Realistic Racism?

Zero Punctuation does some of my favorite game reviews. Ben Croshaw, or Yahtzee as he is known, does an excellent job ripping into games. I don’t think I can remember a single review I’ve seen that wasn’t funny and I have seen a lot of them. A few weeks ago in his review of Bioshock Infinite he said that while the game was great that he had a problem with the villain and how he’s basically irredeemably racist in an unrealistic way. I don’t want to give too much background on this in case people haven’t played the game yet. But here’s a pretty spoiler free piece of a recording featured in the game. These are the words of the villain himself:

What exactly was the Great Emancipator emancipating the Negro from? From his daily bread. From the nobility of honest work. From wealthy patrons who sponsored them from cradle to grave. From clothing and shelter. And what have they done with their freedom? Why, go to [area of the game], and you shall find out. No animal is born free, except the white man. And it is our burden to care for the rest of creation.

When I heard this in the game it was like a kick in the nuts. I was in combat and I got so distracted I think I even died. I had to go back and listen to it again to make sure that I heard correctly.

I’m not here to gush about the game again, but the game does raise several serious topics and this is probably the biggest of them. Race plays a huge role in America to this day and to say that race doesn’t matter and that racism is dead is straight bullshit.

urlThere are some common lies about racism we need to all get out of the way before I even go on. 1. There is no such thing as reverse racism. Any race can be racist against any other, the idea of reverse racism is in and of itself racist. If you think that your race has to be separate from ordinary racism to the point of having their own term, that’s a problem. 2. Racism still happens. I don’t know how many times I have watched people try and claim that it doesn’t on TV and in person and online. But it still happens, end of story.

The idea presented in the above quote from the game used to be the standard rationalization for slavery. This excerpt by James Oakes speaks of paternalistic reasoning behind slavery and even goes a little bit into the idea of “Christian Stewardship”. These ideas, while not prevalent today, still exist in the minds of some and there have been issues where they reared their ugly heads in back-handed ways.

An American Pastor, Pat Robinson, is super famous and known around the country for being this revered man of God. A few years back when Haiti suffered their devastating Earthquake he made a remark that this had come to fruition as punishment for their deal with the Devil.

The deal to which Pat Robinson refers is the idea that the slaves held then by the French couldn’t have revolted against their white owners and won without the aid of the Devil. Similar allegations were made about the flood in New Orleans. It’s funny that whenever mostly black, mostly poor people are suffering from natural disasters we call it the Devil. When it’s done to other people here in United States we call it God testing them.

I don’t think Ben Croshaw will ever read this little blog, but if he did I would want him to know that it may be because he’s from a country that has grown past a lot of the racist issues. Issues that still plague the States and he doesn’t realize it. This kind of racism did exist and the traces of it can be found today.

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Bioshock Infinite–A Love Story

From the moment that I started Bioshock Infinite I was a little worried. I had waited for this game since it was first announced. Way back before we really knew who was in it or what the game was about I had a feeling there was a chance for it to be an amazing experience. Liz_BioBut I knew that there was a chance I would be disappointed.

But since I beat the game in the middle of last week I haven’t been able to get over what might have been my best experience in gaming. I feel in love with the story. I feel in love with the characters, especially Elizabeth and the Lucetes. By the end of the game I didn’t want it to end and I had earnest feelings of worry over the characters.

There are rare occasions when I feel like this about book characters after following them for a long time. In rarer instances I get like that about television or movie characters. In a single video game something like this hasn’t really ever happened. Even in games where I really like the story.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t played it, but there is a lot of things in this game that make me think that there is some hope for the game industry. The new trend in video games making hard to stomach political statements is something that I really embrace. And the gaming industry subverting it’s tropes is another thing that needs to happen more often. It’s rare to see games starring women or with women in the leading role that don’t sexualize them or make them simply MacGuffins. While Elizabeth might seem like this she’s really the center of the story. Saying anything more would actually be a spoiler.

Now that I am done I’m playing the new Tomb Raider and I have plans to get my hands on a copy of Last of Us when it comes out.

Women in Games

Sexism in video games is one of those topics that we’re not supposed to talk about. When you attempt to you’re met with anything from ignorance (“I don’t know what you’re talking about”), to acceptance (“Well it’s not a game’s job to not be sexist”), to threats of rape and whatever this is (“She needs a good dicking, good luck finding it though” – real comment from You Tube).

Some of this misogynistic abuse came to light when a video entitled Tropes versus Women was being funded on Kickstarter and fueled all of this. The woman who started the project, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, describes it in greater detail at the bottom of the page:

“In addition to the torrent of misogyny and hate left on my YouTube video (see below) the intimidation effort has also included repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me (with porn), organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website.  These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape.  All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded.  Thankfully, Kickstarter has been very supportive in helping me deal with the harassment on their service. All my backers have also been amazingly encouraging over on the project page too!”

While I don’t personally agree with all of the points made by Sarkeesian and whether you think that you agree with her points or the project’s funding, which is what some people claim was their problem with it, there’s no reason for the kind of behavior exhibited by these people.

No reason, except that this woman attacked video games and plans to ruin fun for everyone!

In 2013 with an increasingly non-white America with a slightly more progressive outlook (slightly less progressive than it should be) it’s strange to think of the number of times we see balanced characters that are women in leading roles in games. The lack of non-whites in lead roles—even in ensemble casts—is equally strange. When you look at the games and try to find roles where the women aren’t sexualized and the non-whites not stereotyped; this number declines even sharper.

Don’t think for a moment that I think this is just a problem with games. Books, movies and even television have similar issues. The difference is that with games when you discuss it you get things like this:

“I’ve never seen a female fire fighter in my life. And bitches like to bake cake, lick da dick, suck anus, and deepthroat balls.”

And this:

“This is fucking cringe-worthy. I’m all about equality, but this is idiocy. Games are, in general, marketed towards males, as most avoid gamers are, indeed, males. It makes complete sense that in this scenario female roles are over-sexualized, especially from a marketing perspective. Young teens going through puberty will jump all over that shit, and there’s nothing you do to stop them. Just when you think Kickstarter projects couldn’t get any more annoying, the hardcore feminists arrive.”

While the first comment is just random stupidity, the second one is full of misinformation and acceptance. The gaming industry has basically spent much of its entirety shunning women, so shunning them more  makes this idea that women don’t play games seem like a self fulfilling prophecy when more women aren’t playing. Even though women do play games.

This idea that young teens are playing games and that’s it is stupid because much of the gamer market is in it’s late twenties and early thirties. In fact, one of the huge arguments people make against games being childish is the fact that the gaming market is older.

Even if you believed that the games were only going to adolescents and older teens—what makes it okay to indoctrinate them with more of the same unhealthy opinions of women?

When games like Bioshock: Infinite and Last of Us have issues being made because they feature women characters in roles that aren’t sexualized enough it’s clear that we have an issue. But when a developer is told that they can have a female protagonist kiss a male character because it will make the person playing her feel too strange and possibly make them think about something gay it becomes more than just the game industry; it’s cultural. We’re so deeply homophobic and unaccustomed to being put in the shoes of anyone unlike ourselves that acting out that character’s desires on screen is too much for people.

There’s this really common argument against activism (women’s activism, gay activism and racial activism mostly) that every activist is pushing for their own superiority and not equality. That’s certainly not true. Somehow these few people that do push for that sort of thing become considered the norm and the rest of us are grouped with them so that the discussion never really has to take place.

No discussion taking place equates out to meaning there will be no change. Whether the debate is about something less serious about the roles of women in media or things like victim blaming in the cases of rape or even something where it seems no one is willing to have rational discussion like gun control. As long as long as we deflect important topics by claiming that everyone on the other side of the debate is a lunatic we’re only hurting ourselves.

Plans

This hasn’t been the longest drought in my postings, but I usually feel the need to come back here about once a week and I missed it last time. Things were hectic last week and I am trying to figure out where everything I want to write fits in to the great scheme of things. I have become to accustomed to procrastination and it has become the standard around here. I need to get back to how I used to be about writing where I could live a day without doing it–but that kind of dedication is hard to build up and work has left me feeling pretty drained. The thing is that I can’t afford to get bogged down by things like that.

I have, however, been reading a lot. I think some of it has been kind of inspiring me to try something very different from the norm. More than likely, I will try and go back Steampunk idea and make it something a little more historical and a lot less fantastical. It might sound cliche (but I plan to try and find a non-cliche way to do it) but I really think I am going to go for something based around the World War II era and try to make it still be Steampunk. This could be hard.

In other news I am also thinking I might shift this blog more toward other things that are non-writing related. I have kind of started to do that, I think I might have even mentioned it before, but I think I need to drive things further that way. Also, I started a blog a while back about the issue of race and gender in fiction, I’ll get around to posting that soon.