Recently, I read an article on Racialicious about race and video games. As with movies and tv shows, it’s getting to where I can’t even enjoy my video games without thinking about race and stereotypes. What’s a person to do? Perhaps, I should give up gaming as a form of stress-release and take up jogging.
For several weeks now, I’ve been humming the Gary Jules version of “Mad World” which is the theme song of the Gears of War trailer. I’ve been anticipating the game’s release ever since the trailer was featured on Xbox Live. I rarely buy a game before it goes on sale and figured it’d be months before I’d be able to get my hands on a copy. Coughing up sixty bucks for a new game seems just plain crazy. Fortunately due to a bet between two people other than myself, I was able to acquire one. (Don’t ask, it’s complicated.)
As I work my way through the different checkpoints, enters Lieutenant Minh Young Kim. Hey there’s an Asian guy in the game. But wait, what’s up with the name? Is he Vietnamese? Korean? Both? Or…did someone just pick some common Asian names at random and stick them together thinking no one would notice? The character bio doesn’t say anything about ethnicity. At least he was given the strong characteristic of being a “a proud, dedicated and ambitious soldier”. He’s a model minority kind of “Gear” despite his “run of bad luck” and having to lead the “misfits of Delta squad”.
So I start looking more closely at the cd cover. Hmmm…no ambiguously Asian dude there. I see Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, and a masked Private Carmine. Maybe he’s been relegated to the back instead. Hmmm…nope not there either, just Fenix, Dom, Damon Baird and “Cole Train” (eh? more stereotypes anyone?). Poor Token-Generic-Asian-Man, you don’t even get a place on the cover. Could it possibly get any worse?
I continue to work my way through the game thinking that at least he’s there. Despite everything, I’m comforted by his presence. Never mind that I’m killing and maiming my way through the game as a big, hairy white guy. Lieutenant Kim is my man, my brother-in-arms and we’re going to save the world together. I feel the urge to give him a virtual hug as we reach the end of Act 1 and await the King Raven helicopter that’s coming to evacuate us.
Begin cinematic sequence (warning: contains violent scenes that some may find offensive). Noooooo! I watch helplessly as Kim is ruthlessly skewered by General RAAM. WTF?! He didn’t even make it past Act 1?! No wonder he wasn’t on the cover. I suddenly felt the need to whip out my lancer assault rifle and get in some serious chainsaw action on my Gears of War cd.
So now I must go on to save the world, a small Asian woman in a big, white dude’s body without my bald, Asian-fusioned, shallowly bio’d, expendable comrade. It’s a mad, mad world indeed.