The 5 Most Racist Gaming Moments
- Updated: May 17, 2012
As much as I’d like for it to be otherwise, racism still exists in the world. Whether in the form of stereotypes or straightforward hate, it occasionally rears its ugly head, and the video game industry is no exception. The following is a list of gaming moments that have repeatedly made me feel that the world is a terrible place. We’ll start with a game developed by the king of JRPGs. Prepare to cringe.
Square’s Tom Sawyer
Released for the NES in 1989, Square’s Tom Sawyer follows the RPG formula that made Square famous. It seems like a fairly innocent representation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at first glance. Then Jim comes along. Jim is an escaped slave that befriends Tom and Huck in the course of their adventures. How does Square choose to depict this beautifully layered character? In a tasteful and decent manner? Nope; turns out they did it like this:
I’ve seen this image many times, and it still makes me cringe. I’m not sure who thought it would be a good idea to turn Jim into a wildly stereotypical man in blackface, but I’m hoping that they were fired shortly afterward. The only bright side of this game is that it never made it outside of Japan.
Punch Out!! is the only boxing game I’ve ever enjoyed. As a child, I was unable to truly understand the huge number of racial stereotypes that are the characters. Let’s start with Glass Joe, the first and easiest opponent in every Punch Out!! game. He is from France, which, of course, follows the stereotype that the French roll over and die at a moment’s notice. Not to mention that in the Wii version, croissants fly out from him with every punch.
Then there’s the Great Tiger, an Indian man who wears a turban, brings a tiger skin in the ring, rides a magic carpet, and can teleport. I think the question here is less “How is it offensive?”, and more “How is it NOT offensive?” And the answer is pretty obvious: there is no way that this is not offensive. And finally, there is Soda Popinski, the Russian brawler. He wears all red, and constantly does the Kozachok. Above all else, he has a deep and undying love of soda pop. Of course, this was not always the case. In the original arcade version, Soda Popinski was named Vodka Drunkenski, and, trust me, that man did not like soda pop.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The most modern game on this list, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released in 2011. It being released in this day and age, surely it has no horribly racist stereotypes? Well, you’d be (fairly) right. At least until you run into Letitia.
Please note that is not edited in any way at all. They really put in a character that sounds like she’s a caricature of a slave from an Alabama plantation circa 1833. I understand that actors sometime go a little bit overboard with their characters, but that’s what directors are for. How this one slipped by is a mystery to me. Somebody had to have listened to this conversation and thought to themselves, “That sounds pretty accurate. Print it!” Or at least something to that effect.
Scribblenauts is an extremely creative and cute DS game that allows you to type in almost any word in the English vocabulary to create objects. It was inevitable that something offensive would eventually show up. I suppose that a person with an awful lot of time on their hands decided to input every possible word that they could think of, and one finally paid off: “Sambo.” When you type in “Sambo”, a derogatory term for African-Americans, what pops out is the definition of a stereotype:
That’s right. It’s a watermelon. I’m pretty sure that everyone has heard the stereotype before, so I’m not going to rehash it. According to the game’s creators, 5th Cell, a “sambo” is an Ecuadorian melon. Regardless, I feel like someone should have seen this, thought about it for about 30 seconds, and put an end to it.
Everything about Custer’s Revenge is horrible. You play as General George Custer. He’s naked. He’s running across a battlefield, arrows flying at his polygonal pink flesh. His goal is a naked Native American woman tied to a post. When he gets there, he proceeds to rape her. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this thing that I am hesitant to call a video game. How this game was ever created is a mystery to me. The only thing that frightens me more is that there is apparently talk of a remake. That’s exactly what the world needs. More wildly stereotypical and violent games.
Good job, world. I’ve finally lost all faith in humanity.