176: Global Games, Local Perspectives

Chris LaVigne

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Global Games, Local Perspectives

Games can take us to exotic locales around the world - but why do they always insist on telling their stories from the same stale American, British or Japanese perspectives?

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Beery

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Sales DO fall when games involve protagonists from other cultures. Personally I feel this is one big reason why Assassin's Creed was not as successful as perhaps it should have been. Many people attacked that game with vague or unfounded criticisms, but what I smelled underneath the unfocused ire was a sort of post-9/11 racism.

Game developers will start making multicultural games when gamers stop unfairly criticising every game that has a non-white protagonist.
 

Ultrajoe

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While i loved the article, i do take a slight step back at some of your game suggestions.

They were... well... awful.

A wider cultural experience would be great, but a game still needs to entertain and impress an audience. The idea of a fur-trade era survivor does rub against the grain there. I understand the sentiment, but games need to give a sense that the player is involved or has a stake in the outcome. They need to be a hero.

Where is the motivation for a non-canadian (or, i daresay, a canadian who doesn't know much about this time period) to save that very specific world, or at least forge an existence in it? And if we accept that there needs to be a motivation, why not make it space marines or American G.I's. It was a world war, after all, though your accent may be different your still fighting for the world you live in.

That said, the idea of taking Rommel down a peg as one of the Rats of Tobruk is quite... enticing...

Or the fear and trills of a Kokoda Trail horror shooter... Gallipoli trench warfare, ending in the famous charge...

Wait... where was I?

I hope people get the point of this post, otherwise i look a bit of a prat.
 

PieMaker

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I just have to say that a few old games dared to touch a different demographic as main player, or none in general.

As a great example, we have the X-Com series, which let you put a base anywhere in the world, and all personel had either french, russian, english, italian or other name origin.

Granted there isn't much dialogue in X-com, but it was binding the whole world to the cause of fighting aliens.
 

Ryan Sumo

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Great article. I pitched a similar idea recently, and I guess this is why it wasn't considered. :p

I think you'll start seeing more interesting games, or at least games that speak to you once the distribution networks start become more localized. In the same way that Bollywood makes movies for Indians, Filipinos could make games for Filipinos. Yes, they wouldn't have the production values of triple A games, but that was never the point.

I am quite surprised that Canadians don't have more local developers that make and sell games for Canadians, considering the large developer base there. You'd think there would be a wealth of canadian games on XBLA or something.
 

Cousin_IT

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As long as the player character in FPS' is just a disembodied hand with a gun in it, I dont think the characters nationality will ever be important or add anything to the game. It would be nice for games to perhaps have a less "colonial" approach to countries/cultures outside the big three though.

qualifier: By colonial, I mean going into another country & 'fixing' their problems for them/defeating their evil rulers. Seems to be the basic premise of alot of games these days
 
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Ryan Sumo said:
I am quite surprised that Canadians don't have more local developers that make and sell games for Canadians, considering the large developer base there. You'd think there would be a wealth of canadian games on XBLA or something.
Well, the big Canadians game devs are Ubi and Bioware so their games ends up here but it's through the bigger NA market. But I'm sure there's a few XBLA games coming from Canada but we just don't know the devs are located here and we just assume they all are from the states.
 

L.B. Jeffries

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Saw a comment on a similar article a few weeks ago and the topic of who would be badass enough to make an FPS based on their life came up. An Australian by the name of 'Dangerous Dave Everett' was mentioned:

http://www.dangerousdaveeverett.com/index.html

An ex-SAS Aussie who went rogue in Myanmar before coming home to steal money to help the Karen rebels? Sounds good to me.
 

markdeloura

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I keep completely agree with the sentiment of this article. A year or so ago I gave a talk in Tokyo which highlighted the slow rise in quantity of games from places we aren't familiar with: Lebanon, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Zimbabwe... playing games from these places frequently can give us insight into the cultures of those regions. But are ready for games with controversial views? The game I played from Lebanon focused on what we in the U.S. would label terrorism, and yet I felt like I gained an insight into another person's way of thinking which enhanced my global perspective. Are we ready for the Taliban or Al Qaeda games?
 

Archimedes88

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i agree the games market could put to use this idea, and i'm sure it would be appriciated by the consumers, i myself pick up alot of genral knowledge from games.

Whereas there are obviously no limit to the setting of games, the backdrop of the story, the characters etc, there are a limit to the types of game you can make (RPG, FPS, RTS etc) which somewhat limits what you can and can't make profitable from a game designer's point of view.

you did give me the idea for a horror game set in the Chernobyl power station though ...
 

stompy

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Ultrajoe said:
That said, the idea of taking Rommel down a peg as one of the Rats of Tobruk is quite... enticing...

Or the fear and trills of a Kokoda Trail horror shooter... Gallipoli trench warfare, ending in the famous charge...
I'd love to do such a thing. And it was unfortunate that Treyarch didn't capitalise on their Pacific setting to introduce Kokoda, or even any other nation that fought in the Pacific expect the US. It would have been an awesome level to be the Chocos that held back the Japanese until reinforcements came, only 40 kilometres from Port Moresby, knowing that, should they fail, it would be the end of Australia as we know it,


L.B. Jeffries said:
Saw a comment on a similar article a few weeks ago and the topic of who would be badass enough to make an FPS based on their life came up. An Australian by the name of 'Dangerous Dave Everett' was mentioned:

http://www.dangerousdaveeverett.com/index.html

An ex-SAS Aussie who went rogue in Myanmar before coming home to steal money to help the Karen rebels? Sounds good to me.
SASR. The SAS are a branch of the British Air Force; we Aussies (and Kiwis) have our own branch, the SASR. Not your fault, of course, just putting it out there.

As for the article, I agree with it. I would love to play as a protagonist of another background and characterisation than that of the stereotypical British/American/Japanese person, or even have more cultures influence the art direction and other aspects of games.
 

Solipsis

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Until there are more cultures involved in video game production, we won't see more cultural viewpoints represented. I mean, sure, we'll keep seeing Lara Croft go to Peru (or maybe next time she goes to Suriname, who knows?). But what American, British, Japanese or Canadian developer is going to tackle the problem of how to make a game from a specific cultural viewpoint when they're not from that culture themselves?

I'm sure not going to try to construct a story from the POV of a Chinese, Chilean, or Icelandic hero without someone from that country showing me what that view really looks like. When you write about a fantasy world, there's nobody who can tell you "no, that isn't how it is" there aren't any cultural sensitivities to trip over, and there aren't any right or wrong approaches to the subject. Real cultures are a little more delicate. What we're seeing isn't an unwillingness to explore other people's realities, it's just classic "write what you know" when all the content creators know approximately the same realities.
 

Smokescreen

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Solipsis hits it on the head with the first sentence.

FTA:
"And don't just give us a level in each country. Make games that really show off the places. Let us meet the people who live there. Better yet, let us experience what it's like to live as them."

That's a good idea if you, you know, have experience with those things, but it's a god-fucking-awful idea otherwise. You know why? Because it will come across as bullshit.

Fantasy cultures allow you to do just that: create a fantasy from whole cloth. It can resemble or borrow from any number of other cultures (see any number of FF settings) without having to get the actual experiences of living in those cultures right.

To get the kind of diversity of perspective (and tales) that the author is imagining, it will require the participation of more cultures in the medium.
 

nikudada

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Shadowkirby: Ubisoft is a French developer with offices in Canada as well as USA. Bioware was purchased by EA last year so its an American company.

With that being said the video game industry is inherently capitalistic. Publishers want (need)their games to appeal to the largest demographic possible. The general consensus is that the highest percentage of video game players right now are white males. As i gathered from your article you want to play a game where the hero is Canadian. I find that totally normal as its easiest to associate with a character who you find similar to yourself (or at least i do). And that is the very reason why we see publishers pushing the average white protagonist; because thats the largest section of gaming consumers and therefore the most likely path into the highest number of household hearts (and minds).
I do agree that its sad that we don't see more variety. But, like Greg Costiksan (sorry i just slaughtered his last name) said in the escapist article "Death to the Game Industry" the publishers are, to an extent, holding up progress. Even when we do see a new kind of protagonist, such as Nico Bellic, its usually because the developers are using the ignorant yokel as a vehicle to teach the user the controls and so forth. Its a clever convenience that doesn't break immersion. I have two friends that are Serbian and they both consider Nico to be a poor representation at best (don't get me started on the accent). Ultimately the whole East European thing doesn't come off all that well. The only reason STALKER worked well (aside from the bugs)was because it was actually developed by a Ukrainian studio. If TakeTwo had done it you would have had William Shatner doing voiceovers for half the NPCS.
At the end of the day thats why you get the independent studios paving the way in terms of cultural diversity in games. Its the only way to differentiate themselves from the stale white bread that is mainstream gaming. I hope that at some point in time an Indie developer makes it HUGE vis a vi independent films avenue of success: taking exactly what mainstream shies away from and shoving everyones face in it. And i hope when that happens they don't immediately sell themselves to EA.
 

Sylocat

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I've always wondered what a Red Green video game would be like.
 

goodman528

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I agree with the author. However, you'd never manage to sell a game with an Indian, Chinese, or Ukrainian protagonist.

People just wouldn't identify with the main character.

The producers are not from that culture, so they would be producing something about a culture they know nothing about.

Much as we scream about every FPS being a space marine shooting monsters, that is the mainstream, and that sells, anything that deviates from this main stream is just seen as weird and people don't like buying things they know nothing about.

Very simple example, I read a post recently on a Chinese forum made of entirely pictures with captions, telling the story of a man who hitch-hiked on a transport lorry, it's a pretty simple and inspiring road trip story, Hemmingway style if Hemmingway used cameras. However, when I sent this link to a friend of mine, who is also very interested in travel stories since we are planning a road trip in the near future. He just couldn't identify with the main characters, who were young, like him; working class, like him; didn't have much money, like him; hard working, like him; but Chinese, while he was English. The cultural gap meant he thought it was interesting to see these people eating at roadside food joints for £0.5/person, but he's never seen such a place before in real life, he just can't place himself in these people's shoes.
 

paladinsama

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As Solipsis said, probably to get a game with a cultural viewpoint from Peru, the game should be done by Peruvian game designers. So far the latest things being done here, are flash games. (Example: http://www.inkagames.com/ ). Maybe after some training/experience, better games could be done here and be valuable enough to be exported to the globalized world.
 

swift tongued

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Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I wanna see a game about mythological Russia where sheilds break from one sword swing. Game developers, make it happen.

Don't care if the games are controversial, istorically games have always been controversial, lets at least through some culture into them.

I agree with you in every single way, but then again I can't honestly represent any kind of majority. I just gave up a big chunk of my free time to studying ancient Nubia for no good reason. Unfortunately non white protagonists usually only appear in very violent games and have a very limited storyline, ex. Adjo from "The Club" and Kai from "Mortal Kombat 4." Given these aren't exactly culturally sensitive charecters, but they're the best examples I could think of and Adjo is basically the only charecter in the Club that I really like.
 

Varulv

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I'm inclined to agree with the people saying that this article looks good on paper, but will most likely fall flat on its face should it make an attempt at real life.
The problem isn't so much that the developers do not want to produce games with a different protagonist, or taking part in another part of WW2 than D-day, this problem is spawned from the real one, namely that gamers do not buy games that are different.
Which do you think would sell better? A game proclaiming that it'll give a new and thrilling twist to the attack on Pearl Harbour or a game that says that it will let you play as a guerrilla *insert African or not-Korean Asiatic individual here*? We don't know who they are, as such we don't care about them and they strike us as boring, and we'd rather stick with the safe game that we know.
I, for one, can't blame big game developers for not doing something new when it won't sell.

On the note of us knowing Azeroth, Middle-Earth, etc., better than our own world, this isn't entirely true. Take a good look at Azeroth and its inhabitants, now twist your brain a bid and think if they resemble some peoples. I can probably brand a lot of old cultures to most of the beings in Azeroth.
My point is, that while we don't think so much about it, or are even aware of it, these games teach us quite a bid about our own world. As my game design teacher said: it's 90% steal, 10% altering what you've stolen.
 

Clashero

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Personally, as an Argentine, I would love to see this happen.
Games with characters from different nationalities always interested me. And if given the choice, I would always march to Berlin as a Russian than fight in Omaha Beach for the hundredth fucking time.
Assassin's Creed did a great a job of a lot of things: The settting was spectacular, both space and time-wise, and it recreated Hassan bin Sabbah's story faithfully while bending it appropriately to fit the gameplay and story. And for once, there were no "bad guys" in the game: both sides were simply commited to their mission. Possibly the game didn't sell as well as it should have due to, as was said before, post-9/11 paranoia and the fact that you were killing Christians nearly all the time.
I also loved how Far Cry 2 had a rather interesting, Blood Diamond-like setting. Only two playable chracters were Americans, and one was British. The rest were mostly from Eastern Europe, along with the Brazilian, Chinese and Mauritian.

I'd certainly love to see a game based in Argentina. There is no shortage of game developers here, just a game market that thrives on piracy. What about an RTS that let you play as Güemes's Gauchos? Set a spy game in Buenos Aires, which is just about as varied as any other large city in the world? What about racing in 9 de Julio avenue, the widest street in the world? A Falklands War shooter, where you could play as both British and Argentine forces? (and like the article said, don't just give us one level: one of the Rainbow Six games had a level in a meat packer in Pilar, but that's not enough)
 

12th_milkshake

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I'm really shocked by this article - I signed up to say a few words.

The reason i'm shocked the article is written for the point of view of being fairly short sighted and inserting itself in this fantasy culture that every should be fairly represented in 'everything'.

The reason why games and stories are told from these points of view is because this the mostly the culture and background of the designers and studios behind them are from these cultures. You talk about Stalker base in Ukraine and produce by who? Ukrainians and it's a great game.

People write about what they feel they have a good knowledge about - in other words they write what they know. It's not up to the USA or Japan to balance this. It's up to the rest of the world to write about their own cultures and produce good games, this way they are more likely than not be more accurate and a better game for it.

I just see a Western Studio producing a game in Africa and end up offending everyone due to poor understanding and a game that is suppose to be diverse looking like racism. Hollywood is a perfect example of this - they rip apart cultures images to suit themselves. They should stick at what they are good at and that's the thrills and spills not a film about the plight of 14th century Scotland against Edward Longshank I. Cause you'll end up with braveheart full of nothing but a half arse story with history kick out the door. The Film is fine but is nothing to really do with the real events of the time.

People stick to what they know and if the studios are mainly in the US and Japan then guess what... yup it's going to be about their history and culture and that shouldn't be shouted down.

If the world likes your game idea then good but people should not pander to multi culture or every game will look like a GAP advert and take from the story. The story is more in important.

This is a really naive article.
 

bcjinky

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12th_milkshake said:
The reason i'm shocked the article is written for the point of view of being fairly short sighted and inserting itself in this fantasy culture that every should be fairly represented in 'everything'.

The reason why games and stories are told from these points of view is because this the mostly the culture and background of the designers and studios behind them are from these cultures. You talk about Stalker base in Ukraine and produce by who? Ukrainians and it's a great game.
Two things here... one, I agree with the article not because I think everything "should" be fairly represented. I think gaming would be *better* if there was more diversity. I know there are lots of anti-political correctness people out there, but in this case, I think having more videogames based on other cultures would be really cool, not pandering to being PC.

Also, I think a lot of the commenters here are vastly underestimating developers and gamers. Developers do a *lot* of research when they're putting together their games, especially the art team. There's no reason why they can't research the history of an African country just as well as they can research the history of an American WWII unit (Call of Duty), medieval knights , samurais or the old West (like the game Gun). Yes, writing what you know is a good rule. But thousands of novelists and filmmakers go beyond their own experience to write. Plus, what's stopping a developer from hiring consultants from other countries? A lot of you are suggesting that developers are so dumb they can only write about the same things over and over again. I don't agree.

I don't agree that American gamers are incapable of connecting with non-American characters, either. Look how many Japanese characters we like. It all depends on the quality of the design. If developers are good enough, and I think they are, they can make a great game based on anything.
 

CanadianWolverine

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The interesting thing about this article for me, which is probably in due course, is just how much this is a view shared by other Canadians. We have this strange wanderlust: we love to travel the world, speak in different languages, listen to different music, eat different foods, drink new alcoholic drinks and find ways new ways to be polite. No, that last thing was not a joke, I really do notice a tendency of Canadians to side on being polite before knocking the other person's teeth out of place.

I'm not even sure it is necessarily that developers aren't telling other people's stories but if major publishers are willing to sell them. Yet another reason to get it direct from a developer, where-ever they may be in the world, with digital download purchases.

Heck, I just had an idea, there are a lot of us gamers all around the world, right? What if we each donated one dollar to an independent developer who had a promising game planned out, couldn't we get their ball rolling easily with 100,000s to 1,000,000s to cover development costs? I've actually seen something like that done for the developer of Dwarf Fortress. That would potentially get us our multi-cultural games, right? I'd be willing to put my money where my mouth is to circumvent the likes of EA.
 

nikudada

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@bcjinky - You said "A lot of you are suggesting that developers are so dumb they can only write about the same things over and over again." I wouldn't even suggest that. I'd flat out say it. In my opinion its not just the stories that are stale - its the mechanism by which they are told. How many times have you played the game where you're the hero and you have to prevent an alien/nazi/evilcorporation/demon from taking over the world. I swear, most writers/developers must have just watched Scooby Doo to get their inspiration.
I do agree that research is helpful and in most every case needed. With that being said I cannot expect a rural white kid from Iowa to be able to write convincing dialog for a black kid who was born and raised in, say, Harlem no matter how much research went on.
Who knows though. Perhaps I'm just a crappy writer. (I am)
 

CanadianWolverine

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nikudada said:
@bcjinky - You said "A lot of you are suggesting that developers are so dumb they can only write about the same things over and over again." I wouldn't even suggest that. I'd flat out say it. In my opinion its not just the stories that are stale - its the mechanism by which they are told. How many times have you played the game where you're the hero and you have to prevent an alien/nazi/evilcorporation/demon from taking over the world. I swear, most writers/developers must have just watched Scooby Doo to get their inspiration.
I do agree that research is helpful and in most every case needed. With that being said I cannot expect a rural white kid from Iowa to be able to write convincing dialog for a black kid who was born and raised in, say, Harlem no matter how much research went on.
Who knows though. Perhaps I'm just a crappy writer. (I am)
Interesting thing is, with the way many triple A titles are made (and I get the impression that you aren't really referring to the diverse stories I have seen in independent games) it is not the developer approving the stories to be developed, its those who sign the payroll, the publishers.

The writers are capable of placing themselves in varied roles, just as flexible as the human psyche is capable of. The developers simply need a better way to get payroll paid for us to get the more diverse games told, which means utilizing more multi-cultural networks and methods of getting that new IP to the market. Circumvent the big publisher-big retailer conglomerate influence, use digital distribution models.
 

bcjinky

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CanadianWolverine said:
I'm not even sure it is necessarily that developers aren't telling other people's stories but if major publishers are willing to sell them. Yet another reason to get it direct from a developer, where-ever they may be in the world, with digital download purchases.
That's a good point. I mean, you read any quotes, interviews or biographies of the CEO's of the major gaming publishers and it's clear they're in this for the money above *all* else. So, innovations are clearly not coming from there.

The gaming audience is growing so fast, though, that thousands of smaller projects can be supported. We'll get the same range of games as we get for movies, with hundreds of artists producing quality smaller movies while the big studios fight over the forgettable blockbuster of the week. Global games will find their audience, but it won't be the big publishers leading the charge.
 

12th_milkshake

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bcjinky said:
Also, I think a lot of the commenters here are vastly underestimating developers and gamers. Developers do a *lot* of research when they're putting together their games, especially the art team. There's no reason why they can't research the history of an African country just as well as they can research the history of an American WWII unit (Call of Duty), medieval knights , samurais or the old West (like the game Gun). Yes, writing what you know is a good rule. But thousands of novelists and filmmakers go beyond their own experience to write. Plus, what's stopping a developer from hiring consultants from other countries? A lot of you are suggesting that developers are so dumb they can only write about the same things over and over again. I don't agree.

I don't agree that American gamers are incapable of connecting with non-American characters, either. Look how many Japanese characters we like. It all depends on the quality of the design. If developers are good enough, and I think they are, they can make a great game based on anything.
I see what your getting at but i think your faith is really miss placed, most research is 2nd/3rd hand at best. Mistranslation and interpretation of something small like in the west the colour white means white and purity where in china it means death. I wouldn't know that if i wasn't an artist and study colour. And if i wasn't an artist this wouldn't know this doesn't make me stupid i just wouldn't know. But i could write a story about a character in china and miss this.

If you look at Pride and Prejudice ? the film and compare it to the BBC drama aired on TV. On the surface they both look good and are both enjoyable and well acted. Both work as entertainment but look at gestures and dresses and dining ethics and social understanding of class. The BBC drama is lot more convincing and accurate. This is not because the film was badly researched or their lack of intelligence. It?s because the BBC costume and drama departments live with this history and do these dramas year in and year out and the film could only do research into a very rich setting for only so long before filming ?has? to start. Even with a consultant there is only so much that one person can do if the team they are working with is not as clued up.

I'm not attacking Americans, the same would go for a Brit doing an American civil war epic. I would have to hit the internet to find out about it. But i'm sure someone who studied it at school for years would have a better and more accurate job of it than me in a few weeks.

It's one reason Sci fi works so well as there are no culture barriers or set rules. And yeah you are right money is the crux of it all really. The more appeal the better.
 

bcjinky

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12th_milkshake said:
I see what your getting at but i think your faith is really miss placed, most research is 2nd/3rd hand at best. Mistranslation and interpretation of something small like in the west the colour white means white and purity where in china it means death. I wouldn't know that if i wasn't an artist and study colour. And if i wasn't an artist this wouldn't know this doesn't make me stupid i just wouldn't know. But i could write a story about a character in china and miss this.
I think this applies to any game set anywhere real, though, and that's not stopping them from making them. Even a game set in New York won't capture every nuance of New York that people who live in New York would recognize. But people still learn *something* about New York from playing games set there. More than they would if the games weren't set there.

No piece of art is going to be a perfect representation of reality, but that shouldn't stop people from trying to get as close as they can.

You make good points, though. Certainly, the ideal situation would be to have people working on games based on stuff they're familiar with. But ideal situations are rare in the world.
 

12th_milkshake

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[quote="bcjinky" post="6.77421.950902"
No piece of art is going to be a perfect representation of reality, but that shouldn't stop people from trying to get as close as they can.[/quote]

Yup your right. I was just on about the question behind the article which is why games are filled with these limited number of cultures and stereotypes.

Stereotypes are apart of this and if you want to set them somewhere else them go for it but it?s just stereotypes will pop up more often. A stereotype is just the most common traits that stand out of a culture, stereotypes are true on base level and there is no getting away from it because how do you portray a mass background population without cultural reference that 'fits' all the population without giving everyone a back story and talking at length about them. Well you profile them ? which is like saying all French talk French! So it?s a stereotype...

The article talks about Tomb Raider and the callus death of a local guide. So what about him. Well basically all we know of him is that he?s a guide so we can assume he?s local. What else do we want to know? If he was interesting enough to be a main character of a game called ?tomb raider? then he would have raided this tomb already! And so what if the story then leaves him for dead. It would have be ?cheesy? for Lara to care about someone she just met or It would be dull and a waste of time for us to watch her either bury him (in which case she would have to bury everyone!) or run back to town and listen to a family grieve.

A game has to be fun and if you have characters in a story for a short time they aren?t going to flesh them out so they become stereotypes and glossed over. So you can get to the action.

If the writer is going to be a bleeding heart about this issue he has to understand it?s about mechanics rather than the some vice of the developed world. ;)
 

bcjinky

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12th_milkshake said:
If the writer is going to be a bleeding heart about this issue he has to understand it?s about mechanics rather than the some vice of the developed world. ;)
I think it's more complex than just that. I think the bottom line is that games would be *better* if they were more diverse, so you don't need to be a "bleeding heart" to care about this, you just need to be someone who wants better games.

I just don't understand why you and others are trying so hard to make excuses for big videogame companies. It's frustrating because it's attitudes like these that are holding back the games industry from fulfilling its potential.

There are *so* many people in the industry with a ton of amazing ideas and concepts who are kept from pursuing them bc publishers think they're too risky. And then there's all these people on game forums who just act like parrots for the publishers. "Oh, that would never work. It's too risky." Well, thanks for your complete lack of imagination. Thanks for supporting uncaring corporations instead of creativity, innovation and originality.

I understand that a lot of people are fine with publishers churning out Halo and Gears of War clones over and over again, but hardcore gamers are a very small portion of the world's population and if videogames want to hit the big time, they've got to expand beyond the sci-fi/fantasy cliches that keep a lot of other people away.
 

bcjinky

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nikudada said:
With that being said I cannot expect a rural white kid from Iowa to be able to write convincing dialog for a black kid who was born and raised in, say, Harlem no matter how much research went on.
Who knows though. Perhaps I'm just a crappy writer. (I am)
Novelists and screenwriters do it all the time. Why not game writers? Because right now, publishers think that nobody cares about the quality of game writing (as evidence, play Gears of War 2) so the talent levels of game writers are mostly poor.
 

olicon

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You, sir, are asking to open Pandora's box. Trust me, it's not fun at all to have a playable character that you can identify with. Why? Because people try wayyyyy too hard to make it happen. I'm from Thailand, and this is more than a slight problem.

Once the cat is out of the bag, every game developer in the country (who are not just out to rip off other properties) are devoted to portraying a main character that is Thai. Soon, crap content starts to be produced en mass, with its sole excuse as "It's Thai!" People don't gobble it up though..because they are crap. And they are that way because they try too hard to incorporate all that is Thai, even when it doesn't fit. Hell, we even have Thai chess game even though nobody play that crap--it's not intuitive, and it's just flat out not fun.

Now all the developers have pretty much bit the dust or moved back to flat out ripping off successful franchise (we have our own Front Mission--exactly like that, a lot of mobile renditions of Mario, and bejeweled.).

Having a character you can identify with is good. But a lot of time, it becomes an excuse to push inexcusable content onto people.
 

Anton P. Nym

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I seem to recall a story a few years ago about an Indian studio releasing a fantasy game (I think) based on the stories of Hanuman, the Monkey God. That sort of multiculturalism in gaming would be great... the kind that Okami brought to the table, or that Too Human was trying for.

You do have to be careful, though, or you'll end up with (as others have pointed out) the same cultural dissonance we saw in the Final Fantasy film with an Eastern story with Western characters jarring Western sensitivities/tastes. But done well, it'd freshen up a gaming scene cluttered with too many studios chasing the same basic story.

-- Steve
 

CanadianWolverine

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Anton P. Nym said:
I seem to recall a story a few years ago about an Indian studio releasing a fantasy game (I think) based on the stories of Hanuman, the Monkey God. That sort of multiculturalism in gaming would be great... the kind that Okami brought to the table, or that Too Human was trying for.

You do have to be careful, though, or you'll end up with (as others have pointed out) the same cultural dissonance we saw in the Final Fantasy film with an Eastern story with Western characters jarring Western sensitivities/tastes. But done well, it'd freshen up a gaming scene cluttered with too many studios chasing the same basic story.

-- Steve
Odd, I found the Final Fantasy film to be entertaining rather than jarring, honestly can't think of why it was being harped on. Then again, I don't play Final Fantasy games because I am tired of that particular style of gameplay and take on a Crpg, so that may have something to do with it, since I didn't really feel any stake in how the movie play out in comparison to the games.

Perhaps it just has more to do with if the gamers themselves desire other view points or shared local view points. Individuality meets conformity or conformity versus individuality, take your pick, right? Difference between tolerating other cultures and embracing other cultures, thus forming a new one.

Personally, I think since all humans play games, gamers who make use of the internet naturally tend towards multiculturalism as far as the limitations of their understanding of languages will allow.
 

TsunamiWombat

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I remember starting a thread (SHAMELESS SELF PANDERING!) where I pitched and asked others to pitch idea's for contemporary games that involved hero's outside the norms or that are controversial. My two idea's were a Splinter Cell-esque game based around the Israeli Secret Service, and a Tactical Squad shooter in the vein of Full Spectrum Warrior based around the Mujahadeen of Afghanistan during the war with the Russians (A time period that would put you fighting alongside Osama Bin Laden). Let me dig to see if I can find them, I still think they would be good and educational games.

Edit: Found it!

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.73861
 

Chris LaVigne

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I just find it hilarious that despite the populations of many of these other countries being much larger than that of Ireland, there have been a considerable of Irish-American characters in games recently. There's Frank Fontaine from BioShock and the protagonist's father from Fallout 3. Even at the height of the population of the country, there were about eight million people, so the Irish seem to have influenced the populations of America far more than their puny population would suggest.

I'd like to see some geographic variety in computer game characters as well, along with settings, but let's face it - unless you have the development team in the country that you wish to portray, you're not going to get the historical accuracy you desire. Given that some Americans can't even point out other countries on a map, what hope would we have of them portraying a battle like Gallipoli, for example, without some gross historical inaccuracies?
 

Novan Leon

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Solipsis said:
Until there are more cultures involved in video game production, we won't see more cultural viewpoints represented. I mean, sure, we'll keep seeing Lara Croft go to Peru (or maybe next time she goes to Suriname, who knows?). But what American, British, Japanese or Canadian developer is going to tackle the problem of how to make a game from a specific cultural viewpoint when they're not from that culture themselves?

I'm sure not going to try to construct a story from the POV of a Chinese, Chilean, or Icelandic hero without someone from that country showing me what that view really looks like. When you write about a fantasy world, there's nobody who can tell you "no, that isn't how it is" there aren't any cultural sensitivities to trip over, and there aren't any right or wrong approaches to the subject. Real cultures are a little more delicate. What we're seeing isn't an unwillingness to explore other people's realities, it's just classic "write what you know" when all the content creators know approximately the same realities.
This is true. Everyone's running around saying "this is how it should be", or "why don't people make games like this", when the answer is simply that people tend to make games from the viewpoint of their own culture, and when they do portray another culture's viewpoint, they usually only do so at a superficial level and in an often flawed manner.
 

SniegZ

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The trouble is, game designers rarely bother to visit any other countries to get to know it's culture and recreate it very half-assed. That's the main problem IMHO.
 

bcjinky

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Novan Leon said:
This is true. Everyone's running around saying "this is how it should be", or "why don't people make games like this", when the answer is simply that people tend to make games from the viewpoint of their own culture, and when they do portray another culture's viewpoint, they usually only do so at a superficial level and in an often flawed manner.
But basically, you're just trying to make up an excuse for laziness.

If writers from every other field can write outside of their own perspective, why can't videogame writers?

Obviously, it's easier to write about your own culture. But since when is doing something that's easy worthy of respect? Just because something is hard doesn't mean nobody should bother doing it.
 

Novan Leon

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bcjinky said:
Novan Leon said:
This is true. Everyone's running around saying "this is how it should be", or "why don't people make games like this", when the answer is simply that people tend to make games from the viewpoint of their own culture, and when they do portray another culture's viewpoint, they usually only do so at a superficial level and in an often flawed manner.
But basically, you're just trying to make up an excuse for laziness.

If writers from every other field can write outside of their own perspective, why can't videogame writers?

Obviously, it's easier to write about your own culture. But since when is doing something that's easy worthy of respect? Just because something is hard doesn't mean nobody should bother doing it.
That's exactly my point. Why bother going through all the trouble when you personally don't care and your target audience buys your games either way? The difference between literature and journalistic writers and videogame writers is simply a matter of priorities. Writing in videogames is a side item while the gameplay is the main entree.
 

bcjinky

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Novan Leon said:
Writing in videogames is a side item while the gameplay is the main entree.
Better writing would make better games. So basically you're arguing *against* making games better.

Videogames' target audience isn't always going to be 13-year-old boys or those with the minds of 13-year-old boys.
 

Novan Leon

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bcjinky said:
Novan Leon said:
Writing in videogames is a side item while the gameplay is the main entree.
Better writing would make better games. So basically you're arguing *against* making games better.

Videogames' target audience isn't always going to be 13-year-old boys or those with the minds of 13-year-old boys.
You're making the mistake of thinking that I'm arguing against anything, I'm not. I'm just explaining why things are the way they are. I'm all for better writing in videogames. I'm all for better everything in videogames, but businesses will prioritize according to what their goals are.
 

bcjinky

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Novan Leon said:
You're making the mistake of thinking that I'm arguing against anything, I'm not. I'm just explaining why things are the way they are. I'm all for better writing in videogames. I'm all for better everything in videogames, but businesses will prioritize according to what their goals are.
I guess I just don't understand why you're posting, then. Everyone knows that businesses want to make money. That's a pretty obvious point to make.

I'm just frustrated that so many people on these forums want to make excuses for game companies not giving us better product. It seems like publishers are reluctant to take any kind of risks, which is understandable, but then they have these legions of forum-posters who jump to their defense for not taking risks, which I don't understand at all.
 

Novan Leon

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bcjinky said:
Novan Leon said:
You're making the mistake of thinking that I'm arguing against anything, I'm not. I'm just explaining why things are the way they are. I'm all for better writing in videogames. I'm all for better everything in videogames, but businesses will prioritize according to what their goals are.
I guess I just don't understand why you're posting, then. Everyone knows that businesses want to make money. That's a pretty obvious point to make.

I'm just frustrated that so many people on these forums want to make excuses for game companies not giving us better product. It seems like publishers are reluctant to take any kind of risks, which is understandable, but then they have these legions of forum-posters who jump to their defense for not taking risks, which I don't understand at all.
I sympathize with your position, but you have to understand that game development is a hard and time consuming process. The time and effort that goes into finding a good writer and building a compelling in-game mechanism for communicating this story is a challenge. It takes talent as well. If you compare American videogames with other American media like movies and TV shows, you'll see that they're all in the same boat when it comes to writing (that is, they're all struggling and usually hit below the mark). Most of the best movies draw inspiration from existing literary material. Perhaps videogames should take the same route and try to draw inspiration from literary sources (like Bioshock so successfully did, for example).

It's in-style to bash companies for being selfish and profit oriented. I just don't want people to assume this is the reason some aspects of game development are lacking. It's not that companies don't want to deliver a great product all the time, it's just that they are forced to make a judgment call on what to focus on given the available resources and time constraints.
 

bcjinky

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Novan Leon said:
It's in-style to bash companies for being selfish and profit oriented. I just don't want people to assume this is the reason some aspects of game development are lacking. It's not that companies don't want to deliver a great product all the time, it's just that they are forced to make a judgment call on what to focus on given the available resources and time constraints.
That may be true of some smaller, independent developers, but if you read anything from the mouths of the businesspeople who run the publishers that control game content, you'll see that it's not a judgment call for them at all. It's a predetermined position in line with what they want from the industry. Activision's head said it best. He wants to "exploit" the products his company puts out. They don't talk about creating the best product. They talk about creating the most profitable product, built on standard, measurable components.

It absolutely is the reason that game development is lacking. I've talked to developers and they have hundreds of ideas for games that would blow us all away, but they lack the support of the people with the money.

If you look at movies, there's a viable alternative to mainstream crap. If you look at music, the same exists. TV has gotten an infusion of alternative content with HBO and the new cable channels. Videogames are still growing their alternative to mainstream, big-publisher-controlled crap. We should support them, instead of making excuses for the big publisher CEOs and executives who wish they could stick to Halo sequels and movie-tie-ins.

If you support making games better, then stop sticking up for the people who are holding gaming back. Support the talented people who want to take up the challenge of making better games instead of the people who want to make a quick buck off of 50 versions of a Shrek game.
 

Novan Leon

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bcjinky said:
Novan Leon said:
It's in-style to bash companies for being selfish and profit oriented. I just don't want people to assume this is the reason some aspects of game development are lacking. It's not that companies don't want to deliver a great product all the time, it's just that they are forced to make a judgment call on what to focus on given the available resources and time constraints.
That may be true of some smaller, independent developers, but if you read anything from the mouths of the businesspeople who run the publishers that control game content, you'll see that it's not a judgment call for them at all. It's a predetermined position in line with what they want from the industry. Activision's head said it best. He wants to "exploit" the products his company puts out. They don't talk about creating the best product. They talk about creating the most profitable product, built on standard, measurable components.

It absolutely is the reason that game development is lacking. I've talked to developers and they have hundreds of ideas for games that would blow us all away, but they lack the support of the people with the money.

If you look at movies, there's a viable alternative to mainstream crap. If you look at music, the same exists. TV has gotten an infusion of alternative content with HBO and the new cable channels. Videogames are still growing their alternative to mainstream, big-publisher-controlled crap. We should support them, instead of making excuses for the big publisher CEOs and executives who wish they could stick to Halo sequels and movie-tie-ins.

If you support making games better, then stop sticking up for the people who are holding gaming back. Support the talented people who want to take up the challenge of making better games instead of the people who want to make a quick buck off of 50 versions of a Shrek game.
You're asking the "big money" to de-prioritize profits in order to take risks on unproven concepts? Why should they, when the status quot is so profitable? Use your movie, music and TV examples for instance. Indy movie projects, fringe music groups and new cable channels are hardly profitable when compared to mainstream productions, even though their quality is debatably magnitudes better in some cases. Every once in a while there is an exception and a movie/group/show becomes a huge hit, but in general the money is in the mainstream (sadly). I don't see this changing, no matter how much I want it to. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for corporations to prioritize the desires of the few over the wallets of the many, and to be honest, there's nothing wrong with this.

I would rather put my efforts, not into changing the mentality of some of the corporate giants, but rather into supporting those who share your ideals. For me this would be Nintendo (WiiWare), Valve (pioneers in creativity and embracing the mod community), some of the smaller development groups such as 2K Boston/2K Australia (Bioshock), the thousands of independent modding groups out there, and the other companies that act as true pioneers in modern gaming. Only once the pioneers scout out the new territory will the mainstream settlers follow.
 

bcjinky

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Novan Leon said:
I would rather put my efforts, not into changing the mentality of some of the corporate giants, but rather into supporting those who share your ideals. For me this would be Nintendo (WiiWare), Valve (pioneers in creativity and embracing the mod community), some of the smaller development groups such as 2K Boston/2K Australia (Bioshock), the thousands of independent modding groups out there, and the other companies that act as true pioneers in modern gaming. Only once the pioneers scout out the new territory will the mainstream settlers follow.
I agree. You're right. That's exactly what I mean.

I don't expect the "big money" to de-prioritize profits. But I do expect videogame fans to stop shamelessly defending EA, Activision, THQ and the like for putting out mostly mediocre product.

Plus, you're wrong about indie projects not being profitable. Yes, when they make profits, they're not in the same league. But you have to remember that they're operating on much different scales. A $15 million dollar game has to sell a lot to make its money back, whereas a $50,000 game obviously doesn't have to sell as much. Similarly, a company with thousands of employees needs high revenue to pay everyone (plus investors). A company with 10 employees needs only enough to pay 10 people.

Smaller projects means smaller risks. Plus, you get the un-priceable, intangible benefit of working on something you love rather than updating textures for the latest Madden title.
 

Novan Leon

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bcjinky said:
Novan Leon said:
I would rather put my efforts, not into changing the mentality of some of the corporate giants, but rather into supporting those who share your ideals. For me this would be Nintendo (WiiWare), Valve (pioneers in creativity and embracing the mod community), some of the smaller development groups such as 2K Boston/2K Australia (Bioshock), the thousands of independent modding groups out there, and the other companies that act as true pioneers in modern gaming. Only once the pioneers scout out the new territory will the mainstream settlers follow.
A $15 million dollar game has to sell a lot to make its money back, whereas a $50,000 game obviously doesn't have to sell as much. Similarly, a company with thousands of employees needs high revenue to pay everyone (plus investors). A company with 10 employees needs only enough to pay 10 people.
Good point.

bcjinky said:
Smaller projects means smaller risks. Plus, you get the un-priceable, intangible benefit of working on something you love rather than updating textures for the latest Madden title.
Well, that's certainly true. :)