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Controversies

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There have been a number of controversies surrounding race and video games, including public debates about Resident Evil 5Sid Meier's Civilization IV: ColonizationLeft 4 Dead 2BioShock InfiniteWorld of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Video games may influence the learning of young players about race and urban culture. The portrayal of race in some video games such as the Grand Theft Auto seriesCuster's Revenge50 Cent: Bulletproof, and Def Jam: Fight for NY has been controversial. The 2002 game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was criticized as promoting racist hate crimes. The game takes place in 1986, in "Vice City", a fictionalized Miami. It involves a gang war between Haitian and Cuban refugees which involves the player's character. However, it is possible to play the game without excessive killing. The 2009 game Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa, and as such has the player kill numerous African antagonists. In response to criticism, promoters of Resident Evil 5 argued that to censor the portrayal of black antagonists was discrimination in itself.

In 2008, the release of Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization was controversial for giving players the ability to colonize the Americas. For some critics, like Ben Fritz, the game was 'offensive' since it allowed players to do “horrific things .. or whitewash some of the worst events of human history.” Fritz wrote, “the idea that 2K and Firaxis and Sid Meier himself would make and release a game in the year 2008 that is not only about colonization, but celebrates it by having the player control the people doing the colonizing is truly mind boggling.” Firaxis Games' president Steve Martin responded by pointing out how “the game does not endorse any particular position or strategy—players can and should make their own moral judgments.” There was significant backlash against Ben Fritz on online forums and blogs, with gameplayers talking about how colonization has always happened, and this is just realism. Others talked about how colonization and racism are two different things. Rebecca Mir and Trevor Owens write about how 'The game is undoubtedly offensive, but it would be impossible to create a value-free simulation of the colonial encounter. ... if there is something regrettable about the game in its current state, it is that it is not offensive enough. While the game lets you do some rather evil things, those evil things are nevertheless sanitized versions of the events that actually took place in reality.' Ken White says 'Empire-building games always involve conflict — often violent — with other people, and the more sophisticated ones almost always depict stronger groups overcoming weaker groups. Many involve religious or cultural conversion of some sort. Many permit digital genocide, with your little nation of abstractions defeating another little nation of abstractions mercilessly. ... While the graphics, gameplay detail, and level of abstraction vary widely, they all come down to build, manage, conquer, and destroy.' Media theorist Alexander Galloway, in his book, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture argues about how these kinds of games are always an “ideological interpretation of history” or the “transcoding of history into specific mathematical models.”

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