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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is Gun Worth The Protest?

GamerGod argues that the protest against Gun is valid. There is a spoiler here, and well, I'll keep spoiling the plot ... so if you haven't played the game ... run away now.

Although the violence is historically accurate, the content glorifies the experience of slaughtering Indians and attempts to make it permissible by having a main character with hidden indigenous heritage.
-- GUN Misfires

I've already attacked Gun for being a bit gratiutous in it's violence, but I hadn't really come to a decision about the American Indian portrayal. Part of me always thinks that any group has a right to define what is insulting to their people. Problem with this is that it's always hard to tell, does the Association for American Indian Development represent the Apache people? I tried to get more information about the group, but their website only shows a pretty background in my browser.

Update: That's because it's all flash. The other box brings it up. Essentially an empowerment group for American Indians, not unlike the NAACP. So fairly general in scope.

Let's assume that the depiction would be insulting. Is it inaccurate? The two main points I've heard against the game is that the Apache are represented as savage enemies and that you can scalp them. I've already agreed on the second part, but just because I think it's a useless feature in general. The first is more complicated, since the Apache were combatants in the west.

The game portrays them in a wide variety of ways, which is glossed over in some of the arguments and even outright attacked in the GamerGod argument. At the beginning of the game, Apaches are brutal savages. Later, you have to ward off an onslaught on a bridge ... which means essentially killing a lot of Indians. Then, they become your allies and you are essentially working together with them. In short, Gun portrays almost the complete spectrum of how Indians have been shown in media.

While GamerGod seems to argue that the latter half of the game is just an excuse for the first half, it seems to me that Neversoft has instead written a wide range of Western lore into a single narrative. The AAID wants a "correction in content", which I assume amounts to gutting the first part of the story. Is that really honest? Weren't there Indian raids on settlers?

When I first played the game, having already heard of this protest, I thought there might be a point to it. Now that I'm probably over half done with the plot, I'm way more ambivalent. From a storytelling perspective, I don't think the second half would work as well without Colton's own conflict against the nature of the Apache.

Even if we accept the first scenes of the game as a gross stereotype, there's a certain arc the player is forced to go through with this conflict that encourages them to reconsider the image of the American Indian. Instead of seeing the second half as a justification for the first, I see it as the conclusion of the first. From enemy, to ally, to family. Simply skipping to the end of that arc seems to curtail what might actually help people respect the Indians more ... not less.

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