It’s not very original to poke fun at the people who shouted “get politics out of my games!” before going back to don the virtual boots of a heavily armoured white US soldier shooting wave after wave of nondescript brown people in a dusty, bombed-out Middle Eastern village – but the failure to recognise that a blind acceptance of the status quo is every bit as political as a challenge to the same status quo isn’t the only problem here. As games became a bigger, more important and more influential medium year on year, it continued to pump out games like that; games that powerfully reinforced negative stereotypes of non-whites, especially Arabic peoples, that reduced the majority of their female characters to male fantasy objects, and that erased the existence of other minorities almost entirely, or introduced them merely to be the butt of outdated punchlines.
I know why that happened. We all know. Games didn’t keep up with the progress of modern America (or Europe, or even Japan). Doing so would be a risk; it might cause a backlash. It might hurt profits. Game development is risky enough as it is, publishers and creators reasoned, without taking stances on social issues that might be controversial. In so thinking, they ended up actually being regressive; for years, the industry’s mainstream titles have not just avoided social stances, but have entirely failed to keep up with the reality of the world. Even Hollywood, even comic books, for god’s sake, have managed to make incremental, if imperfect, improvements in reflecting the world in its diversity instead of constantly lionising the straight white American male and treating everyone else on the planet as something for him to shoot, screw or laugh at. Meanwhile games continued to turn out experiences that pretended the world hadn’t progressed since the 1980s.
Rob Fahey on the sin of mainstream videogames.
This is an absolutely on-point article and also sums up the reasons why I refuse to play games where, a) the protagonist has to be a white male, and b) the only plot of the game is killing either brown people and/or not-very-subtly-brown-coded “monsters”.1
- See also: why I won’t watch films that are about the same. Which, yanno. Is why I no longer go to see superhero films. [↩]