Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed in Western Games

October 21, 2010 -

A columnist for the United Arab Emirates-based Khaleej Times has penned an opinion piece examining the subject of how Western made games impact (and depict) Middle Easterners.

Aijaz Zaka Syed begins by noting that his son’s favorite games are of a violent nature, and typically originate “in the land of the free." Such games are shaped by “the simplistic, With-Us or-Against-Us doctrine propounded by, you know who.”

The author tries to remind his son that the action happening on the screen is “just a game,” and that “things are not what they seem to be in the movies and videogames,” but he worries about the impression the games might be having on his off spring.

Claiming that, “The distortion of the Middle Eastern reality has undergone a watershed change since 9/11,” the columnist says about recent war games:

The player controls American or broad Western coalition forces, while enemy units are controlled by the computer. The ‘enemy’ is portrayed with a set of broad, schematised attributes like head cover, loose clothes and dark skin etc. The narrative links the characters to “international terrorism and/or Islamist extremism.

He continues:

Predictably, the US and coalition soldiers are a collective paragon of virtue and humanised with names to help the gamer identify with the ‘good guys.’ And the enemy is a faceless, collectivised monster, often described as terrorist groups, insurgents and militants.

While the coalition is fighting for grand ideals like freedom, justice and democracy, the enemy is alien and not a ‘real’ soldier, removing the legitimacy of or justification for his actions. No attempt is made to explain or explore the motives of the ‘terrorists’.

Aijaz Zaka Syed believes that the representation of Arabs and Muslims in games has contributed to the divide between the West and such groups, as he asks, “Is it any wonder the Islam-West chasm continues to grow by the day?"


Comments

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Hmm...let me just point out that-

a) Every single group I can think of is portrayed as a villain in some way in a video-game, including white american businessmen and politicians.

b) Stories involve dynamic personalities so moderate muslims, like moderate anyone-else, does not make for an interesting character.

So in the words of Heavy Weapons Guy "Cry some more!"

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

"Every single group I can think of is portrayed as a villain in some way in a video-game, including white american businessmen and politicians."

Are the MAJORITY of white Americans in video games portrayed as villains?

"Stories involve dynamic personalities so moderate muslims, like moderate anyone-else, does not make for an interesting character."

I was unaware that "dynamic personalities" meant "terrorists trying to kill you".

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

"Are the MAJORITY of white Americans in video games portrayed as villains?"

Redneck Rampage? ;)

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Har, I was just thinking of Redneck Rampage myself.  Been awhile.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Oddly enough when developers try to name and give a "face" to the enemy they shit for it - lots of it! Go figure...

Anyway, this "issue" is nothing the Germans, Japanese, Italians, and to a lessor extent, Russians and recently Chinese as well as Korean people have dealt with individually and collectively throughout the past century.  Video games are no different than books, TV shows, movies, theater and other visual art forms.  

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"The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little" - Herodotus

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- "The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little" - Herodotus

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Aijaz Zaka Syed believes that the representation of Arabs and Muslims in games has contributed to the divide between the West and such groups, as he asks, “Is it any wonder the Islam-West chasm continues to grow by the day?"

I'm pretty sure the Islamic terrorists who are targeting innocent civilians with rocket propelled grenades and suicide bombers, beheading journalists and torturing people on camera are doing a fine job of that on their own.

The people who make the video games and TV shows don't draw inspiration out of a vacuum.  They see stuff on the news and turn it around into their fiction.

This is the same old article with the same old argument, and once again it doesn't address the actual problem.

Oh, and people are more than free to make games about a police force cracking down on crazy rural American militias if they want to.  I doubt it would sell, but there you go.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

"I'm pretty sure the Islamic terrorists who are targeting innocent civilians with rocket propelled grenades and suicide bombers, beheading journalists and torturing people on camera are doing a fine job of that on their own."

And the Christian terrorists who are murdering doctors and sending toxic chemicals to Congressmen?  How about them?

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

enemies in games will stop looking like that when real world enemies stop looking like that

its unfortunate that innocent people also look like that ... frankly I wouldnt be suprised if the terrorists want to look like arab civilians.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Tell the Middle East video game developers to make their own games humanizing terrorists, and delving into their motives for randomly targeting civilians as a means of using violence as a form of coercion if they want.  I'm sure those games will be great...

"You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

"You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Wow, you are a real piece of shit, aren't you? You are one of these idiots for whom Muslim=Terrorst. He is talking about the lack of middle eastern characters in video games except as bad guys and he's totally right. I understand a big part of it is all the war games released based on counter insurgency roles, but still it fosters a certain attitude towards Muslims.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Aijaz Zaka Syed is making a centuries-old point about how the world is not as black-and-white as depicted in media or as promoted by the people in power. In the real world, there aren't "good guys" and "bad guys." There are just shades of gray, groups of people and each in conflict, motivated by their own grand ideals and their own brands of freedom, justice, and "democracy."

We often do not agree with the tactics used by those we label "terrorist groups, insurgents and militants" as well our past leaders who consciously targeted civilians to force peace (e.g., Churchill, Truman.) We may actively act to suppress those tactics, often by eliminating those people who use them. But we can all agree that every honest party to any conflict desires peace between nations, safety for friends and families, and luxuries to enjoy life and stave off death. These are universal interests.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

I agree, that people are neither 100% good or bad; thus 'gray'.

But concepts on the other hand, can well be 100% good or evil. Regardless of your poilitical issues, or who has wronged you, or the message you are trying to get across... killing civilians is 'bad'. Hiding weapons and militants in civilion populations is too bad.

I too agree that, of course, Muslims are indeed not the only ones that do that.

In looking at that, we must admit; not all arabs are on the 'bad' end of the scale, by any means at all. But I think the concept behind games is to put one in a 'good' vs. 'evil' conceptual situation, just like in ages past books, plays, movies, and poetry have done as well.

Not long ago the 'communists' were the prime metaphor for 'evil' - Red Alert is a good example, look to the movies as well - Missing in Action, Red Dawn, War Games, etc - in those cases the 'commies' where the sterotypical 'bad guys'.

Regardless of anything else; the 'evil' agenda of the time period will be reflected in media (not just games). Any society or creed that seeks to take freedom or lives away from the common people, will always be considered the 'evil' side. Since by and large the 'common people' are usually just wanting to live and let live.

Governments, special interests, and such are almost always the problem.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Red Alert was making fun of the Cold War first off. Second off I would rather have games that atleast TRIED to see it from both perspectives. The Sunni and Shiita militias in Iraq for example were not killing us because they thought we were infidels, we were just in their way of killing eachother. It was a blood feud over beliefs and we got caught in the crossfire.

I really wish someone would make a World War II FPS from the German perspective, because my Opa wasn't an evil damn nazi. He was a soldier fighting for his nation, not his leader.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

I think you need to read the title again. It doesn't say "Columnist Weary of How Terrorists are Portrayed". It says, "Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed". He's not asking developers to humanize terrorists, he's asking them to stop casting Arabs and Muslims as the faceless terrorist hordes. Furthermore, terrorist is not equal to Arab or Muslim. Americans, Germans, Swiss, French, Canadians, and more can easily be terrorists. All it takes is a political viewpoint and the willingness to use violence to promote that viewpoint. Americans have bombed abortion clinics. That is terrorism. It's not a race or creed that is naturally terrorist. Educate yourself before you jump to conclusions.

-Greevar

-Greevar

"Paste superficially profound, but utterly meaningless quotation here."

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

I think you need to read this sentence again: "No attempt is made to explain or explore the motives of the ‘terrorists’."

I'm pretty sure that's the line the previous poster was referring to.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Point being, when you see an Arab or a Muslim in a video game, it's usually as a very negative, two-dimensional caricature.

Regardless of what Juan Williams may tell you, in real life most Muslims are not terrorists.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Well, nobody really cares, so long as you have MUSLIM terrorists killing Americans, financed by MUSLIM theocracies and trained in MUSLIM nations, having been indoctrinated by MUSLIM religious leaders.

Stop the chain of Islamic terrorism and, maybe, the portrayal of terrorism in the Middle East would stop.

---

With the first link, the chain is forged.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

So what about the muslim that volunteers to become a soldier because his children were killed because they were to close to someone that tried to help a wounded man and is labeled a terrorist because of it. The definition of terrorism used to be about attacks against civilians but now even if they only attack soldiers they are terrorists.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Meh.

I am still more worried about being killed by christian terrorists then muslim ones.  But that tends to not fit the narrative in the US so religious motivation tends to get downplayed.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Well, there are also Christian Arabs, not just Muslim Arabs. And then there's the Nation of Islam. None of these fit the extremist religious narrative either.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

That's a swell strawman and all, but the majority of Muslims in real life are not terrorists, and the majority of Muslims in video games are.

Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist too, but you don't see popular media depicting white Christian Army vets as usually being terrorists.

Because that would be INSANE.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

McVeigh was one guy.  Anytime people in America do something as simple as EXPRESS THEIR CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH, like objecting to a mosque built down the street from the ruins of the World Trade Center, that's used as a terrorist recruiting tool.

 

Huge difference.

---

With the first link, the chain is forged.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

"Anytime people in America do something as simple as EXPRESS THEIR CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH, like objecting to people in America EXPRESSING THEIR CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED FREEDOM OF RELIGION, that's used as a terrorist recruiting tool."

Fixed it for you.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

The IS a mosque near WTC already and what they want to build is a Community Center that is actually blocks away from WTC.  There was also a mosque destroyed when 9/11 happened.

Jeez. People not even from NY trying to make decisions for people that live (or lived) there.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Are you listening to anything people are saying to you? Not all muslams are terrorists, and just because A mosque is down the street from the WTC, doesnt mean that it's a breeding ground for terrorists, which I'm pritty sure is what you're insinuating.

It's people like you that make me glad I don't live in the US. The abject Racism you're showing here is appaling.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

That line of thinking can be useful sometimes.  The Westboro Baptists acting like complete asshats gives me an excuse to distrust ALL Christians.  :p

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

No, it doesn't "give you the excuse."  It just makes it easier for you.  There IS a difference.

---

With the first link, the chain is forged.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed ...

Thanks for correcting my sarcasm!  That's always appreciated.

 
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