There’s a game called “Rust” in which you play a character in a wilderness. When it first came out, everyone was assigned the same avatar: a white dude. As we all know, “white dude” is the default everywhere, so no one complained.
Then, in an upgrade, they added other avatar options: different faces, different skin color. As an interesting experiment, these options were not under player control: they were randomly assigned. White dudes logging in suddenly found that their avatar might be a black dude (still a dude, at least; female avatars aren’t yet available).
If the skin color is forced on you, you won’t like it…OK, where were you when everyone was forced to play a white dude?
Not trying to be racist, it just comes naturally to you, I guess.
You don’t want to “take the chance of playing a black character.” Why? What would happen to you in the game? This is an entirely cosmetic feature, you know.
But please, self-awareness! Turn it around. Racism must be a big deal if the devs are MAKING PEOPLE PLAY AS WHITE CHARACTERS.
Here’s a lovely summary of what’s going on in this situation.
Why is it that the supposed lack of choice with regards to the player’s avatar only became a concern after people of color were added to the game? The reactions reflect a failure on the part of some gamers to recognize that whiteness is a race at all. These players appear to think of whiteness as a neutral type of embodiment, the universal category of humanity against which all those who do “have” a race (anyone who is not white) are compared. The backlash also confirms a theory posited by new media scholar Lisa Nakamura that, on the Internet, there is a tendency to assume that, in the absence of direct statements to the contrary, the people that we meet are white. Indeed, as Nakamura writes in “Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet”:
Until lately, the structure of the Internet has been such that it has greatly facilitated covering [or passing]; early utopians especially lauded and adored the Internet’s ability to hide or anonymize race as its best and most socially valuable feature. The Internet was just as much a machine for not-seeing as it was a machine of vision, at least in terms of race and gender identity.
In other words, by reintroducing the visualization of difference into the virtual world, Rust is making gamers question their racialized assumptions about the people they are interacting with online.
Making people question their assumptions…it’s like skepticism and critical thinking and all those good things science-minded people like to promote! I guess the problem is that white people must not be science-minded.
Oh, that’s not fair. We’re looking at a subset of white people in this example. Maybe it’s just gamers who are stupid.