Censorship in Games

For a long time now, Video games have been first culprit behind an act of crime involving the youth. Many games will have a level of violence in it, and as the years go by and the industry grows and progresses, more themes have been introduced. Themes such as nudity, sexual themes, drugs, torture, horror, death and more. With this in mind, it’s no doubt that we have have an age rating on games to ensure that children are not exposed to themes they are not ready for. With that said, young people will still play games above their age and thus leads to the issue that children act out what they see and develop aggressive behavior.

There have been many video game related murders, or cases where the killer will have a background of playing violent games. We have the Sandy Hook shooting and Anders Breivik’s case who has gloated about learnt from Modern Warfare.
We already have music videos and movies depicting sexual images, and parents in most cases will make sure that their children will not view such content, yet will hand over the latest COD game then blame it for all the violence in the world for it.

And this is why it is the parents duty to take control. It goes against the right of adults enjoying what they wish, and isn’t fair that they are to lose out if a parent or teacher is blaming something that wasn’t intended for children in the first place.

But with all the negativity, the pros to gaming are ignored, such as cooperating in teams, as mentioned by Will Wright. There are many cognitive skills learnt from playing games. Children are like sponges, and take example by what they see and act upon it. That is to say, why they are exposed to such things. Age ratings are there for a reason, and its the parents responsibility to abide by that if they want to ensure their child is not experience things they deem as damaging to their minds. Saying that they should also check the content themselves instead of handing their child the game so easily.


Gregory Ferenstein, Tech Crunch, Violent Video Games Do Cause Some Violence, But Censorship Won’t Help: http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/20/violent-video-games-do-cause-some-violence-but-censorship-wont-help/

Christopher J. Ferguson, Time Ideas, Sandy Hook Shooting: Video Games Blamed Again: http://ideas.time.com/2012/12/20/sandy-hook-shooting-video-games-blamed-again/

Steven Poole, Edge, Video Game Censorship is Damaging: http://www.edge-online.com/features/videogame-censorship-damaging/


Racism in games

Racism seems to have been present in games much like any other kind of media. Whether its revolving the main character or someone you see in the streets for a mission benefiting chat, racism- at some level- will exist. This varies from real life races, and fictional be it in the past or future.
Discrimination has normally involved characters being placed in stereotypical roles. And the main subject tends to be of those from a rough background associated with crime, drugs and other dodgy areas being pinned on Black and Hispanic people, and middle eastern folks as terrorists. With this said, in most cases, white characters are almost always the hero, and if a minority is on the good side, they would normally only rank to supporting role and admire the hero.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, is a great game with a great flaw in it. A homeless informant named Letitia almost throws you back completely when she starts talking. Many have expressed their offence when they hear her accent, and it is indeed something that puts Deus Ex a few steps back.
In Red Dead Redemption, we have the character Irish, who is the stereotypical embodiment of what and Irish man is apparently like.
There’s also Scribblenaughts, a completely harmless game, that when one inputs something will see it come to life. When the word ‘Sambo’ is typed, a watermelon appears. This is apparently racist towards black people as its a racial slur aimed at Africans.

From a personal view, if I ever enjoy or become a fan of a character, it’s because I like the characters personality, who they are and how they do things. I’m able to identify with them, but physically I can’t. Being Pakistani, I can’t really say that there are many protagonists that are the same race as me (unless in COD you choose what country’s side you’re in.)
We have eastern characters, such as Altair from the Assassins Creed series who is noted to be Arabian, the Prince from Prince of Persia, which is obvious where about he’s from. The Assassins Creed series even takes us to Turkey and introduces the lovable Yusuf. Deus Ex has the pilot Farida Malik.  But theses are literally the few that I can remember off the top of my head, and it’s sad that we don’t have many characters of a middle eastern race that can leave a bigger impression on us.
And I think that’s where the option of making a custom character is appreciated as there will be characters of different colors and races. But then comes the little hoohah of race within a fantasy game. Fantasy minorities have become an in-game tactic to bring in the same type of racism we see on the streets in real life. For example, in Dragon Age: Origins, elves are a victim to racial slurs, and though at first you might think “Aww, haha poor elves”, you’ll soon realize how life like this all actually is. We even have Dwarfs mistrusting Elves and its interesting how this kind of discrimination is almost needed in the game to make the world feel real to us. This also involves alien species having it in for each other as well, with the hate between Salarians and Krogans and the plan to destroy their kind and stop them from reproducing.

Chad Hunter, Complex Gaming, The 15 Most Stereotypical Characters In Video Games: http://www.complex.com/video-games/2012/05/the-15-most-stereotypical-characters-in-video-games/

Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku, The Weirdly Racist NPC in Deus Ex: Human Revolution: http://kotaku.com/5836692/that-weirdly-racist-npc-in-deus-ex-human-revolution

Duke Thibodeaux, AlterGamer, Don’t Be An Elf: Racism In Games: http://www.altergamer.com/racism-in-video-games/

Yi Mou and Wei Peng, Gender and Racial Sterotypes in Popular Video Games: https://www.msu.edu/~pengwei/Mou%20Peng.pdf

Peter Mai, OCWeekly, 7 Racist Video Games You Had No Idea Were Racist: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/2011/01/7_video_games_you_had_no_idea.php

Sexism in games

Should Video games perpetuate gender and racial stereotypes?

This is quite a touchy subject that’s always caught in the crossfire of arguments and discussion. The main focused victims of sexism are females who are proclaim to have issues with how they are depicted within games and are treated for playing them. Such online discussion about female players became known through Twitter with the hashtag “#1reasonwhy”, which came about when Luke Crane asked “Why are there so few lady game creators?“. Many responses raised varied points such as how they were ignored, sexist slurs, not catering to the designs of over-sexualised characters and sexual harassment. On the positive side, another tag, “#1reasontobe” was made to encourage women to speak up and follow their aspirations, and just like the negatives were listed, many more positives were brought up.

Women in games are widely shown as busty, curvaceous babes, either as a damsels in distress or kicking ass. But these physical aesthetics make many uncomfortable, especially women, as it’s argued that these characters are not realistic. This however is the same for males as they will typically be tall with a ‘heroic’ body build. But, this is not the only body shape for both playable characters and NPC’s, unlike the limited build for women.

As games are becoming more cinematic, sexual themes have become more present, and are presented in a number of ways. Such as eye candy which isn’t always a busty babe in a bikini but can just be a cute chick in the team, never the less, it has to be an attractive woman (or man!) to give the game more desirable. Nudity, whether its partial or a complete birthday suit, many women seem to be losing more and more clothes for reasons that seem to exist for the heck of existing. For example in the later installments of the Soul Calibur series, when a character is hit enough, items of clothing will break off, which in the case of the custom character- based on what their underwear is set as- will be stripped to their underwear.
In God Of Wars case, some women (or humanoid women) will be nude to present its time, and though it might be done in a casual historic way, it is definitely seen as something else, especially with the option of joining beautiful women in bed.
There are a lot of cases where having a female avatar will get attention from male players; whether that attention is wanted or not. But it’s the negative attention that makes female gamers uncomfortable. Other users will harass female gamers, discussing topics outside of the game that are not seen as charming, shall I say. This will lead to players having a disdainful experience and might either put them off playing or making a new avatar that is a male or not very pleasing to the eye.

“Stygian Physic is big, black, and male. I created him that way because I didn’t want to get hit on all the time. I wanted to be noticed for my skills, not my pixel-boobs. By playing as a guy, I found that people treated me differently. Being a guy enabled me to form relationships that I would never otherwise be able to experience.”
Rebecca Glasure, Alter Egos: Avatars and their Creators, Robbie Cooper.

Other References:

God Of War series, SCE Santa Monica Studio, Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Soul Series, Namco.

Fruzsina Eordogh, Slate, Video Game Industry Has Twitter Powwow On Sexism With #1ReasonWhy, http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/11/27/_1reasonwhy_hashtag_video_game_industry_has_twitter_powwow_on_sexism.html

Jeremy Render, Sexism in Video Games, Cheat Code Central, http://www.cheatcc.com/extra/sexisminvideogames2.html#.UPiAyB1g9vd

Laura Bates, The Independent, Art Imitating Life: How Sexism in Video Games Mirrors Real-Life Gender Imbalance, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/art-imitating-life-how-sexism-in-video-games-mirrors-reallife-gender-imbalance-8381426.html

Mary Hamilton, The Guardian, #1reasonwhy: the hashtag that exposed game industry sexism, http://m.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2012/nov/28/games-industry-sexism-on-twitter

Poor Lara…

Tomb Raider heroin Lara Croft has been one of the biggest sex symbols since her first installment. Her obvious figure was part of the title, but her attitude was signature in what we know as Lara Croft. Her recent reboot has received good feedback as her body is more realistic and proportionate and is seen in vulnerable situations in which we have never seen her react in such ways before. One subject that has raised controversy is a scene from the trailer which apparently points towards Lara about to be raped.

Now this has created a storm of blog posts, tweets, comments, youtube videos etc, of how offended they are with the subject and how uncalled for it is. Ron Rosenberg, executive producer, was the first source talking about the ‘rape scene’ and many have retaliated to his words, such as disagreeing when he  mentioned- that Lara will be cornered like an animal, and hit back with questions as to why a female character has to prove her strength by showing how broken she was in the past when men race on through without having to explain for their bravery.
As many cry against this so called rape scene, some speak out that the footage shown doesn’t show any kind of sexual activity and in fact pushes towards the moment where Lara kills someone for the first time. And that Lara is seen as weak or facing challenges in a not-so-ready manner is showing us how she grows into the woman we know today.

In my personal opinion, i agree with the latter. So many people are getting sensitive over the subject of rape, but will easily turn and play a game that involves killing, torturing, mutilating and other R rated things. One of the most poplar games are first person shooters like Call Of Duty, where you as a player generally aim to stick a bullet in the enemies head, and an enemy of which is another country who are depicted as bad.
Lara, intelligent, acrobatic, accurate, strong, handy, keen, sexy, anything that illustrates her as flawless, is what we know her as. But surely she wasn’t born a perfect goddess? And when we have someone with more than a handful of games under their belt, evidently there has to be a story behind it all to lead to this kind of result. And this also brings up the argument about why she has to prove her strength by being broken, while men don’t. Lara has one of the longest running series, and I don’t think anyone has ever questioned against who she is (apart from how she can painlessly do what she does with so much ‘weight’ at the front) but is more praised and looked up to. If anything, I was always interested in what made her the woman she is today, and the new reboot seems to be giving me the answer!
As for the infamous ‘rape scene’ and the following arguments of why it takes rape to show a woman being a survivor is just an overreaction. As said, it doesn’t seem to be leading to a rape scene, to me it seemed that the man was toying with her, scaring her more, maybe hinting at the idea to play on her fear. But if it is leading to such a result, I don’t see why it is suddenly a huge deal when prostitution is present in games and just as degrading and devastating at some degree. I agree, rape is a horrible thing, and shouldn’t be spoken of so lightly, but to be targeted when used for storytelling in a game, is a contradicting move as we are constantly surrounded by horrific images of death and other rated subjects.
Crystal Dynamics even try to clear things up and explain what their intentions are and that the scene isn’t actually leading towards Lara being raped.
The game isn’t even out yet, so to judge the game so harshly when one hasn’t even played it isn’t too wise. And from what knowledge I have from the game so far, there seems to be only men, or a majority of men on that island, so why is it so surprising that these scavengers would do such a horrible thing? I don’t think it’s something Crystal Dynamics wanted to add to the list of all the things that are breaking Lara’s back, but something that would be expected in that situation; if it was the case. Saying that, I’m not for the act of rape, but it’s something that happens.

I can never see rape defining Lara, nor do I believe the companies behind it do either. I understand their intentions, and I think that they were just trying to show how Lara learns to create the tough exterior she carries with her today and makes her more human and realistic for us to relate to, other than being a sexualised item.
If we are to be so sensitive towards stories then lets talk about why so many super heroes are orphans. Being a child without parents doesn’t sound like a fun experience, yet it’s always used to show some sort of character development… now that’s a subject used pretty lightly.


Michael Plant, The Independent, Crystal Dynamics release Tomb Raider ‘rape’ clarification statement, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/gaming/crystal-dynamics-release-tomb-raider-rape-clarification-statement-7854068.html

Mary Hamilton, The Guardian, Does Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft really have to be a survivor of a rape attempt?, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/13/tomb-raider-lara-croft-rape-attempt

Essay Research

How do avatars affect the players experience within video games?

Four years ago, I sat down at a computer, clicked a few buttons, filled out a text box or two, and in a few short minutes created something it takes the most accomplished novelists years to produce: a fictional character with a life of its own.
-Julian Dibbell, Alter Ego: Avatars and their creators.

Couldn’t of described it better. It’s that easy to create a virtual persona to which we give our ideal physical attributes to. A man can finally be the Princess he knew he was meant to be, a lean built boy can have muscles so big they engulf his face, a cat lover can have real cat ears and tail and sound like an authentic kitty- “nyaaaa~”

…since we have full control over our own image- other people see us in the way we want to be seen. A huge role is played here by the ability to choose appearance, which has become an obsession in the postindustrial society”
“-there is no needs for strict diets, exhausting exercise programs, or cosmetic surgeries- a dozen or so mouse clicks is enough to adapt one’s “self” to expectations. Thus, we have an opportunity to painlessly manipulate our identity, to create situations that we could never experience in the real world because of social, sex-, or race-related restrictions.”
Mark. J. P. Wolf, The Video Game Theory Reader, Hyperidentities

When given the choice to create an avatar, we  tend to make a copy of our real world selves to recognize and help relate to,. Similar to players  preferring to play games with human (or humanoid) characters as they’re easier to empathize with. This is because humans are commonly more comfortable with either staying human, or pertaining physical human-like qualities when playing. Other factors to making an avatar resembling the player, is to improve it in ways they can’t in real life, such as mentioned before, adding real cat ears and tails and having super powers and abilities.

“The majority of users create avatars bearing their resemblance to simplify identification”
  -Mark. J. P. Wolf, The Video Game Theory Reader, Hyperidentities. 

“From the early 1980’s on, however, character-based player surrogates were by far the most common form of player-character in video games, no doubt due in part to the stronger identification they could engender”
 -Mark. J. P. Wolf, The Video Game Theory Reader, Abstraction in the Video Game.

We humans are a self-centered race. We see ourselves in everything.”
-Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, The Vocabulary of Comics.


Often we play as a given character who become household names with their own franchise (Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft for example). And though we may have not chosen to be the character, our attitude changes due to the appearance of the character and situation. This includes how we make decisions based on the influence the characters stereotype has on us.

“…Gamers using negative avatars — such as those wearing black cloaks — exhibited aggressive and antisocial behavior…”
Erin Mulvaney, The Jarkata Globe, Why Video Game Avatars Can Go to Your Head, Research by University of Texas

Tears and Beards


This movie was somewhat depressing. Interesting no doubt, but ultimately made me feel quite bad about myself and if anything demoralized me a little. I know this movie was made to open our eyes to the struggles of indie developers, but through the entire film I couldn’t help seeing myself in their situation (beard and everything!) crushed by all the difficulties and hardships of making a game alone.
The film centers on 3 companies on their adversities and personal lives and views, done in an engaging way with each story representing past, present and future. Jonathon Blow tells us about how he felt after his successful release of Braid and how he reflects on the audiences response to his game. The developers of Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes show us how they worked as they came closer to their deadlines and when they finally got to release it. Finally we see Phil Fish, maker of Fez, going through one of the most depressing processes to get his game finished and how people react when he doesn’t deliver on time.



This story wasn’t as long as the other two, but was a great perspective to see through. For Blow the making of Braid started out as just a test and eventually became an experience and then a discovery. Despite being a commercial success, Blow was more or less indifferent to it once acknowledging that no one understood the depth of the game. As he had tried to put in his personal qualities such as flaws and insecurities, he expected a different reaction and couldn’t let the ignorance pass by. So in an attempt to get people to understand his game, Blow would comment and respond on forums trying to correct any accusations and insight of the game. Unfortunately, interacting with his audience like this

Jonathon Blow

Jonathon Blow

backfired and instead created a negative impression about him. He was mocked for his replies and lurking like qualities shown in his quick responses.
I find his view interesting and relatable, the disappointment when it seems like no one is taking the time to understand your work or even give thought-out feedback is crushing. Most the time when I show anything I’ve worked on, I hardly get any response at all, so even if got a negative response, I’d be happy with it! I understand his intentions of wanting to be understood, but his methods of doing so weren’t done in the right way and came across as opinionated and arrogant.

Super Meatboy


Team Meat

I really liked the approach Edmund and Tommy took when making Super Meatboy. To create a game for their former selves; their childhood. There’s something really heart warming about that, to take into consideration what one was like as a child and what would please that child. Unlike most companies, who work for the audience and make games for the people, these guys made it for themselves, and I admire that. To think how huge game companies are, many people with their own ideas swimming around in their heads and never seeing the day of light because of their position. Its a sad thought, and I’m dreading to be in that position. Having two people working on a game has its advantages. And with no one to answer to apart from themselves it allows flexibility. And in their case with humor, like the concept of the villain being a fetus and Meatboy sticking his middle finger up (though he gets away with that because he has three fingers)
Other things I admire about these two is how much of their childhood inspired them. At a personal perspective, my childhood means a lot to me, then again I’m sure that’s the same for everyone else. But it’s also because I have been growing up with my siblings children, and it seems like childhood has never really left my side. I’m constantly surrounded by imaginitve child-made games, child point of views.
The developers personally came across both arrogant and interesting. As a pair they were quite the opposite and worked together pretty well. They had confidence in their skills but didn’t seem as humble as they could of been. I understand that having self confidence and the attitude of knowing what you’re doing and believing in your skills is very important in this industry. In any industry. But I think there’s a point where it can give off the wrong impression and thus ricochet back to them. Edmund mentions how he hates Halo and COD, stating that he’s only interested in making ‘good games’. Fair do’s for having an opinion, I myself am not a fan of COD and only played Halo 3 because of a  funny YouTube video I saw… But I think to bash others and make out that your work has more to it than others is a big statement to make and puts your work in spotlight and ready to be criticized  One of the things I learnt from this movie is if you tell the people that your’re going to give them something, they’ll wait, and expect that exact description of something amazing, mindblowing, different etc. And when the people don’t get what they were promised, they’ll let you know, oh they’ll let you know, and in most cases will have no mercy on you.


Fish getting front row view of his first game

This whole story should have a movie of its own called ‘The Melancholy of Phil Fish’.
While working on ‘Fez’, Fish had redesigned it three times, including retouching the aesthetics to pixel art. On top of that, the game was worked on by only Fish and another man who decides to leave him to fend for himself in a pool of angry and callous people, demanding to get their long awaited game. Watching Fish’s story, I couldn’t help thinking that I would more likely be in his position. Purely because I’m scared of completion. Many of art work sit unfinished, because I’m scared to finish them. I like knowing that I can improve something, while it’s in the stage of being worked on, that way I can have a reason for any criticism pointing out faults. Knowing that the door is still open comforts me (unless its my bedroom door, then its shut tight so as not to seem like I’m inviting over any unwanted old school horror characters…) It’s something definitely to work on, or I’ll get nowhere in the future handing over bald mannequin pose sketches for a character design…