We are in the midst of a sea change in the way games are made, marketed, and consumed. Previously a product that was made only by Western and Japanese studios, and consumed primarily in Japan and the West, videogames are now a worldwide form of media with a presence on every continent.
One of the results of game globalization has been a backlash against the countries and groups of people regularly depicted as “enemies,” as well as a greater — sometimes disturbingly greater — partnership between game development, the military, and arms manufacturers.
At this year’s PAX Prime, we’ll be exploring this in our panel Beyond Borders: Global Game Controversies. Come see us on Saturday, September 1st, at 5:00 PM in the Unicorn Theater.
After our previous PAX East panel, Borders, Bigotry, and Body Dumps: International Videogame Controversies, enough people requested extra resources that I put together a supplemental reading list on this blog. Now that Beyond Borders is going live, I’ve updated the list to reflect new developments such as the Oliver North/Black Ops controversy as well as the links between EA and arms companies.
If you have any questions, I will gladly answer them in the comments.
Increasing Crossover Between Games and Real Life
The Trouble with Call of Duty‘s Scary New War of the Future — An exploration of the problematic nature of Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II advertising. It is especially critical of Oliver North’s role in the campaign.
Partners In Arms — The editorial which first pointed out that EA’s Medal of Honor: Warfighter is not only partnering with arms companies, but actively advertising their products on its website.
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:
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 is 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.
The Ugly Paulistano — a Brazilian writer living in São Paulo feels that Max Payne 3 is a fair representation of the crime in his city.
(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.
Extra Credits: Spec Ops: The Line — SPOILERS, OH SO MANY SPOILERS… The EC team discusses a game that is itself a criticism of how games depict warfare.