The “Borders, Bigotry and Body Dumps” Reading List

On April 8th, Easter Sunday, I moderated a panel at PAX East titled “Borders, Bigotry and Body Dumps: International Videogame Controversies,” which looked at various games and game trends that were found offensive overseas and posited some solutions the industry can use going forward.  The video for the panel is incoming once I solve some conversion issues.

What struck me most after talking with my fellow panelists is how many gamers, especially the FPS community, claim to want realism in their games.  Unfortunately, when they talk about realism they’re talking about the guns and tactics used — not the people and places represented.

At the panel, after throwing Cadbury Eggs to the audience, I promised that I would would write a follow-up blog post providing links to the articles we had referenced along with supplemental material.  I’ve organized the links by topic for ease of navigation.

Representing Foreign Conflicts in Games

Ghosts of Juarez — My own article exploring the Mexican government’s reaction to Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and anticipating the fallout from Call of Juarez: The Cartel.

Extra Credits: Call of Juarez: The Cartel — The Extra Credits episode I essentially wheedled/nagged/coerced James Portnow into making on the subject.  A well-done video on what’s wrong with the game, filled with quiet rage.

Guardian Article on The Castro Assassination Mission in CoD: Black Ops — Contains quotes from the Cuban government, including the best quote in the history of videogame controversies: “What the United States government did not achieve in more than 50 years, it now tries to do virtually.”

Red Cross Report on War Crimes in Videogames

You’re a War Criminal — This article by Steve Watts not only won him a spot on “Borders, Bigotry and Body Dumps,” but is the most clear-eyed discussion of the topic I’ve found anywhere.

Representation of Foreign People in Games

Muslims in My Monitor — Writer Saladin Ahmed discusses representation of Muslims in games.  Saladin is also the author of Throne of the Crescent Moon, which I cited on the panel as an example of someone taking active part in re-framing a problematic representation of a group of people (in this case, Middle Eastern people in Fantasy).

Dangerous games people play — an opinion piece from the UAE about Middle Eastern stereotypes in games and media.

(Also see the EC episodes on Race in Games and Call of Juarez, linked above and below.)

Game Development Outside of North America, Europe, and Japan

Is the Arab World the next hot spot for gaming? — Excellent article about gaming in Yemen, and references the development of Unearthed: The Trail of Ibn Battuta.  The Reuters article it was sourced from is worth a read, and can be found here.

Argentina’s video gamers take on the world — CNN article about game development in Argentina which quotes our own panelist, James Portnow.

Hezbollah video game: War with Israel — A good example of an unhelpful response to these issues, this CNN article is about the Hezbollah propaganda game Special Force 2: The Truthful Pledge.


Extra Credits: Race in Games — The EC team tackles the difficult subject of how better to represent people in games.

A Renaissance Scholar Helps Build Virtual Rome — A profile of Italian historian Marcello Simonetta, who consulted on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

The Hotel Oasis/Burj Al Arab Video

The Hotel Oasis in Modern Warfare 3 — featured as Makarov’s hideout in the mission “Ashes to Ashes” — displays a striking resemblance to the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.  It is my suspicion that the word “Dubai” is not used in the pre-mission briefing or during the mission in order to avoid the game being banned in the UAE — which is a U.S. ally in the War on Terror and prides itself on having opulent, modern buildings like the Burj Al Arab.

Situations like this will become increasingly common as videogames draw on the real world in their search for “realism.”

For everyone who came: thanks for the great time and putting up with my occasional stumbles as a first-time moderator.  There’s been talk of bringing the panel back for PAX Prime, and if we do, you’ll be the first to know.

2 responses to “The “Borders, Bigotry and Body Dumps” Reading List

  • Xi Mao (@XiMao626)

    That’s a lot of Reading Material…I mean A LOT. And I think I’m going to have to read it all (Has just read the article on muslims and the article on War Crimes in Video Games).

    This sort of thing makes me wonder if I’m lucky that most of the games I’m interested in feature Singing and Dancing virtual idol girls or Cheerleaders with Chainsaws. I mean, I haven’t been into the FPS scene much and the only one I play with regularity is TF 2…The Worlds Greatest Combat-based hat simulator…

  • PAX East “Borders Bigotry and Body Dumps” afterthoughts | Steve Watts

    […] If you want to read more information on any of these topics, I highly suggest you check out his post-panel reading list, or just generally follow him. He’s a sharp guy with a tendency to shine a light on […]

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