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View Diary: Not So Post Racial After All: Xbox Live and Real Racism in a Virtual World (28 comments)

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  •  There are some interesting complexities there.... (0+ / 0-)

    Take the immensely popular Team Fortress 2 by Valve Software,  for example. A Team Fortress 2 team is made up of nine separate character types, each with a particular specialty, to force gamers to work together. Each of the character types is also an over-the-top caricature, often based on ethnic or national stereotypes: the Engineer looks and talks as if he stepped out of a Texas oilfield, the Heavy is a potbellied, sentimental Russian with a thick accent, the Medic is a tall, lantern-jawed, blue-eyed academic type with a German accent, the Sniper is a lanky Australian with speech and behavior to match, the Spy is a slippery Frenchman interested in sex as well as murder, and so on and so forth.....

    Seven of the nine team members are white males. One has never had either race or gender revealed  (the Pyro, wielding a flamethrower and completely masked by protective gear). And one is black.... the Demoman, whose specialty is blowing things up.

    I suspect they came to a screeching halt for a while at Valve while they did the calculations on this. It would obviously be unacceptable to have every member of the team white. But every member of the team is also a broadly drawn caricature being played for laughs, which might be... um.... a bit delicate to handle with a black character.

    Solution? The Demoman remained black, but his home was shifted, of all places, to Scotland. He was then kitted out with a set of Scottish stereotypes turned up to 11, including the habit of going into battle drunk, with an open bottle of whiskey as his melee weapon. (As one player remarked to me when the game was still new, "Wouldn't you know it, one black guy on the team and they've got him swinging a cracked 40.") Problem solved, at least from Valve's standpoint. You get the black guy, you get to laugh at the black guy (as you laugh at all the other character types), but you don't laugh at him for anything remotely connected with his being black.

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 09:07:32 PM PDT

    •  lordie, easy out or smart move? (0+ / 0-)
      •  It reminds me a bit.... (0+ / 0-)

        .....of the way racism is acknowledged but displaced in many video games. For instance, in Skyrim one of the Ten Races is black, the Redguards. But there is no prejudice against them. Instead, the targets of prejudice are the two so-called "beast races," the feline Khajiit, who are mainly itinerant traders, and the reptilian Argonians, who usually get stuck doing the shit work. At least one of the major cities in Skyrim won't allow either Khajiit or Argonians through its gates, and the Argonians have a recent history of being raided and trades as slaves by some of the other races.

        Gender and sexuality gets much the same tiptoe-around-the-edges treatment. For instance, again in Skyrim, you can get married to someone of your own gender, and no one bats an eye. But if you do, you'll be the only gay or lesbian couple in the whole game -- none of the NPCs you meet are in same-sex relationships. This leaves society in the odd situation of approving something that its members never seem to do themselves.

        "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

        by sagesource on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 01:03:24 AM PDT

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