Capturing the Arabs: How video video games perpetuate Muslim stereotypes
Islam has a picture drawback. And it isn’t simply current world occasions which have led to an undue degree of scrutiny and prejudice. The media has been pigeonholing Muslims for years. You want solely watch a number of episodes of 24 or Homeland to see that Muslims, notably these of Arab descent, are virtually all the time painted because the enemy.
“The present political and cultural local weather is the rationale in media we’re the dangerous guys proper now,” stated Rami Ismail, a co-founding father of Vlambeer, an unbiased recreation studio based mostly within the Netherlands. The identical broad brush, he says, applies to video video games too. The Name of Obligation franchise, for instance, is rife with Muslim villains — like Khalid Al-Asadin in Trendy Warfare — and your job because the protagonist is usually to only shoot the Arab. “That is Name of Obligation, time and again. Shoot all of the Arabs,” stated Ismail. “Muslim blood is the most cost effective on the earth.”
Ismail spoke final week on a panel on the gaming present GDC about Muslim illustration in video video games. The presentation’s tone was a sombre one. “The present election has been fueled by sure prejudices,” stated Imad Khan, a contract journalist for the Day by day Dot who moderated the panel. “There have been some latent animosity that has erupted up to now yr resulting in untoward criticism and precise violence.”
“We are sometimes simply lowered to 4 or 5 stereotypes,” stated Dr Romana Ramzan, a recreation design lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian College within the UK. “It is often summed up by the garments we put on. So when you’re a lady, you put on a hijab […] Should you’re a person, you will have a beard or put on your nationwide gown.” She added that Muslims are additionally typically portrayed as aggressive and violent. “In video games, we shall be represented because the ‘different’ people who find themselves those you need to kill. Often it is a barely darkish-skinned character shouting Allahu Akbar, carrying an AK-forty seven. Or he has a camel or a goat.”
When requested concerning the look of seemingly Muslim characters in preventing video games like Zafina from Tekken 6, Ramzan stated that her actual difficulty is that a Muslim does not appear to be anybody specific individual. Muslims are usually not essentially Arab, and Arabs are usually not essentially Muslim.
“Why can we must be represented by our religion?” she asks. “Why cannot we be represented by our nationalities? Why cannot it’s what may a feminine from Pakistan seem like, or from Lebanon, or Tunisia? We’re all so numerous. Nobody’s actually sitting round considering what does a Christian character appears like.” She gave an instance of when she visited Morocco, and she or he noticed ladies who have been absolutely clothed from head to toe, and she or he additionally noticed ladies who wore backless clothes and miniskirts. “It does not make them non-Muslims. It is simply the best way they’re.”
“Muslim shouldn’t be a individuals,” Ismail stated. “It is 1.6 billion individuals the world over with numerous nationalities, backgrounds, languages. Not all Muslims converse Arabic.” For instance, Ismail stated, the world’s largest Muslim nation is Indonesia, which isn’t anyplace close to the Center East. “Individuals simply do not realize that.”
It isn’t simply the portrayal of Muslims that’s problematic. In a number of video video games, photographs of the Muslim world are sometimes inaccurate. This screenshot of the Karachi map in Name of Obligation: Trendy Warfare 2, for instance, has Arabic written over it. However Arabic is not spoken in Pakistan, which is the place Karachi is situated. In truth, Pakistan has two official languages: English and Urdu. Farah Khalaf, a Palestinian-Iraqi recreation developer from New Zealand, stated that she typically needs video games would depict Center Japanese cities as they are surely, as an alternative of sandy deserts. “For those who present individuals a picture of Beirut, they will be stunned that it is trendy!”
Nonetheless, online game portrayals of Muslims aren’t all dangerous. Khan says Ubisoft did an excellent job with Murderer’s Creed’s Altair character. “It is this story of this orphan, who grew up within the Murderer’s order. I assumed it was rather well achieved.” It additionally portrayed Istanbul as a vibrant, gleaming metropolis and featured a few historic characters like Suleiman the Magnificent and Selim II from the Ottoman Empire. Even Murderer’s Creed wasn’t utterly free from error, nevertheless. Ismail identified that it was odd to seek out out that Altair’s father had the identical final identify (Ibn-La’Ahad) as him, since having the identical identify as your mother and father goes towards Arabic naming conventions. Khan thought that was shocking, contemplating the whole lot else within the recreation was nicely researched.
One other instance of a constructive portrayal of a Muslim character is Faridah Malik in Deus Ex Human Revolution. She’s a chief helicopter pilot described as a 3rd-era American born in Dearborn, Michigan who’s additionally a trustworthy training Muslim. Ismail does assume she matches the stereotype of the “Good Muslim” — oh, she’s Westernized and subsequently she have to be good — however likes the character nonetheless.
Khan additionally singled out upcoming titles like The Solar Additionally Rises (about civilians caught within the Afghan warfare), Dujanah (the story of a woman dwelling in a Muslim nation) and Saudi Women Revolution (the place the primary characters are feminine motorbike heroes who drive throughout submit-apocalyptic Saudi Arabia) that present a unique aspect of the Muslim world. The latter particularly is recreation developed by a Saudi prince, which Ismail stated might encourage change.
“The business simply wants larger variety,” stated Rahman. “We’re not going to be telling fascinating narratives with out it.”
Ismail agrees. “Variety is primary. If you are going to make a recreation a few nation, speak to any person from that nation. If you are going to have a overseas language, have somebody who can learn it. If you are going to have a faith within the recreation, get somebody who understands it.”
“These are quite simple issues,” he stated. “Simply be a human being.”