January 03, 2009

Top Native stereotypes in video games

The Top 7...Native American stereotypes

We look at digital depictions of North America's First Peoples

By Joe McNeillyGames are notoriously bad at delivering rich characters and resonant emotional stories. Game creators lean heavily on generic stereotypes as a sort of narrative shorthand, so they can get on with designing levels and structuring core gameplay. Because games rely so heavily on stereotypes to invoke character, they are particularly illustrative of prevailing cultural attitudes.

If most game characters are bland archetypes, why then does it seem especially mean-spirited to depict Native Americans as feather-wearing, tomahawk-wielding cardboard standees? Check the first two paragraphs: having your culture all but annihilated adds an extra sting to the irreverent depiction of your sacred symbols. Game designers are quick to co-opt tribal trappings without any consideration for the culture behind the image. The result is often as offensive to Native Americans as Piss Christ is to Christians.
The top seven stereotypes in video games according to McNeilly:#7:  The Token Indian
#6:  The Hunter
#5:  The Sex Object
#4:  The Warrior
#3:  The Half-Breed
#2:  The Scout
#1:  The Shaman
Comment:  I'm not that familiar with Native-themed video games, so I'll take McNeilly's word for it. The top 7 stereotypical characters in comic books would be similar: the warrior/savage, the shaman, the chief/elder, the princess/sex object, the military veteran, the half-breed, and the hunter/tracker, in roughly that order.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I used to love comics, even into my twenties. Not so much anymore...