Bao Phi

Bao Phi has been a performance poet since 1991. A two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, Bao Phi has appeared on HBO Presents Russell Simmons Def Poetry, and a poem of his appeared in the 2006 Best American Poetry anthology. Read more about Bao Phi.

Asian Americans and Video Games

Posted by: Bao Phi Updated: August 26, 2009 - 4:41 PM
I've been a serious videogame player since I was a little kid.  Being invited to a slumber party by a friend who had an Atari 2600 was the best thing in the world.  From there, a terrible Smurfs game on the Coleco, text-based games on the Apple 2e, Zelda on the NES, Super Metroid of the SNES, Doom in the computer lab at Macalester - well, you get the idea.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about racial representations in video games, mostly spurred on by a fellow Asian American's query regarding how I felt about the slew of Vietnam War-based first person shooters that were flooding the market.  This abridged version was published by Transformative Works and Culture, and though they took out my jokes about Phat Farm clothes, their edited version of my essay is much stronger than my original.  Peep it:

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/84/89

Now most of the research and editing of this piece was done before all the hubbub regarding Resident Evil 5 and its problematic depictions of Africans.  Now, I want to state clearly that people had the right to be angry and questioning, and that the discussion regarding racism in videogames is long overdue.  One thing I couldn't help thinking about, however, was why this game in particular - made by a Japanese company, set in Africa - was getting so much negative attention.  Especially since several high profile game franchises such as Far Cry, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty regularly feature white (and sometimes token Black) protagonists gunning down Asians, Arabs, Latinos, Native Americans, and Africans.  And seldom will you see any attention given to race in mainstream coverage of these games.

So why was the white mainstream press suddenly so interested in talking about race in video games?

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