Ethnic representations and character design.

Discussion in 'General' started by Adio, Jan 28, 2002.

  1. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    In another thread Mirkan said,

    "You could argue that Vanessa is the first really brave design."

    Yes. That's something that has always been on my mind. Well here's how I see it, as an ethnic minority (Black) in the UK I've never been truly satisfied by the way Black people were presented in fighting games (any game for that matter). If they weren't six foot plus power houses without a clue they were wise talking hip hop dude jerks (Zack-DOA) or worse, criminals like M Bison (Balrog).

    Capcom's Street Fighter 2 was the worst culprit but, later one of the best ambassadors. In Street Fighter 2 you had two characters, M Bison, a spin on Mike Tyson who was portrayed to be an evil pimping maniac while Dee Jay Maximum was a Jamaican DJ (Always with the music) who just had to say Mon in every sentence (My cousins from Kingston would be pissed) and felt compelled to always smile like a prick. Music or money, throughout Street Fighter 2 those were the only messages you got, nothing deep like revenge or finding the meaning of fighting just pimping and bloody maracas.

    This was taken to the zenith of insults when Street Fighter Alpha appeared. Birdie....What the heck was up with that?! Not only was he big and stupid but he had inflatable lips! He was animated to look like a gorilla and do you know what his reason for fighting was? yep, bloody money, the guy wanted to join Vega (M Bison) so he could earn big bucks...

    I really hated Street Fighter for a time, that was one of the reasons I started playing King Of fighters. KOF had a similar mind set with Black people in sports but, they were portrayed in a positive manner. Heavy D (yet more references to music) and Lucky (a basket ball star) were actually cool characters in the game despite their blatant sports related designs.

    The funny thing was as I mentioned earlier, Capcom did a 180 with their character designs when Street Fighter 3 came along. Dudley was a boxer (surprised?) but, and this is the real turning point, he was rich from a successful career and family wealth through legitimate practices. In fact his story involved winning back his fathers prized car from the boss, rather than making the ultimate rhythm like Dee Jay (wanker). Next you had Elena, she was this foxy girl from Kenya (Africa) who was studying to find a cure for her tribes environmental drought. Elena used Cappoerira Angola (Same thing as the Brazilian style but with more emphasis on its African roots) to deadly effect with dynamic kicks.

    Her personality was very cute as she was a happy go lucky sort of person who just liked to kick the crap out of you for fun (she'd even thank you for the pleasure). The final and imo the most unique (probably because he's my favourite) was Sean. Sean was just a regular kid from an average family in Brazil but had great potential as a fighter. He became infatuated with Ken's technique after watching him fight and begged Ken to take him as his pupil. Ken accepted and taught him the basics, but encouraged Sean to find his own style.

    To this effect Sean went on a journey much like Ryu in the hopes of realising his potential as a fighter. He even ran into Ryu himself, and after a thorough beating (He's just a kid) from Ryu he becomes even more determined. The thing I liked about Sean was that he wasn't perfect like the other Shotokan fighters but he was trying, and was walking his own path to perfection. Sean had some connection to sport in that his taunt was chucking a basket ball at his foes (it was a good move though) but, in a nut shell he was well thought out, smart, cool and Black without having anything to do with crime, music or a professional sporting career.

    This has been drawn out but, on Virtua Fighter my views are mixed. Jeffery McWild is a powerful individual who doesn't use a typical Black style. He likes Reggie music but he's Australian which, until VF, games had led you to believe that black people only came from the UK or the USA other than Africa or the Caribbean. Plot wise you can't really fault him as VF's story line is weak anyway but, a fisherman with a vendetta against a giant shark is not bad, if a little comical. Now Vanessa, is interesting, she has looks and has power equal and above many male fighters in the game. She's portrayed as tough and elitist, nothing wrong with that from a character design view.

    I think the game developing industry (Japan) has woken up to the fact that there is more to different ethnic cultures than what you see in some crap TV show or hear on the radio. Things are looking up.
     
  2. American_Pai

    American_Pai Well-Known Member

    Game designers have come a long way in their designs of black people I must say but they still have their occasional setbacks. Am2 designs some of most nonsterotypical characters for VF but then they got amnesia for Shenmue I and II (you gotta love black dancing hotdog vendors and rappers who can barely speak the language). For every Jeffrey McWild there are two Tigers so there's still some need for improvement. Heh...this thread reminds of my boy's classic quote I still remember to this day, "why can't we be the ninja?"
     
  3. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    "why can't we be the ninja?"

    Indeed that is a classic. Well said.
     
  4. chingdude

    chingdude Well-Known Member

    i always figured jeffrey was supposed to be an australian aborigine based on his country of origin and his australoid physical features such as the heavy brow ridge, chest and arm hair, and low hip-to-waist metric ratio. does anyone know for certain what his background is?

    thanks.
     
  5. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    Jeffery doesn't look Aborigine to me. He looks like a Black man of African decent. I have arm hair (leg hair for that matter too). I've never seen those features in him.
     
  6. nxw0016

    nxw0016 Well-Known Member

    Jeffery does not look black to me.

    Even Vanessa does not look typical black -- wondering why would they design Vanessa's hair as white/silver........? Anyway she is cool.

    This is why I think it's a joke even trying to identify people's ethnic back ground by looking (in real life).
     
  7. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    It's not so much the hair as these things can be changed. People dye their hair or relax it all the time, it's the colour of the skin and the following personas that matter. Because the world is no where near fair or equal it matters that people are portrayed to be equal in media and other forms of entertainment to promote better relations.

    Mike Tyson is an arse hole, a convicted criminal. Why would anyone wish to emulate him? Yet, Capcom did and as a result thousands of kids grew up playing Street Fighter 2 and saw the prick on their SNES's or in the arcade. Why not use Wesley Snipes? he's a successful actor and openly practices Kick Boxing/Mue Thai and is perceived to be a law abiding person.

    Black people come in a huge variety of shades and facial features but that isn't the issue. That they have people of different ethnic backgrounds who are portrayed to have depth equal to those of different cultures is.
     
  8. gaishou

    gaishou Well-Known Member

    i think the whole m.bison thing in SF was made as a joke really. when they released it in the U.S, they changed it to Balrog....seems like they were poking fun...maybe i'm wrong but who knows besides crapcom??
     
  9. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    I wasn't laughing then. I wasn't laughing when Super Street Fighter arrived with Dee Jay Maximum. And I sure as hell wasn't laughing when Street Fighter Alpha brought in Birdie. Anything is funny when it's at someone else's expense.

    Capcom swapped the names because they'd have been sued to kingdom come. Mike Tyson/M Bison, it's painfully obvious.
     
  10. gaishou

    gaishou Well-Known Member

    Capcom swapped the names because they'd have been sued to kingdom come. Mike Tyson/M Bison, it's painfully obvious.

    this i know.
     
  11. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    I'm well aware that Birdie was in Street Fighter, it's his appearance in Alpha which annoyed me. M Bison is portrayed to be an evil boss character in SF2 but he became more of a comedy character in Alpha 3 with his new animation (especially when he's hit). Dee Jay and Birdie were definitely comedy characters, though I wasn't laughing at all.
     
  12. Shadowdean

    Shadowdean Well-Known Member

    Hmm, brazillian is NOT black, countrary to what most people believe. Like america, blacks live in Brazil, but to be Brazillian is not to be black nessisairly. I think part of your observations also come as you grew older. "A jump shot or selling crack rock" was how Biggie Smalls said a black man has it out of the ghetto. So, how is sports better than hip hop music? THe persuit of perfection, in any form, is truly a worthy endevour.
    Some other notes. Elena - africa-angola (the speration in terms from regional and angola came after "school"s of thought/practice developed in Brazil) is the more spiritual form of angola, where the regional tends to be a bit faster and more combative..Good points though overall and I do agree.
     
  13. Chanchai

    Chanchai Well-Known Member

    I agree with your disgust at using very stereotypical black characters such as the Capcom early designs.

    However, I also feel that fighting games don't have good plots and character designs are almost always based on some corny stereotype, and this concerns all races. Furthermore, I assume the character designers were from Japan and as such live in a culture that is sort of isolated from certain ethnic backgrounds (though certainly blacks do visit Japan--such as Ryan Hart hehehe).

    However, assuming a really good plot can occur, having a vicious bad guy being black or any minority wouldn't bother me. Though I'm not really a fan of Roger Ebert, you may find interest in what he wrote (concerning a very similar subject) <a target="_blank" href=http://www.suntimes.com/output/eb-feature/cst-ftr-ebert18.html>here</a>. Regarding the ideas portrayed in this piece, I would say I agree.

    -Chanchai
     
  14. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    Shadowdean you're right, Brazilian is not Black but, Sean is. Like Eddy Gordo and Christie from Tekken are Black too. Brazilian is a nationality, Black is an ethnic group. I'm a second generation Black British/English but if you take Americans where Black people go back generations, they're Black there's no denying that but they are Americans because that is the country they were born to.

    It has got nothing to do with where you're from, it's all to do with what you look like, and then how you are perceived because of that image.

    With regard to the "A jump shot or selling crack rock" was how Biggie Smalls said a black man has it out of the ghetto." is exactly what I mean, I have no connection to the Ghetto growing up in north west London, Hip Hop/Rap has got nothing to do with me. Yet, Music, Sport and Crime are the three most common things to enter societies mind when they relate to Black people.

    Where are the actors, doctors, rock climbers or wanderers? Wanting to be the best at anything you do is noble, yes but, why must it be about Music, Sport or Crime? Before Sean there wasn't one Black character that fought just for the sake of fighting to be strong.

    With regard to Elena, cheers for pointing out the differences.
     
  15. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    Chanchai, I'm well aware that games are hardly the format for intelligent scripts but, what they do show of ethnic cultures they should be more considerate as they don't get a quarter of the same exposure. I too wouldn't mind as much if the scripts were better but they're not.

    Tekken had a great thing with Eddy Gordo. Though he did have a connection to Crime, he was an innocent man who was out for revenge against Kazuya for murdering his Father and ruining his family name. Fair enough, this had merit but what did Namco do, they get rid of Eddy for a more acceptable cute girl who flashes her arse a lot, great....

    I wouldn't be surprised if Christie returns to Tekken 5 to avenge Eddy Gordo's death by Kazuya, or some other rubbish that expels him from the game forever.

    I know this may seem trivial to those unaffected but it adds up to those who do.

    Cheers for the link too.
     
  16. ken

    ken Well-Known Member

    Ethnic stereotypes exist because generally stereotypes apply. A high percentage of Corners are owned by Greek grocers; asians own laundromats, take aways and restaurants and they eat lots of rice, Lebanese own grocers or kebab shops, black americans crime, money, boxing..

    The above list is not an attempt to be racist but rather a fact of life whether these facts are used to ridicule or ostricise others is what what racism is about.

    All ethnic groups have ethnic based crime syndicates, fighting styles, culture, areas of excellence, music.

    Black, Olive, Yellow, White these terms are more used more in a descriptive or classificational manner nowadays. Though they really shouldn't be used anyway. But even Black man calls himself Black man, Yellow man says he's yellow, white man thinks he's white... olive people can swing either way.. some may use it other dont.. some can hack their own kind using it to describe them but not someone else.

    So anger/outrage should only be used when these stereotypes are used with malicious or derogatory intent.

    In terms of their use in games I really don't think there is much abuse in that department. The character design is always influenced by the target market audience. Every fighting game has some sort of good vs evil plot. Has the token asian guy, token american, token european. VF4 obviously has based a character on each continent and designed character recognisable to a Japanese/Asian, American and European community. Though you generally can't please everyone.

    Characters will always be designed through what sells the game. If anything most fighting games are written by Asian with character representing the good and bad aspects of the asian culture. Anything in between is generally not interesting.

    Being Asian and born in Australia meant I've been through the racism phase and see it happen even till today. Though in the last ten years racism has been reduced dramatically. In my opinion people are people despite what colour they are. They come in all flavours as well.. good and bad.

    Ethnic crime stereotypes are totally acceptable in my opinion... unfortunately people who look and dress like gangsters usually are. So you'd be a fool think "the hoodlum looking guys tailing me a just out for a late night walk". I've been robbed by Asians because I'm Asian, Whites because I'm asian and Blacks because they're black and a mixed group because I was 10 years old. Stereotype and reputation are usually earned over time. Whether it changes or not starts with the individual and that takes a long to phase out as well.

    Human nature is to blame.. we are all human and we're not perfect. Implying society treats you unfairly is another form of racism or bigotry against society, the sword cuts both ways and you can never win. Who cares what other people think as long as you can hold your head up and say I can live with myself and I'm proud of who I am. But if your a fucking scum of the earth who preys off others and commits crime you can fucking rot in hell no matter what race you are.
     
  17. ken

    ken Well-Known Member

    Next we'll argue about religion as "Hell" is a Christian concept...
     
  18. Zero-chan

    Zero-chan Well-Known Member

    From what I recall Grace from Fighting Vipers was the first potrayal of an attractive black character... like you said, KoF had some sports-hero type characters that were a step in a more positive direction than what Capcom was portraying... But Grace was the first black female in a fighter I know of, and she could be considered a "babe", so to speak, even if you do think the rollerblades are silly. (^^) FV2 has Charlie as well, though he's closer to the "sporting" type of portrayal.

    FV series characters as a whole are more based on pop-culture stereotypes as opposed to ethnicity though...
     
  19. Murasame

    Murasame Well-Known Member

    Jax of Mortal Kombat was a policeman I think.. (whatever it was Sonya did, Jax is from there as well)

    If I were black I definitely wouldn't be amused by Dee Jay...
     
  20. Adio

    Adio Well-Known Member

    Stereotypes are wrong Ken. They exist only to limit a persons view of another via ignorence which only breeds more ignorance and then fear or hate that makes an even bigger gap.

    The above list is not an attempt to be racist

    Well you succeeded and in giving me that impression.

    But rather a fact of life whether these facts are used to ridicule or ostricise others is what what racism is about.

    To believe such things is to condone them. These aren't facts they're just generalisations. One part of a culture if it is in fact true that has been given far more attention then it possibly deserves over another.

    All ethnic groups have ethnic based crime syndicates, fighting styles, culture, areas of excellence, music.

    Sure, everyone has their negative traits and some cultures have traditions or practices that have given the Ethnic group an image of excellence in a certain field. But because you're from a certain ethnic group it doesn't in any way confirm you have so and so talents.

    The word Black has meaning, especially with African Americans because a lot of the people have been cut off from their African heritage. Black people in America go back almost as far back as the Caucasians do when they were used as slave labour. All ties were broken and knowledge was lost, and for the better part of three hundred years generations in America have developed without knowing their forefathers. So, if over time they weren't Africans, and didn't want to be insulted by being called Niggers or Negros they were just Black.

    In the case of the British slaves, after all the houses and roads etc were built and slavery was abolished, the slaves were sent back. It wasn't until the late 1940's early 50's when the British government needed a workforce to rebuild the country after W.W.II that it started letting in other ethnic groups, Black people especially, from their colonial territories.

    Because of the recent introduction of Ethnic Minorities in Britain, Black people still have some sense of what their culture is though, it's more so for Africans over Caribbean's due to the variety of various languages and various tribes within the continent compared to what basically is an ex prison/slave island.

    To call someone Yellow, Olive is frowned upon because the cultures who've been given these tags have histories and names to their history. A lot of Black people do not other than being tools and considered less than human for hundreds of years.

    In terms of their use in games I really don't think there is much abuse in that department.

    M Bison, Dee Jay and Birdie are perfect examples of negative, ignorant or both views toward an ethnicity. And they're all in a row. All were incredibly mainstream due to the Game they were exposed on. Everyone and their cousin has played the Street Fighter series.

    Has the token asian guy, token american, token european.

    But there is so much more to that. The token Black guy is more than often the only Black guy. What does that say?

    Anything in between is generally not interesting.

    That's down to the irresponsibility and ignorance of the developers. And when people can't be damned they cling to stereotypes which are then maintained and fuelled and the bitter cycle of stupidity grows.

    In my opinion people are people despite what colour they are. They come in all flavours as well.. good and bad.

    Indeed, so why would you hang on to stereotypes and call them fact?

    Ethnic crime stereotypes are totally acceptable in my opinion... unfortunately people who look and dress like gangsters usually are. So you'd be a fool think "the hoodlum looking guys tailing me a just out for a late night walk". I've been robbed by Asians because I'm Asian, Whites because I'm asian and Blacks because they're black and a mixed group because I was 10 years old. Stereotype and reputation are usually earned over time. Whether it changes or not starts with the individual and that takes a long to phase out as well.

    .....So, if I walk down the road wearing baggy pants and puffer jackets, which I do, I'm a gangster?! That's the very thing that has driven me mad in all my 20 years of life. Do you know what it's like to have people cross the road rather than walk on the same pavement? to stare at the ground when you pass or break their necks while trying to look the other way? Walking into a shop/Cafe and everyone goes silent because this isn't the place Your Kind belongs to supposedly.

    If you do, then how can you think of such things?! I have nothing but compassion for any man or woman who would show me respect. Yet, I have a brand on my skull and my clothes that supposedly tells you everything about me before I open my mouth or make a gesture. Utter rubbish!

    If people are people and you've been wronged, don't associate negativity with the millions of other people who share your attackers ethnicity, or condone their view that because you're from the same culture or from a different one it's dandy to hurt you. It isn't by any stretch of the imagination.

    Human nature is to blame.. we are all human and we're not perfect. Implying society treats you unfairly is another form of racism or bigotry against society, the sword cuts both ways and you can never win. Who cares what other people think as long as you can hold your head up and say I can live with myself and I'm proud of who I am. But if your a fucking scum of the earth who preys off others and commits crime you can fucking rot in hell no matter what race you are.

    Your views are incredibly defeatist. If everyone believes they don't have anything worth saying or thinks they can't make a difference then we're done for. Only those who do speak have their views expressed and that becomes the norm whether you agree with it or not. Yes, we are all Human and, we are all society. That means that everyone has a responsibility to seek the truth and dismiss the perceptions created in ignorance.
     

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