Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I haven't been doing a lot of research here lately but hope to return. Drop me a line or make a comment if you have suggestions for games that use images of Native Americans in them. I'd love to hear from you.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It's a simple hex-based game for earlier systems, but HPS Simulations has a game based on the French and Indian Wars. The icons appear to be so small that a visual depiction seems irrelevant, but game play seems to be allowed for either the colonials or the British, so how the two primary combatants make use of the Indian tribes for their battles would be worth looking into for a postion.

Douglass C. Perry writes about "The Influence of Literature and Myth in Video Games" in a recent posting at IGN. Perry points out how Norse, Greek, Indian, and Native American mythology is an ongoing source of material for game design, whether it comes direct from the myth or retold through popular literature, comics, or other sources, including Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth and George Frazer's The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion. Perry goes into some detail about how the hero pattern (illustrated here) provides structure to many games, including the "Legend of Zelda" series. Perry is also interested in the intersection between science fiction and fantasy and video games, but his main point is that good games are based on patterns that resound on an archetypal level.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The New York Times reviewer of games, Charles Herold, wrote a review of the game that appeared on the NYTimes website as "Virtual Murder and Mayhem of One Kind or Another" on July 27, 2006. Herold notes that Tommy is abducted to an alien ship in space: "The ship is a deadly place where Tommy must battle aliens, dinosaurlike creatures and demon ghost children. His only chance to survive is to regain the spiritual powers of his ancestors. He soon acquires a falcon spirit guide and learns the ancient Cherokee ability to become a shadow walker who can pass through force fields and kill foes with arrows made of the spirits of fallen enemies."

Herold goes on to note more of Tommy's spiritual growth and the effect of it: "One of Prey’s most unusual features is that after a certain point it becomes impossible to die. When Tommy is killed, he is transported to a spirit realm where he heals himself by shooting magical birds. He is then returned to the ship, where all the enemies he killed or wounded are in the same state he left them in. This means it is impossible to get stuck in the game, and you never have to replay sections."

Whether Tommy's grandfather gets to actually teach Tommy anything isn't mentioned.

Some students today mentioned the game Prey, which apparently offers the opportunity to play a Cherokee guy with extraordinary powers: "A simple garage mechanic on his home reservation, Tommy dreams of bigger things. He wants to venture out into the bigger world, away from his family and roots. But his girlfriend, Jen, wants to stay, to build her life here.
Tommy doesn't understand what she loves so much about living on a reservation. More than anything, he wants her to leave this world behind and see the world with him." http://www.prey.com/flash.html

The game includes Tommy's friend Jen, another Cherokee girl, and it includes a old spiritual man, Enisi, related by blood to Tommy, the keeper of the wisdom: "Tommy's only link to his bloodline, Enisi is Tommy's grandfather and teacher. Enisi has much wisdom to bestow upon his grandson but Tommy must first open his heart and open his mind to the ways of old."

The writers use the old standard trope that elders hold a secret the young people cannot comprehend, that it is a privilege of having Native American blood in your veins.

The game pits the mechanic Tommy against invading aliens from outer space that look a lot like the devil-looking demons from the DOOM sequence, thus pitting our Native American hero against an enemy that appears to be straight from a very Christian hell.

The TeamXBox site proclaims the game a "serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology." We'll see.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I found two new online articles that discuss racism and violence in video games, though both of them are a little old. One is from Mother Jones, an article by Paul Keegan titled "Culture Quake," and it describes the move toward violence after the success of two nonviolent games, Myst and Riven, and how Duke Nukem became the hot item. It's from 1999, November/December.

The other is an article from Tolerance.org, titled "VIDEO GAMES: Playing Against Racism." It's from June 8, 2005 -- "Seeking to wipe out the video game industry's use of racial and gender stereotypes, a new program teaches students of color how to make their own games." It's by Carrie Kilman.

There's also a film called "Game Over: Gender, Race, and Violence in Video Games," a film by Nina Huntemannfrom Media Education Foundation, 2000. It's got a segment on race, though the whole thing is only 41 minutes long.

A game called "Ethnic Cleansing" is described here, on Download.com. The Anti-Defamation League spoke out against it.

Colonization was one of the games by MicroProse and Sid Meier, who created the Civilization success. Coming in 1995, after the raves of the first iteration of Civilization, it didn't last long, mostly because it duplicated the colonizing problems that occured when the Europeans came to the "New World" and settled on the land where Native Americans were living outside the knowledge of western thinkers.

So the game play requires and rewards wiping out Native American peoples. Once you have some success, it becomes clear that cooperation with the NA people isn't going to win you the game. You've got to destroy Indians.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

More stuff on controversies over whether games encourage violent behavior and stances on both sides here: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/41157/.
Another article there describes the efforts of some legislators to restrict games. There's mention of a game called Office Massacre that got cancelled. http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/41501/

Both of these sites are focused on game industry news and advertise video games.

A guy writing about games at http://gamepolitics.livejournal.com/ seems to have a good handle on the industry.

Another article links up some of the violence and "cultural sensitivity" here: http://xbox360.gamedaily.com/game/features/?gameid=4479&id=897

There's an article on Wikipedia about Activision and it mentions the GUN controversy. Also, that article has a link to an article on the controversy, particularly Activision's response to the accusations of racism.

There might be more to find on the http://www.gamesindustry.biz/ website.

I discussed the topic with Dr. B today and with students in my class. One student had played the game GUN and another spoke up for the right to free speech. I think I listened. All three pointed out what a failure it is to try and legislate against video games that are overly violent or even racist. I have to agree to some degree, but I don't know that it's always possible to let the marketplace decide what is right and what isn't.

Dr. B pointed out that I should make sure that I try to look at the game before commenting on it. That would be best. He said that many people who commented on the GTA game hadn't actually seen it before they came out against it.

But I've also been thinking about the other things that are related to the restrictions on such games. There are some kinds of speech that are regulated by the law; it's not legal to say anything you want to say. An incite to riot, for example, is restricted, and you can't, for example, speak for the assassination of the president. So some forms of speech are understood to be out of bounds.

How far would a violent or racist game have to go to be so objectionable that most people would agree it should be banned or restricted?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Judge nixes Michigan law aimed at 'violent' games

Published: April 3, 2006
A federal judge has overturned a Michigan law restricting the sale of violent video games, the most recent in a series of decisions that have gutted similar laws on free-speech grounds.

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh ruled on Friday that a state law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to anyone under 17 years of age is unconstitutional because those forms of entertainment are protected by the First Amendment's freedom of expression clause.

"Video games are a form of creative expression that are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment," Steeh ruled. "They contain original artwork, graphics, music, story lines and characters similar to movies and television shows, both of which are considered protected free speech."

There's some discussion on Rockstar and scalping in GUN at another blog, here. Josh and Tony discuss an issue with the Rockstar game, The Warriors, where the player gets points in one scene for kicking a prone woman, probably a corpse. Dave Beck, an art student, installed this scene to run repeatedly on a website as points counted up, primarily as a commentary on the violence. He put up a site showing the scene, but Rockstar lawyers got a cease and desist order. The site is gone now.

At another point Josh describes his attempt to use the knife he could get in GUN. He says,"Gun is actually pretty fun and in many ways a fairly well-designed title."

However, he is puzzled by the aspect of scalping: "One aspect, though, just seems odd. You can scalp people ... for just no good reason at all. When I first started the practice of scalping my kills, The Girl poked up from her book and asked about the noise. I told her I was scalping people. She asked if they had to scream when I did it and it turns out ... they do. You apparently can only scalp victims while they are still partially kicking. Which is obviously the meanest way to scalp just about anything. I defended my barbarism by saying that I thought you could trade scalps for money (thank god my Mom doesn't read this blog).

However, you can't. There's no purpose to scalping people other than just getting them to scream. At least in GTA, you're beating your hooker for cash. You can rob people. In Gun, there is no robbing. You can test the town's patience by attacking innocent people, but other than that ... it's cheating at cards or torture. A very odd spectrum to give to the player. Especially when those are the only two points in the spectrum."