I've grown up in a period when pop culture didn't care much about cultural sensitivity. With proper education anyone can compensate and treat them as pure simplistic fiction, but I do think that those new debates, if nuanced and not reduced to representation, could bring quality to pop culture items.
Particularly in the video game industry, and this company, that have proven to have flawed IRL corporate cultures.
I don't think such a period ever existed. Hollywood had the Hays code, comics had the comic code etc. Popular culture always have to navigate the hangups and sensitivities of society.
It is possible that these concerns were invisible to you because they corresponded to your own values. When they change because society changes, you suddenly notice them.
However, by cultural sensitivity I refer to something beyond codes. Nothing that this article points out is particularly illegal, immoral or even shocking. Yet, probably due to cultural globalisation, social media, and the polarisation of the debate in the US on certain social issue, I am under the impression that this kind of clumsiness is more likely to be noticed.
Probably not in the US, no. Then again, the world is comprised of many other locations and cultures. Even in the West, I'd say mainly predominantly protestant countries (among which the anglosphere as a whole) tend towards political correctness.
It sounds like you're using it more like a Zeitgeist?
You can call it "group-think" or you can call it "cultural values".
I was responding to the suggestion that there was a time and place without "political correctness". I dispute that. Every time and place have some ideas of what is and isn't morally acceptable. But if you are born into it, it may be invisible. The majority of the audience at the time did not wonder why there were so few black cowboys in movies. But they noticed it when more black cowboys started to appear.
Same, and as unpopular it may be, i firmly believe it's kind of better to not care. Because the opposite is precisely what happens here, which is caring only about a specific set of 'aspects' that are currently fashionable in the society, while failing to cover for the large majority of inequalities that are not "visible".
It's the exact same than positive discrimination, you end up only caring about women or color people in the name of "equal opportunity" and no one care anymore about economic inequalities that are largely the main factor of inequality at birth. In the end it's still the same rich people from the same parents but they just look more diverse, and no one care of young people from trailer parks & getthos.
I don't blame prejudiced people fighting agaisnt their prejudices tho, imo it's more a consequence lazy politics and politician trying to get votes instead of taking on more complex and deeper problems.
>Does all of that matter? Yes, I think it does. As I have argued here many times, fiction is often how the public conceptualizes the past and that concept of the past shapes the decisions we make in the present. Is one video game going to lead to a return to colonialist thinking? Of course not. But a culture in which such sanitized narratives are common is a culture far more willing to make those decisions; these stories matter in the aggregate. And so it is incumbent on designers and developers to construct their stories and their worlds with care, especially when they are set in the very real past.
>Same, and as unpopular it may be, i firmly believe it's kind of better to not care.
As a white dude, I've found that "not caring about it" means "only white male characters are allowed"
I've noticed that folks who "don't care about it" actually care A LARGE AMOUNT, A VERY VERY LARGE AMOUNT, when a non-male or non-white protagonist is the only option. And heaven forbid we not let you play a straight character...
Just saying, in my experience, "don't care about it" is literally identical to "marginalize everyone but me", as that's our history.
There’s a difference between a racist or sexist reaction (anger about a character’s race or sex) and anger that the studio picked the character’s race or sex as a nod to their own identity politics (or perhaps kowtowing to the broader identity politics that are so fashionable these days). It’s the same difference between racism and equality. It’s hard to tell from your comment whether you object to the racist reaction or the egalitarian reaction or both, but at least in my opinion the racist reaction is very uncommon.
> Just saying, in my experience, "don't care about it" is literally identical to "marginalize everyone but me", as that's our history.
That’s not our history though; our history was literally “marginalize blacks, women, native americans, italians, irish, eastern europeans, asians, etc”. We have made remarkable progress toward equality, and that’s due to egalitarianism—teaching people that superficial characteristics oughtn’t matter—not merely a different identity hierarchy. “Not caring about it” is precisely the key innovation and the catalyst for so much progress.
People made the same argument about women representation in video games but hey have you heard of "tomb raider" ?
There's other: "Urban chaos" with a black female, some character of unreal tournament were poc...
Most people dont care and when they do they find diversity cool. The point is that as a political fight its useless and may actually be on the side of harmful for society.
Get off the internet forums
But it's unclear why you see that "sexuality being acted on" is problematic. It depends and is very situational, imo.
I am aware that ideals aren't enough for policies. Example is accessibility. Everyone who hasn't a bad day right now is for it, but can you make sure you always hold up to your own expectations? Probably not, so there is a need for mechanisms that ensure that.
But the impetus to "positively" discriminate in HR actually stems from a feeling of superiority that isn't warranted at all. And it is also lacking elegance and understanding and I don't even have high expectations. I just don't work with them.
Economic apartheid isn't just endemic in the US, it's a core value and seen as a positive thing.
And gender/race identity politics are not a serious threat to it.
Because it means corporations can carry on being corporations as long as they have a couple of privileged middle class women in the boardroom.
It's an improvement of sorts, but only in a very limited way. Time and time again in the US we've seen this does nothing to alter the predatory values that make corporations so toxic.
Ultimately it's not about tribal identity at all. It isn't even about class.
It's about values. Is your culture driven by generosity, maturity, open-mindedness, and curiosity, or is it motivated by greed, narcissism, selfishness, competitive snobbery, and naive tribal identification which is relentlessly hostile to out groups?
Identity politics without value politics is a superficial band-aid which can't fix the political and economic hemorrhaging caused by the unaddressed underlying condition.
Yes they are. I'm not sure where you got the idea that I was arguing against that, but to be clear I'm advocating for "identity politics" complimenting the class struggle, not the two being mutually exclusive.
I wonder when that was, cause pop culture has always cared about that in one way or another. I believe you are projecting.
> The most relevant point of this article is not about historical accuracy, but on the contradiction of claiming cultural sensitivity by including gender and origin diversity while totally missing the point on deeper issues.
I can't summarize this fantastic write-up, but either way, here goes...
The author goes to great lengths about how in said game the Scandinavian culture is only shown in a positive light (with the bad such as slavery and rites being avoided), whereas the Christian religion is deliberately put into a bad light. That is what the article is mainly about. Example: Christianity is shown as intolerant and hegemonic, Scandinavian the intolerance and hegemony is avoided at all costs. Slavery? Pillaging? Apparently non-existent; instead the Scandinavians colonized Saxon ground, and never took slaves, never raped women, never pillaged or set anything a-fire. Furthermore, Norse culture was very patriarchal, this game shows nothing of that either.
The gender/origin issue is minor in comparison, both in coverage as well as in how relevant the author finds it. Gender a subset of the lack of showing the patriarchy in Scandinavian culture. Origin is a bit odd, as the trade route with North-Africa is more accessible than the one to Eastern Europe and Asia whereas the races shown do not reflect this. It is you who finds the gender/origin issue 'the most relevant'; not the author, nor did the author ever imply such.
A fantasy world can be based on real history as we know it (consider, for example, the Nordic theme in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, or the Norsca and Warriors of Chaos in Total War: Warhammer II). If it is then inaccurate, we're OK with that, we see it as artistic freedom. This game tries to base itself directly on history. Big difference!
The author also literally claims the following:
> [...] And to be clear, that is not empowering feminism so much as virtue viewed from a society (like the Romans) which blithely assumed that men were better; it is misogyny masquerading as empowerment. And of course the game indulges in this too, as noted above.
The author does not, at all, appear to agree with your take on the matter.
The author's final chapter is titled: "Conclusion: A Love Letter to Colonialism" which again isn't your take on the matter.
As a side note, what I find funny, is that in a certain music genre, Scandinavian culture is idolized as well: metal music. Certain metal bands, such as for example Amon Amarth, exercise this practice. Coincidentally, the music is also going against the Christian religious dominance. I believe the game is made with such 'counter-culture' in mind; as the deeply religious Christians would not opt to play a Scandinavian religious person. I admit, pure speculation from my side.
I see people pining for this forgotten past time a lot, and it makes me realize that none of them remember or think the same way of things like the satanic panic, moral majority, etc, let alone remember the times when people got offended over the mere suggestion of an interracial couple or a woman who didn't want to be a housewife. Oh the scandals that would occur if basically any program run today were to be broadcast then. They don't remember the Television Code or the CCA, nor did they grow up on a diet of classic Hays-code era films, dripping in extreme sensitivity.
In those days you couldn't have (on your professionally produced, mainstream, mass market TV show) a woman who didn't want to be a housewife as a main character on your show unless that was portrayed negatively or being used for comedy. These days you can't have a woman who wants to be a housewife as a main character on your show unless that's being portrayed negatively or being poked fun at.
Por qué no los todos?
Is that really true though? If you mean that you can't have a houswife as a character on your show that very obviously isn't true. If you mean you can't make a show where a character aspires to be a housewife, I'm not sure I understand what the narrative purpose of such a story would be. Becoming a housewife isn't really an aspirational achievement in the way having a prestigious career is, and I don't think it's a story many are really interested in, nor one that would be easy to tell in a manner that doesn't seem forced. There is certainly a lot of media (both in the past and today) where a woman aspires to romance or marry someone, and domestic fantasy is a common element in those, but that isn't really specific to becoming a housewife, and the romance is the key aspiration in those.
It also doesn't help that maintaining a family on a single income is not economically viable for most people anymore. People want stories that relate to their own fantasies.
This is not a true statement for many folks out there, and there are plenty of people who can relate to stories of being in the home. I think the best answer is broadening the things that are acceptable to aspire to, not opening one door while simultaneously locking another.
That is actually the premise of the ABC show "American Housewife" which has run for at least 5 seasons (the main character is a housewife, and does not aspire to be anything more than the best housewife she can be, because she sees it as just as fulfilling than--or even more fulfilling as-- being employed in the workforce.)
If you want a return to the sanitary, saccharine dom coms of the sort the Simpsons was originally a parody of, I have to vehemently disagree that there is any real desire for that.
Now the moral panics are in the upper income left, and they actively try to get you fired if you trangress and all of a sudden it feels a bit restrictive in that environment.
Also social media makes average people significantly more vulnerable. Drunk comments would stay drunk environments outside of work comments, now drunk FB comments on a public group can get you fired.
The author very explicitly states: "As I have argued here many times, fiction is often how the public conceptualizes the past and that concept of the past shapes the decisions we make in the present."
Through that lense, I would argue that "the Nordic theme in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King" or "Norsca and Warriors of Chaos in Total War: Warhammer II", while inaccurate, will still heavily sway perceptions on them. The artistic licenses do shape how they are percieved to the player.
In Warcraft 1 the humans were good Christian knights, healed by clerics, and the Orcs were evil devil-worshippers.
By Warcraft 3 the Orcs followed an aboriginal religion and the humans were setting up concentration camps.
Oh yess : Norwegian Reggaeton : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0YXfeNxJJ0
> Coincidentally, the music is also going against the Christian religious dominance. I believe the game is made with such 'counter-culture' in mind; as the deeply religious Christians would not opt to play a Scandinavian religious person. I admit, pure speculation from my side.
So, Ubisoft should have maybe presented Christianism in this way ? : Valhalleluja : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9WWz95ripA
Maybe they've cared of their own white-western culture sensitive issues, but not much about anybody else's, especially not about foreign cultures perceived as less civilized...
> This statement is making ... implicit [claims] (our diverse team means this game was produced in a careful, sensitive way)
Ah, I think that's a misunderstanding of why the statement is there. It's not to claim that the game is therefore produced in a careful way. Certainly not an accurate way! It's just saying you shouldn't take offense at any details in it (accurate or not). Like, "we probably had someone with the same ethnicity/religion/gender as you and they were fine with it". It's fall out from the original being set in Palestine, which they called "The Kingdom" in an attempt to bypass offense.
Individual experiences vary, but it's a helluva better start than... you know... not.
Even with everyone involved having the best intentions, that task seems doomed to fail.
With this logic, I can make a game about the Belgians colonized the Congo, leave out all that business about slaves on plantations, maiming said slaves on plantations for not meeting their quotas etc., portray the Belgians as magnanimous bringers of culture, and then say "oh, well, we had British people involved in the making of the game so it's OK"
Did they say that?
Regardless of the end product, I'd rather support something that had the involvement of some of the subgroups involved that are depicted in the media, than support something that had the involvment of none.
We can debate up and down on the relative efficiency and whether there's a better way to achieve informed representation.
But I think it's a stretch to say involving more diverse viewpoints is worse than not.
> There's a lot of media that uses caricatures to vilify [Blacks], but there is relatively little uproar from [Blacks] about it. They don't seem to be very sensitive apart from a small handful...
I assure you, Christians are aware of how poorly they're portrayed by the media, and aren't happy about it. It seems to me that this is one of many factors that led many Christians to support Trump.
"Representation matters" -- indeed it does; and I'm not sure I've seen anyone on TV or in movies that looks like me or the people in my church. Even when they're trying to put people in a positive light, you can tell that it's someone trying to guess what it's like from the outside, not someone who understands it from the inside.
I agree that Christians are sometimes treated more critically in popular culture. But this is simply criticizing those in positions of power. It's hard to argue that ethnic or other minorities enjoy those levels of power in any of the places these games are made or marketed.
To quote a certain comedian: "Christians won the world. The Christians won everything. If you don't believe me, let me ask you a question. What year is it?"
I quite agree. There can be no meaningful comparison between Blacks in the 50's and Christians in recent history.
> no such discrimination against Christians has ever existed in ... Europe
Well, it hasn't for a very long time, but it was pretty bad for quite a while: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_t...
Mostly I share this as an interesting historical tidbit; not to refute any of your points.
> I agree that Christians are sometimes treated more critically in popular culture. But this is simply criticizing those in positions of power.
Of course, like all groups (be they religious, racial, ethnic, gender, etc), Christians are incredibly diverse such that there are no real criticisms that generalizes well, and all of these criticisms depend on caricature and stereotype which are (by definition) inaccurate and hateful. Moreover, to target a group for being "powerful" when that power is merely "numerousness in a democracratic context"--without any sort of evidence that the group behaves as a class, conspiring to increase or preserve the power of the group and to distribute that power throughout the group (to give privileges to constituents merely for being part of the group)--is lazy at best and hateful at worst (theories of a Jewish conspiracies spring to mind).
> To quote a certain comedian: "Christians won the world. The Christians won everything. If you don't believe me, let me ask you a question. What year is it?"
Maybe this is an amusing joke, but I don't think it supports your point very well. Lots of different cultures have given us different conventions and standards. We tell time using a Babylonian counting system, but we wouldn't say "Babylonians won the world". Similarly, we use a semitic alphabet but we wouldn't say "Semites won the world". We use Arabic numerals but we wouldn't say Arabs won the world. I could go on and on and on.
Or, if we want more recent history, the Bosnian war or even the currently ongoing dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
If you squint, you might even be able to include sect-on-sect violence which seems like several hundred years of European history, to the point that a group of religious practitioners crossed an ocean to escape it.
"I don't like how I'm portrayed, so I'll validate their criticisms through my actions" doesn't seem the best solution. If they don't like their portrayal, it seems they would be better off to make the portrayal better instead of making themselves worse.
I guess a basic level of self-respect? It's one thing to be criticized, but one could say "that's not who I am". And it's not like Jesus didn't warn them they'd be prosecuted for him; there are many, many verses about this very thing. But once they start performing destructive behaviors themselves, suddenly: that is who they are.
There is no other way to define “Christian”.
You're preaching to the choir, as they say. :-) I think Evangelical support for Trump is incredibly foolish for a number of reasons.
There are a number of enormous, relevant differences between these two groups, but more importantly I don't see any good, enlightening dialog coming out of a comparison between the plights of Jim Crow era Blacks and anyone else. It's like the converse of Godwin's Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law).
> I assure you, Christians are aware of how poorly they're portrayed by the media, and aren't happy about it. It seems to me that this is one of many factors that led many Christians to support Trump.
I don't think they're "happy" about it, per se, but rather they're not offended enough to object publicly to it. And to be clear, I'm merely observing that Christians aren't as offended (or don't express offense as much) as I think other groups would be. I'm leaving it up to the readers to interpret this as thick-skin or weak-will or something else (I'm certainly not intending to imply any particular interpretation).
Christians are facing the same problem Muslims had to face post 9/11. Some of the people in your religion are so absolutely terrible you become hated as a whole for it. Is that fair or right? Of course not. But like any other community with rotten apples, you need to work on shunning and expelling these people... not voting for them.
> But like any other community with rotten apples, you need to work on shunning and expelling these people... not voting for them.
I'm sure you didn't mean any of those things, but it might be good to clarify.
I assure you that Christians are not, as a rule, unfavorably portrayed in the media, and many Christians are excessively tired of those members of the single most favored, and socially and politically powerful, subset of America's dominant religion pretending to be persecuted whenever they experience the slightest criticism or restriction in imposing their ideology on others.
> It seems to me that this is one of many factors that led many Christians to support Trump.
Probably not significantly; it's more likely the reason that white evangelical protestants overwhelmingly supported Trump and white Catholics and white non-evangelical protestants also did so, though less overwhelmingly (whereas Hispanic Catholics supported, and Black evangelical protestants overwhelmingly supported, Biden) is that white Christians consistently have more to do with the correlation between views on race and religious affiliation. It's perhaps telling that the share of White Evangelical Protestant (78%) and, White non-evangelical Protestants (52%), and White Catholics (53%) that supported Trump (in an October survey, ) are very similar to the share of each (72%, 56%, and 53%, respectively, in an August survey ) that believed “police killings of Black men are isolated incidents”.
Christianity is a unique religion in that there's a lot of people who claim to be Christians, but who hardly practice their religion or follow what is prescribed.
This isn't unique to Christianity. Hypocrisy and indolence are common facets of human nature, so they're bound to be common to the adherents of any particular religion.
Being "anti-christian" is an issue, because it is always an issue when a society is against a group of people.
One has the right to make fun and criticize religions, but not a large group of people, especially solely based on their traits, be it religion/faith, sexuality, etc.
This is somehow fine as these are our official 'state enemies'.
It is funny how the problem is when it is turned around.
CoD and BF both went back to WWI/WWII for some releases as well.
And whatever Fortnite and Overwatch’s settings are. Kinda-cartoon kinda sci-fi?
I don’t think there as many generic modern shooters these days.
Doom is kinda sci-fi and kinda killing actual demons from hell ¯\(ツ)/¯
Islam is quite problematic in this aspect. AFAIK the current resurgence of political Islam stems from its very core. Maybe it could be reformed to be (durably !) compatible with a secular state, but would that reformed religion be still Islam, or would it be as different as Christianity is from Judaism ?
In today's society, with emphases on unconscious bias, race theory and egalitarianism, we are generally not okay with this kind of tone.
You mean like every single Call Of Duty game? Because it is in fact regularly being done.
the franchise does have you spend a lot of time killing people in the middle east, but the games don't explore religious ideology. the context clues pretty clearly point to your adversaries being jihadists and/or soldiers for a fundamentalist regime, but I don't recall the games ever explicitly saying so. in COD, terrorists blow things up simply because they are terrorists, not because they have any sort of coherent goal.
this is not to say that depictions in COD are not damaging in their own way, but they don't have anything quite so blatant as what is described in TFA.
I think no religion or religious organization should be spared of critique, but realize that in the West, (Christians), have been exporting culture that's kind of about trashing other peoples.
Take a look at Call Of Duty or even something as innocent looking as Uncharted for how 'we' are treating other cultures.
Pretty sure all voices are impersonated as we didn't have the same recording tech about 1000 years ago.
I think you have the right idea with this claim. It's a statement of the diversity of the development team not a promise the content is perfectly PC or historically accurate to the smallest detail.
It might be the author's explanation, via standpoint theory:
But it probably started out how you said ("Let's not anger any muslims....") and turned into something else.
I would suggest, as the author seems to propose but not allow, many of the issues are there for the sake of game play: I am currently using a flail and questioning my choice every time I get whacked because the thing takes a week and a half to pull start. But it's the strongest one-handed weapon currently available to me. So it makes for interesting tradeoffs in a way "axe v sword" might not.
A similar case could be made for fudging the details about sexual equality among the old Norse. I doubt anyone is watching the game imagining Vikings were tender and considerate self-reflective modern males; it just makes the story flow better than having to watch a cut scene of 10 dudes throwing food at each other in conference.
Basically it was a batshit crazy collection of historical, religious, and political trivia that was used as the background for the game's narrative, but at that time there was so much potentially controversial stuff if anyone took it too seriously that it could become a marketing nightmare. Boycotts from Christian groups and/or right wing nutjobs claiming that the game would encourage children (gotta think of the children!) to become Islamic terrorists. That sort of thing. It was a complicated game to market in that atmosphere. All sorts of different groups could have latched on to it as the epitome of how video games rot kids minds and turn them violent. It doesn't require anyone to actually do anything violent, it's just fuel for a gazillion fearmongering rants for Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, etc. All they would have to do is describe the game and demonize Ubisoft for making it; instant ratings gold.
They've continued having that statement at the beginning of each game, at this point as more of a tradition I think. Once the franchise was established, and got out of the Crusades, it gradually lost its potential to be a lightning rod for politically- or religiously-motivated anti-video game criticism. Although let's not forget the later game in which you have a boss fight vs. a historical pope who ended up being the villain in that game. Considering how freaked out certain demographics got by things like The Passion of the Christ (the movie), it's not much of a stretch to imagine somebody like Glen Beck going on an anti-video game crusade (no pun intended), throwing gasoline on the fire by going on and on every night about how these evil Canadians made this evil video game where you play an assassin from an order that was historically Islamic, where you're literally sneaking in to the Vatican to kill a historical pope (albeit with non-historical superpowers). Therefore kids are being brainwashed by Ubisoft to become Islamic terrorists right before our eyes. You know, Glen Beck stuff.
So it's really always just been a marketing CYA thing to reassure everyone that the game wasn't made with any particular political/religious/historical agenda. Admittedly, "we've got Catholics therefore we're obviously not in favor of assassinating popes" and the like is the "but I've got black friends" excuse for racism, but FWIW the intention was to proactively disarm accusations of biases or hidden agendas. It was not to be some sort of diversity statement.
But of course, it goes without saying that even if it was a statement of pride in diversity (which it wasn't), WHO THE EFF CARES. People getting triggered by such things need to go back to their safe spaces on Parler or wherever. So much projection from the 8chan kids. Who cares.
Hail Caesar! Rabbi and Priests :
The bit about christian churches being decorated like abandoned shacks, with all the gold in a chest in the middle, I thought was funny. Making game worlds that feel 'used' by their inhabitants is a really interesting one.
idk, games are different things to different people; they're escapism and we don't all escape the same way. Some of us enjoy pillaging inaccurate churches, and some of us like chortling about how silly it is while we do it.
I lean more towards honesty and accuracy, and if you can't handle the truth then go read something else, but my perspective is probably closer to one of decadence, rather than persecution. Also, I haven't played the game but I thought the article was a good read regardless.
And while that can feed into culture wars issues, and popular works often arrive at the right time to be a lightning rod for them, it's equally often a case of "the real point being made is going to be esoteric anyway and only a fraction of the audience will work at understanding it properly." Especially with big productions like AAA video games, the prioritization is on rushing to produce big spectacles, and a majority of the production effort goes to the technical part of that, while the concept is kept to something easily described in blunt shorthand: "you get to play as a Viking and pillage the British." And it's like, oh, okay, gotta live up to the audience expectations here, make it a fun thrill ride with a happy ending, let's ignore the implications. The novel stuff and minority views usually can't get represented in such productions for structural reasons.
What's weird is that this was meant to shock, but here we are in 2020 and this seems to be a good idea to a lot of people for some reason. 1984 was influenced a lot by Orwell's observance of Stalinism, where they would edit out people from old photos who had been executed and so forth. Stalin took a close interest in editing screenplays, editorials and even fiction produced in the Soviet Union to make it fit the narratives of Marxism. Why did he spend so much time on all of this? You have to make the whole ideology hang together if you want to transform society. The ruler must remove all contradictions everywhere so that all voices sing in unison one unifying vision and that includes popular art and media. There must be no contradictions!
To get back on track, Orwell (in this passage and throughout the entire book, really) is basically dramatizing fundamental means of understanding the past, and the effect this has on how the future is imagined. Yes, it is about dogma, but no, the enforcement of dogma does not necessarily have to be as institutional or intentional as you seem to be suggesting. A fundamental aspect of social existence is that understanding the past draws heavily on our assumptions in the present, which in turn are drawn from how we view the past. Our understanding of the past shapes how we reify the world around us, which in turn influences how we imagine future possibilities.
See [double hermenutic](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_hermeneutic), [reflexivity](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflexivity_(social_theory)) and [postmodernism](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism) (please actually read about what postmodernism is, rather than relying on popular understanding of the term, which is very often inaccurate)
As quoted in the original Command & Conquer!
And the way you white wash the past is also very interesting, because it shows the preset-day values of the storyteller.
One mistake might be that we try to patronize people too much and that enlightenment might favor a relaxed approach. I am sure if historic depictions nurture interest in an era, people would search for additional information.
You have to play a Aryan colonial invader who disdains the local culture and religion because your own culture is so much superior, and you have to do that wearing the historically inaccurate trappings of of what people a century ago imagined vikings looked like -- trappings that have been appropriated by neo-nazis.
There's no agency at all for players in this regard.
 - https://store.steampowered.com/app/50300/Spec_Ops_The_Line/
 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dzstxE_5Rc
 - https://i.imgur.com/VSi8EOG.jpg
The problem with Assassin's Creed Valhalla is that, rather than presenting you with the option to kill civilians and take slaves and letting you choose not to participate in this aspect of the time period/history, the game is hiding that historical fact in order to let you safely indulge in a sanitized historical fantasy. As a player who doesn't know better (AKA most people in the world), you don't even know the alternative you could be choosing.
Some games allow you to have a choice in it, but doing so is not synonymous with holding that view.
> trappings that have been appropriated by neo-nazis.
Don't make the mistake in handing such symbols to neo-nazis. They will turn it around on you. For them Vikings might depict an ideal but they probably aren't interested in a deeper cultural analysis anyway.
Most people full understand what people are trying to say, when they use that word.
Nobody plays a game and suddenly becomes the character in the game, no more than anyone reads a book and becomes the character in the book. If someone disagrees with it after purchasing it, then they don't play it.
People do conceptualize past based on entertainment they have seen voluntary, whether consciously or subconsciously. Majority of people engaging with fiction wont rush to read about real history. Which is not even complaint, it is just a fact.
Which is why blog posts and writings that compare the two from people who actually know history do have value for minority of those who are curious or interested to fact check fiction. Cause even curious minority wont be necessary interested in reading massive historical book about vikings or England just because they played game.
Videogames can be an inspiration for someone to read up on the real history so its not all bad.
Yet contrarians here seem to anchor on the inclusion of other races and women as the "bad pc" to be debated.
The argument is that pretending that the Vikings were unilaterally the good guys is an irresponsible thing to do when your game claims to be made by a multicultural team (AKA "we're trying to be sensitive about it") and when the game series has always tried to weave the stories into real-world settings.
One of the interesting things the author points out is that they were open about slavery in a previous game set in the Caribbean, but it's almost never mentioned here despite its historical prominence in the setting.
“The history of the invasion itself in this time period is, of course, a critical part of the journey,” Ismail said. “What did it mean for the Vikings of the Norse to land in England and to cohabitate?” Ismail enunciated that last word carefully. He said the historians that his team worked with suggested that the “Viking approach to this invasion was cohabitation.” He continued: “Yes, there was war and it was bloody, and it was very brutal. But they adapted themselves to the people they came to. And this is an aspect of it that we do look at. Some historians will even say that this is maybe why the Vikings sort of lost their way of life and culture over time—that they adapted themselves rather than forcing others. And so that aspect is something we do explore to a certain degree in the game.”
No mention of slavery, and even brutal colonisation is dismissed with "but", instead talking about "cohabitation". I'm truly baffled by how ahistoric and whitewashing it is. What for?
Because most players don't want to play as someone who captures people for slavery, or invades a monastery by slaughtering all of the monks inside.
The slavery I can understand, but the violence is kind of what makes Vikings a popular character archetype. I can't imagine wanting to play a Viking protagonist in a "realistic" setting without the pillaging and bloodshed. That's kind of the draw.
I get your point, and you're probably right, but at least one person (namely, myself) has no problem with violent fights in a videogame, but would not enjoy playing a game that required me to slaughter unarmed civilians. I still want to think of myself as a hero, not... that. All those Goombas had it coming to them, is what I'm saying.
The conflict between making a videogame (or any bit of popculture really) enjoyable and inclusive vs. historically accurate often comes up and both sides have a fair point. My personal solution is to both enjoy the content and then try to educate myself through articles like this one.
What's the point of this? Lying about history to make some people feel better?
If your samurai game includes werewolves and machine guns you don't get to turn around say you didn't add something because it wouldn't be historically accurate. You have to use a better excuse, like you felt it would be dumb or that you didn't feel like it.
See, that makes some sense if you're doing high fantasy and shit that's set in a wholly fictional world.
But just because some parts of a game are not realistic does not mean you should just forget about even trying. It makes no sense.
> If your samurai game includes werewolves and machine guns you don't get to turn around say you didn't add something because it wouldn't be historically accurate
You're treating this as if it was an excuse for some sin. If I want to make a werewolf story in Belle Époque Paris, there could be some historically accurate black African representation, but if the setting is the middle Ages it would be just stupid and lazy -- UNLESS there is some effort to bring some lore into it.
And that's the main problem I have here. Suspension of disbelief and all that. Just adding $tokenblack012 and $eastasian499 to a setting where they don't implicitly belong is just lazy pandering.
And here is the crux of our disagreement. I see it simply as an aesthetic choice. An art director got bored and thought adding some different looking knights might be fun.
Personally I'm far more 'offended' by overly unrealistic weapons and combat in my 'historical' games than I am by an unrealistic number of women soldiers.
Obviously, ideally people would not identify with a game character (and with other humans) based on color/sex/gender but on a moral/ideological level. But apparently we're not there yet.
The article we're commenting on does make the point that people of African / Asian descent being present in middle-ages Europe isn't unreasonable:
"I will say that, as travelers and traders, it is not crazy that people with these backgrounds might be in England, even in the ninth century. The decision to include so many characters from Asia and so few from Africa is a bit more frustrating; I’d expect to see a lot more North Africans in 9th century England than either Middle Eastern or East/Central Asian characters (because it is closer, as a matter of trade-routes)."
The article's quibble is mostly with it concentrating them into your settlement, rather than around pre-existing trade hubs.
It's still a stretch to have a randomly diverse community... but the "historically accurate black African representation" is probably enough that you don't have to work at explaining a minority of diverse characters.
Majority Arab with a healthy mix of black people seems reasonable, though.
The AC series really never asks you to take it very seriously. To the extent that actual history is present, it's almost like fan service.
Compare that to time travel in dystopian future in the last bioshock where you have some known elements but you also project fire from your hands to fight a mecha-lincoln. That establishes a parallel universe where anything goes and it doesn't matter what you borrow into the story.
if this were true, it would certainly nullify most of the critiques from TFA. the meticulous attention to detail in creating historically accurate (or at least plausible) set pieces works against this argument.
So a werewolf invasion of the Tokugawa shogunate would need to include Latinx genderfuild bipocs or be racist?
I guess I'm racist then.
Puts on Nazi hat and reads historically accurate accounts of Stalingrad
Literally no one is saying that.
If that makes you happy.
You literally were: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motte-and-bailey_fallacy
I can't help but think there's a field of woke eugenics that uses terms like this completely unironically.
I'm gonna have to disagree with you here and reiterate a point from a "Co-optional Podcast" episode from years ago:
Games don't _have to be_ "FUN", they have to be "compelling" / "engaging". The thought that games can only be fun is a relic from video games's infancy stage much the same as once upon a time when films/movies were new and there were only short slapstick flicks. The medium film matured to where a film can be about utterly horrible things/ideas but it's still seen as a good piece of media because it was "engaging" on some level.
"Buy our new awkward conversation asset flip; it's NOT FUN!!"
If I were nonwhite I think I’d want to be included in some games, yes.
First, you're assuming "minorities" (and just that word is a problem, as it's utterly US-centric) are insecure and hypersensitive, which is quite patronizing.
Second, this is the line of thinking that has led privileged American influencers to accuse slavic developers of neo-colonialism when they just wanted to represent their own otherwise underrepresented culture. See the reactions to CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3 or Warhorse Studio's Kingdom Come: Deliverance. This is particularly infuriating when considering how Poland or Czechia have been victims of imperialism themselves, and quite recently to boot.
That said, I really enjoy Lucio from Overwatch in every way I can think of.
It was something that he was a 'human', since Pac-man, Q*bert, Donkey Kong, and Frogger weren't.
I said include in “some games”. There can be games that justify being all white, sure.
The rest can have nonwhite characters without ruining any white person’s day.
Furthermore, this is not the main problem with AC and I now regret taking up this bait.
The game is either a willing or unwilling nazi racial theory apology. Let’s focus on the implications of that please.
(Though naturally there will be some people who will feel that's just not enough. But that doesn't mean that these voices are right. Creators/publishers/developers have the right to make whatever game they feel like, with as much "accuracy" as they want.)
Just having a cursory look over my collection on steam:
* Streets of Rage had black, white, asian, men and women.
* Street Fighter had every nationality on earth represented.
* Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Almost all the characters were black.
* Grand Theft Auto V - One of the main playable characters is Black (there are 3)
* Sleeping Dogs which is set in Hong Kong so they are Chinese.
* Yakuza Series - Japanese.
* Prey (the first one) you play a Native American.
* Prey (the new one) you appear to be of Asian decent (probably chinese if I were to guess as the surname is Chu).
* Assassins Creed - Altair is a Arab.
* Assassins Creed 3 - Ratonhnhaké - Mixed Native American and White.
* Kratos - Greek
* King Pin - Black
* Aladdin - Arab
* Loads of Micheal Jackson games (Black)
The Grand Theft Auto series on its own has sold million and millions of copies.
I am still not including all the games where you can literally design your character to be anything you want. Or all the strategy games where you can choose your historical factions such as Age of Empires.
> If I were nonwhite I think I’d want to be included in some games, yes.
Have you ever thought that other people don't judge or identify characters in their entertainment on what race they are? I couldn't give a monkeys the race of a game protagonist. It literally doesn't enter into my mind. Why are you soo pre-occupied with it is the real question?
It only seems to be rich white people in the US (nobody cares about this shit in Europe btw because our identities are based on our nationality) seem to care about it.
I do think there is a kernel of truth to what you're saying, but I don't think it's right to dismiss entirely the fact that representation IS important.
Historically, "rich white people" have been in control of the media, so it's great to see this group becoming more self aware. Sure, from time to time there is some overcorrection, but eventually things will settle down and the world will be better for it. We should let people with compelling stories tell their stories! Now that streaming is the norm, there's room for everyone, now that we're not limited to only the stories which are marketable for primetime.
Speaking from my own experience, I have been so so happy to see so much positive representation of LGBTQ characters in mainstream television / movies lately. As a kid, I had no positive examples of LGBTQ adults in my life, so I had no choice but to struggle by myself. Whether we like it or not, many children learn about the world through television.
It would be difficult to express in words how deeply moved I was to learn that Disney Channel aired a children's show ("Andi Mack", ) with a gay main character, whose relationship with another male character was a major plotline. Shows like this give LGBTQ kids characters they can relate to, and gives non-LGBTQ kids a positive story about someone who is different from them. That children today might not need to deal with the same pain and isolation that I felt as a kid makes me so incredibly happy.
This idea is insidious.
Firstly people have to remember fiction is fiction. The reason why the first few seasons of Game of Thrones was compelling was because the world they lived in didn't have any modern sensibilities in it. The more they threw in modern sensibilities the worse the show got (thought the action scenes for the most part got better).
There was some show recently where Black slaves in the USA had taken power over the whites and a white KKK member from another dimension somehow got transported there. Some decried the show and wanted it banned. I thought it sounded excellent, because it was soooo divorced from reality. Same with the "Man from the High Castle". The setting in which the enemy won WWII was compelling.
Secondly just randomly pushing people into roles for the sake of representation ends up cheapening any genuine effort. The Wire was brilliant because the huge number of black people being in the show made sense. At the time I didn't actually notice that most of the cast was black.
You know what the end result is. It made me notice skin colour when I didn't used to and made me start to resent any effort (no matter how genuine) because I know there is probably some quota involved somewhere to pander to a demographic.
> Historically, "rich white people" have been in control of the media, so it's great to see this group becoming more self aware.
It isn't self awareness though. They are projecting their prejudices onto the rest of us. This includes places where it just isn't relevant and makes almost no sense.
How dare they project their prejudices onto me in an effort to absolve themselves of guilt, then have the gall to tell me that I am the one with the problem when I object to it. Fuck them!
I clearly remember when I decided I wouldn't watch anymore broadcast television (this was about 8 years ago now).
There was a show hosted by Scottish Comedian Frankie Boyle that was infamous for his offensive comedy. On that show there was a rich Canadian woman on the TV telling people in the audience that all men had done through the centuries was raping and beating women.
Then there was a black musician called "Akala" telling me the British Empire institutions were guilty of perpetuating racism. He seemed to be obilvious to the fact that he was on a British Institution being broadcasted to every home in the country.
Other the gross oversimplification of history. I had nothing to do with it (nor did my family as they were all very poor). It would be like blaming today's Germans for what Hitler did. It is absolutely disgusting.
You know what the end result of this is? It made me hugely suspicious of any claim of sexual misconduct or racism. It is the classic story of the boy that cried wolf.
> We should let people with compelling stories tell their stories! Now that streaming is the norm, there's room for everyone, now that we're not limited to only the stories which are marketable for primetime.
Maybe I am getting old but I remember a lot of this already happening. I am not saying it was perfect and I don't disagree with it in principle.
Recently "Black Panther" was released. "The first black super hero" they said. People seemed to forget Wesley Snipes played Blade for 3 movies (starting in 1997) and they were the first Marvel Movies and made the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe viable as it showed that a comic book property could be successful.
Before that we had the "There are no female action heroes" they said. Forgetting all thrillers in the past with heroines, a whole movie franchise called Aliens, Cherry 2000, Nikita, Tank Girl, Buffy and a bunch of other movies I have probably forgotten about where the woman had taken charge of the situation and won the day.
People increasingly think that the world before they were born didn't exist.
My idea of representation is: Let people with interesting stories tell their stories. Modern audiences don't really care if the protagonist looks like them, so let's push for interesting stories rather than a specific character archetype. Invite writers of all backgrounds to the table, and allow their experiences to shape the story.
This seems to be changing : in France young Muslims are now placing Sharia above the secular law :
Note that the USA (and European Union, and of course the Muslim countries) are blamed for the dissemination of this dominant communitarian model.
Okay, and how big the videogame representation aspect of this problem is? Yep, good question, but even if it's small, it doesn't invalidate it.
In the 90's there was a short-lived company called Motown Software (who's parent company was Motown Records), created to make video games for African-American players. They released two video games: Bebe's Kids and Rap Jam: Volume One.
Yes, playing CKIII I feel the need to be included when I setup an African cannibal tribe that invades Europe and commits genocide.
Gamers in particular are notorious for "cancelling" (ie, refusing to buy / play a game) due to one or two small issues. For example, see loot boxes in recent games. How much these small vocal groups impact sales is still up for debate, but gaming publishers would probably try to avoid bad press if they can help it.
So, rather than spending months of time and resources trying to explain to 12 year olds' parents why there's slaves in a game, it's easier to simply omit that part of history, or rewrite it to be modern-day-friendly. It's a "work of fiction" after all.
Yup. The point is that almost no one cares about history, so even a few people whining about "inclusion" is enough make a nonsense historical game.
Forget about ancient norse and greeks, they can't even make a halfway accurate WW1 game.
I think playing the historical accuracy card here is pointless as games (and popculture in general) always sacrifice accurracy to increase fun - no point in getting upset over this one specific thing.
In any case, game developers are trying to break the cycle where games primary cater to one demographic, where all inaccuracies put in are so that one demographic feels better about themselves. And then lesser engagement of demographic that is not catered to (instead the games sometimes insert inaccuracies that makes them feel even worst) is then chalked on "they naturally cant be interested, lets cater to other demographic even more".
We're talking about a game series whose central conceit is that an obscure Islamist sect noted mainly for murdering religious figures they disagreed with is actually a secret society acting to preserve an Enlightenment-style libertarian ethos for centuries before the Enlightenment (yet staying curiously neutral during the French Revolution!) Every design decision made in other periods shoehorns in the assumption whichever faction these ahistorically-inserted Assassins are allied to are 'good guys' who believe in freedom fighting an evil conspiracy very loosely associated with a historical Christian order, as well as assumptions like the opportunity to roleplay Vikings will sell more games than protecting Saxon homesteads (commercial pressures the author is well aware of when discussing other design decisions). I'm more surprised by the historically inaccurate weapon choices tbh.
It's clearly an article written by someone with plenty of knowledge about the actual history to share, but still reminds me of an old flatmate criticising the physics of the Simpson's Movie!
True, Assassin's Creed is certainly marketed as having more attention to realism than the Simpsons Movie. It's more like a Dan Brown book though: people might find the stock goodies and baddies narrative, historic/mythologic references and attention to detail with symbols and places all too believable but it's certainly possible to overanalyse design decisions which amount to stereotypical heroes in stereotyped historical settings sell better.
If one actually wanted to produce a nuanced representation of that historical timeline, it would be difficult to do so as a game based on killing large numbers of NPCs
The point is that for the player character and allies to be killing large numbers of NPCs - well, killing small numbers and enslaving large numbers, more accurately - would itself constitute a nuanced representation of that period in history, this being very much what the historical viking raiders actually did. The major flaw Devereaux finds in the text is that it discards this nuance.
That Ubisoft's motivation in making the game they did is to make a lot of money, and only that, does not vitiate the value of the analysis with respect to history, both that of the 9th century CE and that of today. Devereaux makes clear enough, I think, that it's not about authorial intent, but about the meaning of the work in context - which is to say, the style of textual analysis he's using is the one that has been solidly doctrinaire for many decades now. To call this "overanalysis" seems to me to miss the point.
It's not to say anyone shouldn't enjoy the game as a game; Devereaux says right up front that he does enjoy it for its own sake, and isn't trying to detract from anyone else's enjoyment either. He's a historian knowledgeable of the period the game purports to represent, and so he analyzes it from that perspective. Anyone who does not want to partake of that perspective or that analysis is, it seems to me, at perfect liberty not to do so.
In the end, it really is about healthy skepticism, especially of long-held beliefs and "knowledge".
For everyone who isn't aware of the history of this statement, it was a way for the game to include a scene of beating up the pope without (pardon the pun) getting crucified.
If anything, that just makes it more offensive instead of less, IMO.
And I didn't say that the decision was expressly made by non-christians.
> And I didn't say that the decision was expressly made by non-christians.
I don’t know what else you could’ve meant by “the decision was made by someone of a different background” (paraphrased because copy/paste on HN mobile is tedious).
I wonder if the people who made this game have some historical resentment towards the English.
the ideas of a unified Anglo Saxon people started to emerge at the end of the 9th century I believe, with leaders like Alfred the Great
9th century England had very little in common with the British empire of the 18th century that crushed the French in America. If you want to argue that they have biases against the English because they are "French" Canadian, then I think you need to avoid making claims on the Internet on topics of which you know nothing.
And you need to do some reading up on Canadian history. French Canada doesn't like the rest of Canada and vise versa. But the animosity extends in part to the European counterparts.
You seem to think I think the Ubisoft employees are seething with hatred for the English. I don't. I'm just saying that given their cultural baggage (as a group) this is likely to a blind spot where they're less likely to notice.
Please stop these generalizations that are borderline racist. I personally have nothing against the English, for example. If you hate us so much, that's on you.
Go watch, say, The Last Kingdom on Netflix. It wasn't made by Ubisoft or French Canadians. And yet the depiction of English vs Danes is pretty much the same: the cowardly christians with their silly religion. That's the POV of one character. It is flawed as well. But it has nothing to do with French Canadians, come on.
> I'm just saying that given their cultural baggage (as a group) this is likely to a blind spot where they're less likely to notice.
I'm sorry but you seem to be showing your own "cultural baggage" here and projecting it onto others.
Cornwell certainly has an anti Christian bent, but he at least tries to compensate with some relatable characters (Leofric for example).
And since this is about Valhalla, why on earth would people in Quebec have some biases for Vikings? Quit spewing nonsense on the Internet.
It's curious that what is now Britain has been invaded and its people enslaved many times over the centuries but no modern day British person harbours any resentment for it towards present day Italians, Scandinavians, French, Moroccans...
You must have had a very different education than me then. We were taught that the Vikings we bought off, the Roman Empire collapsed for reasons unrelated to us, and the Normans stayed and intermingled with the population.
Nevertheless for a present day Brit to harbour resentment against a present day dweller in Rome because of galley slaves would be considered utterly absurd.
(Massive moggy BTW)
 although vikings being predatory bastards I pretty much knew already, but there's plenty more I don't.
(edit to remove innuendo)
Anyway, perhaps it's a fair point to make if your blog is called "A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry"...
There is also a difference between what the characters say and believe and what the environment depicts - e.g. there's not a problem with the norse thinking that they're doing good but rather with how the game constructs places which reinforce that narrative. e.g. the uninhabited river valley, the lack of slave trading
But of course that's not going to fly.
I feel Factorio is the counter example, you are a settler on a planet wiping out the local inhabitants mostly just minding their own business, who are attracted by the pollution you are generating. I definitely always feel like the bad guy when playing.
I agree with the article's main points, but I think the author gives the game's creators too much credit here. You could tell from the first trailer that this game was going to engage in historical revisionism of the "the Vikings were really noble heroes" type. This isn't oversight or subtext, it's a conscious and deliberate choice.
The people who made this game weren't stupid or ignorant. If they chose to erase the reality of Viking slavery and violence against defenceless civilians, it wasn't an accident. They may (or may not) have intended to defend colonialism in general, but this game is an entirely intentional attempt to defend _Viking_ colonialism specifically. And they will have been perfectly aware that this played into neo-Nazi tropes.
I'm more frustrated by the lack of diverse body types... there is no way malnutrition, lack of modern-day medicine and violence can produce as many healthy bodies as what we see in Ubisoft titles.
Then you have to realize that in having your character call someone disfigured in your fictional work is also mean without treading extremely carefully. You have to use your voice as the narrator to make it clear that this wasn't an okay thing to do. It's the same as DnD rules where "it's what my character would do" isn't an excuse for being cruel and making people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. Everyone has a story of that one guy who makes women uncomfortable by having their character rape someone -- sometimes someone in the party -- and get mad when the DM says no and kicks them out.
I think they just optimized for a wide audience. They romanticised the viking age from the perspective of a modern day person in the shoes of a viking. I don't think they had an agenda to defend viking colonialism.
Let's compare this to the recent PC brigade efforts of banning "master/slave", or "blacklist/whitelist" terms in software. Whoever introduced "master/slave" terms into e.g. database software certainly did not have an agenda to defend slavery, yet people still got mad.
And if something as minuscule as a simple word can spark so much outrage, then a mainstream, ridiculously popular game doing such blatant and heavy-handed history whitewashing of an entire culture is a veritable powder keg waiting to explode.
("Whitewashing" is also a potentially dangerous word, I hope I did not trigger someone here.)
But you are correct in one thing - Ubisoft, being a greedy corporation, optimized for getting the most money, even at the expense of making the game's "made by diverse team" disclaimer a sad, tone-deaf joke.
Everybody seems to have their own personal viking. From the strong, pride of the white race, Christian-killing raider to the inclusive feminist bossgirl shield-maiden. The only thing tied everything together being the subjects' immunity to the corrupting influence of Western Modernity, whatever that influence means to you.
In the end, the best recent work of fiction I've seen in this setting happens to be... Japanese. Vinland Saga manages to be faithful in the things that affect historical awareness (the details of everyday life, the structure of society, the perception of the world) and still be very romantic in its character-building.
TLDR; Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla constructs a deceptive apology for colonialism. Colonialism = Good. And that is a irresponsible message.
There was a resurgence of neo-nazis a few years ago, all of this is trapped in a cultural time bubble, along with the concern?
The ESRB rating is "Mature". There are hardly any games
besides pornographic games that get "Adults Only". Even the Witcher 3 is only "Mature".