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  1. #1
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    Shooters Need To Get Better At Depicting Arabs

    Whether it's the news, television or the movies, Arabs have become synonymously linked with the word "terrorist." And thanks to video games, we've become the target—literally.Both my job and my personal experience give me a unique perspective on the situation. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and moved to the Beirut, Lebanon about 8 years ago. I've been playing games for as long as I can remember and competing in tournaments for the last 3-4 years. Now I work for the leading gaming community in the Middle East, At7addak.com.
    The thing is, we're not alone as targets: the Russians, Chinese, Vietnamese and Germans all join us, but Arabs have been in the limelight for the last few years.
    In the limelight, but not as the heroes. We've all played as the U.S or any other paramilitary force and seen a game's story try to humanize these characters with catchy nicknames or background histories. Think Ghost or Soap from Modern Warfare 2. This where the differences begin to take place. Americans will relate to the hero defending his country from the terrorists threatening your freedom. As an Arab, you're "relating" to the guy who is going to destroy your city....and that's all.
    Let me describe a typical scene. Suddenly, an emotionally-detached bearded A.I armed with an AK-47, raggedy clothes and bare feet comes running out of nowhere and stands mindlessly still in the middle of the courtyard, shooting and yelling in "Arabic." In most modern games likeCall of Duty or Battlefield, the Arabic is actually Arabic. On the other hand, some games don't even try. Check out the this image from Splinter Cell: Conviction.

    The street sign on the right is actually written in proper Arabic. The sign on the left, however, is just a bunch of squiggly lines. I can't understand why only one sign got the proper treatment.
    Other games use proper Arabic but space each letter apart like a separate word. Call of Dutycorrectly uses Arabic in the game's audio but somehow messes up the written text. Arabic is read from right to left and almost all of the letters connect. For some odd reason, Infinity Ward decided to arrange the letters from left to right which I'm assuming caused the letters to space out.
    Developers just don't seem to go that extra mile for the enemy like they will for the heroes or even the guns in their games. Sure, details like getting the Arabic language right might only actually benefit Arab players. Maybe that's why it's not a priority.

    We're never actually properly introduced to the enemy, and so his appearance and overall character portray the stereotypical substitutes. Like in Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The brown and dusty gown, dark skin, thick beard, AK-47 and bare feet all come into play.

    Obviously, this isn't really the case. We've got our stoners, jocks, rockers, preppies—just like anywhere else. But we don't get to see anything but the stereotypes, and perhaps it has to do with the conflict in the Middle East.


    A lot of shooters aim for realism using current real world conflicts or inspirations.Medal of Honor and its cooperation with actual navy seal soldiers comes to mind. That's fine, but a lot of times the "authenticity" is only on one side.Even so, I notice small things. It's not uncommon to see the A.I. in shooters do stupid things like stand in the middle of the fight, fire blindly, refuse to run away from grenades, and not take cover just long enough for the player to deliver justice in the form of a lead bullet—like in the video to the left. It's strange for me to watch something like this. Granted, crappy AI in first person shooters isn't anything new. But when we're talking about terrorists that somehow run the world's most dangerous organization who seem oblivious to modern combat strategies, it's a littler harder to swallow.
    And of course, we never ever hear about an Arab's story in these games, nor their families or background. If we did, that would actually humanize them—and that probably wouldn't be as fun. The less you can relate to guy at the other end of your rifle, the easier it is to shoot his head clean off.
    These dissimilarities—including the poor Arabic I mentioned earlier—add to the disconnect between me and my digital counterpart. And they reinforce stereotypes about Arabs.
    How does that personally make me feel? Indifferent, which is unsettling. If I were to theorize, all the negative portrayals in media have just numbed me out. The fact that I've grown so accustomed to the typical stereotypes like the beard and brown gown (whether it's a movie, book, TV show or video game) worries me.

    A shop in Lebanon.
    I've got friends who voice their concern, and refuse to play certain titles like Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Call of Dutybecause of the stereotypes. I think they feel like we have little or no control of how we are perceived in the real world, that it's out of our hands. Think about it, though: In fictional worlds in video games, somebody scripts these stereotypes and xenophobic for the pure sake of entertainment. I think that makes it even worse.
    Take Medal of Honor: Warfighter for example: a game whose slogan is "We hunt terror." The game was actually sold in the Middle East—stacked front and center at retailers on release date. It sold well, even. My guess is that most people have grown numb to the negative portrayals too, or they just don't care. Despite the controversy, military shooters are always resting on top of the charts in the Middle East.
    Normally, some games get banned and don't make it across the pond. In Dubai for example, the censorship bureau plays every game before it hits the store and decides whether or not it can be sold. They tend to ban games that deal with controversial religious issues, excessive sexually explicit scenes to name a few—especially in games like, say, Saints Row The Third. It was probably the big purple $#@!.

    Another store in Lebanon.
    Despite the efforts, these banned games still make it to the grey market, where release dates are broken and you don't have to wait as long for your favorite titles—including banned ones. Gamers know exactly where to find banned games, though a downside of the grey market is that pre-order bonus content and DLC's are tough to come by.
    It's not all bad. In the past year we've seen some big steps forward in localization. For the first time we saw titles dubbed fully in Arabic, like Need For Speed: Most Wanted andEpic Mickey 2. Although I personally still chose to play to play them in English, the mere fact that I can switch it back to Arabic is more than enough. Xbox Live has now officially recognized a few of the countries in the Middle East. Hideo Kojima has visited Dubai and Ubisoft now has an Abu Dhabi branch. It's progress. All I can hope for is a future with games that shine us in a better light.
    I don't expect our portrayals in certain games to get better anytime soon though. As long as it's happening in the real world, Arabs can expect similar treatment in shooters. There is always a target, I guess it's just our turn now.
    Kotaku

    PSN: Abdou023
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  2. #2
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    Arabs need to just RUN quicker
    Plato and Aristotle, a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge

  3. #3
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    Nazi's and those dirty Ruskies say hi too!

    Get over it


    Quote Originally Posted by F34R View Post
    Ok... I was wrong. Happy?

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    Who cares?

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  5. #5
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    Stupid pointless article!

  6. #6
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    WOW. The level of maturity in this forum is so fascinating !!

    PSN: Abdou023
    Currently Playing: GTA 5

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    And? Any game ever made with Nazis as bad guys look like my wife's entire family (all German descendants), even me and my family (western EU mix descendants). If one only judge people SIMPLY by their looks, then that's the issue. Period. Bad guys in real life and in games are bad guys by their actions, not their looks. People that write crap like that article need to grow a pair.

  8. #8
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    Seems like some of you did not read the article.

    My name isn't a misspelled Nazi,god****.

  9. #9
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abdou23 View Post
    WOW. The level of maturity in this forum is so fascinating !!
    It is a pretty sensational article. I mean, connecting poorly programmed A.I. with the dehumanization of arabs is really reaching. Let's just go through this real quick together:

    Americans will relate to the hero defending his country from the terrorists threatening your freedom. As an Arab, you're "relating" to the guy who is going to destroy your city....and that's all.
    He shouldn't be relating to terrorists merely because they are arabs, and honestly, it worries me that he feels like he has to. Germans who play WWII games don't identify with the Nazis, for example. It's not even a question for them.

    As for inaccuracy of language, I don't see how getting words wrong is offensive to an entire ethnic group? Developers cut some corners when most of their demographic won't notice or care. It all looks like squiggly lines to me. Same concept for when people use Chinese kanji everywhere and have no idea what it means -- as long as it serves the purpose of looking asian, people will be satisfied. Games made in Japan do the same with the english language. It looks authentic enough to non-native speakers, and that's good enough. We'd all like to see more detail and research put into our games, but this is hardly an issue that singles out arabs.

    We're never actually properly introduced to the enemy, and so his appearance and overall character portray the stereotypical substitutes.
    Every over-the-top action video game and hollywood film ever made, basically. Simple good vs evil. They don't want to humanize the enemy, you shoot Nazis because they're Nazis. That doesn't mean gamers think every german citizen is a jew hating sociopath, and I certainly don't associate arabs with being terroists. But when a game is about shooting terroists, I don't need to know much more than that. A game like Call of Duty isn't going to give you the autobiographies of all your targets.

    Would it be nice to see some more variety and some more character depth in games? Sure. But he's picking on much too broad a subject here.

    Take Medal of Honor: Warfighter for example: a game whose slogan is "We hunt terror." The game was actually sold in the Middle East—stacked front and center at retailers on release date. It sold well, even. My guess is that most people have grown numb to the negative portrayals too, or they just don't care. Despite the controversy, military shooters are always resting on top of the charts in the Middle East.
    You mean even Arab people enjoy shooting terrorists? Gasp.
    Last edited by upmagic; 02-07-2013 at 01:59.

  11. #11
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    While obviously this does not apply to all of the Arab peoples, I could honestly care less if certain nations get upset over this- I'm looking at you Saudi Arabia.

    There are two very large nations that embody "problems" to the west (specifically the US) Israel and Saudi Arabia. And their respective lobbies in D.C. It's amazing that we have this so called "War on Terror" but we don't really seem to mind being buddy buddy with the largest players responsible for much of it. Because of oil and successful money thrown at lobbyists and campaigns.

    Bin Laden, and many of the violent fanatics, are Wahabis and salafists. Saudi Arabia is a Wahabi Monarchy... Bin Laden was handed off to Pakistan to sit on by Saudi Arabia and then we were tipped off. 1 + 1 =2

    This is to say nothing about the completely regressive and primitive culture that exists over there, especially their treatment of women.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Scheuer

    So cry me a river.


    Note: I have many Saudi, Turkish, Afghani and Persian friends. They have helped formulate my views in conjunction with independent research.

    The Saudi women in particular have some messed up stories to tell.


  12. #12
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    That's getting wayyyy off topic

  13. #13
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    Not really. This article is lamenting how "arabs" are depicted as terrorists. Well unfortunately for them, alot of violent radicals out there getting press are of Arab descent.

    And certain countries -cough-Saudi Arabia-cough- are not doing anything but aggravate the issue with some of the $#@! they pull.

    So they can cry their lungs out and I won't bat an eye.


  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha View Post
    Not really. This article is lamenting how "arabs" are depicted as terrorists. Well unfortunately for them, alot of violent radicals out there getting press are of Arab descent.
    But aren't most of the modern day terrorists from the middle east region of the world? Why sugar coat it? It's like profiling at airports. The U.S. has to pretend that they are not looking for middle eastern looking males between the ages of 18-27 while actually looking for them. All this does is harass the rest of us who are traveling by air.

    The funny thing is that a very good friend looks like a typical terrorist and gets pulled aside EVERY time he flies.
    I don't need no stinkin' signature!

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    I think the writer is spot on and correct: We really do need better enemy AI in shooters.

  16. #16
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    Great read. The stereotyping is certainly not going away anytime soon though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bio
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