At first games were held in contempt, a toy for children and nothing more, and to an extent they were right, but gamers and the medium grew up together and came into their own. When the moral guardians told them they were sick or pathetic they held our ground and proved them wrong. When the Jack Thompson’s of the world blamed tragedies on gaming they were told where they could shove their baseless accusations.
Basically what I’m getting at is that gaming has had a lot of shit flung its way, and today is no different, except the shit-flingers are coming from within, and their audience is sick of it. Now I’m not going to warn you about the gaming “boogie men” or “conspiracy”, boogie men are scary and conspirators are smart, these people are neither. These are the more hilarious examples of what we’ve had to put up with for the last few years, the reason there was so much animosity built up for games journalists who push political correctness, the other four thousand straws before the one that broke the camel’s back if you will.
Blonde Shepard: Don’t judge a woman by her looks unless we do.
EA, realising the large fan following FemShep had garnered, decided to revamp her default character model for inclusion in ME3 promotional material, however EA was also aware that the unpleasable wasp nest that is the Bioware fanbase would hate whatever they came up with anyway and decided to leave it up to the fans for vote for their favourite themselves. Some people in the game press took issue with this, drawing comparisons to a “beauty contest”, some might consider this silly considering we’d already had two games to get to know this character, and that nobody would be forced to use this model since the it would only be the default in a game with a character creator. But lines were drawn, it was wrong to boil the glorious Commander Shepard down to just appearances.
That is, until the blonde won the vote...
“Blonde Bimbo” “Barbie faced personality vacuum” “that is the face of a woman who cares more about her glue-on nails and handbag Chihuahua” these were the accusations levied at the chosen winner, who is still exactly the same person she was before. The issue of voting on appearance was dropped in lieu of badgering the world for not choosing the “right” type of girl, it was simply unthinkable that Shepard could become an example of “western world Caucasian beauty” (coughunlikeMaleShepcough).
EA went into damage control mode and announced “Phase 2” of voting, now for hair colour, and it was fine to vote again, so long as you made the choice that made her look like the old default they were going to import anyway, and so we ended up with a hastily pallet swapped Femshep who looked like she bleached her skin and had a terrible dye job. But would blonde prejudice ever rear its ugly head again? (Spoiler alert: yes, it’s number three).
E3 2014 Panels: Not enough crippled minority lesbian presenters.
Polygon’s Danielle Riendeau took exception to this year’s E3, the problem, in her eyes, was that there were more severed heads than female presenters, and by “more” she meant “two”, there were two more severed heads, and considering the games shown included Mortal Kombat and an Assassin’s Creed about the French Revolution I’d say that’s coming out pretty well. In Polygon’s eyes the lack of women or “people of color”, because it’s still the 50’s apparently, “sends a message”. Is that message “Most of these people are the company’s executives giving a talk at a trade show”? Is it “Many minority execs are from non-English speaking countries and can’t go on stage”?
Nope, just “sends a message”, which much like it’s cousin “problematic” is code for “I want to call this racist but don’t have any real substance to do so”
Most peculiar though, was the complaint that too many presenters were “white, male and able-bodied”, speaking as a disabled person this is an incredibly odd statement to make considering that (1) not all disabilities are visible, and (2) maybe being disabled might impede someone’s ability run on and off stage while giving several impassioned speeches for upwards of an hour. But then, that would imply that Polygon actually gives a shit about disabled people instead of looking progressive.
Far Cry 4 Boxart: Return of the Aryan oppressors
Far Cry 4 was accused of racism after the reveal of its boxart, many claimed the image evoked (and therefore, wholeheartedly endorsed) white supremacy, cultural eradication, and just for good measure, homophobia, it’s an awfully bright suit after all. Personally, I think making a bunch of loaded accusations based on stereotypes like that seems kind of...well racist, but the best part? Nobody in that art is white. In fact, we knew next to nothing about the game at the time the art was released, but that didn’t stop anyone making wild accusations, most of which were based around dyed hair.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who finds it hilarious that those most eager to scream racism literally couldn’t recognise an Asian when he was staring them in the face, not to mention sitting on a Buddhist statue in the Tibetan mountains while stroking another Asian on the head.
Far Cry 4 at E3: Silence is sexist
Sticking with Far Cry 4, narrative director Mark Thompson was questioned at E3 2014 by Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson about what he would have done differently “If you had been able to work with a playable woman character in Far Cry 4”, Thompson declined from answering, no doubt feeling that he was being asked a leading question that Kotaku could twist into a manufactured controversy. Thompson was wrong however, Kotaku didn’t even need an answer to begin the manufactured controversy.
“Ubisoft Refused To Talk To Me About Women” was posted soon after, an article that spends ten paragraphs describing literally anything but the topic at hand, the sights, the sounds, the smells, at one point Loony Toons, anything to make it look like anything actually happened. Ubisoft’s refusal to answer leading questions on a hot button topic was all it took for Kotaku to conflate them with the issue.
Also, Look forward to my next article “Kotaku Refused To Talk To Me About Their Hand In The Rwandan Genocide”
Dragon’s Crown: Breasts Exist.
Game Journalists didn’t like when Dragon’s Crown, a game with hyper-stylised art inspired by everything from Renascence art to Walt Disney, had the audacity to exaggerate the female form. The character, drawing from the likes of Jessica Rabbit and the Swords and Sorcery trope of the buxom sorceress, was given impossibly large breasts, which is unacceptable at random intervals in the games industry. No effort was made to see where the character drew inspiration from, most ignored that almost everybody in the game is heavily caricatured, or as Penny Arcade’s Tycho put it “The only characters here who aren’t fucking mutants are the Elf and the Wizard”. Once again, it seemed like they didn’t care about the issue so much as that they could make it an issue, and the game was brushed off as the product of the artist’s juvenile fantasies.
...which is nonsense because anyone who’s played a Vanillaware game knows George Kamitani is an ass man.
Lara Croft’s PG rated traumatic experience.
Remember that time we had month long discussions over whether or not it was okay to depict sexual assault and rape in a videogame and then it turned out the scene in question was a guy touching her leg about a second before Lara killed him? That may have been blown a little out of proportion.
Starcoon: I don't even
A group of students in the Netherlands made a browser based game about a racoon travelling to the stars, they called it Starcoon. “Cultural differences – we have them” said Kotaku’s Mike Fahey as he imposed his cultural standards on some foreigners, insinuating that a portmanteau of “star” and “racoon” was racist. The developers eventually changed their name to avoid any discourse, which Kotaku used as fodder to write about why the Washington Redskins should change their names.
If you’re a game journalist and you’re wondering why your audience has suddenly turned on you, it might have something to with years of bullshit artificial controversies like this, and lines such as “We’re told all the time that the average age of gamers is getting older, but their emotional maturity and concept of life in a pluralist society seems to be stuck somewhere around the freshman year of high school. On average, it’s a demographic no more sophisticated than a meathead sports fan.” thanks Owen Good of Kotaku Australia, we’ll get right on that!
Any other words with antiquated racial connotations we should watch out for? Cocoons? Spades? The colour black? Halloween is right around the corner, can I still say spooky? What about the sambo, a type of gourd found in –oh for fuck–
Sambo: let’s keep racism alive so we can fight it.
Scribblenauts is a game in which any word you enter will appear in game, including the sambo, the name of a type of fig leaf gourd found in Spain which resembles a watermelon. As it turns out “sambo” was also an outdated racial slur for black people in America, and black people liking watermelons is also an old-fashioned stereotype, when connecting all the dots togther it soon became quite evident that 5th Cell did not sneak 1800’s racism into their videogame.
“Racial Term in DS' Scribblenauts?” – Protip: when a game journalist uses a title with a question mark at the end there’s a 90% chance they won’t answer that question. Bonus tip: if you need to dedicate over half your article to an American history lesson explaining why the name of a foreign fruit might be construed as racist – it’s not fucking racist.
Hideo Kojima said (in his poor grasp of English), that he’s been designing characters with cosplayers and figurines in mind, but expressed concern that he’d made Quiet too “erotic” to cosplay, either because the outfit is uncomfortable or because it would be hard to go around public events dressed like that. Somewhere along the way this got twisted into meaning that Kojima was making all the characters sexier so that he could perv over cosplayers.
Expect to hear more about Quiet in the future. You see, Quiet is the perfect character for the games press, she’s scantily clad, potentially a victim, and most importantly, she can’t speak for herself. Because at the end of the day, much like everything else here, it’s not really about her, it’s not about what she’s like, what she thinks, or what she does. It’s about them. It’s about earning brownie points for how progressive look, it’s about “enlightening” the audience who don’t know any better. All those accusations, all that outrage, and the character hasn’t even opened her mouth yet.