Don’t Be An Elf: Racism in Video Games
Poor elves. They just prance around with their flower-crowns and wooden bows and do dances among the wild animals of the forest. They have pointy ears and usually live for quite a long time. Elves are wise, and even magical. Yet, for some reason, everyone hates them. Well, everyone who might ever be hanging out with elves, that is. Even I liked Gimli more than Legolas, but we can skip that conversation.
As of recently, video games have been including in-game racism for all sorts of different fantasy races. From Elves and Dwarves to Turians and Krogans, equal rights for Middle Earth and future-space minorities probably won’t be seen too soon. Developers today are looking for every angle they can think of to have you posting and talking about that one new controversial aspect of the storyline. From mass genocide and race wars to just general prejudice, game racists are the new hook.
Racism in Video Games
Why racism now? Well, you might bring up the whole “games as art” discussion when talking about the success of story-driven games and their inclusion of a fake minority. Regardless of your stance on the subject, fake racists are obvious attempts at invoking emotions the player may have about the scum of the Earth, real life racists.
It’s a touchy subject, especially today when most people are dropping their idiotic prejudices and embracing people of all origins. In Dragon Age: Origins for example, playing through the game as an elf is a very different experience than playing as a human. You are hated by people of all sorts of other fantasy races. Humans spit on you, and dwarves don’t trust you. You’re just another outsider, a pointy-eared tree-lover to them, and that’s not going to change by doing a couple quests for King Dwarfguy or Captain Humandude. Even the inclusion of an anti-elf joke can be heard here and there when walking around major cities. You can draw the comparisons to real life American ideals yourself, as I refuse to offend anyone.
To continue the comparison to real life, The Witcher 2 is another good example. The main character, Geralt, attempts to stand neutral among politics and dealings with other people. He is a mutant himself, and is looked down upon by all races, not just a couple elves here and there. However, Geralt (just like the growing number of people who are open to other races in real life) is unaffected by their insults, and looks upon all races and cultures as equals. He supports elves sometimes over humans, and humans sometimes over elves. Even the occasional dwarf can pay The Witcher enough to have him kill a pesky dragon or two for them.
Then, you have games like Mass Effect on the very extreme end. In Mass Effect 2, the Krogan race is producing too quickly, and their involvement in galactic affairs has come with huge overpopulation. The Krogans are also known for being generally hot-tempered, and very fond of fighting. Other races look at this as a potential problem, and secretly devise a solution. A massive war breaks out, and a huge Krogan genocide occurs. Also, Salarian scientists devise a way to stop Krogans from reproducing almost altogether. These events eventually directly affect the player, and they are able to choose whether or not to end the genophage and save the Krogan race, or let it continue on, risking the extinction of their species. As such, Krogans hate Salarians (and you, if you chose against them), and Salarians hate Krogans. For the Krogans, this isn’t just some random, “Oh, you look different from me.” kind of hate, it’s more of a deeply passionate and emotional want for revenge kind of hate. This kind of hate, again, however you want to compare it, can be seen in real life scenarios.
The inclusion of racism in video games, fake or not, has become quite popular. Fake racism is fresh on the heels of these big story-driven games, and probably will only evolve as the games do. You can see through the limits of pixels and polygons and analyze these stories however you like. It invokes an emotional response out of nearly all of us, whether you’re some a-hole elf-hater or… well actually pretty much everyone hates elves. So in all seriousness, don’t play as an elf.