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

Sex, Drugs, and/or Videogames?

Growing up, the title of “Gamer” always brought to mind a lonely person sitting in a dark room, their eyes unable to be peeled from either a computer or television screen. They had removed themselves from the typical world in order to completely immerse themselves in another. This probably stemmed from my parents opinions as they quickly took my Gameboy away from me after having it only two days. They were frightened that I would “become too obsessed and therefore antisocial.” To them, a young child playing a video game was a young child without friends to play with. As I got older, that didn’t change. Whether it was my parents or my friends, the people around me tended to have very similar opinions of gamers. If you were playing a video game, you were missing out on life. You couldn’t be part of a fictional world and the real one. It was a choice. There was no “and”, only an “or”. However, it wasn’t long before I made friends who were just as obsessed with video games as they were socializing outside of their technology filled basements. That didn’t change my other friends’ opinions. If we didn’t hear from our “gamer” friends for a couple days, or they missed a great party, the excuse people always gave for them was “they are probably sitting in their basements playing video games.” It was a running joke that that was all they did on Saturday nights. And I can’t lie, sometimes that was true. But what was also true was that a lot of the time my “gamer “ friends were right there with us. Whether it was at a movie, party, or just dinner, they could always pull themselves away from the game. But it was the select times when they chose not to that people remembered, that people judged. They were the exceptions on which my friends built the rule.

My friends liked joke that you have probably all heard before. It’s the image of a girl sitting in her boyfriend’s basement as he plays video games for hours on end and completely ignores her. The girl, tired of being ignored, is then faced with a choice. She can either join him or leave him. From there, of course, the boyfriend is either saddened for a moment before forgetting about the girl once again consumed by the game, or the girl becomes just as obsessed. Suddenly, their relationship is simply a consistent series of nights sitting in the basement next to each other gaming. No talking, no romance, just gaming. To my friends, these were the only two options. There was no middle ground, no compromising.  Once again, I won’t lie to you. It might be a sad truth but they weren’t 100% wrong. Not even 80% wrong. I’ve been that girlfriend, sitting in her boyfriend’s basement as he played video games for hours. He would sit at one television, his brother at another. They would play separate games and only talk to let out either a groan when defeated or a cheer when leveling up. My boyfriend’s brother would always ask me if I wanted to borrow his computer so that I could online shop while they played. As a girl I was stereotypically supposed to love shopping just like as gamers they were supposed be hermits. My friends didn’t understand why I put up with it: the nights filled with only videogames. To them, that was all our relationship consisted of. How could it be more when all he did was play games? How could he do more than play videogames if he was a gamer? But I knew the truth; I knew these types of nights weren’t every night. In fact, they were a fairly rare occurrence.  But, there was no convincing my friends and because of their stubborn beliefs I began to question my own. They could only remember the bad, but could I only remember the good? Were we both just as confused and narrow-minded?  To this day, I can’t answer that question.  I don’t know if gamers are missing out on the real world or just lucky enough to be able to mange being part of two at once.  I like to think that if people work hard enough they can have it all. Life doesn’t have to be a series of choices. Sometimes there can be an “and” in the midst of all those “or”s.


The Stereotypical Gamer?

Holed up in a dark basement somewhere.  Hasn’t showered in days.  Surrounded by empty bags of chips and cans of soda.  Afraid to go outside and see the light of day.  Held captive by a computer screen, completing tasks that have no merit in real life.  Cannot hold a conversation that isn’t via text message.  Homework taking a back seat to the game.

This is what most of my family and friends picture when they hear the word “gamer”.  And to be perfectly honest, during my first experience with LOTRO, I fit this stereotype in a way.  My roommate left our room around noon on Saturday, when I had just begun my quest.  He returned two and a half hours later to find me still playing in the complete darkness, wearing only my boxers, not showered, hadn’t eaten, and seemingly glued to my computer screen.  In fact, I’m writing this post under the same conditions.  Too much information?  Sorry.

Even though I may have been the target of some ridicule throughout the rest of the day because of this, it still did not take away from the sense of accomplishment that I got from finally reaching the stables in West Bree.  I had devoted much time and concentration to this endeavor and I was not going to let anyone discount that.  I may have missed the meeting time of 1PM, but I still got there eventually.

My family was somewhat surprised to hear that I had selected this class for my writing seminar, especially since I have never played online games before in my life.  But how bad could a class on LOTR possibly be?  I also knew that the word “gamer” to them carried somewhat of a stigma, as even my brother and I constantly playing FIFA in our spare time was sometimes frowned upon.  They believed that all my time spent playing “silly” video games could be spent doing things much more productive and beneficial to both myself and others.  And that’s probably true.  But just because I enjoy video games doesn’t mean that I don’t get my homework done and that I can’t hold a conversation, in fact on Saturday I was playing LOTRO as part of my homework!

Who am I to judge someone for doing something that they seem to enjoy so much?  And the same goes for other people.  There are plenty of other things, “guilty pleasures”, that people enjoy that do not really benefit society, such as watching reality TV.  As long as a healthy balance between work and play is found then how important is what that form of play actually is?  I have enjoyed my time spent gaming thus far and will continue to do so throughout at least the rest of the semester.

-George de Roziere

America the Checkerboard

The LA (and actually the whole world) of Snow Crash is a place where people are separate from each other. America is not so much a melting pot as it is a chess or checkerboard–once, people mixed, but now, they all have restrictions on where and how they can move. “…Hiro is black, or at least part black. Can’t take him into New South Africa. And because Y.T. is a Cauc, they can’t go to Metazania. (Stephenson, 83)” Even jobs have taken on the characteristics of traditional ethnic groups–Taxi drivers speak Taxilinga, and accept no one into their ranks who does not also speak it; and as Y.T. says, “…the longtime status of skateboarders as an oppressed ethnic group mean[t] that by now all of them [we]re escape artists to some degree. (Stephenson, 77)” In short, everyone in LA has an identity, based on their genes, jobs, skills, house (or lack thereof) and these things dictate who they speak to, where they can go, and how the Snow Crash drug affects them. Coming from Hawaii, I couldn’t really identify with his depiction of race; true separation of ethnicities is something that is hard to imagine on the island chain (though I will admit it was both a plausible and scary thought). I will say that skin color automatically identifies you as one of three things: Native (which really just means you COULD be native–Filipinos, Samoans, and Micronesians, for example, certainly didn’t colonize the place like the Hawaiians did), Asian (of which there are two classes–Islander Asians and FOBs, the Japanese tourists who are very, very easy to identify), or Haoli (aka, white. Haoli, which means foreigner, is often used to somewhat familiarly but condescendingly describe mainland culture, white tourists, and activities seen as ‘white’). These stereotypes are known everywhere and there are many jokes and assumptions that go along with them. More than once, I have been mistaken for a tourist when out shopping with my mother, even though I’ve lived on Oahu all my life, but it’s never bothered me; rather, I take it as part of the harmless Haoli stereotype. Races mix in Hawaii like they do nowhere else. Ask almost anyone what their race is, and they’ll give you a list that most likely encompasses at least three or four different ethnicities. It’s hard to explain, but back home, race is something that you’re proud of and yet doesn’t matter. “I’m Chinese/Samoan.” “I’m Hawaiian/Indian/French.” “I’m Okinawan/Irish/Korean.” We poke fun at each other’s ethnicities, with those identifications of skin color and race, but they’ve never gotten in the way of a friendship. The total segregation present in Snow Crash was a scary thought. If it was there, I wouldn’t know half the people I do, and even more of them would never have existed in the first place.

Gender depictions in Snow Crash seem a lot less scary. The two main female characters, Y.T. and Juanita, are very different women, and like today’s women, show that you can either accept or reject the notions society gives you about what you should be. Y.T. is very much a product of her society; she sees nothing morally wrong with the way men look at her, or even with the fact that Raven desires and sleeps with a 15 year old girl. She is a girl of the street and goes to jail, breaks out, escapes mad taxi drivers, and makes deliveries as a Kourier, navigating the world of the franchises with ease because that is her world–she was born into it and she embraced it. Juanita, on the other hand, has rejected the traditions now present in franchised-LA. She is a true and devout Catholic when the Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates have turned Christianity into a franchised chain, complete with neon Elvises; and she is, in essence, her own person–working on Metaverse facial designs when no one else believed it would go anywhere, divorcing Da5id, despite his success, money, and power, and even discovering the Snow Crash plot–Juanita is her own person, thinking outside the box and using her knowledge and skills to save the world (if only “for a while”). I identify with both women–Juanita, strong, smart, independent, and Y.T., also strong, smart, and independent, but youthful, and headstrong where Juanita is wise and careful. They’re very different people, at different times in their lives, with different backgrounds and responses to the world they live in, but parts of them fit my image of myself; I think everyone can agree that we feel both influenced by society (like Y.T.), but that we also reject parts of it and stand apart (like Juanita). And they show that in Snow Crash, there are many paths you can take, no matter your sex.