It’s a recurring trend in games that clearly touch upon very important issues such as racism, religious discrimination, etc. for them to obfuscate their commentary by having humans in general being racist towards an invented race or group, such as in Dragon Age: Origins where humans are racist towards elves. It creates a situation where the writers want to say "Look! Here’s racism! Isn’t it terrible?", without actually tackling the issue in a helpful or interesting way. Given that games are an interactive medium, where the player has choice, has agency, there is a lot of opportunity for engaging the player in the issue in a way that non-interactive media cannot.
As an example, in Fallout: New Vegas, the player can choose the gender of their character. There is a particularly sexist faction in the game called Caesar’s Legion, and if you chose to play as a female character, they react negatively towards you. Even a minor part of their camp is restricted from you on the basis of your gender. I personally found this to be a very powerful way to make a statement about sexism, but things like this are all but unheard of in games. Why is this? How can it be avoided? How do we talk about these issues using the strengths of the medium?
Skyrim, which is made by the same producers as Fallout, is a good place to look at for this. In the game you can choose to be an elf and a group called the Stormcloaks are racist towards elves. The game also takes place in a middle of a civil war in which one side oppresses religious freedom and the other side (the Stormcloaks) is extremely racist. You can choose which side you want to fight for. – LaRose7 years ago
That's a good point. I've played Skyrim (quite a while ago), and I'd forgotten about those aspects. It's a similar situation to Dragon Age really, though in skyrim the there are a good few variations on "stock human" that parallel real-life ethnicity, so that does add more weight. On religion, Bethesda invented the discriminated beliefs, which I think mitigates the effectiveness of any points made (that said, they don't have much of a choice, given it's clearly a very different world). I think Dragon Age: Origins actually did a good job of presenting religion, mainly due to how familiar the ideas are the real world. There were a few points in that game that made me question my own thoughts and beliefs, and that makes me really happy. I want to see more of this in games. Other media don't need to invent a race or religion to talk about discrimination, why should games? Also, I think it's worth pointing out that New Vegas was developed by Obsidian, though it was still published by Bethesda. Obsidian, I would say are better writers than Bethesda, and I've noticed their games tend to have more adventurous writing. I've yet to play a Bethesda-developed game that's in the same league of writing as New Vegas. – Seakibble7 years ago
I completely agree with these points. Because of the immersion aspect of games, there's the potential to tackle real life issues head-on in impactful ways. Also, at least in the version I played, without mods the main character in DA:O can't have dark skin, which is pretty damning when the exploration of race is limited to non-human, fantastic races. I love Dragon Age, and luckily it became more inclusive in later games. F:NV is my favorite Fallout game, and I thought it did a great job tackling misogyny and rape trauma with the depiction of Caesar's Legion. I do get a bit annoyed by "fantasy racism" where the issue of race is only tackled with fictional races, which removes it from real life context because "Oh, it's fantasy! Not real!" It seems like a cushion. This also happens a bit in the Warcraft universe with the enslavement of different races and humans vs. orcs, and there's this weird aspect where the main humans are mostly white and Western European-ish, whereas other real life cultures are depicted by non-humans. – Emily Deibler7 years ago
I never knew skin colour was so restricted in Origins! I'm actually very surprised at that. I guess it's because the player needs to look vaguely like their family for the origin stories, and they didn't think to go down the Fallout 3 route of just changing the family's looks to match the player. It's possible that it didn't occur to them that it was an issue, but Bioware usually have their heads screwed on straight. I've little experience with Warcraft, but I do remember that one race has a Jamaican accent (trolls?). To be honest, while that sort of thing is certainly a result of the world being created mainly by white western people for mainly white western people, on some level there's not much of way around it entirely. Presenting a culture that is original (ie. does not exist in the real world) and exotic without incorporating traits of real world exotic (relative to the creators and the audience) culture. Using accents does seem a tad too overt though, at least to me. – Seakibble7 years ago
It is interesting how this new discrimination is taking over our daily activities - Felsite – Felsite7 years ago
Kudos to you for suggesting a fresh topic. Impressive! I would love to learn about this and I hope someone picks this up. – Munjeera7 years ago