White Washing In Video Games


#1

With Uncharted: Lost Legacy coming out this week, I feel very sad most people are forgetting that the character, Nadine, is played by a white woman and that we are continuing to let stuff like this go by. The same thing happened with Clementine in Walking Dead, same thing with Aveline de Grandpre, and so on. People who love movies call out the white washing and issues of race in movies; Why can’t we do the same for video games?


And I will also call out sites that after initially reporting of the casting for Nadine in December 2015, during PSX, it was not seen as a big deal. No one thought it was bad. Some even said they were disappointed but were still excited. I like the Uncharted series for numerous reasons and Neil Druckmann reasonsing and excuses for doing this casting is inexcusable and will always be inexcusable for years to come. I played through 4 and hated the moment she went on screen. Also, she is such a waste of a character with no motivation other than “follow white treasure evil man that hired me to get pirate treasure and kill drake”. Shit needs to stop.


Laura Bailey Was Nominated In The Game Awards For Whitewashing
#3

lol white washing in videogames isn’t taken seriously at all by liberals and…otherwise, as long as it plays well/delivers the spectacle that game journalists et. al want.

Good example of this is Horizon Zero Dawn, a game that shits on Native Americans and other groups of minorities with its awful depictions of tribalism, etc. The most we got was a half-assed response from the creator, and an article from Waypoint (the way I found the website, actually!). No one cared, and people like me, who were attempting to keep the discussion up, were shut down with the usual “you can like a game and think it’s problematic!” garbage discourse from people who aren’t affected by the game’s portrayals. What’s especially annoying about HZD is that it, in turn, gets a lot of praise for being positive for women with its female protagonist - which is great! If you’re a white woman. Otherwise, you’re on the sidelines as usual, praising this white girl with dreads for saving us all.

It’s a side effect of some political aspects and a symptom of others. Either way, until we can get more minorities into games, I don’t see it changing any time soon.


#4

I’ve not played this game so I can’t speak to the other stuff but a white person with dreads isn’t inherently a problem. Many cultures have had them from Celts, to Indians to Aborigines. In fact the first recorded instance of dreadlocks are from the Greeks.


#5

It’s really sad to me when this happens. In all ways, but specifically when characters of color in video games are voiced by white VAs. It’s especailly bad when you’re talking about a company like Naughty Dog which is, as far as I know, union-compliant and completely able to hire anyone, and you’re talking about an industry full of prominent and capable women of color working as voice actresses, and somehow this still happens.

It’s particularly frustrating to me because I’ve been a casting director on games with limited budget and casting time, and I’m proud of the casting decisions I’ve made for characters of different races, gender identities and ages, but occasionally people aren’t available or you are on an odd schedule and just don’t find the right person in time, and you end up with a weird VA/character match. However, larger companies just should not be having that problem. To see a character like Nadine whose presence in a major game like this should be so positive and know that there’s this weird background flaw sucks. It fucking sucks, and it’s too easy for people to not think about it, which also sucks and it’s why they feel okay doing it.

So to be honest, it’s not that they’re having a problem, it’s that they just don’t care up to that point. They are happy to take compliments and back-pats for creating a character like this without finishing the job.


#6

the dreads are like, 5% of the problem. it doesn’t really matter that the first recorded instance of dreadlocks was from the greeks either because nobody out there sees dreadlocks and thinks “oh, cool greek haircut”


#7

Alyx Vance from “Half-Life 2” is Afro-Asian. She voiced by Merle Dandridge, who is, also, Afro-Asian. Not that hard to do, especially since it’s just a voice: voice actor/actress in question can look very different, be a different age, don’t have to be athletic, know how to shoot, etc.

Merle also played Marlene in “The Last of Us”. C’mon, Naughty Dog, she was right there!

Also:

There is a bit about “digital blackface” at the end, but the whole talk is good.


Laura Bailey Was Nominated In The Game Awards For Whitewashing
#9

Totally. Like, even though the dreds themselves aren’t a problem it still exacerbates the parts that were.


#10

I’m just so damn tired of games and movies starring nondescript white men. I’ve never been an Uncharted fan, so I haven’t touched this new one, and nor will I. But I’m trying to think back to see if other games starring persons of colour have done similar things with casting, but there just aren’t many games that’ll even make an PoC protagonist. I’m a mixed-race dude but I look pretty much white, so it’s not like I can’t aesthetically see myself in the character, but I’m just tired of the white-dude saving the day. My eyes light-the-fuck-up when I see a character who’s of mixed heritage, because the only thing I identify as is a general feeling of mixed.

More to the point about casting, I wouldn’t have even known about the case here with Uncharted: LL if it hadn’t been pointed out on Waypoint radio. I imagine there are few outlets that are that are attuned to these sorts of issues. So even those people who follows games closely may entirely miss these things. And then there’s all those consumers who don’t follow games closely at all.


#11

I thought this was going to be about things like Virtual Fighter’s Vanessa.


#12

I agree with most of what you say but I don’t think it’s necessarily the same thing. In regards to giving minorities work, then hell yeah, this really sucks.

On the other hand, it’s kind of still representation. It’s still a black woman who has her own agency and who is badass and portrayed with nuance not common in this medium or many others. This isn’t an excuse, it blows, but I don’t think it should be treated or spoken about with the some vileness as whitewashing.

Just to clarify. I still think it sucks and it ain’t that hard to find a good voice actor that matches the ethnicity of your character.


#13

representation that does not actually materially support the people being represented is completely meaningless though

like it says “we want to tell stories about you but we do not want you to get any money for it”


#14

You describing culture appropriation and profiteering.


#15

I think the bulk of the problem is that players for the most part don’t care that much about voice actors. There are a couple of prominent ones that people can pick out and recognize, like Steve Blum, Jennifer Hale, Nolan North, and Troy Baker (honestly I don’t think I can tell the difference between North and Baker), but if you asked me who did the voice of Master Chief or Cortana I couldn’t tell you. This problem of not knowing/caring about VAs is also what’s affecting the negative outlook of the VA strike.

It’s a lot easier to point out blatant white-washing in movies, especially when we know the origin of the source material most movies are adapted from. It’s much harder to point out white-washing in a videogame that’s usually an original story when the VAs aren’t advertised front and center.


#16

Yeah, the fact that Druckman deliberately chose to move forward with Bailey despite the criticism, and further despite the fact that there are plenty of excellent black women actors who could’ve filled the role just as well (if not better) is not even a little okay. It’s a shallow and tepid form of representation that does nothing in the long term to involve more PoC in gamedev.


#17

If it doesn’t feel exactly the same as whitewashing, think about how much motion and performance capture Naughty Dog in particular does with their actors.

Think about how much of Nadine, the gestures and facial expressions of the character on screen, was captured from a white woman’s performance and worked onto a Black woman’s character model. It’s kind of unsettling, right?

Now, not every game that has mismatched actors and characters has motion and performance capture, but it’s the same basic situation on a lesser scale. So much valuable information is being lost when actors are chosen to portray characters that are so different from them on a fundamental level, there’s no way to act hard enough to close the gap.


#18

@onsamyj Then we shouldn’t just stop at ethnicity, nationality should also be taken in to account. Nadine should be played by a South African actress not an American.


#19

@Jonny_Anonymous I would not be against it. Especially in America, where you have people from all over the world.

I know on TV shows, where they have luxury of time, writers often would add traits of actors themselves to characters they play. Why not hire someone and shift a character backstory a bit afterwards? From documentary about “The Last Of Us” I know that character of Ellie became way more active because of Ashley Johnson performance. *cough*Maybe Druckmann is a bad writer/person.*cough*

But, I think we all can agree, that (voice) acting never gonna be 100% authentic thing. Nor it should be, really: in ideal world anyone can play anyone. We not in ideal world, though, so we need to care about representation. But if German actor plays Italian character? I don’t care. That’s not a problem.


#20

This definitely feels like an area where Sony corporate could get involved with guidelines (or even just talent sheets to make it extremely hard to not at least see a lot of auditions that align actor and character).

I say this because Uncharted is far from the only time this has happened with a Sony owned/funded/published title recently. Just look to Infamous Second Son, with protagonist and brother being Native Americans (from the Seattle area) in the script and played by White Texans (Troy Baker & Travis Willingham) in the casting.

Edit: as to the above: forms of straight plaits & braids aren’t dreads, certainly not everyone depicted in ancient European/Mediterranean pictures and writing was White, and they’re specific to a tightly coiled hair type that is not universal. White people don’t have dreads, they may have matted hair but this is not the same thing and doesn’t come with the same issues of systemic racism (for example workplace discrimination against “natural hair”).


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#21

i mean, that would be nice where applicable (like with Uncharted or other games set in the real world) but to me this post reads like you’re either suggesting that wanting more out of casting practices is too nitpicky, or that race and nationality are comparable categories when talking about whitewashing.


#22

Yeah it does come off like that which wasn’t my intention. Maybe I should re-word it?