Tag Archives: Blerd

Black nerdiness, geekiness, dork, People of Color who are nerdy

Videogames as Story-telling: Protagonist Love Interests & Race

Well, last time we saw how racist myths can be kept afloat in videogames, even through anthropomorphic means. This post will be different , but yet the same, in that the central issue uniting all these problematics in these virtual narratives is one that sets that which is white as “default” and admirable.

There are myriad videogames one could choose to illustrate any of this. However, I’m going to stick with my experience and what I know.  As with the last post, I mentioned playing a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog games, in this post, I’ll feature a game whose narrative had a great impact on me and that I greatly enjoyed – Custom Robo!

I’ve always been into the battling robots  concept for as long as I can remember. Whether it was Gundam, Power Ranger’s MegaZords ( they looked like robots) , Medabots (which more people need to know about!), I seemed to have always been enamored with the concept of commanding/controlling a mecha-robo to engage in futuristic combat. Perhaps I’ll save what I think the significance of the mecha-robo combat is for another post…

Continuing with my interest in robot-combat fiction/games, I first played Custom Robo around Middle-School and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the futuristic aesthetic in the graphics and the music and character designs, etc. The story ( which, again I may cover in another post because it has significance) was captivating and I still remember it all so vividly. But what I also remember vividly, was the main character , called ‘Hero’ by default, looking like this:

He’s supposed to be the archetype of the honest-eyed, bon-homme (good-natured boy) – and he also happens to be a jolly white boy. And so being the honest, impressionable, and oft-naive bonhomme your main character is made to be, you naturally will need aside-kick, who may need to be a bit more worldy to round him out. Enter, Harry:

Yup. This is Harry (*sigh*..) Now we can go and deliberate all day as to what his race/ethnicity actually is because of his blond hair, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know the motif of blackness being a side-kick to whiteness- Custom Robo isn’t the only place we see it.

Now, in Custom Robo, he serves as more of a guide/mentor to the hero joining the local Custom Robo mercenary squad. He’s a charismatic, entertaining character to interact with,although he is portrayed as a wily, sloppy, lazy, womanizing guy. You know, like many black man side-kicks we see….

His character actually doesn’t bother me as much as another one… or rather what seems to be the game’s disposition towards her.. Harry’s sister, Mira

She’s the head commander of the Police Squad in this game and she’s a black female. And much like her bro, Harry, she’s got a sweet funky hair color! Anyways, in some ways her character makes me happy- it’s good to see a strong , black female who’s actually reverred and respected in the story. What I don’t like, however, is the message her character sends about black females being perceived as beautiful and objects of male affection- esp. when they have natural hair styles.

Throughout the game, these are the women that the womanizing Harry and all the other gentlemen of the game are gawking over are the white, flowy-haired women, wearing more effeminate clothing. It’s almost as if to say that black women , with their natural hair texture, cannot possibly be seen as effeminate and desirable to men. I find it interesting that virtually every other female in this game wins the affection of a guy except Mira. And before someone would like to wrestle me concerning the colonialistic gaze on black natural hair and beauty, perhaps I should remind you (or bring to your attention) Meteorologist Rhonda Lee :

 

If you’d like to check out some of the game’s lunacy for yourself, with good commentary, I recommend you follow the youtube user who actually inspired me to do this post, Black Preon:

Until next time!

Videogames as Story-Telling: Anthrpomorphism as projections of race

Howdy! As promised in my last post on Videogames as Storytelling, this post  is going to be a further examination of these intersections. In this installment, I’ll be  a bit more specific.

So, last post I explained the case for videogames as a mode of narrative and story-telling and how even they can (and often do) take on white supremacist characteristics and reinforce the privileding of whiteness as “default”.  Additionally, I mentioned a fancy term , “anthropomorphism” – simply the case of giving -human-like form (upright-walking,bi-pedal, two arms and a head, neck and maybe even clothing) to animals or maybe even objects. My point in the last post, that I hope to make clearer in this post, is that racist, stereotypical tropes can sometimes be “sheathed” in anthropomorphism. Exhibit A? – Sega’s  Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.

(There are points during this post, that I understand may come across as silly. And perhaps there is an air of humor to some extent, but ultimately, we must realize that these are highly problematic, racist projections of racist myths.)

Everyone loves Sega’s blue hedgehog who can zip through levels, through flying through loops and bouncing off of launch pads, to defeat Eggman (Dr. Robotnik) in record speeds! My main interaction with Sonic franchise was through Sega Dreamcast in playing games like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Shuffle (like Sonic’s mario party). I then went on to play Sonic Adventure Battle 2 for GameCube and then Sonic Heroes – two of GC’s most successful titles!

It wasn’t until really paying close attention to the music (character themes) in Sonic that I really started to realize some racialized themes going on. So, while we know there’s Sonic, there’s also Tails ( the cheery, intelligent side-kick fox) and Knuckles (the strong, ‘defender of the Master Emerald). Knuckles was always a fan favorite for his immense strength and brawny personality. But if we go with the theory that Sonic, as the main character , on some level, represents some aspect of “default whiteness”, then it should come as no surprise, that Knuckles, is relegated to be the “other” rival. When compared witht he more “even-tempered”, yet heroic (white)Sonic, Knuckles(who I believe is supposed to be the “black man” of the series, has many descriptions as being “heroic, yet stubborn and hot-headed”

Additionally, Knuckles, (supposedly an echidna- whatever that is) has what I guess is supposed to be its “pins” styled in a way that resemble dread-locks- I mean just look at his Rastafarian color-scheme (red, gree, and yellow!)

Now, one way that a character’s “motif” may be rounded out is through music. One especially memorable component of Sonic Adventure that many fans will recall is that characters had a “theme”-song, music that was supposed to “fit” the character. Just take a listen at Knuckles’:

It’s not about how “good it sounds” or even that white guys can’t participate in rap. But the fact that Knuckles ( whom I have already began to make the case is an anthropomorhpised black man) is the only character with a music score characteristic of black musical genre( originating from black musical traditions/culture) with the rapping, jazzy saxophone, harmonies,and urban beats. It is tough ot ignore that Knuckles the Echidna has a clear motif of “the brawny black man”

He actually has more themes, for the different stages where the player must play as him, and in everyone one, we hear the same rap/hip-hop jazzy themes and the “swagged-out” male voice:

You get the picture.

And, it doesn’t really stop there. Meet Rouge the Bat:

Rouge, is a morally ambiguous character who is commonly ‘grouped’ with the villainous antagonists like Shadow the Hedgehog ,etc. This seductress is also supposed to be Knuckle’s love interest. WHat’s interesting is her character is a very smooth-talking, seductive, diva-like, Jezebel – which all happen to be racist tropes versus black women. So while we have the morally questionable Jezebel Rouge, guess what the “leading lady” of the Sonic franchise is like?:

A bubbly, much-less busty Amy Rose – who appears closer to what we’d identify as an “innocent white girl”. And furthermore, we have the , once again, the character theme further the motif of Rouge the Bat:

A latin, Bossa-jazz style theme typical of what you’d expect from a black/minority female. And listening to the theme’s lyrics sounds like the Jezebel motif is furthered.

 

Until next time! 😉

Videogames as Story-telling: Narratives and #Negrophobia

Since I was a young lad, I have always appreciated the art of storytelling – in all of its forms it comes in. Whether through oral traditions of pre-Modern societies, through strokes of a pen in novel form, through film, and yes- even through videogames.

The idea as videogames as story-telling would tend to confuse most people – how on Earth could the likes of Supermario Bros., Crash Bandicoot, or Sonic the Hedgehog be considered storytelling or even art!? Well, recently I happened across a video on youtube that discussed this very topic:

I recommend watching the video as it contains very interesting, critical perspectives further validating the idea that videogames are in fact a method of telling stories. As is said in this video, a stories are essentially humanity’s way of making sense of events that happen that are otherwise unrelated. We fashion these discrete instances into something more coherent- something to make sense of the world. Some might define this as poetry in a way as well. I had a professor who I had blogged about earlier this year who once stated ” a poet is anyone who makes sense of his or her experiences”. This idea of videogames as narratives becomes especially powerful because of their emphasis on interaction – rending them an especially interactive narrative.

So if it’s no secret that racist , misogynist tropes might be propagated through film and novels, or even individuals/institutions built on such problematic narratives, then could we truly expect anything truly different when it comes to videogames? Videogames represent , thus, another form of media to reinforce ideas, myths and mainstays to a general population. So, videogames as narratives combined with capitalistic enterprise portends the pressure from gamers on the gaming industry. If you have even a cursory understanding of  game journalism, you would be familiar with the fact that the relationship between the game-maker and game-player is a fragile, yet reciprocal relationship. The game-makers on one hand are wanting to create games with narratives as a form of their own artistic expression yet at the same time one that will sell – and in order to sell you must create a narrative that will resonate with those that are actually participating (literally) in them. I’m no psychologist but it’s certainly no secret that actually interacting with anything (kind of like doing homework) helps to reinforce behavior and/or beliefs in the mind of the individual.

Hopefully, by now the case is clear as to why something like say, the racial composition of the characters in a videogame, even as seemingly whimsical as Mario Kart 8( and yes, there was even an article about the average skin tone in MK8 being too light- FINALLY!) is so significant. …But at the same time, the fact that we don’t see black (men or women) in videogames as leading ( at least not the popular games) is telling of the demographic exhibiting the most consumer power. Angsty white teenage “geeky” boys are constantly portrayed in other forms of story-telling – books, television, movies- as the demographic participating in games. If there is a black nerd “blerd” or female nerd (who is hardly even portrayed as  black – b/c they’re too busy being” jezebels”, as racist tropes would have it), he or she is often “side-kicked” or rendered secondary to the main , typically white male. White men have the privileged of participating in their narratives – seeing themselves projected as more muscular, “masculine” and handsome, essentially as they imagine themselves to be… or perhaps more jovial, happier, and charismatic- whether they;re Snake( Metal Gear Solid), and Italian plumber (Mario), or even Sonic the Hedgehog, they participate in narratives ( as well as encourage gaming companies to maintain these boundaries) that regularly affirm them as “main” or “default”. And before we even get into “BUT SONIC’S A HEDGEHOG, HOW IS THAT RACIST!?!?!’ – there’s a little thing called anthropomorphism: the fictitious depiction of animals with human-like traits ( giving them a human-like form through the five main appendages, usually – head, left and right arms and left and right legs). And so when animals are made to look like humans, it’s obviously clear that their features ( and motifs reinforced through character themes, assigning cultural traits/style) are going to be racialized. This will be the topic of the next post …

I will end this with a story. It’s been a while since I’ve actually played Nintendo Wii ( it seems to have been forgotten about anyways, since the Wii U), but I had been a part of a skype group of gamers who mainly focused on Nintendo games and I decided to reconnect with them after a few months of not really interacting. I had brought up various instances of racism, sexism, etc. just in the news in general ( not even about games) and I was constantly berated and labeled a “social justice warrior” (SJW) – this seems to be the “trope” that angsty white “geek” teen gamer dudez will throw at you, should you start speaking up on behalf of a marginalized group. Furthermore, I was accused of “ALWAYS talking about social justice issues”  and “making people feel bad for having opinions” – mind you I’m the demon for talking about marginalized groups yet no one says anything about the rampant distasteful, hypersexual ( constantly talking about porn fantasies involving videogame characters) – but no, talking about race? that’s FAR more nauseating! How fowl! But I guess we can’t really be surprised when forcing them to see race forces them to reconsider their narrative – cognitive dissonance, no?