176: Global Games, Local Perspectives

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.