Motivational Monday: Stereotype
I remember when I first started playing Everquest and decided to make a female character. I like a strong woman and honestly if I was going to stare at the ass of a character all day I preferred it to be a ladies. Most of the people I played with were real life friends, but soon enough I met a ton of people and new friendships were built.
We talked about a lot of things, but I was never one to give away much about myself including my name or race. Finally when someone found out they were very surprised; “I didn’t think many black people played RPG’s” one person said. There was nothing wrong with that statement, not to me anyway. It was true, there weren’t that many compared to Caucasians. I remember someone asking me; “Can you make a black character in Everquest?” The answer was yes you could, but I didn’t really care about that. For me it did not matter.
However, having played video games since the mid-eighties I have to admit to becoming aware of some insensitivity in video games when it has come to both women and minorities. Sometimes it was just something a black character said or how he or she was displayed in the game. Other times it was just funny, with a hint of sadness, at how black people were portrayed, especially in Japanese RPG’s.
Sadly one becomes more aware of these things when they get older. Like the old Tom and Jerry cartoons that sometimes shows the large black housekeeper lady or the blackface with the big lips when something exploded near a cartoon character. For the most part I shrugged it off and even laughed if it was really funny. Games like Grand Theft auto and the likes never bothered me because honestly I knew people who acted just like that.
Now spending more time looking back at games I have found some examples where black people weren’t shown in the best light. It is not that we have to always been portrayed like the Cosby show, but if nothing else, some of these designers need to hire a black man consultant. Saying that, I am available for hire.
Let’s take a look:
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
I could go for the easy joke and say he didn’t count, but I can’t speak ill of the dead. Oh sure I can, look at him spinning and kicking up pixie dust when he kicks, come on! They have Michael collecting kids and making his enemies dance to death. Then again I guess Michael did kind of do that so this is pretty accurate.
I see the first issue now, why do they give all the black folks the horrible video games? We really should have a contest to see which was the worst Shaq; Shazam, Steel or Shaq Fu, all titles that start with S and were a piece of S. So Shaq is playing himself and while sightseeing before a charity basketball game he wonders into an old man’s store and is told to walk through some backdoor portal to a new land, I think this is how slavery happened.
I like the use of “jive” talk that Shaq uses and his first fight is again a black woman where he says; “Your magic won’t work on me girlfriend.” Then he commits both domestic violence and black on black crime.
Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City
Wow, so we have another basketball themed game where MJ becomes a ninja or something and goes around fighting people with a basketball. First off, how does he have unlimited basketballs, I didn’t get that with my black man kit. Second, he starts off in a prison, subtle guys, real subtle. Third, there are basketball hoops all over the place where he can dunk. Who built this world, the Harlem Globetrotters?
Barrett Wallace: Final Fantasy 7
Mr. T with slang pulled out of Grand Theft Auto put it together and you have Mr. Wallace. Ah, the Japanese and their intricate knowledge of black culture. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that the makers of Final Fantasy were not trying to be racist and I don’t really believe the character of Barrett to be racist, but it does hit some stereotypical points. With that said he was a good friend, a great solider and one of the best examples of a parent in the game. Still some of his dialog could have undergone some tweaking.
P.S. He had a freaking gun attached to his arm!
Sazh Katzroy: Final Fantasy 13
Again we have black character that is a loving father and honestly has one of the best storylines in the game. Sure, there is a little bit of stereotyping, but much less than in other games. I have to admit that I did like the baby Chocobo hiding in his massive afro. Sazh was loyal, funny and kind which also made him one of the most likeable and realistic characters in the game. Here is a bit of fact for you. Sazh was modeled after the singer Lionel Richie and his character was to be comedic with heart a gold, think Eddie Murphy in one of his Disney films.
There are a ton of African American’s in games now, some with heavy stereotypes and many with little to none. The fact is everyone gets stereotyped and it is really the context that counts. For me, it is good to see more minorities of all kinds in games. It makes it more real and more relatable. Hell, sometimes I wish I could watch the old Tom and Jerry cartoons with that maid, she was funny.