Friday, June 12, 2009

Shooting zombies in the face with a side order of racism and sexism, please.

A couple of months ago a friend of mine picked me up a copy of Left 4 Dead for my birthday. Given my love of video games, and the fact that I loathe the undead, it seemed like a perfect match. As far as the game itself goes, I think it's pretty solid. It's a lot of fun most of the time, despite a few bugs and the controversy around the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2.

For those unfamiliar with the game:
Left 4 Dead is presented as being sort of a cinematic experience. You play a campaign in 5 acts. The AI controlling enemy behavior and item drops is called the Director. The game takes cues from film in the way that it alerts players to changing events--when a mob of zombies is about to come running onto the scene you get specific "zombie mob" cue music. When there are boss zombies around, they have special theme music alerting you to their presence. That kind of thing.

Every campaign follows the same four survivors trying to go from Point A to point B in an effort to escape to a safe zone free of zombie infection. They do so by traveling from safe-house to safe-house. The game does a very good job of creating atmosphere and mood--the safe-houses are filled with the scrawled graffiti of past survivors, and you sometimes come across the bodies of former survivors who died trying to escape, or houses/buildings where survivors attempted to make a stand but fled.

The game is generally pretty light on story, being mostly focused on presenting an engaging multiplayer experience, so we don't get a whole lot of backstory about the survivors, except through the things they say to each other, or the dialogue they have throughout the game. Zoey, Francis, Bill, and Louis.

I have a few groups of people that I usually end up playing with, and most of the time, if I limit myself to those people, it's fine. But if I start playing with random groups, I get treated to constant bickering about Zoey and Louis. See, Zoey is a woman, and Louis is a black man.

Louis gets pounced by a zombie? Oh, it's because he's black.
Louis wanders off alone? Yeah, he's black.
Louis makes a comment about finding weapons in another room? Of course he did... he's black.

A male player plays Zoey? "I always knew you were really a girl."
Zoey gets attacked by the smoker? "Even the zombies want to rape Zoey!" Yeah. For real.

It's at the point where I refuse to play on random servers because I just cannot stomach the level of hate and bigotry on display. The other day I was treated to ten minutes of listening to a back and forth about how gay various players were, before I finally quit. I've tried calling people on it, but, it doesn't seem to help.

Mostly this is just a rant, because I'm fed up with it. It's too bad, because if you get rid of all the complete assholes, L4D is a pretty fun co-op game. When you pull of a really well coordinated attack, or fight through a particularly tough episode as the survivors, it's a ton of fun. Unfortunately, you always risk the complete assholes.


Kristen said...

Yeah, xbox live is a cesspool of dramatic proportions. FPS are the worst...Rainbow 6, Saints Row...women get harassed, racist talk to much, and kids get exposed to way more hate speech than is good for anyone. I haven't played on a random server in ages.

Roy said...

I imagine. I'm playing on PC through Steam, but I can't imagine XBL is any better. Gaming would be so much better without most of the gamers. >sigh<

Anonymous said...

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Rae said...

If you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen.

Over sensitivity is a giant issue with you people these days. It actually makes me sad to be a woman when women complain about wanting equal treatment but not being able to cope with it. Those goes for the real world and online.

You'e playing a high intensity game that is pretty much comparable to the fanatic level of football junkies. People scream, people curse, people throw half-winded insults in the air for the sake of making themselves feel pumped.

Normal people don't give a shit what you say on the game. You're playing a game. The rivalry is there and that's half the fun.

Stop being so sensitive and play back like everyone else does. Help the twat when she's gettin' raped by a smoker, let the honky deal and burn the witch, and sacrifice the nigger when nessicary! PLAY THE DAMN GAME AND STOP WHINING ABOUT IT.

Roy said...


Where did anyone complain about wanting equal treatment and not being able to cope with it?

I'm talking about getting really tired of racist and sexist bullshit in games. It's not about equal treatment or about being overly sensitive.

Nor am I complaining about any kind of rivalry. You're taking something away that wasn't part of my criticism at all. I'm quite happy to joke around with people and give them shit when they're having a hard time or if they're on the other team. No problem with that at all.

You know what's really interesting? That you were so offended by my pointing out that there's bigotry on display by some players, that you came to my site to whine about my whining.

If I'm being overly sensitive by pointing out that the constant racial slurs about Louis are tiring, what does it make you that you're so worked about my post?

Holly said...

This comment is related to your blog in general, more than just this post, but..
Thank you, for renewing my hope in humanity? I have a couple of white, male, "feminist" friends--so after yet another disillusioning chat with one of them, it was refreshing to read through some of your blog posts.
Thanks a ton.

Anonymous said...

Trash-talk and mindlessness are part and parcel of the videogame experience. The ability to escape reality includes removal of its boundaries and morality. It's not an issue, it's catharsis.

As for gamers who carry that acting out into public as opinion, they're either A) predisposed and the gaming is irrelevant or B) out of touch with reality, a social issue that feminists, of all people, should understand empathetically (like any stance inspiring passion, the tendency to get swept away and act like an idiot brings down feminism's weak like ten wolves on a limping caribou).

ScubaNurse said...

The more men we have out there as an active voice for positive manhood the better.
Thanks for being one of those voices.

Anonymous said...

You have an xbox in the kitchen?