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Games Entertainment

Racial Issues Alleged In GTA San Andreas, Other Games 189

Posted by simoniker
from the allegedly dept.
Thanks to the New York Times (free reg. req.) for its article exploring possible racial stereotyping inherent in many videogames. The article alleges: "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas... underscores what some critics consider a disturbing trend: popular video games that play on racial stereotypes, including images of black youths committing and reveling in violent street crime." Partially, though not wholly related to a recently discussed article on 'street' videogames, it's also argued: "The issue, critics say, is not that the games' representation of racial and ethnic minorities is as blatantly threatening as the sort found at hate sites on the Web, where players are asked to gun down virtual black or Jewish characters. Rather, the racial and ethnic depictions and story lines are more subtle, and therefore, some say, more insidious."
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Racial Issues Alleged In GTA San Andreas, Other Games

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  • racial stereotypes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:09AM (#9946361)
    So we're supposed to ignore the last 4 GTA titles just because the one coming up will have a black character to represent the player?

    Only white people can commit violence in video games now? And here I thought people were complaining because there weren't enough minorities in video games, now you can't put them into video games without someone complaining about the way they're portrayed (come on, this isn't like that Duke3D-engine game from a few years ago featuring an Asian protagonist, but then no one complained about the depiction of white people in Redneck Rampage, either).
    • by Ender Ryan (79406) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:58AM (#9946672) Journal
      You nailed it, I think. I was going to post something very similar, but I think you said it better than I could.

      However, I would also like to point something else out. GTA is about gangs and street violence. The reality is that, while people like those complaining don't like to talk about it, there are many gangs composed of specific races. Italian mafia, black gangstas, Latino, Irish, gangs composed just generally of white people(ie. white-supremacist groups), and as the OP pointed out, white rednecks.

      Rockstar didn't create the current situation. In fact, that they are making video-games that reflect a little bit of reality can only bring attention to the issue, which can only be good.

      Do people like the writer of the article want us all to put our fingers in our ears and close our eyes?

      Fucking idiots. Why don't people put pressure on these groups who are actually committing violence? I guess that would make too much sense.

    • No, not white people can only commit crimes. "redneck" is a very demeaning term. Just like "white trash".

      If the movie industry can mix it up between a black or a white president, why can't a black or a white person commit a crime? And you should have complained about Redneck Rampage, otherwise you have little reason to complain now.
    • by justkarl (775856)
      So we're supposed to ignore the last 4 GTA titles just because the one coming up will have a black character to represent the player?

      No, we're not. The first one was passed off as a fad before the second came out, and it's top-down view wasn't real enough to cause a stir. When 3 came out, the ultra real gang violence was attacked by several groups, and Vice City was nearly pulled from shelves several times because of racial-related violence(anybody remember the"kill the cubans" line? It's not in versi
      • No, we're not. The first one was passed off as a fad before the second came out, and it's top-down view wasn't real enough to cause a stir. When 3 came out, the ultra real gang violence was attacked by several groups, and Vice City was nearly pulled from shelves several times because of racial-related violence(anybody remember the"kill the cubans" line? It's not in versions made after about 9 months ago). I wouldn't really agree that this is the first GTA game to draw contraversy, and I certainly wouldn't a
  • Let's ban ghettos! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:13AM (#9946387)
    Let's ban ghettos! In there you will find all these stereotypes walking around where anyone can see them! Even little children. Save the little children!
  • by kisrael (134664) * on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:14AM (#9946394) Homepage
    Today's Slate featured piece was by a black woman lawyer called Racist Like Me [slate.com]...it raises some interesting points about how the accusation of racism tends to be a conversation- (and thought-) stopper, and how as a culture we should probably be more engaged in this kind of discussion.
  • by iainl (136759) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:20AM (#9946417)
    Don't these people at DMA know that LA gangs of the early nineties were uniformly white?

    Oh. Never mind.
  • Name one film that didnt have a black character acting as a home boy gangsta wise cracking rapper.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:29AM (#9946459)

    Always busy bitching about crap and not taking any action. In fact, I'm going to write a game where you're white and all you can do it bitch about stuff. Someone mugs you? You can start a commitee and bitch about it with other whities. Someone kicks your dog? You can start a commitee and bitch about it with other whities. Someone nuked your backyard with an old russian ICBM? You can start a commitee and bitch about it with other whities.

    Ps, I'm white; Seth

  • Somebody make a game with all white people and let's see what the blacks have to say about that. You just can't win.
    • by slungsolow (722380) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:05AM (#9946719) Homepage
      They've been making hockey games for years. I haven't heard a black person complain about that yet.
      • Re:Whatever. (Score:3, Informative)

        by fullmetal55 (698310)
        now now, there are black people in the NHL, to name just a few Grant Fuhr (Goalie - Edmonton Oilers during their dynasty years in the 80s) Freddie Braithwaite (Goalie - Edmonton Oilers, St Louis Blues, and others) Mike Grier (forward) Anson Carter (forward) Jarome Iginla (forward) and many more whos names escape me at this point.
    • Re:Whatever. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mausmalone (594185) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:21AM (#9946867) Homepage Journal
      I can probably name a couple dozen all-white (or, more to the point, all-Japanese) games off the top of my head, and I'm sure that the've largely gone un-acknowledged. What I have a harder time naming is any games where an inteligent main (or at least important) character was black, latino, etc ...

      I personally never found it very surprising that sports games sell well among minorities. They're one of the few genres of game where you can count on seeing successful minorities being judged solely on thier abilities, accomplishments, and occasionally team affiliation. (c'mon, we all have rivalries :P )

      Oh, and as far as Rockstar using racial stereotypes in their games... no guff chet. You can be offended if you choose, but at least don't act so surprised.
      • Re:Whatever. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RotJ (771744)
        What I have a harder time naming is any games where an inteligent main (or at least important) character was black, latino, etc ...

        Grim Fandango: Strong latino characters. Dead, but still latino.

        Gabriel Knight: Smart, female Japanese sidekick.

        Intelligent black characters? I'm having a hard time coming up with one. James Earl Jones as GDI Supreme Commander in Tiberian Sun?

        It's not good that we have to think for 20 minutes to remember any intelligent minority game characters.

        • It's not good that we have to think for 20 minutes to remember any intelligent minority game characters.


          Sure it's good!! That just means that minorities are so well integrated in society that you don't even notice! Isn't that the point?

          ...and for the record, you play as a Black guy in Unreal 2.

      • Re:Whatever. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537)
        ...What I have a harder time naming is any games where an inteligent main (or at least important) character was black, latino, etc...

        I bet the main character in GTA:SA is both intelligent and likeable. I'm not saying he won't be violent and associated with a gang, but I bet he's intelligent.

        • Re:Whatever. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @04:31PM (#9952992) Homepage
          Just to spell out what I'm saying a little more, it seems like there are two complaints:

          A) There aren't many black characters in video games.
          B) When there are black characters in video games, they are either violent characters or athletes.

          Well, most popular video games are sports games or shooters of some kind. Therefore, most major characters will be violent characters or athletes. To solve problem (A) would be to exacerbate problem (B). To completely solve problem (B) would nearly eliminate black characters from games, putting problem (A) back in the fore.

          Personally, I think GTA:SA will probably be relatively fair (remember I said relatively). Showing violence isn't the worst thing. I bet the guys at Rockstar will be looking to movies like "Boyz N the Hood" for inspiration and tone, and the main characters will come off no worse than the main characters in past GTA games.

  • blame hollywood (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OleMoudi (624829)
    As they are the first who introduced those stereotypes. These kind of videogames such as GTA only try to emulate cinema through development of characters and plots similar to those seen on common blockbuster titles at big screen.
    • Hollywood? Try walking around in newark nj for a day...
    • Hollywood didn't invent these stereotypes, they borrowed them from Watts, just a few miles down the road. My wife is a cop in south LA, guess how many white gang members she's run into?

      There's a reason these stereotypes exist, and it's not because some white movie producer wants to keep the blacks and latinos down. If the black and latino communities are upset about this image then they should quit whining about it and maybe try doing something about their gang problem.

  • If you want offensive, something worse [tshirthell.com]. In other words, get over yourselves, people.

  • by Bazzargh (39195) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @07:50AM (#9946612)
    "he prominence of black characters in those story lines is all the more striking because of the narrow range of video games in which blacks have been present, if present at all, over the years. A 2001 study by Children Now, for example, found that of 1,500 video-game characters surveyed, 288 were African-American males - and 83 percent of those were represented as athletes."

    I was curious - how many of the 1500 were hedgehogs? Racoons? Demon imps?

    I checked the report this figure was lifted from:
    http://www.childrennow.org/media/video-game s/2001/

    "White characters were the majority in the video game population (56%)" - thats as opposed to 19% being african-american males (see above). That's compared to the real US population which is 80% white and roughly 7% african-american males (see http://www.census.gov/statab/www/poprace.html) - even ignoring for a moment that many games originate in Japan where the racial mix is even more skewed.

    The accusations of stereotyping and the narrow range of games including such characters ring true, but the "if present at all" remark is completely unsupported by the figures - if anything african-american males are quite over-represented in games. Although not to the extent of space aliens, who make up less than 1% of the real population.

    Living in the UK, I'd ask - where are the asian characters? (apart from japanese/chinese). Our population is about 5% from the indian subcontinent, but I can't recall ever playing a game with indian or pakistani characters.
    • Have you ever noticed the lack of asian characters in Japanese developed games? Most characters seem to be cookie cutter caucasians. FFX is one of the few that comes to mind that had any characters with asian features, and even then, there was a disparity between the in game look of the characters and their look in the CG cinemas. They looked caucasian in the normal gameplay, and had asian features in the CGs.
    • Our population is about 5% from the indian subcontinent, but I can't recall ever playing a game with indian or pakistani characters.

      "Dhalsim flame!"

      And Streetfighter II is certainly not unique in that the cast of characters to choose from represent many different countries and cultures.

      • Good thing they put in Guile. "For Americans to play."
  • by Detritus (11846) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:07AM (#9946729) Homepage
    What we need is federal affirmative action programs for criminal street gangs. If we can't bust them for illegal weapons or dope, we can smother them with greedy lawyers.
  • by ALeavitt (636946) * <<aleavitt> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:11AM (#9946760)
    This definitely sounds like racism to me. A white, Italian stereotype can go around gunning down anyone he wants, but as soon as he has to kill members of a Haitian gang, it's racist. But make the protagonist black, and all of a sudden it's reinforcing stereotypes and represents racism against African-Americans? Come on! There's a United Negro College Fund. If there were a United Caucasian College Fund, these same people would be crying racist. Yes, it is racist. It's racist that there is such a dichotomy - what's acceptable for one race isn't acceptable for another, and vice versa. This is just further evidence of the absence of racial equality in our society. The fact is, though, that in many regards it's skewed opposite the way many people believe it is.
    • If there were a United Caucasian College Fund, these same people would be crying racist.

      Good point. I wonder what the average member of any given racial minority in the US would feel if we somehow magically eliminated this dichotomy. On the one hand, they would gain full equality in the minds of everyone around them. On the other hand, they would lose all social programs geared towards helping them for other other reason than they are a minority.

      I work in an office building which houses many state
    • There's a United Negro College Fund. If there were a United Caucasian College Fund, these same people would be crying racist.

      It's not a dichotomy, in that there is no "white culture", and whites are not a minority, nor even are they one uniform group that could be construed as a minority if they were. More importantly, there is no NEED for a United Caucasian College Fund, in a cultural sense. Sure, there are plenty of needy white kids who need money to go to college, but the difference is that there

      • I think the point is that there should be NO race based programs at all. Black, white, doesn't matter. If you want to go to college the applications should NOT ask what your race is. Race should not matter in anything. But since it does seem to matter to so many people it is a very one sided thing.

        White, middle class, males have the raw end of the deal. And its only going to get worse.
      • So tell me, what's "black culture"?

        I can understand how there is no "white culture" or god forbid, "Asian culture", seeing as how they all come from the same place, so I think it's kind of neat that there is a single cultural definition for people who very recently (I mean, what's 150+ years?) were forcibly relocated to the US from that tiny ethnically and societally homogenous place called Africa. I'm sure our Italian friends with ancestors from such closely connected communities as Sicily and Piemonte w
    • What I find ironic is that the black community is fighting itself on this. Who are the most high-profile gangsters? Black people. Well, besides italians, aka "the mob", although the general consensus seems to be that organized crime is not all that skillful, except those which have gone mostly legit, AKA running gambling. Of course now the Indians - er, excuse me, Native Americans - are starting to cut into that action. This is amusing because at least out here in Californy, Native Americans are known to b

  • by sporty (27564) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:14AM (#9946783) Homepage
    One of the many things to reduce prejiduce and dispell stereotypes, is positive exposure.

    For instance, the entire "nerd" stereotype. I'm sure there are quite a few nerds here. Heck, by the base definition of just beign smart, I'm a nerd. It doesn't mean that I'm phsically uncoordinated or have a severe inability to interact with people. I don't get sick very often, except when I'm unusally stressed. Never had a bad case of acne. A lot of people follow this line of life. But through exposure, we know that acne + social flaws + uncoordinated isn't tied to being smart.

    Another example, the entire cold war "Russians are backwards" stereotype. The biggest thing that's different between Russians and Americans are where they live, the languages spoken and small cultural things. These differences exist between any two cultures to varying degrees. But via exposure, we learn that a lot of thinsg aren't true because we see for ourselevs.

    By showing various races in negative stereotypes only reinforces certain ideas. Eventually, one deems for current fact either what isn't fact or isn't even current just because the idea was presented to them, not from some random joe on the street, but a coorporation.

    Frankly, I would expect an american company, to have learned from its past and not promote these types of stupidity. In a way, it's disrespectful for what most of us have stood up against. Worse yet, it's plain wrong in that it gives "black", "latino", and any other races that get depicted in this fasion. After all, isn't America supposed to be about equality of people and power? Isn't this just plain slanderous of an entire group of people who will now be seen more as thieves and other assorted criminals? We dont' want to put criminals in power, but minorities should be ok, yet we slight them in this way? Shame on you GTA producers.
    • Frankly, I would expect an american company, to have learned from its past and not promote these types of stupidity. In a way, it's disrespectful for what most of us have stood up against. Worse yet, it's plain wrong in that it gives "black", "latino", and any other races that get depicted in this fasion. After all, isn't America supposed to be about equality of people and power? Isn't this just plain slanderous of an entire group of people who will now be seen more as thieves and other assorted criminals?
      • No, we'd probably be hearing about how the game is racist because you're using a white guy to inflict pain on downtrodden black citizens.

        And if we changed it so the citizens were white, we'd be racist for not putting black people in the game.

        And if we changed it so that it was a black guy killing downtrodden white citizens, we'd be racist because we're propagating the fear that all black people want to do is 'kill whitey'.

        Some days, you just can't win. That seems to be especially true when it comes t

    • Where do people get off thinking they are smarter then everyone else? I hate that. So you are able to see that it's a video game, and, oh my god, not real life?! Only you are capable of determining that having acne and glasses doesn't make you smart? Only you are capable of relizing that there could be evil commies in another country who just want to get food, have some sex, and live their lives, and don't care about politics? Only you? Because, if this game shows me that black people are evil criminals, on
    • Frankly, I would expect an american company, to have learned from its past and not promote these types of stupidity. .... Shame on you GTA producers.

      Hate to nitpick, but Rockstar North are the developers... and they're based in Scotland.

      Anyways - I believe your argument is flawed. It isn't the developer's fault that people are too weak to think for themselves, to look beyond a stereotype and make their mind up for themselves. Frankly, I'm appalled that you garner your world-view from things that corpor

      • I suggest you take a course in psychology, specifically group psych and race-and-ethnicity psychology. You'll find I touch upon those things. I'm also appauled that you assume I think that way. If the world was perfect and smart, you'll find these things laughable, but there are people who are of different opinions of you or i.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigNumber (457893) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:19AM (#9946838)
    The game takes place in Southern California in the early 90s. This was the height of gang violence in that area and most gangs were made up of blacks or hispanics. I'm sure there were plenty of white people committing crimes at the time but that's not the subject matter of this particular game. Screaming racism in the face of documented history is just silly.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mausmalone (594185)
      Speaking of which, I wonder what the actual plot of the game is. Like in GTA3, the game overall was a quest for revenge, and as a sort of nomadic hired-gun, you were able to see how ridiculous the whole racial-gang/revenge thing was. It just led to more killing and extinction. I wonder if since 90's LA had so much racial tension, is this plot gonna have a moral about racism and violence?

      Seriously, I can understand being offended by all this, but when you look at the GTA series you have to remember that
      • off the top of my head, IIRC, it's about a guy who gets out of jail, and wants to clean himself up, but fails and gets back into a life of crime or something.

        but i'm not trying too hard to figure out what the plot is until i get my claws on a copy of that game... ;)
  • by FlimFlamboyant (804293) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:30AM (#9946960) Homepage
    Personally, I'm offended that caucasian game developers who implement villainous characters of other races are often stereotyped as racist bigots. What are they going to do about THAT, huh?? Oh, that's right; nothing. Because my great, great, great grandparants, who have been dead for 100 friggin' years weren't slaves! How many people own slaves here in America today? Isn't about time that we GET THE HELL OVER IT?

    I looked at a few screenshots of the game in question, and I can't think of a single, high-crime neighborhood that I've been in that didn't look EXACTLY like that. Please excuse Rockstar Games for making their game realistic.
    • There's no way to get over it until people can't just passively enjoy the benefits of racism. By doing nothing, some people still have racial advantages over others. Maybe you've never been on the receiving end of racism.

      I'm sure you've been in neighborhoods with a lot of drug abuse and non-street crime and you just didn't know it.

  • by trueneutral (771705) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:47AM (#9947140) Homepage
    I'm just glad that movies and television don't have racial steriotypes. It's good to see that every other form of media has progressed beyond that.
  • What's new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TalMaximus (681873)
    The two latest GTA games have been filled with racial stereotypes. Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads, Columbian Drug Dealers. The game has been thriving on racial stereotypes since it hit the PS2, and Xbox. Doesn't matter if the lead character is black, white, chinese, or whatever. GTA3's character was technically Italian...not white. Another stereotype with the Italian Mafia. Granted, I don't know how often you're going to find multi-ethnical organized crime establishments. At least its not saying, al
  • you know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:52AM (#9947201)
    as much as I personally detest the GTA games...

    "Art imitates Life."
    • While that is true, a more important truth is that...

      Life imitates art.

      You say that art imitates life, but, in this case, as in so many others, it imitates only a small, extreme subsection of life in a few American urban areas where there is an unordinary level violence, crime, and hatred displayed on the streets. It flashes these realities into millions of suburban and rural homes around the world and can make them actually fun to think about. That's what so bad about these games.

      Art amplifies certain

  • by NIN1385 (760712)
    This is just getting out of hand, may I suggest to all these black people with sticks up their butts...WATCH THE CHAPPELLE SHOW! If your pissed off aqbout this, I would like to refer you to the following website, but you have probably already been there.

    Click Here [www.gnaa.us]

    If they dont want to be in the soon-to-be greatest video game ever then tell them they can't be in it anyway...because I am going to be in it. I mean c'mon, who wouldn't mind being this guy:
    True Gangsta [com.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you were to derive meaning from the context it's used you might think that "stereotyping" means or implies "racism" automatically, when in fact it's just another word for "conceptualization," which is something all language-using, thinking humans must do for their finite brains to cope with an infinite world.

    If Australopithecus found a red bulb that smelled and tasted good, then saw another bulb of the same color and smell, it would eat it. Ergo, racial profiling. Seriously.

    The statistical reality is
    • If Australopithecus found a red bulb that smelled and tasted good, then saw another bulb of the same color and smell, it would eat it. Ergo, racial profiling. Seriously.

      There's a better way to explain this. When we were still evolving, it was very difficult to tell what new things and experiences might kill you or otherwise be harmful to your health.

      So, if Australopithecus ate a red berry, and it made him sick, he might reason that it would be a good idea to avoid all red berries. In this sense, he m

  • Quentin Tarentino? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:08AM (#9947354) Homepage Journal
    Whereas the movies that play up on those same racial steriotypes (the Godfather movies, Taxi Driver, Tarentino's body of work, etc) are considered to be the pinnacle of cinematic art?

    --
    Evan

    • Who the hell marked this offtopic? I'm pointing out that the exact same racial and violent themes, when used in movies instead of games, get critical acclaim and public praise as being the best works of their medium.

      Offtopic, my ass.

      --
      Evan

  • "including images of black youths committing and reveling in violent street crime."

    So if the "images" were of white people I guarantee you wouldn't see white people complaining and sueing. If they did they would be called racists. If the game takes place in a certain area of a city it doesn't make sense to have the images of people in the game when you are in that area be anything but what the race of the people are.
  • We better ask the Pandemic and the US Army to stop distributing/playing Full Spectrum Warrior because it features violent Arabs in a Middle Eastern country.
  • by Thedalek (473015) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:34PM (#9950084)
    You know, at some point, someone needs to make a game in which you play as a video game company constantly battling a never-ending hoarde of lawyers who thrive on nitpicking every detail of everything you do.

    "The buildings in your latest game are not wheelchair accessable. You've been sued."

    "The color of the sky in your latest game has been found to give 5% of the population mild headaches after 20 continuous hours of exposure. You've been sued."

    "Your latest game unjustly depicts people with red skin, sharp, pointy teeth, horns, and cloven hooves as sinister. You've been sued."

    Seriously, the only gaming company that seems to get in more hot water than Rockstar is Infinium Labs.
  • Racist? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Bizzle (669385)
    I'm not racist, I got a color TV!
  • by cttforsale (803028)
    Even Rockstar has other games wheres "whites" are the criminals. I haven't played other GTA games since I have a Nintendo gamecube, but Smuggler's run: Warzones depicts whitey having a field day break all manner of international law. No one cares about that!!!

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