is presented in a troubling way in a trailer, folks can and should react to that presentation. As has been pointed out in the comments, a number of interpretations are possible, but I would still argue that certain images in the RE5 trailer are problematic as they are expressed presently.

ETA: Resident Evil 5 at grysar’s livejournal:

“But,” you may argue, “that’s true of most any zombie movie or game. 1) Zombies don’t use guns, 2) In survival horror most everyone is already dead, 3) there’s not a problematic context because they’re dead.” And you’d be right. Here’s the thing, zombie games defuse the fact that you’re mowing down the weak by making them literally inhuman. They are decaying, they do not emote, they do not think. The not running thing is secondary. This isn’t to say that there aren’t political or cultural critiques in Zombie movies, there certainly are. However, they can be a bit more subtle by limiting the humanity of the baddies.

RE4 and RE5 have humanized zombies to the extent that they can’t afford to be subtle about the political/cultural context. The first one dodged this by evoking a situation that might be horrifying in Eastern Europe, but basically doesn’t resonate at all in America. However, RE5 chose a context that they knew paralleled real events. I am baffled that nobody at Capcom stood up during the earlier meetings and said “Hey guys, this doesn’t look good.” I don’t care that they’re Japanese, this isn’t some sort of subtle point. The zombie excuse stopped working when you intentionally made them emotive, angry-mob like, and hard to visually differentiate from normal humans.

I’ve left out ones that I didn’t feel added anything to the conversation, but if you come across an article that you think should be included, please link to it in the comments. Thanks!

Video games and the usual amount of racism

Blog against racismFor day three of International Blog Against Racism Week, I want to look specifically why games, such as many of the prior Resident Evil ones, haven’t received as much criticism as, say, Resident Evil 5 has.

So, why aren’t critiques of the prior Resident Evil games easy to find? Well, there are a few reasons. As discussed in my previous post, gaming as a field of study is still in its infancy. Gaming blogs discussing issues like race are still few and far between. Despite the re-release for Gamecube, the previous games are (in internet terms) rather old.

And, finally, the last reason I can easily think of, which is what I will be discussing here: The previous games didn’t gather much discussion because they had only the usual amount of racism in them. What do I mean by that? Well, keep reading to find out. Continue reading

Who's the one arguing in bad faith?

Blog against racism This week is International Blog Against Racism Week (hat tip to Oyce for the icon). I actually contributed to day one without meaning to, posting a quick rebuttal to the claim that the no one complained about the previous games in the Resident Evil series because it was white people killing white people. To kick off day 2, I’m going to devote another post to the great RE5 wank of 2007 (you can find the trailer that sparked the wank here and a link roundup within the comments over at Iris’ forums).

One of the things that struck me about the discussions on blogs that broached the subject of potential racism in Resident Evil 5 was the way that the same arguments were brought up over and over again, and many of them are iterations of arguments I’ve seen come up when people protest discussions on gender.

The “no one is saying/has said anything about [x thing] in [y] game” argument is the one I will be addressing here. The racist-apologist complainers who bring up that argument do so in bad faith; they aren’t arguing it because the presence of said critique would solve the problem, but rather because they see the argument as a tool to shut down discussion on the game in question. They are, sometimes literally, saying, “You didn’t say anything before, so you have lost the privilege of saying anything now or in the future!” Which is a problematic argument, to say the least. Behind the cut I will explore some of the specific problems with the argument in more detail. Continue reading

Resident Evil: White people killing white people?

As a fan of the Resident Evil series one thing that’s been rather amusing about the race wank surrounding Resident Evil 5 is the claim that the rest of the series was all “white people killing white people”. I wonder if the complainers have actually played the games in the series, or if they’ve bought so much into the white normative culture that “protagonists, the majority of whom are white, killing zombies, the majority whom are white” is the same as saying, “the previous games have been all white people”.

On the trailer thread I raised issue with the assertion that Resident Evil 4 fit into that category, and now I’m going to bring Exhibit B into play. The above movie is the opening to Resident Evil 3 and does, in fact, feature both non-white humans and zombies. The ratio isn’t representative of most American cities, but they’re there and that’s enough to make my point for now.