The Paw Print

Whitewashing forcing the video game industry backwards

River Finnegan, News & Feature Editor, Online EIC

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In recent years there’s been an overt uproar over the whitewashing issues in movies, TV shows, and other forms of social media. Some of the worst examples are “Ghost in the Shell”, the Netflix original “Death Note,” “Stonewall,” and many others that received scrutiny and poor reviews from viewers and critics alike. However, video games have somehow slipped through the cracks when it comes to the diversity of characters.
Whitewashing is the process of replacing people of color and their cultures with white actors, characters, and western ideas in movies, games, and TV shows.
In 2011, Bioware released “Dragon Age 2” and whitewashed a companion character, Isabella, in their promo trailer even though she is considerably darker in the game. In “Prince of Persia”, the character was considerably light skinned and was voiced by a white actor.
“Hero Zero Dawn,” an action role-playing game released in 2017, has been criticized for the appropriation of Native American people and cultures. The game’s developer, Guerilla Games, responded to the allegations yet did not apologize for their use of racist depictions of Native Americans and use of sensitive vocabulary that could be interpreted as offensive.
Video games are played around the world, but only represent white people. While some video games do well at representing people of color, like Mass Effect: Andromeda or Mafia 3, a few go as far as to whitewash and steal the struggles of people of color.
In 2009 Bioware and EA released the first installation of the series Dragon Age. These games feature a multitude of intricate storylines and complex characters, including the Dalish elves. In game, elves are marginalized, face discrimination, and are generally seen below other species in the game, drawing parallels to Native Americans and Jewish people. The Dalish, however, are all white in the games. While I have found no statement from Bioware stating that they did base their elves off of Native Americans, David Gaider, the creator of Dragon Age, has openly commented about the similarities to Jewish people.
“The connections to those initial inspirations are tenuous at best, and I can definitely see comparisons to Native Americans as well as a number of other peoples who have experienced oppression in our history,” Gaider said in response to an anonymous Tumblr user. “These cultural elements evidently have many real-world analogues, which is interesting but also a bit sad.”
Hiring voice actors of color, adding characters with darker skin colors, and promoting plot lines that don’t revolve around the struggle of people of color will help fight against the issue of whitewashed video games.
Pew Research Center found that 89% of black teens and 69% of Hispanic teens play video games, so where are the characters they can relate to? Representation of minority groups in media has become more prevalent than ever before, it’s time for video games to catch up with the rest of the world.

Cartoon Courtesy of Luis Buenaventura

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Whitewashing forcing the video game industry backwards