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Square Enix Responds To Allegations Of Racist Character In  Human Revolution
Square Enix Responds To Allegations Of Racist Character In Human Revolution
September 1, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

September 1, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC, Art, Audio, Design

Square Enix has responded to allegations that a black character in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a racist caricature, saying "it has never been our intention to represent any particular ethnic group in a negative light."

The issue centers around the Human Revolution character of Letitia, an informant that protagonist Adam Jensen finds picking through trash on the streets of Detroit. The character's vocal performance has drawn criticism from some as a caricature of negative stereotypes surrounding African Americans.

The concerns surrounding Letitia gained prominence thanks in part to a recent blog post by Time's Evan Narcisse, who said the character "look[s] and sound[s] like an homage to Amos 'n' Andy" and "embodies a strain of racist stereotype that renders black people as less than human, as the worst that society has to offer."

Now, Human Revolution publisher Square Enix has issued a statement in response to these concerns, saying "Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a fictional story which reflects the diversity of the world's future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds."

"While these characters are meant to portray people living in the year 2027, it has never been our intention to represent any particular ethnic group in a negative light," the statement concludes.

In 2009, Japanese publisher Capcom stepped into a racially-charged controversy amidst concerns over its portrayal of native African zombies in Resident Evil 5.

Speaking to Gamasutra last year, Capcom PR manager Melody Pfeiffer said the controversy stemmed from international cultural differences, and made the company "much more aware of how important it is that [the American branch is] part of the asset creation process early on so that we are able to have a say in the end product."

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Harry Fields
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Good grief... it's Detroit... in a gritty future of increased impoverishment for the lower socioeconomic class... there would be a black person depicted less than favorably??! Stop the press.... There's a boatload of scummy sterrotyped white guys in the game too. And can I be offended that all the white guys in the game that greedy conspirators who want to screw everyone over? That's all we're ever portrayed as in the future... lol. Phenomenal game, but I do wish it gave players a chance to choose an ethnicity/gender for "Alex".

Brett Williams
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Warning, there are Chinese people in China depicted in this game. Throwing that out there.

Christopher Enderle
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Sure, but do they go "Ching chong ping pong"? That's the issue here.

Nate Rudnick
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The difference is that many people in the real world actually do talk like Leticia, and Chinese people do not actually say "ching chong ping pong". I haven't played Deus Ex, but I assume that not all black people in the game talk like her, just as they don't in real life, as well.

Yes, the voice is ridiculous and overdone, but if the same treatment was given to an NPC representation of Stuff White People Like, would anyone be mad?

Achilles de Flandres
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Okay, but if the game portrays that Chinese person with a rice-paddy hat, fu-man-chu facial hair, and says "buy 4 get egg-roll," then I wouldn't be suprised if the Chinese community said, "wait a second... something about that is racist."

Then forums like these explode with anonymous internet tough kids claiming that Chinese people are racist for complaining about the stereotyped simplication of Chinese people, and that racism doesn't exist, and if it does, then its because of Chinese people.

Cody Scott
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except every stereotype does normally have a base on which it was created, and maybe just maybe they were trying to portray a character who happened to fit the stereotype?

Todd Boyd
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Unless she's speaking in Gullah, I really don't see the problem. Is this the only black character in the game? If not, are all of them portrayed as racial stereotypes (not that this one is to begin with)?

Ben Freund
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Actually, a fair number of them are. A fair number aren't, too, and it's 'gritty realism,' and the white homeless/gangbangers sound pretty ridiculous too, blah blah, but it's still a pretty ugly theme running through the game if you're inclined to be sensitive to such subjects.

It just seems odd to include such overt stereotypes if the game is not actually going to address the subject in a serious way. The theme is human/machine, even raising the spectre of the black/white thing is just a creepy subtext that seems unnecessary.

Brett Williams
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She is a unique character that provides you information about the streets in exchange for some cash. It's an optional hint system.

The streets are also populated with homeless people and gangsters of varying race. Most of which do not have elaborate voice over or much character I would define as stereotypical.

I should say "racially stereotypical". Most of the gangsters look like stereotypical gangsters and the homeless people look like stereotypical homeless people, flaming garbage cans, etc.

Ben Freund
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Personally, I thought the universally sexy and enthusiastic street prostitutes were a pretty weird inclusion. Sure, that sort of stock character populates bars in all kinds of RPGs, but in this game they were swarming the streets in both major cities, almost always more upbeat and perkier than any of the normal citizens. They definitely seemed to be enjoying their careers more than the poor desk-jockeys at Picus and Tai Yong who write all those sad, desperate e-mails we get to spy on.

miguel rivero
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What about the chicano rebel leader? I'm hispanic myself, and even though I found the character to be a stereotype 'by the book' - I had a laugh at all he said. They actually did a pretty good job on capturing some of the nuances of 'cholo-speak'. As far as the homeless black lady, I've seen 'worse' in real life. Anybody ever walk Skid Row in Los Angeles? Anybody ever been spoken to by homeless people on the bus? Video games are a simplification of reality - any element they choose will be devoid of most of the depth that 'reality' contains. In this respect, most movies are equally racist and stereotypical. So the way I see it is like this. Yes, in reality there are black people that act that way and are in that particular social situation - and that in itself just shows us that our current society is far more racist than we think. So if someone decides to use this particular character of society and put it into a novel, video game, or movie, the end result will be a simplification (archetype) of that particular character - resulting in what seems a 'stereotype'. But think about it: *most* characters of every movie, or game are blatant over-simplifications.

Rob Wright
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I'm only about 2 hours into the game, and my only complaint so far is the voice acting is pretty weak. The attached YouTube clip only reinforces my opinion -- this is wretched voice acting and it makes CoD: Black Ops look like "A Man For All Seasons."

Wolf Wozniak
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I thought the allegations were silly, until I watched the youtube video.

Its ok to have ghetto-fabulous characters.

...But that's the worst, and more offensive way that anyone could preform those lines.

Ben Hopper
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I've gotta say, the voice acting in most games is beyond terrible. You would think these big budget titles could afford decent voice talent, or that someone on the development/publishing side would be bright enough to catch this garbage before it gets released. Roger Ebert should use it as an example of why games are not art.

Justin Keverne
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Intentional or not there's some very lazy characterisation in what is otherwise a great game.

Justin Speer
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I wouldn't say the character is racist, meaning I don't believe she's meant to send some message about her neo-ethnic group, but it's certainly poor characterization. The game has a lot to recommend it, but voice acting and script as a whole are inconsistent and disappointing. BioWare games aren't perfect, but Deus Ex is noticeably a cut below Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc in this regard.

Ben Rice
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To be fair, Bioware is really known to have some stellar VO in their games.

On the whole, I felt that Adam Jensen's voice really fit well with the story; Somewhat monotone, and gritty. It felt right coming from a guy that was mostly machine and highlighted the whole ethical issue with augmentation.

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There is not one story driven game, movie, or book that I have read or listen to that does not use stereotyping to move a story along. Every character form the protagonist right down to the prop characters are nothing more than a stereotype of an archetype to drive a story. I assume the Times writer did this piece to draw attention to the use of race in games. Games are getting a bad rap now because it was quietly swept under the rug during the dawn of story driven Comic Strips and Movies in America, at a time where the racism where blatantly out in the open between all sides. The assumption that any media portrayal today is less stereotypical than in the past, because today we are taught tolerance, should be noted as a foolish assumption.

The problem is not in the stereotype, the problem is how its used and if its a proper fit for the genre its in. Is there a need for more minorities portrayed as the protagonist in media? Probably. Does this game use a character to portray a negative light on a entire race? That's debatable but I'm personally in the No category as far as this game is concerned. If one can bring up the voice acting of a character on one hand, then lets test the theist of other characters in the same light.

Michael Dreyer
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So we're no longer allowed to portray black homeless people in artistic mediums? I guess we should just make all "less-than-nice" characters white so everyone will be happy...

Jaimi McEntire
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How dare they show anyones race in a bad light. I'm sure the game would be great fun if everyone in it were fine upstanding citizens.

Eric Geer
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I've seen black people talk like this and act like this in all kinds of movies--not sure what the big deal is when it is in a game...they were going for a feeling and they got it with the amount of commotion on this comment board and all over the intranets.

I would die laughing if there was some white trash caucasion in this game---Oh wait!!?!?!

james sadler
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Wow I really can't believe how ridiculous this has become. Depending on where you live people, not just black, talk like this. To say it is a slight or even racist is just stupid. Granted I wont say that the voice director had a particularly bright idea in deciding to use this stereotype for this character. Having listened to a lot of the voice acting for the game though, it doesn't surprise me since it is all pretty stereotypical and bad, no matter what race the character is. If you have a problem with it though don't buy or play the game. The game company isn't going to listen to the individual no matter how many blog posts they write, but talking like minded people into not paying to play it might. Of course that means finding enough like minded people that are as offended. Which begs the question: If one can't find enough like minded people, is this person merely just being over sensitive?

Ben Freund
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Actually, I think you'll find that situations like this do tend to get the attention of game companies more than typical consumer complaints about private servers or what have you. After all, avoiding racism is cheaper than supporting more tangible demands from consumers.

As the article suggests, Capcom took some deliberate steps to avoid repeating the perceived racism in Resident Evil 5. Similar minor events and minor reforms in game production have occurred at other companies, typically Japanese companies not entirely cognizant of Western standards.

So while you might complain the "anti-racists" have more influence than they should, saying they don't have any seems to be inconsistent with what we know.

james sadler
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I never said that they don't have influence, I was more saying that in cases like this these complaints wont get more than a "we're sorry you feel that way" kind of statement. It wasn't as though every African-American in the game was portrayed this way, that would have garnered a much bigger response and probably a game patch or something. The beginning of the video shown was really the worst of the dialog and I agree it was done in bad taste, but I wouldn't elevate bad taste to racist. I've felt that African-American characters in many Japanese titles tend to come off cliche or stereotypical so I do agree that they need to wise up a bit.

The problem I have with this and with a lot of the comments to this article is that someone feels offended and they jump straight to racism. I don't run around screaming reverse-racism at every redneck white person they have on t.v. or in games because I know there are a lot of rednecks out there. There are a lot of cultures that see us white Americans as only that, but I know that is not me and I can prove it by my actions. The real question should be who you blame for this. The company or the people that create the stigma? If this were some wildly made up characterization that had absolutely no grounding in the way real people can be portrayed then I could understand the craziness it has received, but the fact is that there are people like this all over the U.S.

I'm sorry you feel like this is a slight or even racism. If you really feel that way then there is nothing anyone here or myself can say to convince you otherwise. Real racism exists all over the world and so I think a lot of people just feel like in this instance we are dealing with something completely different.

This is a long discussion for a different forum though.

Ben Freund
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Well, I think I can put it this way, and we can both agree that we're both kind of right:

I'm sorry you feel like this isn't a slight or even racism. If you really feel that way then there is nothing anyone here or myself can say to convince you otherwise. Real racism exists all over the world and so I think a lot of people just feel like in this instance we are dealing with something somewhat similar.

Yeah, this example isn't 'dangerous,' I'll grant you that. But it's pretty ugly.

james sadler
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How is it racist exactly. I'm really asking honestly here. I am not African-American so there could be something those of us arguing against this are missing. I know about bigotry and have experienced it myself and seen it happen to friends and loved ones, but I am just really curious how exactly this instance falls into the racism category. That is really the debate I think many of us have been trying to figure out. Yes it is ugly, no one has been arguing against that, but we are trying to figure out why it is offensive and deserves the craziness it has received.

Ben Freund
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Sure, I'll try to put it into words.

We could go over examples of "Is this racist?" and say that thing X is and thing Y is not.

Ultimately, the major issue is context. If the right person says it, it's not too racist. If it's funny enough, it's not too racist (although that often depends on who's saying it, too). If it addresses reality frankly (certainly a subjective definition), it's not too racist.

None of that is happening in this instance. This is a character, a situation, with an obvious, strong potential to be offensive. And nothing softens that blow.

There's no context I can see (of course I can only speak for myself) where the choice to use this offensive stereotype has any kind of payoff in meaningful realism, storytelling, humor, gameplay... there just doesn't appear to be any cause for resorting to this offensive caricature merely to fill an NPC slot.

So, certainly this is not true and dangerous bigotry. But a choice was made that a character with obvious racial stereotypes could be used in this casual way, in the same way that, historically, "Amos 'n' Andy" types would amuse white folks with their uneducated black antics. Oh yeah, also Amos 'n' Andy were white and they performed in black face, but that's kind of beside the point (Although on the other hand, since a white person may very well have written the lines, maybe it's not? I recognize I may be stretching a bit here, but perhaps you can see where there is an uncomfortable historical precedent).

So, that is where "racism" comes in. In my mind racism has many forms. Not every kind of racism is an, um, 'felony offense,' but even the mild kinds are very likely undesirable, and something worth speaking out against. To my mind, Letitia is such a case of careless and offensive use of black stereotypes.

james sadler
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So it is racist because Letitia is portrayed they way she is? Amos and Andy were white people making fun of the black people, and no one will deny (ok some idiot will deny I'm sure) that it was a racist skit, specifically because they were trying to demean the race (lets remember when this skit was done). That's not justifying it in any means.

Letitia's character isn't anything close to that though. She is a caricature of the way real people act. Its just like how games and such will generally portray a southern white male as a complete redneck that beats his wife, has a gun collection, hangs a confederate flag, etc. etc. That stereotype does exist and there are plenty of rednecks that fit it to a T. If every white person were portrayed that way there might be a problem, same as if every black person were portrayed like Letitia we might have a problem, but this is one horrendously bad character amongst a cast of horrendously bad characters so why are we allowed to single her out as the exception to the rest of the cast?

This was why I was asking about what exactly made this racist. No one has pointed out exactly what makes this a racist character other than saying that she reflects a cliche group of people that no one likes being reminded of. Because she is supposed to be black it is a black stereotype but there are many other races of people that act that way in inner cities, so it becomes more of a socioeconomic stereotype. The fact that she is black is irrelevant. If we could see that these kind of issues transcend race and are more a problem of socioeconomic and cultural problems maybe things could start getting fixed.

Ben Freund
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Well, I think you're broadly right.

I think regardless of color, it was a tasteless inclusion.

But in ADDITION to all those very serious concerns about class, culture, economy, etc, she was ALSO black. Just like it would be silly if she was ALSO a male redneck. On top of all the offensive class/social portrayals, why stack another oddly specific group of people onto the pile?

So, it's not just racist, and it's not exceptionally racist. But for whatever reason, race was included as a strong identifier for this character. Why? Again, I would not imply a deliberate choice, but making her black causes her to seem very similar to an "Uncle Tom" character. That's not a "cliche group of people nobody likes being reminded of," that's a largely fictional and offensive archetypal character model.

The Cartoon Network show "The Boondocks" has a character called Uncle Ruckus who is designed to be an offensive black stereotype in this mold. But that's satire. Letitia isn't.

Also I would mention that of course at the time Amos 'n' Andy were popular, that WAS how many real black people acted in order to gain approval and acceptance from society. It didn't just demean a race, it created a model for their behavior. Obviously that's not what's happening here, but it's interesting to consider that while art reflects reality, reality often chooses to reflect art.

james sadler
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So by what you're saying is that it is racist specifically because she is black. We agree that people of many races share the same stereotype, but simply because she is black it becomes racist. So if it were a Hispanic it would be racist to Hispanics? Same goes for a white woman. This is what I was getting at. I understand your comment about the Uncle Tom stereotype but how much basis does that stereotype have in current times.

I love the Boondocks, though it has been awhile since I've watched it. The show speaks a lot to the stereotypes that have come about and in a satirical way try to hopefully help eliminate those stereotypes.

But I don't think that means every depiction of this type of character needs to be done in a satirical fashion. It exists and so people will show it in whatever light they want. Showing it in only one type of forum makes it harder for people to talk about and discuss it. Beyond that as long as that stereotype has basis in reality people will use it. To stop it you have to go to the source and change the culture that it is based upon. Don't be pissed at the game company for showing an existing stereotype, get pissed at the people who choose to perpetuate it.

Edit: Yes it would be silly if it were a redneck. I find rednecks pretty funny. I know they are a specific group of people that perpetuate their stereotype for one reason or another. I have rednecks on one side of my family and even they laugh at themselves and other portrayals of rednecks. Just made me giggle a little when I re-read your above post Ben.

Ben Freund
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Hm, I guess if people put an existing stereotype in a new game, that seems like an act of perpetuation to me.

Yes, if it were Hispanic that would be racist as well, they have their own historical/literary version of the Uncle Tom archetype. Zeke Sanders, by contrast, appears to be of Hispanic descent but no obvious Hispanic stereotypes seem to attach to him. He's a complex, interesting guy.

As for how much basis it has, I guess the answer is that it has enough basis to show up in this game. And in Boondocks. And in a lot of other places, if you are inclined to notice, which perhaps up until now you have not been inclined to do, which is fine.

I don't think satire is necessary. Seriously addressing the issue is certainly desirable as an alternative, however. For example, people could read the book Uncle Tom's Cabin. Or there could be a character who initially behaves like an Uncle Tom and then is revealed to have ulterior motive for their subservient behavior! That's cool! A poor black woman begging for booze while she digs through garbage and never developing past that point despite a lengthy conversation... not so cool. Especially in a context when most of the people you speak to in the game have more distinct and fleshed-out personalities, corny and hackneyed though they may occasionally be.

A lot of really horrible things have a basis in reality. Many of them deserve to be treated with more care than this particular horrible thing appears to have been treated with.

EDIT: Yeah, rednecks can be funny! But if all he talked about was doing meth and not paying child support, I think that would be less funny. Not exactly equivalent, but I hope you see what I'm driving at.

EDIT AGAIN: But Squidbillies is still funny sometimes! Satire loophole strikes again!

Jesse Crafts-Finch
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What if the developers of Deus Ex were all black, and were creating this "Information Broker" character from their own experience?

Ben Freund
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Then they would be really lazy writers too? I don't doubt that black people are capable of producing content that is offensive to other black people.

Simply speaking from experience does not mean that things you say are fair, accurate, sensitive, or even interesting.

I mean, any given rapper says pretty offensive things as part of his/her job. That's fine, they're speaking with their own voices about their own experiences. That's fair game in my mind. Even though the things they say certainly might qualify as racist, it's the right venue to express those feelings.

That link between artist and subject seems pretty tenuous in the case of Letitia, even in the scenario you describe.

So I don't think black developers significantly change the context of this corporately produced game. On the other hand, if EVERY CHARACTER IN THE GAME was black, that might lessen the stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb problem, although it would also be pretty ridiculous.

The problem with "stereotypes have a basis in reality" is that, sure, they do, but all those living breathing stereotypes also have a complete human personality and history behind their behavior that motivates them. Characters in games, film, literature, etc., often do not, and it is the burden of the writer, whatever their race, to avoid making them into hollow, inhuman stereotypes.

Patrick Sebring
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First comment on the Times article says it all:

" I'm more offended in the animation, lip sync and voice acting than anything that is deemed racist here. Replace the skin color and it's still portraying a character who is of lower class. People offended by this are the real problem with racism today. "

- rowsdower

@Ben: Go through all the characters and get me stats on skin color, implied education and occupation in the game. I've found the game to portray a gritty future in a gritty future way. Calling this stereotyped character racist is a step backwards for social equality and racist toward the other stereotyped races portrayed in this futuristic Blazing Saddles.

Ben Freund
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I think Blazing Saddles was supposed to be funny and ironic. I don't think Letitia was.

I mean, it could be a gritty future where women are subjugated by men because of changing social values. That would still be pretty offensive, especially if was done in broad strokes instead of serious commentary--or intentional, competent humor, for that matter.

EDIT: Should mention, I think the game should get a lot of credit for a lot of other smart, interesting, and potentially controversial choices it made. But Letitia is... a serious misstep. There's no apparent justification for the choice to have this character, with this appearance, behaving this way, in this context. It's not funny, and it doesn't seem to be making any kind of point. If "she" was a male redneck displaying male redneck stereotypes, it would be just as completely bizarre and inappropriate in context. Or so I feel.

Patrick Sebring
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Having lived in the south for a number of years I've met a large number of people that speak in a similar fashion (though they're better voice actors) and they would be very offended if I told them that the way they speak is racist for others that share their skin color. I've also met several on the other racial divide that have the deep southern drawl. Having a dialect and a lower economic status doesn't mean your stupid or ignorant.

Portraying a wide range of characters doesn't imply racist intentions as characters are typically all stereotypes. I view racism as malicious intent toward a race or group, not characterizations in a fictional piece of entertainment.

Still a conversation a lot of areas aren't mature enough to really address and instead I believe look more for distractions than addressing the issue with education and cultural exposure.

EDIT: Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the voice acting or writing for the character. Just making the point that I believe this to be blown out of proportions for what it is. Look at characters in San Andreas or Saints Row, what's the big issue with this character compared to the other stereotyped characters in the game?

Ben Freund
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I would appreciate if you assumed us to be fairly equivalent as far as breadth of cultural experience and knowledge of history and sociology. It would be unfortunate to simply point at the other and say that he is uninformed and unenlightened.

If we can agree to that, I hope you will forgive me for resorting to simple examples to illustrate my feelings on this subject.

The Wire is an awesome show that goes to great lengths to provide an unflinchingly honest look at life for disadvantaged minorities in an urban environment, including the intelligence and dignity they display in dealing with their circumstances.

Letitia is a two-dimensional alcoholic caricature with no apparent motivations or backstory, no apparent intelligence or dignity, and who is so illiterate that her subtitles are misspelled.

As you suggest, it doesn't much matter whether she's black or not. It's just an all-around offensive choice made by professional game developers. It is not clear to me what positive, productive goal these choices were intended to achieve in an otherwise fairly well crafted story about the abuses of power.

Whereas The Wire is not about stereotypes. It's about the real, 'gritty' reality behind those stereotypes.

EDIT: In response to your edit, the characters in those game have a context that makes them feel more like real, believable people. Some of them are noble, some are not, and some are clearly meant to be more 'parody' than 'stereotype,' blah blah blah. Letitia does not have that context.

Doug Finn
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The white guy waiting for a bus in the background of the clip seems to be reading a book.

But actually, it seems to be more about poor directing than anything - the hero's I-need-a-strepsil voice is a macho cliche, even worse here than in the Batman movies.

I wouldn't slam the company for deliberate racism here, just cliched thinking - which unfortunately usually results in racial stereotyping. (Throaty white guy = heroic, trashy black woman = gritty.)

Slam them for lack of sensitivity and poor character design.

Ben Freund
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Much agreed. I do not believe racism is a black and white issue, if you'll excuse the unavoidable pun, but it bothers me that some people do seem to think there is nothing insensitive about this character worth taking notice of.

Derek Charette
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I think the thing that most people are missing here is that unless she is voiced by a non black person (and considering I haven't looked at the credits for the game that could be the case) it isn't racist. Actors, voice or live action put their own spin on a character. The character is, by all evidence of that video street walking, homeless chick obviously living in the 'ghetto'. So that leads to it somewhat...but watching tv, movies, and probably games (though none come to mind) there are plenty of homeless bums who happen to be black also that aren't your token black person.

So yah, if a black actress is portraying her black character like that that isn't racism at all. It would be more racist for Squenix to have said "Oh hells no, you sound too ghetto, we're gonna get complaints if you make your character sound like that". Not only that but it would be dampening the actress' artistic vision of her character.

Just my way of seeing it at least. Unless of course anyone has something from Squenix saying that she had to do the character exactly like that.

Ben Freund
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Jeez, guy, is it really hard to imagine that somebody from a certain race might unintentionally do something that other people from the same race would find offensive to their mutually shared background?

There's a concept called "Uncle Tom," and Letitia displays some uncomfortable parallels to that archetype.

I'm not sure why you'd drag the actress into this, she didn't write the lines and she probably had as little understanding of the context of her character as most VAs do in this industry. For her, it was probably just a gig, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Nevertheless, it's entirely possible for her to be involved in something that appears to be racially insensitive to many people. Simply having a black person on your staff does not mean that you are no longer capable of producing offensive content. Certainly, paying a black woman to read offensive scripts out loud does not confer immunity, no matter how the woman chooses to read them. Incidentally, the same applies to white men or purple cows.

EDIT: Saying "you sound too this" or "sound more like this" is exactly the kind of thing that happens in a voice recording session. The actress's vision is certainly important, but very likely she (through no fault of her own) has little or no knowledge of the game she's working on and is not in a position to make informed, creative, artistic choices.

Frederico L
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All I see when reading that article is... Martin Lawrence in "National Security"

Spin it to make it seem what it isn't.

Only blacks digging through trash? Nope

Only blacks friendly? Nope

Only blacks using an exagerated accent? Nope

So what was racist again? Cause she was black... yeah that sums it up.

Jesse Crafts-Finch
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I'm kind of on the same page as Christian Keichel here, in that I don't see the racism present. Letitia is a stereotyped character, just like the rest of the characters in the game (with perhaps the exception of the initial Latino badguy who I thought had interesting depth despite his brief appearance - Was a war Veteran, had PTSD, struggled with family issues, was a compelling leader and typically did not hurt civilians, though was about to do so when backed into a corner).

Racism implies a widespread treatment of all individuals of a race in a negative light not because they are actually that way, but simply because they are different then the persecuting individual. Ben, from the enormous number of posts I see here form you, you obviously have some very strong feelings about racism as an issue that extend beyond Deus Ex; and I don't say that in judgment, but rather as the context in which to say - if you take a look at this game, and ONLY this game, there does not appear to be any racism involved.

1) Pretty much all the characters are Stereotyped so the player can quickly and easily frame them: The white/mediterranean main character is a stereotypical gravely voiced hero, the business people are all sufficiently shady, greedy, and corrupt, and all the Asians have a terrible accent when speaking English.

2) When we get to the individual characters, there is a surprising amount of variety in characterization, even among Random NPC's. Among the poor of Detroit are White, Black, and Hispanic denizens of seeming equal proportion. Some of them sound hyperbolic and irrational, while others seem to have balanced and nuanced understandings of the situation.

3) Letitia seems like a pretty savvy lady, selling information to the main character at pretty fricken extravagant prices. If anything, I'd even say she took me for a sucker - the prices on her information were pretty steep. She had a thick as hell accent, but nothing else particularly notable. She was, apparently, also homeless and liked booze. Most people I know like booze, homeless or not.

Taking Deus Ex as an individual entity, there doesn't seem to be much of anything to complain about on the racism front - this argument seems to stem more from, oddly enough, the belief that game developers (and producers of other media) are totally ignorant of the issues involved, and are choosing to portray a character such as Letitia in what you consider to be a negative light out of ignorance or racism.

If you have an issue with the characterization of black people (and other US minorities) in video games as a whole Ben, I can understand and empathize, but choosing Letitia is perhaps not the best rallying point here, despite the negative feelings it obviously causes for you about racism in the US and the characterization of Black's in media and entertainment.

Ben Freund
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I appreciate your nuanced opinions on this matter.

The reason you see so many posts from me isn't because I have exceptionally strong feelings. I hope you recognize that I'm not 'screaming' racist and I'm not beating people over the head for having different reactions.

The reason is that I'm A) underemployed with a fair amount of spare time and B) genuinely curious about the feelings and opinions of people who see nothing worth speaking out against here.

The reasons I'm 'choosing' Letitia is that she is the subject of the article we're commenting on. This really isn't the place to talk about the entire history of media, but sometimes aspects of that do come up when trying to explain the precedents that make Letitia, specifically, appear to be a racist caricature.

My belief is that Letitia IS a racist caricature, and that would be true whether ignorant developers made her or whether she was randomly generated by a computer. I would turn to the computer and say, "Whoa, computer, that's not cool!"

I'm sure you've read all my nonsense in other posts, so I won't repeat it here.

A couple points in response to your #1 though: "Business people" are not an ethnic minority and certainly not a disenfranchised class. They don't really require any kind of special consideration, their place in society is secure.

Second, Chinese people speaking with a Chinese accent in China seems like a pretty safe subject. That's not a stereotype, people of all races and backgrounds speak with an accent when they try to use a language they are unfamiliar with. I didn't notice any part of the game where Chinese accents reached absurd levels. For example, I think we can be thankful there was not too much switching "L" and "R" around for comic effect.