Classic example of a student picking something most professors have a false preconceived idea about (OMG WHITE PPL R RACIST AND MAKE RACIST STUFF H8!) and running with something that the typical idiot professor will like (see previous "OMG RACIST" statement).
University of British Columbia grad finds games "rife with racist Asian stereotypes"; answers GameSpot's questions about his research.
In the wake of Sony's now-infamous white PlayStation Portable ads, the issue of racism in games is drawing a lot more attention these days. One person who's been studying the topic for a while is University of British Columbia graduate Robert Parungao, who last week released the results of his honors thesis on the subject.
After an eight-month study of the subject, Parungao concluded that racist stereotypes, which draw condemnation in other forms of media such as television and film, are quite prevalent in games. A fifth-generation Canadian of Chinese and Filipino descent, Parungao focused his research on Asian stereotypes and took an in-depth look at Grand Theft Auto III, Shadow Warrior, Warcraft 3, and Kung Fu.
Parungao noted that nonwhite characters in Grand Theft Auto III were mainly criminals and obstacles to be disposed of by the white hero. He also focused on the lack of distinction between Asian cultures in Shadow Warrior.
"The villain in Shadow Warrior goes by a Chinese name, Lo Wang," Parungao said in a statement. "But when he fires his rocket launcher at his enemies, he screams 'just like Hiroshima.'"
Parungao said games aren't subjected to the same scrutiny from minority groups that other media endure. Consequently, the industry has not seen the same changes in minority portrayal that those media have.
Earlier this year, the 23-year-old Parungao earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of British Columbia. He will be attending Concordia University this fall, where he hopes to continue studying the industry as he works toward a masters in communications.
GameSpot recently had the opportunity to speak with Parungao and ask him about his thesis.
GameSpot: So how long have you been a gamer?
Rob Parungao: Oh god...I was born with a controller in my hands. Since I got my Nintendo at six-years-old, seven-years-old, and I'm 23 now. So 16 years.
GS: When did the portrayal of minorities in games start bothering you?
RP: Not initially. What happened is, back when I was younger, as a person of color, when games like Shadow Warrior first came out and I was young, I was actually very happy of the fact that I could see and play an Asian character. And I was actually amused by the fact that [the main character] ran around with chopsticks and poking people's eyeballs out. But in my university career, I became more and more aware of [regional] stereotypes and hierarchies that continue to be perpetuated in the mainstream media. Not just in video games--[but] television, news, movies, and stuff like that. And then being an activist on campus about racial issues and learning about racial issues in class, and then coming back home and playing the games in my spare time, these things started to become more and more apparent. I decided to revisit some of the games I played back when I was younger, and I approached them with a more critical eye.
GS: By handpicking the four titles that you looked at, doesn't that kind of predispose you to come to a certain conclusion?
RP: Definitely. And that was one of the issues that I was working with when I was presenting at conferences. A lot of academics agreed that rather than simply random selection, the hand picking does bias the data in a very certain way...But from my own personal experience as a gamer for a long time, choosing these games [according to] the criteria I laid out for it, I would try to be as objective as possible. I feel that these games symbolize, in many ways, the constant trend in themes in video games when considering "Asian-ness" and stereotyping in video games.
GS: Can you think of any games that are making positive strides in race portrayal or is it all negative or neutral?
RP: I've actually been trying to find games that are positive--and I'm finding quite a few games that are neutral. But because my research only focused on the four games that are spread over that 20-year period, it's only now after I'm starting to get a lot of press coverage for my thesis that I'm being asked these questions...I've started looking but I haven't been able to go find any.
GS: Do you think that the black character, CJ, in the lead role of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a step in the right direction or the wrong direction?
RP: Partially. To a certain degree it is [a step in the right direction], allowing the character to take on a person of color. But in many ways it still often entrenches and reinforces these racial hierarchies that we've seen in games similar to these and in rap music, and certainly not to rain down on rap music or anything like that, but it just constantly reinforces this image of the black character and the black image into the minds of gamers or just the general society overall.
GS: Why have sex and violence in games triggered this political outcry and public outcry over it, but what you'd call blatant racism really hasn't?
RP: Partially it answers itself in the fact that violence and sexism have taken a large role in media coverage. After Columbine, there's been so much discussion about stuff like that. But race has fallen to the sidelines because of those other two, and addiction to games is another big one. Those "big three" kind of push all other criticisms again. So it's partially because of those big three pushing other criticisms aside, but also because our society works under this false notion that we live in a racism-free environment in Canada. We've got the notion of multiculturalism, this however perfect mosaic of communities, so why bring up any more criticism of race when we know that that's all been done and taken care of 20 years ago, 30 years ago? So it lies just underneath the surface, and nobody wants to be willing to talk about it or challenge it.
GS: You mentioned the outcry about the violence and the sex in games but not racism. Do you think a certain amount of racism should be acceptable in a game as long as the ESRB rating reflects it?
RP: Partially. I'm certainly not in favor of more enforcement of [government] rules in that sense. [Other media outlets] have been asking me about what kind of restrictions we can put onto these games. I don't think at all it's about that. I think it's more about taking on responsibility from the game developer's side and understanding that they should be trying to promote positive images of people of color. But it's also up to the player to think critically about games. When I brought this information to the game community, what I've heard and what I expect to continue to hear is, 'Lighten up. It's just a game. It shouldn't be treated this seriously. It doesn't matter.' And I actually feel that games do matter. I wouldn't be taking all this time to research them if I didn't think that they were important locations of study and worthwhile of academic attention.
And with that in mind, I think that many players often forget that they should be approaching any kind of media that they consume--television, movies, video games--with a critical eye and thinking about the things that they are looking at. And if that happens, if people do think about games and they critically analyze games, then these issues don't necessarily become a problem because that rating reflects the fact that [a game] had these racist images within it, but people have the ability to critically think about them and understand that sometimes they're parody and other times they're overtly problematic.
GS: Have you noticed any difference in the handling of race in games developed in different regions?
RP: I would like to have. The thing is that in the terms of my thesis, I focused specifically on how Western or American game companies perceive Asian culture. I think that if I were to take a look at how Japanese games perceive white culture or Asian culture, it would compound the research a hell of a lot longer, and already as it is, it's a long paper.
GS: Wasn't Kung Fu developed by Irem, a Japanese company?
RP: Yeah. I treated Kung Fu in a kind of a different scope, in a certain way in how its popularity and how its perception of a lot of cultural racial issues can be perceived by, let's say, a white gamer. I explained it better in my thesis.
GS: How do you see the issue of race and games 5 or 10 years from now? Is it going to get better or worse?
RP: My hope is that it does get better. My intention with this thesis was to shine a flashlight in kind of the dark corners of the game studies. There's a growing field of game studies in academic research but very little of that has looked at race. And because very little academics have looked at race and very few media outlets have looked at race, it's kind of gone under the table. Hopefully, by shining the flashlight on it and pointing out that issues of race still have to be considered in video games, people will start thinking about it. I know that with heightened interest in sexism or violence in games, there's been more of a push from the industry to at least try to create games that are positive in that sense. And I think that in that same way, the issue of race in games will spur a lot of developers to think about how they perceive race rather than simply throw in the same stereotypes over and over again.
GS: Thanks for your time.
I think the games are totally racist. I think that's part of what makes them funny/cool. I think average gamers are no more racist than...average gamers. I think the guy who finds something racist, enough even to write a thesis, has a truly racist mindset. Just play the damn game. My hopes for the future is that games use more over exaggerated stereotypes, that we all know are true anyway. :)
Shadow warrior is so fun, so fun that I didnīt even perceived that racist content were scattered throughout the game. The only thing wrong that I think it is wrong is at the level "bath house" where a chinese man is mutilated on the ground. Reminds me of the japanese occupation of Nanking during the 30th decade.
This kid needs to get over it and get over himself....no one cares and being politically incorrect about race and ethnicity is darn funny usually. Every black comedian has a routine where they slam white people and they get paid millions for it...no one bothers them..I wonder why? Hypocritical much?
"Parungao noted that nonwhite characters in Grand Theft Auto III were mainly criminals and obstacles to be disposed of by the white hero." The main character in GTA3 would not be considered a hero. Just a guy trying to write a paper for school.
Not saying it is or isn't racist because I don't make accusations based on speculation but this is frivolous. If some games are indeed racist it's irrelevant because it's not contraband, it's controversial. In a sense it may inherently be racist simply because of it's target fanbase. It's just marketing. It's a profound point of view. You see what you want to see, therefore it's only as racist as you are. It's personal, it's an obsession.
Last comment is a case in point; claims that this is due to a lack of insight of different cultures by game devcelopers - but not racisim - then eliminates this reasoned appraoch by introducing his own predujidce and ignornace into the mix. The bottom line is there is a long paper on this issue which obviously explored a number of issues in depth regarding race and games. That cannot be dismissed by a few words in an attempt to counter it with feeble arguments. Hey, read the thesis or a summary of the points made - then argue those points. If it was a weak thesis that failed to explore both sides of the argument before reaching any conclusion (In equal depth) and then explaining and outlining the points made in detail. Obviously this can't be countered in the few word available in this comment box, but some of the points raised will obviously be the first port of call when writing such a piece and will not have been overlooked and countered comprehensively.
Its not racism so much as it is some people know very little about culture and just throw together some games without thinking. I don't see racism as a problem in games. Games are an artistic form. Just like books or movies. The only way a game could be racist is if you had to enter in your ethnic background to play it. Theres always a double standard: if a white guy is made fun of in a racist way nobody cares. Now if an Asian person or an African person is made fun of in a racist way...Look out. I don't know maybe it could be that some people constantly feel like they are being persecuted (we call that schizophrenia). I don't like where this is going. I wish people could just live life and not get into a fit when a game has a bunch of false stereotypes (there are many of those in books, and movies). I suppose this is kind of like in Brain Training (if you get a low score you're spastic). Some one happened to actually be spastic and took offense. I just think people should know their own limits. If a game makes you stressed when you play it something is seriously wrong (unless you're playing Halo on Legendary).
"Parungao noted that nonwhite characters in Grand Theft Auto III were mainly criminals and obstacles to be disposed of by the white hero." ...as is every other character in the game. Everyone is a criminal in the GTA games. The Italians, Africans, even WASPs (Donald Love). So why does he call it racist?
If your too sensitive to play a game, dont play. What about the white racism in games? Mario was such a stereotypical italian, complete with moustache and rediculous accent. You could argue that most games are racist against white people. But white racism is socially acceptable, therefore no one makes any complaints.
Err did any of you actually read this article? The researcher wasn't trying to enforce some sort of additional political correctness, nor was he suggesting racism didn't exist outside of video games, he was suggesting that we, as game consumers, think critically about the subtexts of the game we play. Or to translate this issue towards a comparable medium, when you watch a news program you generally consider that it probably has a political bias. Not that radical, really...
Honestly, I would be willing to bet money that over half the time, developers aren't even thinking about what race their characters are when they put them into the game. Man, this racist stuff in games thing, is absolutely stupid. Racism is when people put down other people verbally or physically because of their colour or race. It isn't racism if there is an asian drug dealer! GAH!
The important distinction between the way East Asians are represented in western games, and the way black people are for example, is not that one is presented stereotypically while the other is not - they are both presented in such a way. The distinction is the manner of stereotype, which without fail is negative in the East Asian case, but not so with other races. It may be so that CJ of GTA: SA is a stereotype, however he is not necessarily a negative one - in fact I think many would actually consider him quite a positive representation. East Asian characters on the other hand are often presented in a very derogative form - the equivalent not of CJ, but of a gollywog. The East Asian voice is one that is very rarely heard standing up for its rights. While middle-eastern and black people will rightly complain when they are treated prejudicially, East Asians tend to allow most to slip by unchallenged. With that in mind, I think this thesis a good and necessary voicing.
It is frustrating that racism continues to be seen as such a problem even though it has evolved into such a subtle form; forty years ago it was "black people are inferior and cannot eat in white restaurants"; now it's all about stereotypes and whether someone "hurt your feelings." Not many people, including many in the black community, seem to have their feelings hurt by the rap/ghetto portrayal of their race in music, tv, etc. yet RP states that GTA San Andreas is a problem because it reinforces stereotypes. So what? The vast majority of people today are intelligent and sophisticated enough to realize that stereotypes are gross generalizations (a majority of the time) and cannot be trusted. The intelligent and laid back majority accepts stereotypes as a part of life because trying to live every second of every day under politicial correctness's shadow kills the fun in life; assfaul88 is right; RP needs to lighten up and realize that the days of PC, thank god in heaven, are over.
Hmm... This might have actually been an interesting analysis, if his research methodology hadn't sucked so much.
Get a sense of humor. It's people like him that make it racist. The intent was never to marginalise an ethnic minority, it was simply to add some cultural diversity. In fact, were these asians not in these games, someone else would be ranting that there are no asians in games. And if these asians didn't act so stereotipically asian, yet someone else would complain that their asian models are inacurate and it's racist because they didn't do their research. Producers can never win in these issues, because someone will always complain, so I say people like RP need to get a sense of humor or shut the hell up. Oh boy, I'm getting all upset now!
I can see this guys points but i don't think he should almost derictly point this at video games because this is in almost everything media related!
I like how a majority of the people commenting this article are apparently complete blathering idiots, as in the kind that will eat out of the toilet, punch themselves in the head to kill headaches, and will apparently go to extreme lengths to avoid picking up things like grammar or manners. This article is overblown, sure, but the commentary it's inspired from gamespot members does nothing but feed the stereotype that gamers are idiots. As for the word idiot, look it up its semiology, it doesn't merely mean stupid. For the love of god, read the article you comment on, take a few moments to think it through, read the comments posted by others, THEN take a big steaming verbal dump on it.
As much as I hate racism, I gotta say that four games is not nearly enough to prove something in a thesis. It's enough to get you through graduation, but not enough to sway people's minds. Still it's a step in the right direction. Stereotypes exist in all cultures, which is proof that many people are ignorant of other cultures. Taking these stereotypes as truth, though, is just plain stupid.
whats so bad of having a white person in gta? why deos it make u feel better having a black person in gta? should i call it racist cas cj is black and not white like me? no. i never even thought cj was black until now. i thought it was quite humaros having be black in gta cas they siad homie and stuff black stuff. just like some of my friends. sorry if what im about to say affends anyone but. black people are the funnyist people in the world. look at cris rock. white people we are laaammm. thats just how it is. anyway u look at it theres a diffrents always in witch ever race. i look at racist being further than personality. i see it as cant do this cas ur black. judging befor u even talk to the guy.
"The villain in Shadow Warrior goes by a Chinese name, Lo Wang," Parungao said in a statement. "But when he fires his rocket launcher at his enemies, he screams 'just like Hiroshima.'" ^ That part doesn't make 100% sense. I mean obviously what the author is trying to say is that the game is mixing Chinese culture with Japanese history, but from a different perspective it sounds as if the author is saying that just because the character has a Chinese name, it shouldn't know or refer to anything Japanese. The nuclear end to the Pacific theater of WW2 is an historic event that isn't restricted solely to the Japanese people.... If a Chinese character refers to it in its killing frenzy in a game, is the game racist? I don't think so.
This is kind of dumb I got called cracker & honkey by all the black kids at school(I lived in Brooklyn there were only 3 white kids at my high school) and stuff but I didn't really care I think racism is fine as long as people don't phisically harm each other or restrict people from their natural rights
Games, movies, and society at large still cannot come properly to terms with these problems such as racism, sexism etc.... and the only reason is that to most people this isnt a problem.... After all those who dont suffer from it cannot understand what goes inside those who do and thats a fact. Most people play games (at least initiallly) to get away from real life, yet we just love it when games imitate life (GTA III and above anyone?), so we the Human Race as a whole are pretty well messed up and no writing thesis or books or debates can change it, not unless our entire upbringing and probably our genetic makeup can be changed.
If the issue's going to be tackled, it needs to be tackled at the core of the problem. Having a go at one type of medium won't change anything in the long run. GTA was pretty bad for stereotyping, but it's always been a series that has been made up of a mish-mash of pop culture stereotypes, not Shakespeare. I obejt to him studying WarCraft III in a similar way. I'm not even a major fan of the game but it's far from racist. I didn't notice anything was said about it in the above article. however, anyone who just says 'it's only a game' really needs to buy another pair of brain cells. The problem is also down ignorance. However, it would help if people didn't see a 'black character' and a 'white character' just two characters.
"Bomcat2 It's an interesting theory, but more evidence (ie. a proper cross-referencing of genres, dates and country of origin) would have cemented this opinion. Tbh, I think he is correct. There is a lot of racial stereotyping in games - I'm hard pressed to name more than a handful of games with either a black lead character or Asian. When was the last Indian hero in a game?" Prey. Unless you meant people from India.
People like this guy are the reason my country is going down the drain. Did anyone ever hear of COMMUNISM? Equal treament for all? Seriously, do people believe that it can be achieved? Grow up. Be realistic. You will never get rid of stereotypes, racism, or malice. He seems to forget that even though the commies will take over, they haven't won yet. This is still a Capitalist economy. The game developers have a right to make these games and sell them. No one has the right to prevent them from doing this. Extreme Leftists like this guy have a great difficulty in seperating law from morality. Morality doesn't govern the United States. You can't base any government, especially one such as ours, on a moral viewpoint. Read the history of our country. Read the Bill of Rights. Besides, people never admit that sometimes stereotypes are CORRECT!
And for the scream like Hiroshima whatever I think all people scream the same.. lol plus though there are many difference between Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and other cultures its just like saying well British, Americans, Scotish, French, and Irish people look all the same. There ya go everything can be racist.
whats wrong with stereotypes? I'm asian and I have a hard time living up to my stereotype doing Tae Kwon Do, drawing, getting good grades, and etc. It's hard to keep up with it but whatever lol. As for other races I kind of feel bad for them having "bad" stereotypes but dude Asians are fine. It's just when they have a gay accent is the only thing that ticks me off and that gay ass mustache they always put on certain characters.
Uhhhh..... Yeah. If this guy going to base his "thesis" off of a game like Kung-Fu, then he seriously needs to quit college right now. I wonder what he would say about Zelda II: The adventure of link? Remember, when you enter certain palaces, you had these white magicians with pointy hats that disappeared? (they looked like clan members) I wonder what he would have said about that. lol
firelawrence477 This person is an idiot. Warcraft 3 and the other games he mentioned has nothing racist about em. I'm an asian and i say there's notin wrong wit these games. And besides racism is all around people it's everywhere it's a part of life nothing else more to say. Yeah but most character designers for that game are asian
Oh look another topic about racism within video games. LET'S DRAW THIS 50-50 video games themselves aren?t intended to be racist. But make no mistake the developers can be ignorant, insensitive, stupid, naive or racist: Some video games can be racist. For people who think racism doesn?t exist in video games check out a game called "Ethnic Cleansing". That's one of the games that will have you STFU instantly. Secondly, no one speaks for an entire race here so I don't want to see any "these people say this and these people say that". And on to another thing if you are part of the larger percentage that do not see games in any form of negative light whether it stems from lack of "minorities" to full blown "poor portrayals" then you should say absolutely nothing. If you feel racism doesn't exist go to youtube and see exactly what "doesn't exist". Racism is all over gamespot I?ve seen it myself in huge quantities some people call it freedom of speech I call it internet cowardice. And what?s up with all of these people who hate ?Political Correctness?? Is it the only thing stopping you from calling someone the ?N-words or the C-words?? Love each other and stop being so god-damned ignorant
This person is an idiot. Warcraft 3 and the other games he mentioned has nothing racist about em. I'm an asian and i say there's notin wrong wit these games. And besides racism is all around people it's everywhere it's a part of life nothing else more to say.
If this guy wants to point out racisism (NOT TRUE) then he need to look at the real world because there's racisem there. EX: lets take Nintendo.... known well for childlike games. If every thing went Nintendo, someone will still still coplian. What people need to realize is that what is being lied on in games are happoning in the real world. People are acting like this is a homiside case. If you dissagree with me than go to the news and you will see bigger things that no one realizes. So stop this crap on games are sexest and raseial. It makes me sick!
this guy makes a perfectly viable point, stop blinding defending games, there are problems in the industry and we should acknowledge them. GTA SA was fun, but also IMO ridiculously racist, my own black friend said the game straight up disgusted him because it was the uber steriotype that only hurts the image of a race. I finish with a question, when was the last time you actually saw a positive portrayal of asian, hispanic, or black people in a videogame, i can't really think of one, I hope someone can 1up me on this one. PS: fishheads, i'm with you 100% As a sidenote, most of the remarks made completely disgust me, and are prime example as to why i hate the internet.
I agree with nick0091 on this one..90% havent actually read the damn article...no it didnt say GTA was racist just because you play as a coloured fellow..and yes we should take games views relatively seriously..bc a games views are someone elses views...meaning it matters and is serious..and who ever is saying he's ashamed that the guy is filipinio...stfu...and..you know what..90% of you ppl are stupid ignorant racist pigs....im so tired of retard n00bs and dumb@$$'s posting randomly with obviously stupid comments...read the article..then THINK before you post .."is my post stupid?".."am i simply causing trouble?" .."Should I go back to school?"...stop thinking that just because games arent real life..that their meanings and views arent...because they are...you see it everywhere...so...THINK before you act..please...thank you
I have nothign really to say about the article but I do have something to say about the comments. Clearly about 90% of the people posted and never even read the article it's kinda sad. please read before you post.
Ok, so GTA: San Andreas is racist just because you can play as a black guy? What has this world come to?
Racist in video games? Haha. This guys needs to get laid. And the fact that he has Filipino descent makes me even more ashamed of him.
Arent most games made by Asian companies? If that is true, then why do the azn companies create the so-called racism against themselves? But, if this guy is complaining about game racism, he should step out of his "hand-selected game box" and look at other games. 2 games that i can think of right away that are good for all races are: *Guild Wars (Lets u play as white/black/azn/etc...) *Metal Gear Solid (Char's like Sigint, Mei ling, Eva - just to name a few multiracial chars...) But, then again these days you can find a problem in anything you wish. If you want to make a buff about something its easy; Just look at Jack Thompson.
Umm, instead of adding fuel to the fire that idiots like Jack Thompson and the gang started, shut up and face the fact that its not only about asians, its not only in video games, and that at the end of the day when all is said and done, play the damn game, have fun, and then go back to life. More people keep targeting video games, but they dont realize that **** like that happens on TV and in literature and all kinds of media, i see no difference. I have friends in school who are asians, and blacks and hindus, sometimes, we joke around and make fun of the way we talk or do things together, but at the end of the day, we really couldn't care less, its not like we would act the same way when we are 20-something's at a business interview, and if someone does act like that, sent him to court or whatever and quit targeting videogames unless you have the solid proof that a certain part of a software title caused the event.
No matter who makes what kind of media or what kind of media it is, people will complain. Those who look into what is being portrayed often see stereotypical behaviour because that is what they HOPE to find. Anyone can come up with numbers and examples to support a thesis, and a thesis is an idea or opinion, hardly ever fact. So while I can understand why Parungao wanted to re-examine those games, his bias is much too strong. The unintelligent (Senators Lieberman and Clinton) will take all of his ideas to heart if they ever read it and start a new lobby against games as a whole. I get the impression that Parungao wants to help the games industry, so that it is unfortunate that he just provided more ammunition against it. The only thing that will help the industry is if it starts to be treated more like film. With film, you have mainstream and independent ventures. The mainstream is often scrubbed squeaky clean with no debatable issues (especially in the modern day, much less so in the past), while the independent is basically the place to roam free. The real problem with making a system like this work with games is money. Games take millions upon millions to develop, and in order to make their investments worthwhile developers advertise the crap out of everything they've got. The only reason a game wouldn't advertise like this is because it is a small outfit. True independent games depend on word of mouth (via internet, actual human interaction) and often are never overwhelming successful. Basically, until games are finally seen as a viable entertainment source of respect, someone will be trying to take it away. Fight it, and soon the future of gaming will no longer be uncertain, and then some new media will be the source of debate.
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