Racism in Gaming: The Exception or the Norm?

After our last class in which we not only discussed, but experienced the racism present in some video games first hand, I started to try and apply that perspective to the rest of my experiences with video games, of which there is more than I’d care to admit at times. Was this medium that I love so much just as riddled with problematic societal inequality and prejudice? Even though I regard games as a universal human joy, a crossroads of culture that we are all capable of relating to, does that mean it manifests itself in the opposite way, as a vassal of the racial atmosphere that can permeate every day life outside of games?

As games become more technologically advanced, they begin to take on the qualities of other media, becoming a conglomerate of the depth of their own inherent artistic potential as well as portraying elements of other forms of consumer culture, artistic or otherwise. Games have become more plot driven, more character focused; while this is hardly notable considering the starting point of Pong, we would do well to acknowledge the first steps the industry takes with its newfound, high-powered legs. The first “3-D” game was Wolfenstein 3-D, a game about a hardcore commando slaughtering evil Nazis. More recently, Resident Evil 5, another installment in one of the most popular zombie-horror franchises of all time, was set in the heart of Africa…where the pale white protagonist fought his way through a horror shop of zombies in the Congo…almost all of which were exclusively black, going so far even as to confront you with zombies wearing tribal masks and shaking spears. I don’t believe this is the be-all, end-all of it, though. There was recently a game released in Japan (I don’t remember the name of it) that centered entirely around the player piloting a piece of tissue paper as it floated along air currents. Simple as that, nary a human character to be seen, much less conflict between them. I want to do more exploring as to the wider nature of the video game industry as it stands, to find out if the ever-increasing capabilities of games are simply coming to reflect our flawed culture in sharper resolution.

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