Perspective

I belong to a video game group where people share all kinds of video game related (and non) content. This week, my friend shared an article written by Chris Plante at Polygon titled: Rage 2 Is A Fun Game That Makes Me Feel Like Garbage. It’s a well-written article that gave me pause.

To briefly summarize, Plante pointed out that, “Rage 2 uses my birth defect as a rude shorthand for mutant freak.”

I was embarrassed I’d never thought about this.

If you have a moment, I highly recommend reading Plante’s article. I’m going to continue here assuming you’ve done so.

My friend who shared the article, also shared one about Catherine sometime back. I never played Catherine, myself, rather I watched my partner play a significant portion of it in passing. I remembered a lot of the word EDGE and that there was a bar called the Stray Sheep. It turns out, there was a transwoman who worked at the bar (Erica) and the main guys from the story treated her like crap because she was trans and I never knew that. The situation got even grosser when going about the remaster, and I decided for sure I didn’t need to support Atlus on this one.

When she shared the article about Rage 2, I was surprised I’d not already considered the situation and immediately felt ashamed. Distilled down, the article made me think: in games, why are we often decimating people/creatures who look different, while we look “normal?” Someone in the comments on the thread where she shared the article mentioned Borderlands and how they were always uncomfortable with the use of midgets as an enemy type, something I’d always felt weird about, too. People started wondering if Gearbox would omit that enemy type for Borderlands 3 but none of us felt too certain they would be sensitive in that regard. Another person pointed out that a particular enemy type in the Borderlands series even has a vestigial arm. The concern was also that no one with such physical characteristics was simply an NPC or someone on your side. This only reinforced the US vs. THEM or the “NORMALS” vs. “ABNORMALS” situation.

I felt very weird about that.

If a game had characters with physical abnormalities, I’d be fine with it if it were across the board or if they weren’t inherently enemies and seen as “bad.” If your character also had those characteristics, great. If the NPCs had those characteristics, great. If some of the enemies did, too, great. But when, in the situation of Rage 2, your character is “normal” and the enemies you’re fighting are “abnormal” and often objectified (Plante talks about this in his article), that feels gross.

I wrote to my friend and told her I wasn’t comfortable commenting publicly on the article she shared because I felt ashamed and embarrassed the whole thing hadn’t occurred to be before. She was very kind and told me there was no need to be either of those things, she just felt it was worth sharing, and I agree. Plante talks about playing the game during development at an event and being able to talk to id Software’s studio director about his concern. The director was receptive at the time, however seemed to double down on the offensive depictions in the final build and that confused Plante.

It would confuse me, too.

I don’t have a point beyond hoping we continue to see more diversity and positive representation in games. I know some argue, “they’re just games,” and to that I say it still matters. Whether games are art is a discussion for another time (personally I think they are, in fact, art), but representation in all types of media matters. Whether a character is female, male, gay, straight, bi, black, white, Asian, trans, whatever, positive representation MATTERS. There are so many stories to be told with any number of characteristics for the protagonist (and surrounding characters), why not try? Why not give someone a character they can look at and be proud of? I’m by no means saying there aren’t any out there, merely that I’d love to see more.

I wish I’d read Plante’s article before I bought Rage 2; I’d pre-ordered it when the game was announced. The game arrived yesterday and I sat there and looked at it. I’m still going to play it, if for no other reason than to see for myself how it makes me feel. I’m fairly certain I’m going to feel a whole lot like Plante.

Representation matters.

14 replies »

  1. that post made me think about things again, as did this. I rarely notice how representation hits(I’m a straight white male), so I’m quite glad for articles like these that point stuff out. I don’t tend to notice when the bad representation happens so I’m also glad when I notice the better end of that.
    I’m not good at reading between the lines a lot. In high school, we had a new principal and he made a presentation. I thought it was alright, until my sister told me exactly what he’d meant. He was basically saying we suck and it was the old principal’s fault. Once she told me that I re thought about what he had said and yeah, she was right.
    I Definitely agree on representation matters. I feel like I should say more on that, But stuff just isn’t coming up right now, sorry there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was also so glad for the article Plante wrote because I hadn’t thought about it, either.

      No worries! I think what you said made a lot of sense. I try to see as many angles as I can with anything, really, but I never thought about this and I felt really embarrassed but I was glad to be exposed to that side of it so I could proceed in a more thoughtful vein going forward. I feel like Plante’s article did for me what your sister did for you in high school.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I like seeing as many angles as possible on issues tbh. I like knowing why something is or how it comes about. My guess is the mutants thing didn’t come from a bad place, and even though someone had commented on it during development, not enough people cared yet or “top brass” had orders. Things like how Many folks on Assassins creed unity decried there not being a lady able to be played. My guess is developers didn’t think about it and their response of it being hard was a knee jerk reaction. As much as I haven’t played that or any of the newer creeds, I’m glad to see that you do have a choice on those matters now. At least Annie seems to love it, heh.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely agree, representation and genuine diversity is important in gaming.

    Now I’m not saying he’s a role model, but I really loved Lincoln Clay in Mafia 3. He’s mixed, like me, and you dont see that much in games. It makes me happy to see someone like me. I know it’s not exactly a separate minority/race group, but mixed people experience life in a wholly unique way, so seeing that representation was mega cool.

    The Polygon article definitely game me much more pause in regards to getting Rage 2. I’ll likely still get it, but I’m not gonna feel good when I fight any of the Crushers.

    (P.S. what game is your picture from? Is that Rage 2)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely.

      I haven’t played Mafia III so I unfortunately can’t comment on that part, but I do love that there is a character that not only helps you feel represented, but deals with what it means to be the person he is.

      If I hadn’t had Rage 2 pre-ordered I might not have gotten it. After playing it, I think that would have been the right call for many reasons.

      And yes!

      Like

  3. Ah yes I wholeheartedly agree! I read that article and loved it. Using immutable characteristics that people actually have to signify “good” or “bad” is awful. I loved playing Horizon Zero Dawn simply to play the narrative of a video game lead as a detailed woman character. The change from the traditional man protagonist reminded me how powerful it is to see oneself represented. Similarly I strongly connected with Gone Home, that game captured the 90’s and being me so well. Tired character tropes need to be tossed out. Representation absolutely matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you read it! I think he made such solid points.

      I think I had a weird experience with Gone Home because I thought it was going to be a horror game (or what I would call a traditional horror exploration game), and I wasn’t expecting the story to be what it was. I LOVE that the story was what it was. I love when people take chances and make a game that also helps people feel represented in a genuine way. It’s so powerful.

      Shoot, I remember when I was making my guardians in the first Destiny and I was like, my hunter lady is badass. I wish I could be more like her. That was a neat feeling.

      Like

  4. Positive representation of minority matters for a many more reasons than most think. People just want to see themselves reflected honestly in media. It’s a huge peeve of mine. They aren’t “just games”, you’re right. Video games make cultural statements and are designed with a message in mind, sometimes even including ones they did not intend to. Diversity in video game character casts has been getting a lot better recently on average, so that’s nice. Not good enough forever, but good enough for now.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I look forward to future posts of yours about social issues like this. Somehow it’s been uncommon for me to come across other video game bloggers that worry about social issues in games or reflected by the games.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve done several over the years, but this was certainly the most recent.

          I think as more and more people are speaking out (like Plante did in his article), we will see more discussions about those issues. I look forward to those times as well. <3

          Liked by 1 person

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