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Racism in RPGs: Dragon Age & Mass Effect

#1NintendologicalPosted 11/28/2012 6:28:54 PM
I recently came across an interesting abstract regarding racist ideologies expressed in Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Here is a snippet;

This essay will explore the management of cultural differences in [Dragon Age & Mass Effect]. I claim that both series rely heavily upon “neo-racist” assumptions of cultural difference, where culture is seen, as Etienne Balibar predicted, “like a nature,” and racial signifiers mark individuals “a priori into a genealogy, into a determination that is immutable and intangible in origin”. This acceptance of cultural insurmountability opens the way to an unquestioned division of labor, which the player must maintain and manage if he wishes to win the game(s).

...Dragon Age series depicts a time where segregation, race wars and religious fundamentalism were the norm, and likewise the player, after choosing a particular race to belong to, is limited to siding with the immigrant Qunari, the scapegoated mages, the enslaved dark elves, the religious chantry, or the power-hungry Templars. Any attempt by the player to create a bridge between either of these groups, or to remain neutral, becomes either impossible, or only increases the amount of ensuing racial violence.

Mass Effect...reverses these racial aspects of Dragon Age. Rather than choose to be a member of any race or species, the player must be “human,” and their ability to choose a skin color is reduced to a purely aesthetic decision, since skin-color does not affect any interaction (while gender and origin story often do). While Dragon Age—especially Dragon Age 2—sets races against each other in feudal grabs for power, in Mass Effect, the player joins a multicultural alliance—the Citadel—to defeat armies of “monocultures,” species who have kept so conservatively to their own traditions that they have become easily influenced and unnecessarily violent (à la the War on Terror). Implied in both of these series is that contemporary society stands somewhere “in-between” the feudal race wars of the mythic past and the multicultural ideal of the distant future


http://kawikaguillermo.com/2011/11/25/the-gamification-of-neo-racism-biowares-dragon-age-and-mass-effect-series/

It's a pretty bold claim. I actually enjoy playing as an elf in Dragon Age, because the elf Origin (Chantry) reminds me greatly of the struggle of Black Americans (descendants of slaves seeking to fit in with the mainstream culture). I found the treatment of race to be genuine rather than superficial, but the scholar I quoted thinks differently. What anout the rest of you? Are these games racist in a subversive fashion or is the thesis writer off the mark?
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#2DoukouPosted 11/28/2012 6:34:17 PM
Writer is way off the mark.
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#3shawnmckPosted 11/28/2012 6:48:04 PM
Sounds like the author is just making a big deal about nothing.
You can't even look at someone anymore without being accused of racism.

I'll give you an example...
Republicans give examples that prove Obama lied & misled the American people....and the reaction by the Democrats was to label them "racists".

I'll give you an example closer to my own personal experience....
There was this guy who is Hispanic...and he was hired by Hispanics....but the same Hispanics who hired him however gave a white guy a promotion because he had special expertise that the company wanted to take advantage of.
The Hispanic guy then sues the company for racism and wins.
Now I talked to one of the Hispanics who ran the company, and they say that the Hispanic guy didn't get the promotion because he was an "idiot" (showed up late for work & often screwed up...but as it turns out knows how to complain loudest), but that didn't stop the jury (all made of of Hispanics) from ruling in the guy's favor.
There was no racism, just perceived racism.

The truth is that some people love to play the victim because it allows them to gain sympathy &/or special favors & benefits.

And so now we've been degraded as a society by talking about how racist some games are because of the way they are made (Dragon Age & Mass Effect).
Its all a bunch of Bull-excrement.

Now I'm not saying there is no such thing as racism....but I am saying that a lot of cases that are supposedly "racist" are nothing of the kind and are just attempts by some to gain benefits, perks, or recognition that they did not earn & do not deserve.
#4Nintendological(Topic Creator)Posted 11/28/2012 11:38:13 PM
shawnmck posted...
...


While I do welcome your vocality and verboseness in regards to your feelings on racism in general, I do ask that you temper future responses with a focus on how the games in question treat race, and how the author's argument reflects what you see in each respective game's treatment of race. If not for the sake of staying on topic, then certainly for the sake of reducing arguments and flaming in this discussion. Thank you for your post.
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Your uncle was so dumb he paid the full price of a new PS2 to rent it for a week? Your family tree must be a straight line" - Finlandia
#5deadpool_legendPosted 11/28/2012 11:58:18 PM(edited)
A major theme in both series is getting all the different races to work together. By the way the writer says that you pick a race in DA and then can side with the Qunari...the Qunari are barely in DA:O...they're confusing it with DAII in which you must play as a human.
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#6donwalloPosted 11/28/2012 11:59:02 PM
But "culture" is "like a nature". What is wrong with this view and what is the alternative the author prefers?
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There's nothing remarkable about, let alone wrong with, "stating your opinion as fact". So please stop complaining about it.
#7deadpool_legendPosted 11/29/2012 12:01:05 AM
Also if you're telling me that Liara and Aria have very similar ideology and all the Asari must have one unique culture, then you're not thinking. :P
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"Hairy Zeus on a traffic light!"
-Deadpool, Issue #3
#8WinternovaPosted 11/29/2012 12:07:42 AM
I'm not sure that the summary of Mass Effect is dead on. While Shepard is trying to get the different races to work together there is still a lot of acrimony between them. The Humans and Turians have hatred that stems back to the First Conact War, the Krogan hate the Turians and Salarians for the Krogan Rebellion War and the Genophage, EVERYONE hates the Rachni, EVERYONE is prejudiced against the Quarians, the Geth are reviled, the Batarians are hated by all the Council races, and the Shifty Looking Cow is the most despised creature in the known Universe. ;-)
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#9Dillon360Posted 11/29/2012 4:00:28 AM
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#10OrgeLambartPosted 11/29/2012 2:55:39 AM
So because the guy was hispanic that means he doesn't know how to speak english.... That sentence is kind of racist don't you think? Also the President being black has nothing to do with anything, that's like saying, I can't be racist, I have some black friends.