Archive | July, 2009

Racism in Fable II

20 Jul

During my blog hiatus, I’ve been playing Fable II, a video game for the XBox 360. I’m not much of a gamer – I played Zelda: Link’s Awakening on my old Gameboy by using my sword to cut down grass and discover money instead of fighting the monsters like you were supposed to. But the person I’m dating made Fable II seem like fun, so I started messing around with it. This game has so many problems from a feminist, fat-accepting anti-racist  perspective (and many other parts of my soci0-political ideology) that I felt compelled to turn it into a series. And as the title of this post indicates, I’m beginning the series with a discussion of race and racism within the game.

You can’t play a non-white character. Let me repeat that: you cannot play a fucking non-white character. Hell, even the copy of Barbie: Nail Salon I had as a kid let you change the skin tone of the disembodied hand that was the feature of the game. And one of the quote-unquote features of Fable II is the customizable characters – you can play a woman, a man, a pure or corrupt character, a good or evil character. But you can’t play a non-white character. What the fuck?

Actually, that’s untrue. You can play a non-white character, but only if certain in-game requirements are met. I mentioned the good/evil and pure/corrupt choices, but I couched them rather vaguely. Let me explain further. Based on the choices you as your character makes – such as one of the initial decisions your character makes, whether to give either a town guard or an assumed criminal some arrest warrants – the physical appearance of the character changes, as does the opinion of the villagers the character encounters. By giving the assumed criminal your arrest warrants, you become evil (because the law is always good) and corrupt (because you are paid for your trouble (even though the guard would have paid you the same amount)). The more pronounced levels of corruption darken your character’s skin tone – so as long as you’re willing to play a corrupt character, right?!

I don’t really have words for how much of a fucked-up legacy that is. Essentially, Fable II is a morality play – by playing a corrupt character, the game punishes you. It’s harder to be liked by the citizens of Albion, and by making corrupt/evil choices, the character does not recieve profitable properties, such as the well-developed Westcliff, Bowerstone Old Town (if you give the guard the warrants, Old Town becomes one of the richest places in Albion, while giving them to the criminal turns Old Town into a slum – buying properties gives the player rent, and the more valuable the property, the higher the rent) and the farm in Brightwood. So the game is, more or less, telling the players that it’s a bad thing to play a darker-skinned character. Telling the players it’s wrong to play/be a person of color.

Also, by playing a good character (gives gifts to people, doesn’t slaughter the innocents, etc.), the character begins to appear more Aryan. My first character was positively blond , with a delightful (sarcasms galore) peaches & cream complexion, by the time I hit a game-ending glitch about 75% through the game. Practically all of the villagers were propositioning me for sex because the game reads “Good, Pure” as sexyhawt. Because the only desirable, attractive features are those that make you look Anglicized. Naturally

And then there’s the sole person of color in the game. A non-player character (NPC), Garth is the hero of Will(magic). He is literally playing the magical negro (sorry for the noise, that was just from banging my forehead into my desk. Where did I put that headache medicine?). Garth comes from the land of Samarkand, a place outside the game’s setting of Albion. Reaver, another of the heroes, mentions the “exotic substances” and “uninhibited people” of Samarkand with a sort of wistfulness. Because associating drugs and high sex drives with non-whites is never problematic. Aaargh.

Eloriane of Gender Goggles has a couple of posts up on Fable II, on sex and eating. I also intend to write on these topics.

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Quick Hit: Bastille Day

14 Jul

In honor of Bastille Day, C. L. Minou has a  fantastic post up drawing parallels between French history, kyriarchy, tesseracts and revolution of various sorts. The post is a delight to read – she quotes/references people as diverse as Gerard Manley Hopkins (one of my favorite poems of his, no less(yes, atheists can like religious poems)), Madeleine L’Engle and bell hooks (whose Feminist Theory I am currently reading) to make her point.