As You Know I Am Pro: Weird Observations on Black Women in Videogames
So recently I noticed a spike in hits on my article “Lisa and Japan’s Skintone Threshold”. Come to find out the source of this spike was a thread on NeoGAF and a series of Facebook posts from our dear friend Tomonobu Itagaki, ex-head of Team Ninja.
This is a CRIME against the entire world.
IT’S TOTALLY A DISCRIMINATION BY COLOR.
Who on earth is she?
Who the hell forced our beloved Lisa to change her skin color?
IT’S TOTALLY A DISCRIMINATION BY COLOR.
If they have any love and respect to the characters, I never order anything .
Certainly, Lisa is a virtual woman who is in everyone’s mind. But the changing her race, it is blasphemy to humanity. So I’m talking about this matter with you guys.
In addition, there is another matter that I never forgive.
They pointlessly forced the heroines to get old. According to my analysis, the failure of DOAD caused it. Kasumi, Ayane had to get old by their crappy fault.
Morons who don’t know the entertainment always bring fatal disaster.
That’s why I hate moron developers.
I assure that it’s not matter of lighting issue.
This criminal pic was rendered by OBVIOUS DISCRIMINATORY
intention. As u know im pro.”
Alright, first of all, Lisa looks nothing like that in-game. Secondly, why are you complaining about DOA5 now?! This, of course, isn’t the first time Itagaki has done that. In recent interviews he complained about the new Team Ninja ruining his game and made other critical tweets on it.
The thing is, how they “ruined” DOA5 was by turning it into a deep legitimate fighting game and not a mindless button masher. As for his other complaint? That would be the 3 year time skip between DOA4 and DOA5 which he sees as “pointless”. The reason for the time skip? Oh, right. Kasumi and Ayane were SIXTEEN in all previous DOAs (which was why their age was changed to N/A in America). That’s right, Marie Rose is actually older than Ayane and Kasumi when they were first introduced.
To make a long story short, Itagaki is just trolling. This is nothing new. Remember his infamous crusade aginst Tekken? Well apparently he’s good buddies with the Tekken team. This is just Itagaki’s way of stirring up controversy because that is what he does and why we love him.
However, I do want to comment on this because the NeoGAF thread on this topic is an embarassment. Even though the game has been out for years, has a Free To Play version, and there are hundreds of thousands of pictures of Lisa out there, a depressing amount of the thread actually thinks the image Itagaki posted is actually from the game. It’s not. It is from a very rarely seen promotional render (I actively LOOKED for it and never found it!).
If you had ever played the game you would know that while Lisa is a bit more pale than in some installments, she is far from “whitewashed”. Indeed, lighting has a huge effect on skintone which was what caused my initial article. Remember, I wrote that pre-release due to concern about Lisa’s skin color because of past examples. Post-release, while I think she could use a bit of a tan, it is nowhere near as bad as what happened to Vanessa or even Angol Moa!
(your monitor will affect it too. I can barely see the difference on my laptop monitor but it is very noticeable via HDMI out to my TV)
Wanna know what’s really nuts? Check out the Movie Player option for La Mariposa and Lisa’s win poses:
It’s the same character, the same character model, yet somehow there is a VERY noticeable difference in skintone in these in-game thumbnails! I…have no clue how that even works as attempts to recreate this effect have failed.
Indeed, the art book for the game shows her design sketches with a VERY dark skintone and describes her as the LEAST changed character design in the game (they consider Elliot to be the most changed). I would argue this point but whatever. The point is, disaster was averted.
I do still feel the article is interesting and worth reading though as the overall theme was why this was an accidental thing, Japanese culture, and how there is a very specific tan that seems most popular. But nuances like this tend to get lost when everyone wants to get outraged and call everyone else racist.
How about we turn those mirrors in on ourselves? A striking amount of people assumed Lisa, an American, was a Ganguro girl. Why would they assume this? Because she doesn’t “look black”.
Similarly, a very large group of people insisted she must be Latina because she “doesn’t look black”. A point that Itagaki has sadly conceded to on Facebook.
This happens VERY FREQUENTLY with these kinds of characters. I remember when Aisha from Rumble Roses first appeared and everyone assumed she was Ganguro and some still consider her Latina even though she is so stereotypically black she borders on racist! (If she wasn’t so fucking awesome!)
It’s honestly like there is a fear of an attractive female character being black! Correction, there IS a fear of it. Remember, I was in the trenches of the “Is Lisa Black” wars of the original Xtreme Beach Volleyball over a decade ago! I saw some shit. I seriously saw people say that Lisa COULDN’T be black because she was too hot and thus must be Latina.
Look, I’m just gonna be blunt: I think black women are hot. That’s what this is really all about.
More accurately, I think ALL races are hot! Every race has unique features which makes them beautiful and that should be embraced. However, while finding Asian women hot is considered normal and finding Latina women hot is pretty much expected, black women are bizarrely treated differently. Like women of African decent are the one kind of woman you are NOT supposed to consider hot.
Oh egad if you knew the number of black girls I know who have a complex about that. Who hate being black. The answer is 3, which is also 100% of the black women I know.
Yeeeeeeeeaaaaah…that’s a fucking issue.
But here’s where it gets extra weird: White guys are generally not allowed to be attracted to black women. To the openly racist folks, it’s weird because black women aren’t attractive. To black people it’s weird because white people aren’t supposed to like black women. This weirdness doubles because a lot of these black guys prefer white women yet consider a white guy being attracted to black women to be “taking away our women”. Yes, seriously. Then you get the “progressives” who think white men shouldn’t be attracted to black women because it’s “exoticising”!
Somehow we have a situation where black women aren’t attractive and it is racist to think they are. The fuck is wrong with the world?!
Want an extra weird bonus? I have a friend who likes “delicious brown girls” in anime, but when I showed him my custom Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires character he got weirded out because I tried to make her ACTUALLY LOOK BLACK!
Think that’s weird? We ain’t even getting started. I noticed that what few black women we have in Western made games (as in pre-made, not customs) were usually in zombie games and NEVER sexualized! Yes, it is here that the LACK of sexualization becomes weird. Why? Because it tells me these characters are only included to show how “progressive” the developers are.
Now keep in mind I’m not saying these characters aren’t attractive. Purna’s artwork in particular looks gorgeous. But you can see a very noticeable difference between how these characters are portrayed versus their lighter skinned counterparts. (Also, how is it every single one I know is from a 4-player co-op zombie game?!)
What’s EXTRA weird is that even during the “Gangsta” game rush of the late PS2 era, finding a sexy black girl was like finding a needle in a haystack. Watching Matt & Woolie go through those many digital embarassments in their “Cryme Tyme” series, I quickly noticed that all of the women were either white or Asian! WTF?!
Now obviously I have no qualms with portraying black women in a non-sexualized way. But if I want a crazy hot black girl, you know where I have to go? JAPAN.
Yeah, the country where light skin is traditionally considered beautiful and they often have difficulty telling people of African decent from people of Indian decent. There are more hot black women in Japanese games than in Western ones. Figure THAT out! Mostly they come from either Shoji Kawamori (creator of Macross, has a black girl in nearly everything he makes) or SEGA (whose older games were frequently aimed at a Western audience).
Now, I don’t wanna say Japan is the pinnacle of progressiveness. That’s stupid. Just like saying an ENTIRE COUNTRY is “racist” or “sexist” is. I know I dance around saying things close to that but I only speak of “traditional” beliefs which are always bullshit.
Rather I want to imply the opposite. That our concerns about not being racist may infact make us racist. Obviously that isn’t all of America, but that is a disconcerning mindset I feel many have.
Again: Sexy black women is racist, they have to be Latina!
Now, one interesting thing in that NeoGAF thread was Cia, the main villain of Hyrule Warriors. When she was good she had very pale white skin and when she turned evil she got a tan. As some pointed out this is visual shorthand like the way “Dark Link” is evil. But, as was also pointed out, Dark Link has literally jet black skin like a shadow whereas Cia has deeply tanned skin like an actual person of assorted ethnic decent. Wanna know why? Because they wanted her to be sexy. It’s kinda hard (though not impossible) to make jet black skin sexy, but deeply tanned skin? Oh yeah!
What did I say about not implying Japan was the pinnacle of progressiveness? Indeed they seem to have put Cia’s sexiness over not appearing racist because the idea just didn’t occur to them. The result is a hot evil woman with dark skin. Ain’t gonna lie, I am totally okay with this and think everyone is reading too much into it anyway. They’re not even human anyway, they’re Hylians so…I dunno.
The Shantae skin color incident was also brought up and I *really* hated the way the poster portrayed it. To quote him directly:
“WayForward was also guilty of it and only modified their sprites when they realised the backlash wouldn’t calm down.”
This irritates me because I have been a Shantae fan since before Day 1 (jumped on the WayForward hype train with Xtreme Sports) and indeed Shantae’s tanned skin was a majorly attractive feature of her. However, each subsequent game made her slightly lighter with some knuckleheads even referring to her “enhanced GBA color pallet” (she’s lighter in GBA Mode because the original GBA made GBC colors darker and muddier so ALL of the GBA colors are lighter than the GBC ones to counterbalance this).
Yes, this annoyed me and when I saw her in Half-Genie Hero I couldn’t believe it as she was paler than Sky!
This wasn’t “whitewashing” to me just going against her character design. She looked like a demon instead of a genie (the somewhat Disgaea-esque new art didn’t help)! Tanned skin was a trademark of the character! But when this was brought to WayForward’s attention they admitted it was an accident that they did not notice and fixed it.
But this is why I am in such a weird place whenever this topic gets brought up: I love Shantae, I love WayForward, I love dark skinned women, I DID complain about the pale skin. But when someone declares WayForward to be RACIST because of it?! “Only changing it when they realized the backlash wouldn’t calm down”?! That makes me angry. It was an accident. It was a WEIRD accident. It’s a very telling accident of our culture. However calling the fine folks at WayForward racist and feeling like you’re some crusader of justice because you bitched at them until they bent to your whim? That’s bullshit.
Similarly though, all of the people saying “don’t censor WayForward” and “not every character needs to be a PoC” drove me NUTS! I DON’T wanna censor WayForward! But this isn’t Shantae’s normal skintone! I mean in many ways it’s the same as complaining about New Dante/Don’te. Fan of the series, liked the character the way they were, noticed a weird change and is wondering why.
I complained because pale Shantae is bland and unattractive. Seriously.
As for Lisa’s race? I like to subscribe to the “mixed as fuck” theory. I mean no one can pinpoint it. In some ways she looks like Halle Barry, in others a bit like Beyonce, and in others she does indeed look Latina. You can’t really pinpoint it. The only clue to her ethnicity is dark skin and that she is “American”. So, I say go all the way with the American thing! We’re all a mix of ethnicities here. You tell me Lisa is Black, Latina, Brazillian, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander? I’d totally believe that. (I’d also agree that her race is “Sexy”, but no one gets Surfroid references)
Look, I don’t wanna imply that I’m some pinnacle of progressiveness. That’s bullshit. This is just a collection of unusual observations I have made and you can make of them what you will. I am who I am and that’s a guy who likes hot women of every race. Maybe that makes me a racist somehow. It almost certainly makes me sexist by SOMEONE’S definition. If so then fuck it because I don’t give a fuck anymore.
Because as you know, I am Pro.