If gaming is guilty of one thing (it’s not, it’s guilty of many), then it’s painting characters with the broadest brush strokes possible. It’s much easier to explain a character if you make them a caricature of some offensively recognisable national characteristic, rather than a well rounded human being. Here are some of the very worst examples.
All Italians love jumping
This one started with Mario, spread to his brother Luigi and now grips the gaming world, vice like, because of Ezio Auditore di Firenze. Videogames paint all Italians as either platform exploring plumbers or free-running, history altering mass murderers. Even Italian prostitutes seem to be better at scaling rooftops in single bounds than any common or garden, non-Italian prostitutes. Anyone visiting Italy, hoping to see these fleet footed leapers in action is going to be sorely disappointed though. Italians are just as bad at jumping as the rest of us.
All Latin Americans have slicked back hair, aviator shades and chokingly tight trousers (or they’re evil generals)
We have the Just Cause games to blame for this particular folly, although they no doubt picked up this scurrilous lie from action movies in the mid-eighties. Latin Americans are either portrayed as swaggering sex machines, poured into leather outfits that would make Hugh Hefner blush, or they’re moustache clad megalomaniacs intent on keeping power on their island paradise at all costs. More often than not, these two forces of nature will go head to head in a battle to see who is the most offensively type-cast. It’s usually a draw. An offense-draw.
All Russians are the enemy
This bizarre left over from the cold war still holds sway in videogame land. The ex-communist peoples of Russia have become the new bogey-men of FPS gaming, and should be shot down at every given opportunity. Of course, there are games that don’t follow this rule, but the fact it’s still a rule speak volumes. We’re all being secretly trained by the CIA to shoot anything in a stupid furry hat speaking a language we don’t understand. It’s a conspiracy! It’s not a conspiracy really, but boy would I be screwed if it was.
All British people will inevitably betray you
If you’re playing an American character in a game and you have an English/British sidekick (most people don’t seem to care that those are two different things) then it’s highly likely that at some point in the story, he or she will stick a knife in your back and leave you for dead somewhere in a god forsaken foreign land. Uncharted 2, I’m looking in your direction. In real life, English people wouldn’t follow you to a god forsaken foreign land because we’re all too busy drinking tea, visiting the Queen and having terrible teeth.
In the grim darkness of the far future, there are only American celebrities
Think about it, every time you play a science fiction game, be it a shooter or, er… well, I’m sure there are other types of science fiction games out there too, you’ll inevitably come across a character from a cancelled sci-fi TV show. It’s bad enough that almost every game set in the future is entirely populated by massively necked American gruff-marines, but the fact they’ve cloned their C-list instead of taking the rest of the world with them plays up to the colonial image of America that’s still prevalent today. Think on game makers, not everyone in the far future is going to have appeared in Futurama. Or be American.