Racism in Valve’s Team Fortress 2

There is something about playing Team Fortress 2 (TF2), a decade old team-based first-person shooter, that keeps me coming back to it. Perhaps it is my limited hardware PC, and the accessibility of Valve’s older games on such devices. Perhaps it is the masterful design of any of Valve’s games, who focus their design philosophy very genuinely on whether or not the gameplay is fun. There is just something about the distinct and unique classes, the non-gory cartoonish aesthetic (which certainly inspired what I consider to be its spiritual successor, Overwatch), and the way players are required to interact through the classes and in-game communication to win. Communication is key for success in Team Fortress 2 -Coordinating offensive pushes in TF2 is incredibly important with more than 9 players per team in a fast-paced brawl. Classes have certain roles that, if performed well, can help the team immensely.

Steam Community :: Guide :: Tips and Tricks for SPY - for both beginner and  advanced
A spy which can disguise as the enemy team and infiltrate their position manages to counter an engineer’s defensive position.
Steam общност :: Ръководство :: How to use Ubercharges properly and  effectively
A medic’s ‘ubercharge’ which involves invulnerability is another opportunity to coordinate an offense or defense around.

Although communication can be incredibly toxic.

Just recently a ‘bot crisis’ has enveloped the TF2 community, as somebody has figured out how to create accounts run by code that figuratively turns servers into a game of ‘kicking the bot’, once they join. These bots aim perfectly and often have racist, anti-lgbt, misogynistic, or antisemitic messages to spam in the chat or over the voice chat. But these issues are not new to TF2 either, and it certainly does not help that Valve seems to be taking a more hands-off approach as their developers focus on more interesting projects (like Half-Life Alyx).

As a game which does nothing to really censor its chat except for having an opt-in report feature, it is not uncommon to see popular ‘unpopular humor’ being spread just for the kick of it. What I mean by this is that the online community provides the perfect opportunity for certain players, and I would not claim the majority, to practically yell obscenities that I could not imagine them saying in real-life. Protected by some degree of anonymity, they relish in the outrage saying such things can incite, making it almost counterproductive to feed into their bully egos by asking them to stop.

I could not immediately find any demographic statistics, but from my personal experience I do not believe it is a stretch to say the vast majority of the player base is white and male. It is also to my understanding that these male hierarchical environments encourage such players to put down minorities, as that allows them to maintain some kind of stature especially when performing poorly in the game itself. This in part helps create that toxic environment, and with an older game and player base like TF2 I wonder if it has the will at all to improve.

Though there are some of my favorite moments from gaming in TF2 as well, hilarious and friendly nonverbal communication, so it is sometimes hard to reconcile these very disparate aspects of the game.

Where are all the Black People?

Within games and gaming communities alike, there is an overwhelming lack of diversity: Fantasy games like Dragon Age or Final Fantasy have a surprising lack of black and brown people aside from the few used as plot points. The addition of female soldiers in Call of Duty: WW2 had male fans in an uproar about historical accuracy—what, were women not invented in World War 2? Assassin’s Creed Odyssey let you be gay, and again, many male fans were quick to jump on the historical accuracy bandwagon and claim that no one was gay in Ancient Greece and Rome.

The few games that have an abundance of black and brown people that know of are Madden2K, and FIFAAnd even then, there aren’t that many women or lgbt representation.

Why does this matter? Because these are fantasy games and should include all races, genders, and orientations without compromising the overall gameplay experience.

Many games that claim to be “woke” in the current political climate tend to use the collective experiences of minorities/POC while not placing them within the story. Many games with morality matrices rely heavily on slavery narratives, and oppressor-oppressed narratives and conveniently leave out the people they’re about.

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Detroit: Become Human’s main characters (from left to right): Connor, Markus, and Kara

Detroit: Become Human strives to be a game that delves into heavy social commentary dealing with civil rights and freedom from second-class citizenry/slavery (for androids) and borrows speeches and ideas from notable black activists like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and President Obama, and applies them to three relatively white-passing androids, inserting black characters as plot points to serve as connections to the real world. It is objectively a slap in the face to black history, to have civil rights be at the forefront of an honesty beautiful  game, but have so few black people in one of the blackest cities in the United States.

The game relies heavily on black culture and iconography as character quirks for the whole game: it’s set in Detroit (a city that is 83% black) in 2038 with the music and background art of the game are borrow heavily from black culture and are meant only to inspire feelings of hope and resilience for the androids’ liberation movement. However the writer, David Cage, denies any political motives for the game considering Detroit’s actual political and racial history (like the race riots of 1943 and 1967). A game like this that can be considered a “high culture” cultural production that gloss over suffering with stoic nobility, historical memories become more marketable, more palatable, and less illuminating. It’s dehumanizing as a black person, and it’s commodifying the “it was 400 years ago, get over it” argument into a pretty game with conventionally attractive characters with a sob story for people to fawn over.

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One of the many murals illustrating black people in D:BH

“There are many groups of people today who can feel the same and feel segregated for different reasons…so I wouldn’t connect this to the civil rights [movement]” —David Cage

The images in "Detroit: Become Human" are simultaneously hyper political and yet treated apolitically

I take no issue with wanting to put social commentary into cultural productions: it’s an effective way to synthesize the world around us and allows others a glimpse into individual and collective grievances that shape human experiences, but it’s a bad idea to do it like this and then ignore black people.

However, I am glad it is a game like this that allows the player to be emotionally invested and explore different open-ended storylines within one game, rather than it being something like Grand Theft Auto that exaggerates negative stereotypes of black people and lets players vicariously live the exciting and dangerous lives of black men who flagrantly break the law and use extreme violence to “solve” the problem. There’s already enough negative stereotypes of black people in the real world and real-world consequences of people acting on those stereotypes. I don’t want to see them in my video games—they’re supposed to be an escape from all that.

Get woke.

-Ishah Blasio

“We Are All A Little Bit Racist Sometimes”

Racism and stereotypes are things we cannot avoid. Our bodies make snap judgments based on peoples accents, religion, and physical appearance without conscious cognitive reasoning. The thing that novels without pictures struggle to encompass, is that first snap judgment, or take in of an entire scene.

We spoke in class about how the racism that is pervasive through out the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in some ways takes away from the book. While I do think using the name “Johnny Chinaman” does not add any substance to the graphic novel, I think in some ways Alan Moore’s use of racism and bluntness does.

Multiple times throughout the graphic novel Moore expresses that this “comic book” is not meant for children. It is a graphic, brutal story geared towards adult readers. These adults should have already formulated opinions on race strong enough to at the very least not be swayed by a comic book, and thus readers will be accepting what they see as a form of media and not as truth.

The scene that best utilizes racism and callousness to add to the novel is when Ms. Murray ventures to Cairo to seek out Quatermaine. Upon entering the building wherein he is staying, Ms. Murray is confronted by an almost alien scene. The bar is packed and thick with dark shisha smoke. There are no women and none of the men seem friendly at all. In fact, they fit the exact Arab stereotype that makes some of us as Americans uncomfortable. In the dark room they all wear turbans or little hats, wear the thin mustache and heavy beard and do not speak English. Ms. Murray is wearing proper English lady attire and is easily recognized as out of place and not belonging there.

The stark contrast of Ms. Murray and the men around her and the use of racism provide a powerful visual message. Upon entering the bar, we can see that this place is alien, it is different and potentially harmful. There are no allies in this place of people so different from her, and she is not safe. It illustrates the intensity of the position that Quatermaine is in and the lengths Ms.Murray would go to find him.

In the frame I chose, Ms. Murray is being raped. In this foreign, unsafe place she is forced to the floor and has her legs spread. In the frame one can see the man’s naked but as he prepares himself to rape her while his fat brother holds her down. The men’s faces are totally unconcerned or afraid or merciful. Once again, before reading this book we were warned of its illicit material.

This scene is incredibly disconcerting to put in words, but to see it on paper, in color, to a woman whose character has been developing? Far worse. However, I think that that is a good thing. Rape is a very disconcerting thing, and we should not take it casually even when we read it. Too often now in books do we read of massive amounts of civilians dying without pause to think of each of their families- the widows and the orphans. It is so easy to just keep reading, “what is going to happen next”? Between the two frames I have discussed, one can see how hopeless and afraid Ms. Murray, how dire her situation is and better relate to it. If the first frame was brighter, and the men there looked more decent and less foreign maybe Ms. Murray could have called for help, or maybe even she could expect that these men would be punished for their crimes. If I only saw a shadow of her about to be raped, I would not have fully grasped how invasive they were being or the closeness to which they came to being successful.

All in all in this set of frames the racism help build set the tone of the scene, and better let us relate to the character and her situation.

This is not just a comic book… it’s a graphic novel.

– Kinetix

A New Breed of Hate

It’s 1992. You live in Los Angeles. The streets are filled with violence, murder, and widespread looting. Racial tensions have reached their boiling point, and racially-charged riots have broken out throughout the city. The news is filled with accounts of violence between Blacks, Whites, and Koreans. As most know, these events actually took place following the arrest of Rodney King, and scenes such us these were not uncommon throughout America. The inner-city was simply not an welcoming place to live in in early 90s America.

Look at the world through the eyes of Neal Stephenson.

t’s 1992. You live in Los Angeles. The streets are filled with violence, murder, and widespread looting. However, the cause of the violence is not racial tension. In the Los Angeles of Snow Crash, genetic race is no longer the source of deeply sown hatred. Racism as we know it no longer exists. Hiro Protagonist, the hero & protagonist, is a Japanese-American. His roommate is Russian. He works for the Italian Mafia. For all of these, race plays no factor in violence. The burbclaves, or suburbs, are the only places in which racism is tolerated in the least, as one burbclave is designated as “apartheid.” However, the residents in the burbclaves are portrayed as rich, lazy, stupid people. All of the teenage boys take steroids, everyone drives minivans, or “bimbo boxes” and care nothing about the outside world. It’s obvious that Neal Stevenson is sick of the racism prevalent in today’s world.

Racism as we know it is virtually nonexistent in Snow Crash. However, a new form has arisen to take its place. In Snow Crash, citizens are not identified as Black, or White, or Hispanic. Instead, they are identified by the company they serve, and these companies do not like each other one bit. People are identified as “citizens” of the Mafia, or the Clink, or the Hoosegow, or any other company they work for. They even have passports issued from their respective companies. It’s almost as if companies had filled the holes left by the absence of ethnic identity. However, this also seems to suggest that when one form of hatred and violence (in this case, racism), is gone, another will fill its place, always leaving us with some form of violence in the world. Snow Crash attempts to be very prophetic. Will this prediction prove true?

I, for one, think the answer lies in our hands.

-Matt Thumser

Goddamn Foreigners

By Aneel Henry

“What the @#$% happened to my tires?” The tires square shape looked unnatural in the fading sunlight. “The tires are slashed that’s what happened you goddamn foreigner.” Two large white guys, both middle aged, far past their physical prime,  and with mullets long enough to pass for rope, walked out from behind a raised red pickup truck. The floodlights on the pickup truck pointed at the car, it’s slashed tires evident in the now ample light. “I think you need to go back to your country.” The man just stood there, accepting their jeers and taunts as they continued to make racial slur after racial slur. The hicks finally tired of the teasing and with one last biting comment about the man’s mother, they left in a roar of over-tuned engine and Kenny Chesney. My father surveyed the damage, calculated the average cost for four tires, and silently drove home, never to speak a word of the incident for another twenty years.

I personally have never had such an intense experience with racism but my father and my mother have experienced horror-story grade racism. The 1970’s and 1980’s are thought of as much more backwards and racially intolerant times in comparison to our current society but the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson begs to differ. Throughout Snow Crash, the characters run into numerous occasions where racism and racial stereotypes are overtly discussed and maliciously used as if it is the norm to do so. This would not be uncommon had the novel been set in the 1960’s or later but the novel is set far into the future, a future in which mankind and the society created by them was supposed to have evolved. After reading this novel, I was shocked to find that Neal Stephenson predicted racism would not only increase but blow up as time progressed. I was not offended by the use of racism in the novel but rather impressed by the biting social commentary Stephenson put forward in his novel. His novel is a satirical look at the future of mankind, and one of his major points in the novel was that racism is not going to go away.  Stephenson attempts to change that by ridiculing the racism present in this novel, an action that greatly impressed me as a reader. I do not consider myself particularly conscious or sensitive about racism but, being a minority, I found myself pondering why I am not more sensitive or worried about my perception/others perceptions of me. The society I live in today is overflowing with racism, racism that is swept under the proverbial rug. Racism in modern society is kept under wraps and because I have not experienced such overt and obviously malignant experiences, I used to feel as if racism was nonexistent. Now I realize that my hunky-dory childhood was really a naïve take on society. Society is not as accepting as it seems, the racism is just expressed much more subtly than I first believed. I think that after reading Snow Crash, I can only hope to remain more aware of my surroundings and become more in touch with my cultural side so as to truly determine the extent of racism present in my day-to-day life.

Racism 2.0

A half-black, half-Korean man walks into a virtual bar.  It sounds like the beginning of a bad racist joke.  Hiro Protagonist, the sword swinging pseudo-ninja, tends to turn heads when he enters a building.  His appearance often limits him; for instance, he’s barred from entering New South Africa because he is part black.  While this sort of racism seems like a disturbing vision of our nearing future, it is not its most troublesome aspect.  No, the most disturbing form of racism demonstrated in Snow Crash occurs in our future virtual reality.

When Y.T. enters the Metaverse, she does not log on from a fancy, expensive computer.  She walks onto the Street using a public terminal and immediately, “people start giving her these looks” (Stephenson 220).  These looks.  Stephenson doesn’t need to explain them further; almost instinctively the reader knows it’s the look-down-your –nose, I’m-better-than-you, go-back-to-where-you-belong, kind of looks.  And why?  Because she’s using a ‘shitty public terminal.’  She’s a trashy black-and-white person.  The scene reminds me of Remember the Titans, when Big Ju, an African-American linebacker, walks into training camp for the first time.  Fortunately, fantastic Hollywood movies are all I know of authentic racism.  The movie represents a dark side of America’s history: the racially turbulent 50’s.  Is it possible the future holds our same mistakes, the Metaverse a bridge to our sinister past?

I’m scared to think that, in 2009, we are not far off  from being able to create the Metaverse.  We’re just missing the inevitable link.  In modern terms the Metaverse is like Videochat meets SecondLife (without the creepy flying).  Once these two ideas are connected, how far would be from Stephenson’s imagined virtual world? One of the Internet’s strongest virtues is the inherent anonymity it grants to users.  Hidden geniuses, too timid or ugly to speak to a room full of stockholders, can start a multinational without leaving their bedrooms.  But what if this anonymity ceased to exist?  What if everyone knew what you actually looked like when you logged on to cyber space?  Would you prefer to live in the real world, or the virtual world?  Or, more succinctly, what’s the difference?

Jake Karlsruher

Master of Glugnar, the Magnificent

Tolkien was a RACIST!!!

By – Kyle Osborne

I knew it would come to this. I knew at some point this issue would be forced out into the open, and I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m not going to play it safe or pull any punches. In the land of LoTRO, all races are not equal. I know it’s appalling and I sound like a racist, but please bear with me.

                It’s just the truth, a simple matter of fact, not every (or any) young hobbit can fulfill his dream to become the next great Lore-Master. Before you tell me that I’m putting the hobbits down and stifling their dreams, let’s analyze the source, Tolkien’s works. Where in The Fellowship of the Ring does Tolkien comment that hobbits share a love for the history of Middle Earth? If you can find it let me know. From what I read, hobbits rarely care much for their own lore, hate to leave the shire, and care nothing for the history of other races. In their agrarian society this knowledge holds little value. From what Tolkien has written it seems unlikely that a hobbit, or a Dwarf for that matter, would ever consider being a Lore-Master. To save face with any hobbit or dwarf out there I will say that I find the races with more limited class choices to be the most interesting around; men and elves can be pretty boring at times.

                Tolkien was intent on creating an interactive and living world, filled with various cultures and a rich social structure between races. Given the fact that they were imitating a master, the game designers of LoTRO did a decent job. As necessary the various free peoples of Middle earth, work together against their common enemies, but thankfully the designers didn’t stop with only these basics. Evidenced as early as the Epic Prologue, there is a tension between the dwarves and the elves that was ever present in the novels. They are quick to consider blaming each other when an elven envoy is kidnapped, even though neither party was to blame. As in the books, the rangers of the north are looked down upon or spoken ill of by others. Their secrecy and isolation makes them suspect for conspiracy. In the game the rangers have their encampment away from others in the North Downs. These are only a couple of examples of the complex social structure of Middle Earth, which was graciously included in LoTRO.

                Whether or not they suggest racism, these limitations, characteristics and interactions of the different races of LoTRO help to draw the gamer into the plot and the mechanics of the game. I am willing to admit that when it comes to the representations of Middle Earth, I am a racist. How about you?