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Racial Issues Alleged In GTA San Andreas, Other Games 189

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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  • Let's ban ghettos! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:13AM (#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!
  • blame hollywood (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OleMoudi ( 624829 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:33AM (#9946487) Homepage
    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.
  • by Bazzargh ( 39195 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:50AM (#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: 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 - 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.
  • by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @08:58AM (#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.

  • by llevity ( 776014 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:01AM (#9946690)
    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.
  • by sporty ( 27564 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:14AM (#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.
  • by cyber0ne ( 640846 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:25AM (#9946899) Homepage
    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 programs (I won't name the state) and see on a daily basis the countless people who come through here filing for this and applying for that. I see a lot of money going to do (I hope) a lot of good. The social issue at large is a nice thing to discuss and/or complain about, but would that be of any consolation to Mr. John Q. Public in his unending quest to feed his family?
  • by FlimFlamboyant ( 804293 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:30AM (#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.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mausmalone ( 594185 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:39AM (#9947058) Homepage Journal
    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 a lot of the stereotyping and villainy is done on an exaggerated scale to highlight the absurity of it all.
  • by NIN1385 ( 760712 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @09:55AM (#9947230)
    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 []

    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 []

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

    by RotJ ( 771744 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:37AM (#9947741) Journal
    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.
  • by iainl ( 136759 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:39AM (#9947757)
    "Movies are quite different and you know that. Actors are what drive the industry. If minorities were only used as criminals, yes, ban them."

    This quote actually cuts to the heart of what I think is really going on here, both with your own posts and the article.

    Yes, it is true that the majority of black characters in this game will be portrayed as criminals, or otherwise negatively. However, with computer games about committing criminal acts in a semi-realistic setting, even if (as with the previous GTA games) they provide broad swathes of social satire and in-jokery to counter the severity of the violence, there aren't any positive role models around.

    The cynical, satirical world of GTA is populated by criminal mobs, corrupt law enforcement, a gung-ho military with little regard for bystanders and hypocritical politicians. There truly aren't any innocents or decent people out there in these games. So either you admit that each and every section of society is going to be ridiculed somewhere, or you insist that the game is a digital apartheid.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:41PM (#9949329)
    Rather than reflect the facts, which aren't healthy, why not either do something more equal or not at all?

    This is the single most insane thing I have ever read. You're suggesting actively hiding the truth because the truth isn't healthy?! Perhaps we should only hear goodfacts, since realfacts can only cause harm. Won't someone please think of the children?

    (Apologies for the Babylon 5 reference.)
  • Re:USofAns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:07PM (#9949706) Homepage
    Well, since you are from So. Cal, but didn't mention LA- my guess i that you are from either the Valley, or more likely O.C.

    I'm from OC, and prior to moving away I had the exact same feeling that you did. Not so much that "black people were bad", but that if you lived in a neighborhood with black people, then you were obviously in a really bad neighborhood. And, a true "mexican neighborhood" (I.e., Santa Ana) was also something that should be avoided...other than making weekly runs to Townsend St. to pick up a bag of weed.

    So eventually I left OC and went into the Army and gasp! I ended up spending 3 years being one of only ~5 white guys in a platoon full of 55 black guys. That opened my eyes to a LOT of things. I would not have considered myself 'racist' in the past, just completely un-aware. Growing up in a fairly well-off neighborhood in Orange County can do that to you. Oh yeah...we had a black guy at our high school...but his dad was a professional athlete.

    I've moved on, and now I live in a city where the population is about 45% hispanic, 40% white, and a mix of everything else for the last 15%.

    My sister who still lives in the same area I grew up, never moved away. Now I consider her to be one of the most racist people I know. I look back and wonder..."was I as bad as she is?"

    Well the whole point of this is....some of those "middle class white neighborhoods" of Southern California can gives kids a very distorted view of the world. The real estate prices are so high- and the reality of the hispanic/black underclass so prevalent...that a lot of kids grow up surrounded only by whites (and of course Japanese/Chinese...) They're not raised to be prejudice, but it just becomes an outgrowth of their environment.

    Oh...and also, while I was in the Army I lived in Germany. While OC may just be racist 'by accident' (mostly financial) I found Germany to be an extremely overtly racist place. Going out to local parks/pools/restaurants with my friends (black) gave me a view of what the US must have been like in the 50's. My friends wouldn't be let into nightclubs because of a 'dresscode', or we would be told that the 'pool was closed now' (with tons of people in it). Or we would go to a restaurant and the waitress just would never come to our table to take our order. No...Europe is no wonderland of color-blind society.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:19PM (#9949855)
    ...yet illegal immigrants and kids of them (sure, they're legal NOW...) go to school for free in this country. Hell, Bush will even pay for their housing, food, crack habit and their 32 kids. And all the while, not one member of the god-damned family speaks a word of english.

    This will probably get marked down as a troll, and that's fine because this isn't the proper forum, but I'm so sick of hearing that this country & government is racist. We spend more money helping 3rd world nations than we should, while, back home within our own country, we've got homeless sleeping on the streets, kids having to live with and be raised by crack-heads and a lot of AMERICANS (born and raised, not immigrants) can't afford to put food on their tables or go to college.

    Then, to boot, we start out sourcing... But that's another off-topic post on another article...

    (-1 Troll) Here I come!!

  • Re:USofAns (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PainKilleR-CE ( 597083 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:25PM (#9949958)
    Well, since you are from So. Cal, but didn't mention LA- my guess i that you are from either the Valley, or more likely O.C.

    There's this small town near the border called San Diego, 6th largest city in the US, few million people living in the surrounding counties. Now, in east county, there are a couple of cities that are extremely majority white, and a couple of cities that are primarily latino and black. Obviously, I lived in one of the majority white cities, and the middle-class/upper-middle class designation would probably clarify which for anyone that's actually familiar with the area (unless, of course, they assume that anything outside of La Jolla is lower class).

    I have to add, though, that black and Mexican (as opposed to the more general term latino, since a non-Mexican latino was quite rare) people were not so rare that you never knew any of them, but there's a far cry from knowing that 1 black guy in your high school to being 1 of the only 2 white guys on your block. You have no problem with the individuals, as you can treat them as individuals and it often doesn't change any part of your general view of racial stereotypes and so forth. Unfortunately, when you live in an area with a large "minority" population, you quickly learn that some of those stereotypes have a foundation (but of course aren't completely true), and that you should never assume they're true unless you have to make a life-or-death decision.

    The other thing I learned, of course, was that it's really hard to get good mexican food once you leave San Diego.
  • Re:USofAns (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:45PM (#9950241) Homepage Journal
    > No...Europe is no wonderland of color-blind society.

    Indeed. European intellectuals used to balk at the "mixing of the races" in America. And then, suddenly around 1970, they turned around and started calling us racists.

    Europe today is still a hotbed of racism (and increasingly anti-Judaism).
  • Re:Whatever. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @02:10PM (#9950574) Homepage
    ...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.

  • by ALeavitt ( 636946 ) * <aleavitt@gmail. c o m> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @02:11PM (#9950585)
    Are you arguing for black equality, or for oppression of other races to make up for things in the past? The fact of the matter is, there is no equality in programs like Affirmative Action or in the UNCF. Were there to be a UWCF, blacks would cry foul and rail against being excluded and oppressed. Black students often get into colleges based on lower standards than those that other students have to meet. Credentials are credentials, regardless of skin color, but when skin color is taken into account there seems to be a difference in the credentials expected for a certain position. I have seen some of my (white) friends rejected from colleges and jobs in favor of (black) people who are barely able to read at a sixth-grade level.
    Now, please don't misconstrue this as a racist comment, as I know many intelligent black people and many stupid white people (and intelligent and stupid members of every race, creed, etc. etc.) However, I have seen more intelligent white people passed over in favor of deficient black people than any other racial discrepancy. I am simply arguing for equality, nothing more, nothing less. Treat everyone as equal regardless of the color of that person's skin. I am arguing that any program that attempts to make reparations by allowing less-qualified black people advantages over better-qualified white people is a seriously flawed program and is only furthering the cause of racism and inequality. Is that so wrong?
  • by cttforsale ( 803028 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @02:34PM (#9950889)
    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!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2004 @04:22PM (#9952163)
    I'm sure this game has a nice GUI for selecting game options.
    Just add another pane with checkboxes for what race you want the
    gang members to be.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers