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When to call Racism in Video Games

Now that the initial release-surge reviews of Bioshock Infinite are starting to die down, people are finding other things to write about the latest installment of the Bioshock franchise; exploring the deep nuances of the storyline, deconstructing the plot - and, somewhat absurdly, some people are even calling racism. How a game that heavily references 'real' 1920s America, which was all about segregation based on enthicity (and not just skin colour - plenty of white Irish got tough times of it too, both in our real history and in the game) for its setting is kinda like calling out the movie Schindler's List for being racist just because it covers real-life racist events.

So here's a handful of videogames that got a lot of bad press for racism - perhaps more justifiably so than calling out Bioshock Infinite on being racist...

Children's Spanish For Everyone

This is a Nintendo DS game designed to help children learn Spanish, but the story begins when your Mexican friend steals your DS and hoiks across the border with it, with you, a blonde-haired blue-eyed white American kid, in hot pursuit.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Well, sheeyt! If it ain't the Captain himself! Mister Serf done fixed you up good, ain't he? Give you a new set of glasses an' everything! Damn...

A lot of people got seriously offended by Letitia's character in DE:HR - while some argue that there are plenty of people that speak like her in modern current America, others say that in 2027 (when DE:HR is set), that won't be the case. Either way, Squeenix did release a response:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a fictional story which reflects the diversity of the world’s future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. While these characters are meant to portray people living in the year 2027, it has never been our intention to represent any particular ethnic group in a negative light.
GTA San Andreas

In typical GTA fashion, GTA SA deals with gang wars, police, drug dealing, car jacking, business, corruption. Your main character is a young African-American who lives in a Los Angeles-based ghetto. The game caught flack for the way the characters were portrayed, heavy on racial stereotyping from their names to their dress codes.


Resident Evil 5

A lot of angry people made a lot of angry noise when Resident Evil 5's E3 trailer launched, showing a white protagonist hacking his way through swathes of black men. The game is set in Africa, after all - but concerns were expressed that the sheer abundance of black people cast as the enemies was, to quote an Eurogamer journalist, "(playing) blatantly into the old cliches of the dangerous 'dark continent' and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s". The second trailer had a more diverse group of enemies, but the designer denied that the change had anything to do with the outrage caused by the first.


Ethnic Cleansing

Wow. Just... wow.

Your protagonist - either a skinhead or 'Klansman' - runs through a ghetto killing African-Americans and Latinos before heading into a subway to kill Jews, finally reaching the 'Jewish Control Center' where Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel, is planning world domination - you kill him to win the game.


And, of course, there's always Custer's Revenge if racism by itself is just not enough...

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