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Games As the Great Unifier 104

OGX writes "In this racially divided world, who or what can step up and bridge the gap among people? Oddly enough, the answer comes from pop videogame technology. The anonymity of online gaming has made personal characteristics secondary to a game skill set. Michelle Dalrymple explores how online gaming vaults the issue of race in this editorial at OGX." From the article: "The computer/video console acts as a filter, extracting out any issues of race and placing emphasis on how quickly one can respond by selecting the correct button. Let's take a look at how this plays out in the online gaming world. As with any MMOG - character selection is core to the game play, and while one may have a skin color choice, usually appearance is tied to some imaginary 'race,' an arbitrary figure generator pulled from fantasy and folklore. It gives the idea of race a whole new meaning. What do fellow gamers care what race you the player really are, as long as your elf ranger or human mage can complete the task?"
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Games As the Great Unifier

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  • Still far to go (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_demiurge ( 26115 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @02:42PM (#16155599) Homepage
    If this was really the case, why do I see so many racial slurs being thrown around in an average game of Counterstrike, not to mention the nearly ubiquitous use of "gay" as a pejorative.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is the dark side of online anonymity - freedom from reprocussions if you want to act like an asshat. Fortunatly, many games also allow you to mute the input from obnoxious players, so you don't have to deal with them beyond that. Many other servers also let you kick those players with a majority vote. Worst case scenario, you can always jump to a different server - however, so can they.
    • Because gayness spans racial boundaries :P
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Thansal ( 999464 )

      If this was really the case, why do I see so many racial slurs being thrown around in an average game of Counterstrike, not to mention the nearly ubiquitous use of "gay" as a pejorative.

      Simple realy.

      It rarely actualy has any relation to sexual orientation anymore, especialy online and in other casual situations.

      "Don't be so gay", "that was gay", etc etc, are rarely even attached to something that is stereotypicly a homosexual action. After all, I don't realy think gays are well known for spawn camping, usi

      • The same thing has happened with the slur "noob" which used to be an abreviation of newbie, or new person. Once upon someone doing something noobish or beeing a noob meant they were unskilled, unexperienced, and/or unaware of the social norms of the game being played. Now it gets used as a gamers substitute for 'asshole'.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xappax ( 876447 )
        You're right that when people call $thing "gay", they usually don't mean that $thing is attracted to things of it's own gender. But, they almost always mean that $thing is stupid, wimpy, obnoxious, or otherwise bad.

        Like, let's say we decided to use the term "Thansal" as an insult. If we got fragged due to lag, we'd say our internet connection was "acting like Thansal". Of course, if you got offended, we'd argue that we of course don't literally mean that our internet connection was acting like
        • by Thansal ( 999464 )
          If you read all of what I posted, I was simply answering a question, and NOT deffending it. I personaly despise the use of slurs on someone's ethnicity/race/religion/sexual orientation/dietary habbits/world views/etc etc etc. You are right, it does not matter if some one is actualy ussing the term in refference to those things or if they are just useing it as an all purpose derogitory. Admitedly it does not bother me personaly or emotionaly to see some one use these terms (even against my self, seeing ho
        • by Pluvius ( 734915 )
          I wonder if happy people are offended by people calling homosexuals "gay."

          Seriously, language evolves, and a word that used to be used to refer to a group of people negatively may over time no longer have anything to do with that group. I personally use the word "gay" to mean "lame" sometimes, especially when I want to annoy the professionally offended, but I'm honestly not thinking about homosexuals at all when I do it. The problem here isn't that using "gay" to mean "lame" is automatically a slur agains
    • Well, the irony is that while a lot of people believe that internet anonymity allows people to be "assholes" (without ever really explaining WHY people's behavior heads south without supervision), I'd argue a more subtle point: with true anonymity, people have much more of a chance to behave AS THEY REALLY ARE.

      In that sense, it reinforces theory of implied social contract; without the immediate coercive ability of the group (through the simple mechanism of individual recognition and following consequences),
    • Voice chat can exacerbate the problem, too. I'm a Halo 2 player and for the most part, yes, people get along and play just fine. When someone sounds non-white or female, though, a lot of time they catch a lot of flak before the game even starts. I don't know how many games I've seen people quit out of (or teamkill in) immediately from the idiotic racist/sexist remarks as the match is loading.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      Time to toughen up, Suzie.


  • by Skynet ( 37427 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @02:43PM (#16155608) Homepage
    I had a Human Warrior in WoW named "Rick James" (after my favorite musician), and everyone kept calling me "bitch." :(
  • The increase in anonymity caused by the Internet, online gaming, and other technology is going to greatly hurt our great country. We are increasingly becoming so diverse that we having nothing in common, nothing that binds us. More and more people are less and less willing to sacrifice for our country. There are many cases where anonymity is a good thing, but there are also many downsides to it as well.
    • Don't just pigeon-hole this into an American phenomenon - the internet spans the whole world. And this decrease in patriotism that you are percieving isn't necessarily a result of information abundance, but perhaps simply because we lack strong leadership. You are mistaking correlation for causation here, a dangerous proposition.
      • Don't just pigeon-hole this into an American phenomenon

        I said no such thing. I would agree that it affects all countries. But of course, me being an American citizen, My main concern is and should be the patriotism of my own country.

        this decrease in patriotism that you are percieving isn't necessarily a result of information abundance

        I also said no such thing. Information abundance is not an issue. The idea that you are on this anonymous tool (the internet), and you don't have to share your backgr
        • I knew that if we spoke about anything that's wrong with America, a liberal would swing it back around and blame GW. Typical.

          After starting your first two points with "I said no such thing", you follow up with this.

          If only we could convert irony into electricity. That comment alone would keep L.A. lit up for two weeks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          No, you didn't specifically say that this was an American phenomenon, but your vernacular heavily implied it, specifically the "our great country" and "sacrifice for our country" bits (esp. without prior reference to your country of origin - seems a little pompous to me, but whatever). However, why shouldn't you be concerned about the global implications of a percieved problem? You're also living on this planet, I assume?

          I made my reference to information abundance after reading your "increasingly beco
    • by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:12PM (#16155872)
      As far as I'm concerned, the world would be a much better place with a little less nationalism.
    • Patriotism has served its purpose, but maybe internet gaming will bring about a new sense of humanism which I personally believe is the next evolution of patiotism. We must realize that regardless of our nationality, race, sexual preference, etc, in the end we are all humans and we must treat each other as such. If it takes the virtual world of a computer game for us to realize this then so be it. I see this as the evolution Man's thinking rather than a step backwards.

      I'm not discounting patriotism, but
    • You say...

      More and more people are less and less willing to sacrifice for our country.

      but your sig says...

      "we're all going to die, but we all don't have to die young"

      You seem a little confused. I think your another crazy redneck who jumped on the "I love America! Never talk bad about our President no matter what he does" bandwagon. Think for yourself. America is supposed to mean freedom (although its really just limited priviledge) which means I can choose for myself whether I want to be anonymous

      • I think your another crazy redneck who jumped on the "I love America! Never talk bad about our President no matter what he does" bandwagon. Think for yourself.

        It's funny how I've never really been referred to as a "redneck" except for on /.
        I do believe I'm thinking for myself, unless of course you're blaming GW for brainwashing Americans, which I wouldn't put past you.
        Since when did it become a bad thing to jump on the "I love America!" bandwagon? I guess I'm supposed to buy into this global, we're all h
        • But, you are then being ignorant to the fact that a certain branch of a religious group that has said over and over again that they will kill and destroy the western civilization.

          And you believe it's ok to destroy an entire country killing millions of people over a small percentage of that country? Using this mentallity, America should have started a war with Montana because a terrorist lived in the state.
          • by iblum ( 894775 )
            We would have, if GWB had called the governor of Montana and told him he was sending the FBI to arrest a terrorist and the governor told him to piss off. Not only piss off, but we, the people of Montana support this person and everything he stands for. So, if you come in here, better come armed with more than just sun-glasses and cheap suits.

            Then, GWB sends in a) the National Guard, or b) the Marines. In Afghanistan, he sent both. In Iraq he sent bombers first, then marines and army, followed by Nationa
            • by schtum ( 166052 )
              Exactly: OF COURSE he got criticized for going into Iraq, because none of the conditions you described in your first paragraph applied to Iraq. Maybe that was your point, but it sounded like you were trying to conflate Afghanistan and Iraq to "prove" that the invading the latter was justified.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timster ( 32400 )
      Diversity is way overstated. In America, if you go into an immigrant family's apartment, you're likely to see a PS2, a Dell computer, etc. Some people go to bars and drink with the good ol' boys, and some people go to coffee shops to blog, but there's not any crucial difference in what people want to do and buy.

      The most crucial differences I have seen is what people in these groups are afraid of. Conservative Christians are afraid of Muslim terrorists and declining morality; young liberals worry about gl
    • I don't really see how you can consider the anonymity of the internet a factor that is making the country's population more diverse. In my opinion, it is more of a common factor that is binding the people of the United States.

      It also seems that the type of anonymity you are thinking of is concealing your actions behind a screen, rather than screening things that causes prejudice from your actions.
    • by Denial93 ( 773403 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:32PM (#16156043)
      Nations are becoming less and less important as the information age gets going.
      Similarily, extended families became less and less important with the industrial era.
      Before that, the hometown/village.
      Before that, the clan.
      Each been the central social group everyone identified themselves by, each had seemed a natural constant in the lives of people and still each was replaced by the next. Currently, nation states are being replaced by continent-size cultural zones; most obviously so in Europe and South America.

      You can call this unfortunate, like you can call any natural process unfortunate. Or you can realize that identifying yourself as a citizen of your country is a cultural habit, not a necessity, so the value you are losing was virtual in the first place. Other social reference groups (say your family, or your race, or mankind) may be used interchangably. And some choices give you more options than others.
      • by snuf23 ( 182335 )
        "Or you can realize that identifying yourself as a citizen of your country is a cultural habit, not a necessity"

        Unfortunately claiming to be a "citizen of the world" doesn't seem to help when trying not to pay taxes.
    • by AuMatar ( 183847 )
      Sacrifice for their country? You mean there's fewer and fewer jingoistic people willing to die for a war that should never have been fought in the first place? This is a good thing. Patriotism is not- its an idea that a certain group of people are more important than everyone else because they happen to live near you. With the global scope of the internet, people are realising that all people are equal, and that there's nothing special about being American, Canadian, English, etc. This is a good thing
    • by radish ( 98371 )
      More and more people are less and less willing to sacrifice for our country.
      You say that like it's a bad thing. People shouldn't be willing to blindly sacrifice for their country (whichever country that happens to be) they should be willing to sacrifice for what they believe is _right_. Most people are citizens of a particular country entirely by accident - it's where they happened to be born. Why should I hold any specific allegience based on a geographical and biological coincidence?

      Hypothetical example
    • by Alsee ( 515537 )
      We are increasingly becoming so diverse that we having nothing in common, nothing that binds us.

      I thought the supremely American definining characteristic was diverity itself.

      We are a nation of immigrants from across the globe.

      And what binds us? Well the defining binding document of the United States is the Constitution... and the most revered part of the Constitution being the Bill of Rights. And the very first thing the Bill of Rights does, the highest thing it stands for, is for protecting and revering a
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can't stand the smell of Orcs.
    • by Hahnsoo ( 976162 )
      I can't stand the smell of Orcs.

      You obviously haven't been to a LAN party. *grin*
    • I think a lot of players in WoW take the Alliance vs. Horde thing too seriously, and seem to genuinely hate the other faction. I don't know which is worse, being racist towards real people or being racist towards imaginary people.
  • by charlesbakerharris ( 623282 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @02:52PM (#16155684)
    Totally right. Games take people without jobs and/or friends and elevate them, by the simple mechanism of "spend all day playing" to the status of powerfully equipped demigods, near-unassailable by the common man, whereas the successful, busy real-life person is relegated to a lifetime of mere mediocrity, looking up through the windows of Naxxramas at something they will never attain. Yes, gaming is the great equalizer! The mighty are brought down, and the weak are exalted.


    • Yes, I play WoW.
    • No, I am not a hard core raider.
    • Yes, I have a real job.
    • Yes, I have a significant other.
    • No, she does not weight 250 lbs.
    • No, I don't care that I don't have any Tier 2 set pieces.
    • No, I do not live in my mother's basement. In fact, I own my own house.
    • Yes, I exercise.
    • No, I don't play a girl in-game despite being a guy in RL.
    • Yes, my alts are still levelling.
    • No, I do not subsist on pizza and chinese food.
    • Yes, I can spell.
    • No, I did not repeat any grades in middle school.
    • Yes, I know that "ur" really means "you are" and not "your".
    • No, I did not purchase any of my characters.
    • No, I did not eBay any gold.
    • Yes, I hate reputation grinding, but...
    • No, I don't hate them as much as you do - I never played Everquest.
    • No, I do not feel it my responsibility to tell people about (a) the trash greens I find while killing trolls in Arathi or (b) my life, over Ventrilo.
    • Yes, I bathe at least once a day. With soap. Real soap. Not like from Fight Club.
  • This is the way it is for the major sports in America right now. While it has not always been that way, we are at a point where your skill is the only factor people are looking it. That will transpire to anything as long as the overall goal is to be the best of the best.

    I just fail to see the significance of this in regards to games online. I would venture to say it is a non issue because:
    1) You know the person as they present themselves to you online and
    2) It does not matter since you are judging by s

  • That's odd... from my experience there's MORE racial slurs and degredation in online games than elsewhere in society.

    There also seem to be a disproportionate amount of schoolgirls...
    • There also seem to be a disproportionate amount of schoolgirls...

      Yeah... about those schoolgirls... I met one of them in RL. Jimmy "The Iron Brick" Hoskins is now one of my closest friends - nice gal and all, but she didn't look anything like I expected.

  • In this racially divided world,

    Which world is the submitter in, exactly? The one I'm in seems fine.

    It's really hard to read and process an article like this when you disagree with the very first phrase in the very first sentence...
    • Racially divide world. It is a hackneyed phrase that people either: 1. Have their careers invested in (Politicians, etc.) 2. Are too ignorant themselves to let go of. They just continue to see everyone around them as bigots and prejudiced. Irony, certainly. The fact is that racial divisions, in terms of active, purposeful interracial problems, have been largely stomped out in the realm of actual human interaction. Is there still lingering effects of racial division that existed many years ago? Education?
      • Well said, and I agree with you 100%. The only real racism I see is people declaring other people racists.
        • Well said, and I agree with you 100%. The only real racism I see is people declaring other people racists.

          Then your life is sheltered from real racism.

          Sorry, I'm not trying to insult you or anything, but if you don't see racism it's because you're just not around it then. I regret to have to inform you that racism is still alive and well.
          • Ok; and how does wanking like this actually help resolve any of those issues? Or, instead, does it just *point them out* to make them seem more prominent than they actually are?

            I think racism is dead (in the US at least), and the only reason you see constant news stories about racism is because it makes for good news. Tyra Banks can put up makeup and walk around and say "oh wow people treat me so differently!" when she's out of ideas.
  • by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:02PM (#16155775)
    need to be bigger than they are...they want to be this movement that somehow changes the world. Hint, it just isnt gonna happen. Gaming is not some noble endeavor that is unlike anything else that has ever happened. it is pure enjoyment, leave it at that

  • Personally I think that online games seem to foster racial discrimination in all types. In fact, they even encourage people to go out there and hurt others simply because of their race. This, "PVP" mode where humans are pitted against Orc's and Gnomes against Taurans is to be abhorred. I say that all races should be free to coexist in peace and tranquility while we fight the real enemies: Ragneros.

    • by edremy ( 36408 )
      This, "PVP" mode where humans are pitted against Orc's and Gnomes against Taurans is to be abhorred. I couldn't agree more: the endless fighting is awful. Luckily, once the humans, dwarves and elves are annhilated we will have no more conflict. The gnomes we'll save for use as footballs and bar stools.
      • by iblum ( 894775 )
        as a gnome warrior (with very spikey armor) I'd like to see you try that.

        (very testy about gnome football jokes)

        • by edremy ( 36408 )
          Ohh, spikey armor. My succy loves the spikes- they're so much fun to play with while you stare at her instead of the incoming shadowbolt.

          <introspection>WoW e-peen contests? Geez, I'm a grown guy with a wife and kids. What have I sunk to...</introspection>

    • Come on, you have a Night Elf alt don't you?
  • While the "filter" of anonymity allows people to associate and congregate who might otherwise not (due to race, culture, religion, political inclination, gender, sexual orientation, whatever), it also serves to dissociate you from your online avatar. You play someone else online, but you are still pretty much the same person when you leave the computer. Just because your characters and avatars online can fight side by side or even competitively in a friendly manner does not mean that you are a more tolera
  • I don't think so. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:04PM (#16155790) Homepage Journal
    I've got a long ignore list in WoW of players who have accoused me of being many different things (dirty Jew, gay, and much much worse) because I would not give them money or politely requested that they keep their conversations in a party environment. I'm sure eventually these players will or have already been booted.

    I've played a few MMORPGs in my time but, generally, my experience is that there are three player types. The offensive, who's lack of identifiability makes them think they can do what they want.
    The passive, who keep to themselves or their guild. They tend to accept people who accept them. The vast majority of people lie in this group.
    The aggresive. They are active. Tend to help people whenever they can. And they really do find ways to be involved.

    The real reason people seem to 'get along' so well? There isn't even a fraction of lifes 'drama' running around in the virtual world. The worst thing that can happen to you within the confines of an MMORPG is that you miss out on some kind of loot, or you're late for/miss an event. If you can get worked up over that then you really must learn to chill out.

  • #1) MMORG designers work carefully to balance each of their races. It's not like a MMORG would design a "KALB" race where the characters automatically get aggro'ed by the town guards, earn a half share from all kills and are randomly barred from the forums for bullshit reasons.

    #2) Show me a 1/2 elf, 1/4 dwarf, 1/8 orc and 1/16 sprite and 1/16 centaur character and then we'll be a little closer to an apples to apples race discussion. (Is the character stronger because he's part orc or is it just chance?)
    • by RsG ( 809189 )

      #2) Show me a 1/2 elf, 1/4 dwarf, 1/8 orc and 1/16 sprite and 1/16 centaur character and then we'll be a little closer to an apples to apples race discussion.

      Presumably that would have to have been a female centaur and a male sprite... :-)

      Side note: "race" in the context of fantasy games really boils down to what we would call "species" in reality. I suspect the main reason for using the term "race" is because it sounds more old-fashioned and less scientific.

      So really, the whole RPG race = RL race (ethnici

      • Side note: "race" in the context of fantasy games really boils down to what we would call "species" in reality.

        The common definition of "species" merely requires that different species can't interbreed to have kids which themselves can have kids. So the case of a "1/2 elf, 1/4 dwarf, 1/8 orc and 1/16 sprite and 1/16 centaur character", would at least imply that dwarves, orcs, sprites, and centaurs are the same species. If the character in question can have kids, elves join said species.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:12PM (#16155861) Homepage Journal
    He has struck out with black chicks, asian chicks, white chicks, latina chicks, almost scored with a person pretending to be a chick. He is the model gaming citizen!
  • XBL has really unified the world...For just $49.95/yr people of all races, creeds, and colors can now come together and treat each other like total shit.
  • if there were no correlation between race and the likelihood of being in a high enough economic class to afford an online gaming habit, the world's problems would be SOLVED!
  • In WoW, you start by choosing a race. It's race that defines what faction you're aligned with (Alliance or Horde) and what classes you have access to. Even though they're fantasy races with no (direct) relation to real-world ethnicities, you're still forced by "genetics and culture" into certain roles in the overall story.

    In CoX, you start with a simpler choice: Hero or Villain. A far more fundamental conflict than anything that arises from ethnicity. From there, you choose your archtype, origin, and powe

  • You wanna see great unification? Visit a PvP WoW server. The only great unity is that the hundreds of skeletons laying on the ground after a huge world PvP event look alike (mostly).

    Characters die messily and unfairly dozens of times a day because they're the wrong race in the wrong neighborhood. It's no more unified than real-life race relations, except that there's less social inhibition on race murder and hate crime, because "it's just a game".

    • I agree completely - what the article doesn't take into account at all is that there's IN GAME racism just as bad if not worse than real world racism. Horde vs Alliance, elves who hate trolls, orcs who hate humans, everyone who hates gnomes; real-world racism is replaced by racism in-game that players can actually *act on* unlike the real world. It does unify a race, there's a little thrill when you see someone playing the same species as you, but even within a faction there is a huge amount of virtual ra
  • Most players, especially those in the MMO markets, have long ago stopped caring what "skin" the player is wearing and worried about their skill level.

    Heck, many of the female toons you see in games are played by guys who are either A) titilated at playing a female toon and dressing it, or B) tired of looking at a guy's ass in third person view.

    So it isn't like this story is anything close to a new viewpoint on the subject.
  • In all my travels as an adult, I have never been to a place more laden with racial slurs than in online gaming. We all wear different skins and are anonymous, but such anonymity causes some people to feel they can spit out whatever racial bullshit they feel like saying.

    It is really sad and reduces the quality of gaming.
  • by ZombieRoboNinja ( 905329 ) on Friday September 22, 2006 @02:31AM (#16159235)
    "There is one avenue of harmony that seems to pervade all people, regardless of race, color, creed and ethnicity. It is a unifying factor that calls to it men and women, young and old, from every stretch of the nation and the world beyond. It is the world of games - particularly video/online games."

    Except the vast majority of gamers are white males. I like how the article writer's counter to this is that IN ADVERTISEMENTS AND MOVIES, there are a lot of non-whites playing video games... interesting metric there.

    And except that most online gaming communities are fuller of racist swears than any real-world place I've seen - probably mostly from bored preteens trying to get a rise out of people by saying Something Naughty, but still.

    And except that as soon as any actual evidence of race or ethnicity comes into the mix - as soon as people find out someone is gay or female or black or whatever "IRL" - you're stuck with the same old racial stereotypes and assumptions again. Usually amplified because of the aforementioned intolerant attitude of gaming communities.
  • What do fellow gamers care what race you the player really are, as long as your elf ranger or human mage can complete the task?

    They don't care because the elf rangers and human mages apparently pay $15 a month to be stunlocked for hours at a time.

    I honestly cannot understand the fascination with a game where the player is beset with a chronic lack of basic control over their own character.
  • WITHIN the gaming community, sure there is a sense of unity and people getting to know each other without ever knowing race, religion, political bias, sexual orientation or (possibly) gender.

    However, the fact that only a small percentage of the country and world are playing video games makes this a very inaccurate sampling of data.

    The real dividing line is money. Only those with enough money to afford a gaming system or a PC (plus internet connection, software, subscriptions, etc.) are able to enter this

  • I'm not quite sure I believe this to be the case as most people have experienced in forums, games, comment threads and other such internet environments, the internet seems to relieve people of their moral burdens. I have been called every name in the book for every race. Some people feel that if they are uncertain of what race you belong to they will call you derogatory names from each race until they get a reaction from you. Its one of the main reasons I stopped going online for Xbox live (Xbox). I got tir

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur