Tony Bueno examines not-so-bueno depictions of racial and ethnic minorities in video games.

Video games have long been targeted for fostering anti-social behavior through their gratuitous and often quite graphic depiction of violence. But itís about time someone looked beyond the obvious violent examples and attacked a far more insidious trend in electronic entertainment Ė bigotry. Be it directed against minorities, women, or any other oppressed group, video games have a very nasty habit of depicting stereotypical caricatures of nearly every possible culture. A few obvious examples:


This caused a commotion because of its infringement of the Tarzan copyright. OK, fair enough, but NOBODY complained that this game had a far more offensive image than a half-naked, loincloth clad jungle boy Ė The cannibals! Even in the 80ís when the PC movement was in its infancy, somebody should have cited this example of the bone-in-the-nose, skull wearing, grass skirt shimmying, "OOGA BOOGA!" shouting depictions of the natives.


A simple yet fun wrestling game in which you control a generic brawler climbing his way to the top.  Along the way, you'll battle against a variety of opponents.  Insane Warrior. OK... an Ultimate Warrior clone. Karate Fighter. I donít remember who this represented, but nothing really offensive. Golden Hulk is so clearly representative of a famous wrestler that I donít even have to say who it's is supposed to be. Piranha, a cheap fighter who resorts to bites and choke holds. Again, nothing objective here. Coco Savage, basically a black Fred Flintstone. WAIT A MINUTE! COCO FREAKINí SAVAGE???? JEEZ! If that ainít flat-out racist, I donít know what is!


This highly entertaining Japan-only release is possibly the worst offender of all. The members of the Masakari Tribe are all nearly identical to Coco Savage, only they merrily roll boulders and hurl spears at the hapless, overweight, Panama Joe/Tourist/Explorer/Dr. Livingston-looking protagonist. Need I say more?


Although Nintendo changed the original name of Vodka Drunkenski in the arcade to Soda Popinski, these are still pretty bad. Gabby Jay, an effeminate Frenchman who is such a pussy itís a god damn shame. Pizza Pasta, the Eye Talian caricature who was left out of the home versions. Dragon Chan and Piston Honda teeter on the verge of being Asian stereotypes. Masked Muscle, a boxer who resorts to head butts and even spits in opponentsí faces, is a prejudiced view of Mexican wrestlers. Even the English are presented in a bad light with Narciss Prince, a stuck up, wealthy, spoiled, and overrated brat. Think about it.


EVERY 3-D action title, from Tomb Raider to Rampage World Tour to the too numerous to mention polygonal fighting games, depicts women as action figures and sex objects. The volleyball games and BMX XXX have given up even trying to pretend that they donít cater to the T 'n A loving male population.


Grand Theft Auto series. OK, so these were never supposed to be family friendly, but come on! Italians, Haitans, Asians, Cubans, and Columbians are the most outstanding examples of prejudice here.  There's even an anti-Semitic overtone thanks to Tommy Vercettiís lawyer, the craven, cocaine addicted, flashy lowlife attorney Ken Rosenberg.

And last, but not least...


This is the possibly the most damaging example of racism in video games. An overweight, stupid, thick-accented, blue collar laborer is certainly not a positive depiction of Italian-Americans. Yes, Mario has always been a racist stereotype, yet no one has ever come out publicly and announced this. Most people I tell about this have an epiphany when it is mentioned. Often the best way to hide something is to make it obvious.

This list merely scratches the surface of video gamingís biggest vice. While we no longer have games where one must rape captive Native American women for points, maybe we really havenít come so far after all. If itís injuns, spics, niggers, wops, kikes, broads, fudge packers, camel jockeys, drunks, wankers, Japs, chinks, frogs, pigs, or (insert your favorite slur here) you hate, you never have to look farther than games to satisfy your intolerance!

[Thanks, Tony.  I can't wait for the letters... -ed.]

And donít even get me started on speciesism or ageismÖ

Editor's Note:  You're probably wondering why Clay Fighter 33 1/3rd is in the banner, even though Mr. Bueno never mentions that game in his article.  The answer is that the third game in the lackluster series of tournament fighters features two of the most ridiculously racist characters you'll ever see in a video game, or anywhere else.

The guy on the left is Kung Pao, martial arts master and short order cook.  He's got the bowl haircut and massive overbite of a Japanese soldier in a World War II propaganda cartoon, and he punctuates all of his special attacks with the names of random Chinese dishes.  In one of these moves, Kung Pao scurries away from his enemy while wearing a stir fry wok as a turtle shell.  His opponent is Houndoun, a voodoo priest armed with a dead chicken and a tiki mask.  His massive lips are curled into a haunting grin that would give both the NAACP and everyone else nightmares for weeks.

It's worth mentioning that some of the characters planned for the game were so tasteless that Nintendo refused to license it until they were dropped from the cast.  It's hard to believe that in the culturally sensitive 1990s, Kung Pao and Houndoun weren't the first to hit the cutting room floor!