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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 @08:09AM (#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 happyhippy (526970) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:28AM (#9946457)
    Name one film that didnt have a black character acting as a home boy gangsta wise cracking rapper.
  • by ALeavitt (636946) * <aleavitt.gmail@com> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:11AM (#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.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigNumber (457893) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:19AM (#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:Whatever. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mausmalone (594185) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:21AM (#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.
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:37AM (#9947038) Homepage Journal
    "redneck" is a very demeaning term. Just like "white trash".
    I'm probably missing your point, but...

    I've never heard of anyone describe themselves as "white trash", but I've heard a lot of people proudly describe themselves as "rednecks" and do what they can to fit the stereotype.

    One bizarre experience for me, as someone who doesn't consider anything positive about rednecks (by reputation or by experience), was one of my neighbours coming over, saying he was born in Florida (I live in Florida) and that he's a redneck through-and-through and proud of it. He then, after saying this, told me he was having problems with his girlfriend because she "was lower class".

    Now, funny thing is I know there are mods here itching to mod me down because of the logic in the last paragraph, but in some ways that proves the point - there are people who consider "redneck" a positive word, even when associated with all the things we generally associate with rednecks.

  • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:38AM (#9947057)
    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.

    The simple fact is that the basis for the entire game is centered around the "gangsta-rap-culture" movies produced in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. Most of these movies obtained their direction (especially in the form of writing, acting, etc) from the very people that are supposedly being slandered by this game.

    People like to talk about the music and movie industries taking advantage of people, but in the end, "gangsta" rappers were among the first people to take control over their own careers by creating their own record labels and taking on most of the production positions normally filled by whoever the record label feels like putting in the studio. The primary reason they did this, of course, was that labels wouldn't touch their music until the early 90s unless there was someone else to take the heat for the language and portrayal of violence. Once the music became popular, of course, the movie deals came, and in many cases the artists exerted similar (though not to the same extent, due to the difference in the type of knowledge required) control.

    Now we have someone making a game based around the image that these movies and music portrayed, much like their previous GTA title was based heavily on the image portrayed by a combination of Miami Vice, Scarface, and other movies and TV shows portraying cops and gangsters in the 80s. This particular game company has learned that taking essentially the same game (GTA3) and putting period elements on it makes it more appealing to the demographic that is supposed to be mature enough to play these games in the first place (after all, what do people born after 1985 really have to feel nostalgic about from the 80s, or really remember about the explosion of "gangsta rap" in the late 80s and early 90s?).

    Then again, if it were simply another white or Italian protagonist, we'd only be hearing about the violence itself, unless some gang in the game was named after their race.
  • What's new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TalMaximus (681873) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:50AM (#9947186) Journal
    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, all 'insert race here' are violent and prone to rebellion. Its more saying all Yakuza, Triad, and Columbian Drug Cartels are prone to violence and rebellion. Lets face it, organized crime exists to committ crime. Long story short, there's nothing new here.
  • you know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:52AM (#9947201)
    as much as I personally detest the GTA games...

    "Art imitates Life."
  • Re:USofAns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kisrael (134664) * on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:01AM (#9947273) Homepage
    What appalled me in your link was the fact that this woman *is* in fact intermarried with a white guy and she fears and have nightmares with black folks. This is a sign IMHO that *she* has serious problems.

    Ok, this could get ugly quick, but:
    Right now, there is a correlation with young black people and a violent, not-very-educated street culture. There are violent, undeucated people of all colors, of course, and you're doing yourself and the culture at large a disservice if you "profile" someone exclusively on skin tone, and there are tons of historical reasons why that subset of black culture exists and is such a noticable cultural force, but what she's getting at is it's sometimes hard to get in a reasonable conversation about the kind of phenomenon with the term "RACIST!" being slung around and shutting down productive conversation.

    The fact is, given some reasonable definitions of racism, most people are racist to greater or less degrees: often concerned about the well-being of their subset social group (like, heh, Geeks on slashdot...), and also using a variety of visual and audio cues to make at least a first best guess about what that person is all about. (and like in the case of a bunch urban-looking youths or redneck-looking bikers, if they're likely to be some kind of threat.) Really worrisome racism is when people can't get past their subgroup concerns and first impressions and preconceived notions; to damn everyone who has any twinges of that feeling is not helpful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:01AM (#9947274)
    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 that the super majority of Grand Theft Auto crimes are committed by Black and Hispanic people. Apparently even suggesting this statistical fact is "stereotyping" and intrinsically racist, even lacking specific extrapolation. When a Black or Hispanic is portrayed as committing a crime "not unbeknownst to their race," as it were, the furor erupts - but why?

    I think the real reason for outcry is (and I don't say this with cruelty) embarassment, plain and simple. You see the same sort of shame from the Italian/Sicilian-American community over gangster portrayals, and from Americans over "ugly American" portrayals. But embarassing facts coming out in the open always causes shame. I don't see why reality should be ignored in order to assauge someone's feelings about their social status. There is absolutely nothing wrong, or even incorrect, about portraying "brown people" committing urban crimes, rioting, looting, etc. And since there is absolutely no indication in GTA4 that these "brown people" are representative of all others in all other cases, I don't see how this could be construed as racist by any but the embarrassed themselves.
  • Quentin Tarentino? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:08AM (#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

  • by justkarl (775856) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:24AM (#9947568) Homepage
    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 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 agree that it's only because he's black.
  • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:43AM (#9947794)
    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 agree that it's only because he's black.

    The Italians didn't get much press coverage if they were complaining about the protagonist of the first game. Yes, the violence itself was an issue, and probably will remain an issue (and it was in the first and second games as well, despite your own down-playing of it due to the top-down view, the very idea that you could car-jack someone in a game caused controversy). The "Kill the Cubans/Haitians" thing, as you noted, didn't have an effect until maybe a year ago, and Vice City was released almost 2 years ago. It had already sold most of the copies it will sell for the PS2 and PC before the controversy over those lines even started, and the fact that they pulled it precisely shows how rediculous this whole thing is (after all, the gangs called themselves The Cubans and The Haitians, and it was the latter that got the lines pulled, not the Cubans).

    My point was not that this was the first to draw controversy. My point was simply to point out that this game has not changed in any fundamental line from the previous 2, and it's drawing this particular controversy simply because the main character (and many of the characters in the game's setting, I'd imagine) is black, instead of being of European descent like the previous games. People weren't complaining about the main character's ethnicity or even the ethnicity of most of the other characters in the games before (the "kill the cubans/haitians" thing had everything to do with the exact statement, or it wouldn't have stopped with the modification of a couple of sound files), they simply complained about the violence in general terms.
  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:20PM (#9949027) Journal
    Good thing they put in Guile. "For Americans to play."
  • by focitrixilous P (690813) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:42PM (#9950191) Journal
    Star Wars? Lando, Mace Windu, both were just normal people in the movie. Race isn't even mentioned. Of course, with all those aliens, a little skin coloration doens't mean much.
  • Re:Whatever. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @05:31PM (#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.

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