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MassDebate: Is there enough racial diversity in videogames? - Destructoid

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Brought about as a result of a CaptainBus/Sean Daisy fever dream, Debatoid offers one proposal with two sides; two users give the case for and against the proposal and you vote for the outcome.

Debatoid changed its name to MassDebate, but don't fret; the principle of controversial topics, smart candidate and avid discussion remains at the forefront! Vive la même chose et la difference!

If anyone wants to volunteer a topic or submit their interest in being a contender then please PM MassDebate, email captainbus AT gmail DOT com or message _SeanDaisy on Twitter.

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Are videogames too focused on destruction?
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Is there eough racial diversity in videogames?
The proposition: There is enough racial diversity in videogames.
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Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

I'm afraid I am running late with last week's results, but I should have them with you by tomorrow. In the meantime, you guys deserve a fresh topic!

The proposition: There is enough racial diversity in videogames





Keelut2012 argues in favor of the proposition:

When thinking of the concept of racial diversity many people immediately jump to categorizations of black and white. If there aren’t enough black people included in a group, the group is racist. But there are plenty of other races to be considered in the demographics of the world. Some of them even have white skin but could not be more different from their Caucasian counterparts.



Every corner of the game-o-verse.


Diversity, or lack thereof, is an issue that arises often in the real world, and has been the inspiration of many protests, outcries, and revolutions. But I assure you there is no need to organize a march over the racial balancing of our video game characters, as there are plenty of them representing our international brethren the world over in every generation from the NES to the PS3.

Let’s start with the present. We live in an age of unprecedented understanding and acceptance, and although we still have a ways to go, great strides have been made in attempting to make all men equal (ladies, your day is coming soon I promise). This recent nonchalance of racial inclusivity is represented in our modern video game industry as well.

Three much-anticipated announcements/releases from this year star black men as their protagonists in the forms of Emmet Graves, Sgt. James Heller, and Andre Bishop of StarHawk, Prototype 2, and Fight Night Champion respectively. Perusing the C-blogs and talking with friends I get the impression that people think there is a shortage of non-white protagonists in the game world. But looking back I recall a number of memorable ones. I loved playing through Borderlands as the soldier Roland (black), with my friend playing as the hunter Mordecai (Hispanic).



Tell this guy he’s not black, I dare you.


Ubisoft’s latest Assassin does all his neck-puncturing in Italia, and passes down the flag to Jackie Estacado spreading The Darkness in New York. Garcia Hotspur from Suda51’s recent Shadows of the Damned is straight out of Mexico – perhaps like Travis Touchdown with his luchador moves and original spicy accent?

We’re four iterations into the Japanese-developed Yakuza series, and wall-running was equally dizzying in Mirror's Edge and Stranglehold with Faith and Detective Tequila respectively, both of whom are of Asian descent.



And of course there were these cultural gems.


We know Luis Lopez from The Ballad of Gay Tony has a natural tan. In fact, the only *white* GTA protagonist since 2001 was Johnny from The Lost and The Damned, and that was just DLC content. Going backwards in time we have Niko Bellic who I’m pretty sure is no all-American QB, Huang Lee of Chinese handheld fame, then CJ – the very incarnation of the hood, and finally Tommy Vercetti who wanted to be Scarface so bad he stored chainsaws in his pants.

Likewise the famed Prince of Persia has always been, well, Persian – even in the fourth iteration with Nolan North, if you’re willing to accept that as a valid entry in the series. Which might bring up a different interesting issue of un-diverse voice acting, since games like movies seem to assume that people are too stupid to realize not every other country in the world has a British accent. Though they may be right on many accounts.



Bullshit bullshit bullshit.

Time travelling further back we have the likes of Twisted Metal, Power Stone, and Gauntlet Legends – all of which featured a multi-ethnic cast of playable characters. Even our favorite princess-saving plumber who practically kicked off this whole craze we’re so addicted to is from the land of gondolas and good cooking.



Thank God for this TV show.

Nowadays many games let us design our own characters, choose who we want to be – The Sims, Fallout, Mass Effect, Oblivion, Saints Row – all allow us to select how diverse we want to be. But I think the more important point is that it really doesn’t matter all that much. We game to get away, and many of us seem to have forgotten that. Thankfully, the developers haven’t.

I still hold to my point that games are sufficiently racially diverse, but I’d also like to posit that they’re sufficiently *entirely* diverse. We play as bears, robots, aliens, hamsters, and demons. Games are made about flowers, about fish, about stars, and colors and music. They don’t care if you’re black or white. And until it becomes a problem we shouldn’t accuse them of it.





Batthink argues against the proposition:

Do you think every race on this planet is represented enough in videogames? Can you honestly say that your chosen hobby is doing a good job of displaying individuals you could identify with? Can you at least be satisfied that, if the character was a bit of a stereotype, you would still be happy with him/her if there was enough personality, respect or other element that would help them rise above being a joke?

Because in all honesty, I have enough evidence to say that quite a few racial groups aren’t.

I am not looking for a bland, homogeneous, politically-correct atmosphere where nobody is offended and everybody is nice to each other. If there is to be more characters of a racial persuasion that needs it, then it has to happen naturally and in its own time. I won’t even try to be that harsh to the stereotypical characters, because every once in a while, someone has to use those to make a statement and not simply for stirring up other’s sensitivities. Also, I’d prefer to talk about mainstream characters rather than those from independent titles, since they are more likely to gather the visual exposure from all types of audiences, and thus have the most influence.

Which groups do have enough representation? Well, it doesn’t come as much surprise that as the main superpowers in videogame development, Europe, America and Japan, both white and oriental characters are overwhelmingly supported. Delve a little deeper and there’s still a group within those areas that I believe still needs a bit of work on; the Russian and East European communities. They seem to be a continued victim of the eighties’ need for a bad guy, typecast in communist/gangster roles. Who flies the flag for them, other than Zangief? We have Niko Belic, the main protagonist of GTA IV, who, although has a better filled-out personality and his own code of values than many others, wouldn’t sit comfortable with me as someone I’d like to represent a group within videogames.





Revolver Ocelot, too, has a certain coolness that is not only present in the first Metal Gear Solid, but the third game in the series as his younger incarnation. But he is a bad guy. If these are the only two major Russian/East European individuals I can remember from memory and I need to try and look at wiki pages for Metro 2033 and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games to check for more positive examples, then we have a serious image problem. A problem that is being continued in the Modern Warfare games and Vanquish. Somebody over in a former communist country is listening to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ with a certain sadness in their heart right now.

There does, on a more positive side, seem to be more development for the Black and Hispanic societies in videogames nowadays. Regarding examples for the former, Valve started off with the everyman character of Louis in Left 4 Dead, then introduced football coach, erm, Coach and journalist Rochelle in the sequel. Feels pretty generous compared to the 16-bit era where you had to make do with Street Fighter’s Balrog and DeeJay. Yes, we still have the bad examples (Dudley from SFIII/IV, Cole Train from Gears of War), but with extra foundations being laid by Jade (Beyond Good and Evil), Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2) and Darci Stern (Urban Chaos), steps are being taken in the right direction, but steps that also need to be capitalised on.





Hispanics have had a more difficult time of it, but this is beginning to change too. For example, Garcia Hotspur, whom Destructoid member Bacon&eggs praised to high heaven in the recent Shadows of the Damned. Suda51’s characters have now risen beyond his love of the luchadore wrestler and developed into someone with appeal. But for every one of those characters, there are about five more games willing to play up the corrupt Mexican/Central/South American drug dealer or gang member. Like I said, times are tough, but change is coming steadily.

Which can be more than said for those of Arab and Asian persuasion. Other than Dhalsim and Hakan (Capcom stereotypes again), we have… the main character from Prince of Persia. There have to be better examples out there. Why not put yourself in the role of a Middle Eastern anti-terrorist unit, which I’m sure most of those countries have? I’m sure our very own Hamza Aziz would like a few guys of his own culture that he wouldn’t mind playing as.





As for others, they are very much left wanting. For instance, Tommy in Prey is the only mainstream example of someone who doesn’t play to any over-exaggerated pigeon-hole in the Native American protagonist, whilst the second Gears of War has the best delegate I’ve seen for the Maori in the form of Tai Kaliso. Shame he dies less than heroically in the game.

To summarise, the racial diversity is there, but there still isn’t enough of it. Since videogames have been a recent medium that have only come to prominence in the last few decades, it is natural that some issues still need to be addressed in mainstream gaming. Once again I must stress that it will take time. One day, I’ll be pretty sure that there will be enough diversity, but for now we’ll have to wait.





Many thanks to Keelut2012 and Batthink for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (Keelut2012 and Batthink) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment KEELUT or BATTHINK depending on whether you support the proposition (KEELUT or you oppose the proposition (BATTHINK). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with KEELUT or BATTHINK may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 1st August. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 31st July for your vote to count.



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