Pocket God

For some time now, an application named Pocket God has consistently been at the top of the iPhone application store list of bestselling apps. One review describes Pocket God as “an entertaining app that lets you explore multiple ways of tormenting your cute little islanders.” But see for yourself:

I just wonder how it is that Apple finds an application in which people can throw shoes at a virtual Bush unacceptable, but find the virtual torture of Pacific Islanders perfectly OK? And how is it that after weeks of being one of the bestselling iPhone games, hardly anyone has commented upon the game’s racism? Just imagine, for instance, a game in which one were presented with a virtual shtetle filled with Jews one could torture, or a plantation full of African slaves? How is it that such applications would certainly be rejected by the Apple Store, and yet Pocket God does not even provoke controversy?

I suppose that most people who play this game think of the island’s inhabitants as fictitious primitives, rather than representatives of a particular ethnic group. I doubt people playing the game bear any hatred towards Pacific Islanders. And yet, I can’t help but see our inability to view cartoonish depictions of indigenous peoples, such as sports mascots, as representations of living peoples as problematic. In particular, I feel it ties in with the myth of a vanishing race, of a people who, defined in terms or their primitivism must have already given way to the forces of modernity, their very existence denied.

UPDATE: I don’t personally think Apple should be in the business of censoring applications based on content, but here is another story that is relevant to the current discussion:

The release (and subsequent removal) of an iPhone app called Baby Shaker this week has Apple in hot water with angry parents and children’s groups, who are demanding answers from Apple.

UPDATE: Seems that Canterbury University Lecturer Malakai Koloamatangi is now raising a stink about the game. See here and here (via Indigeneity)

UPDATE: Looks like the developers are going to make some changes in response to criticisms. (They are also hiring a PR firm.)

80 thoughts on “Pocket God

  1. Some pots are considerably bigger than others. It would also be nice to hear from a member of the group in question. As I recall, the developer claims that the game is popular in Oceania. Could it be that people there react to it as some of us here react to the Simpsons? Isn’t there something just a little maiden auntish, not to say culturally imperialist, about having vapors on behalf of folks from whom we haven’t heard yet?

  2. John,

    The point of this post was precisely to comment on the lack of a tempest, and to contemplate the reasons why that might be.

  3. And, at the end of the exercise, what, if anything has been concluded? I’ve seen the usual casual outrage, a few bits of mockery. Where, precisely, has the contemplation come in?

  4. Actually, Kerim I think we should end with your original question, which I think was a really good one: why no outrage? Clearly, we have our answer. Pacific Islanders may be one of the last groups that American game designers and Apple and the iphone downloading community and, apparently ,some anthropologists, can envision as hapless sub-human victims who can be gleefully killed–guilt free–with the very same motion you use to flick a booger.

  5. Care to be specific?

    Seriously, I am bothered when anthropologists, who, of all people, are supposed to be the most able to step back and reserve judgment when confronted with things that disturb them react with what I have called “casual outrage.” I attach the adjective “casual” because, in my view, that is what this outrage is. A number of other adjectives including “sloppy,” “predictable,” and “knee-jerk” might also apply.

    We have seen no evidence that those most directly concerned are offended by the imagery in question. And even a passing acquaintance with the genre conventions of video gaming suggests that this is at most a small illustration of a much larger issue. Suppose we try to imagine a world from which all caricatures are banned. Is that even possible? If not, how do we go about the real world task of deciding when humor becomes too cruel or, conversely, when taking offense is absurd?

    Or, from another and less academic perspective, all of us Netizens live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with outrage about this or that. We have learned the Constitution has been undermined by officially authorized torture. People whose prejudices make ours look like pecadilloes are well on the way to taking over a nuclear armed country in Pakistan. Millions of people are out of work, uninsured, potentially desperate, and they are, in global terms, still among the lucky ones, given the reality that more than half of humanity live in brutal poverty, and a global ecological collapse may already be irreversible. Is a game developer’s decision to use an objectionable caricature worth wasting attention on?

    This is the world in which anthropologists must, in my view ask ourselves very seriously just what it is that we bring to the global table. In my view, the supply of casual outrage far outstrips the demand. It cheapens what we do.

  6. In the future Kerim, please vet all prospective post topics with the AAA so that we may be assured they are worthy of our attention/outrage.

    Meanwhile, the picture of the world John paints appears so bleak I cannot fathom how it is the same one in which a best-selling (currently no.3) iPhone game requires us to torture cute brown people for fun.

  7. Vet post? With the AAA? There’s a bizarre concept. Look, I agree that the game is appalling. I’m not denying that. Just get bored and annoyed out of my skull when mostly what I see in response to the original post is vapid, self-righteous vaporing.

    So, why is that game No. 3? Why are game franchises like Grand Theft Auto or Halo so hugely popular? Why, when taking a break for fantasy, do people turn to violent story lines in quasi-feudal, cyberpunk or warfare settings? Got anything to say about that but “Naughty, naughty, naughty…. woe is us”?

    Is this something specific to this particular historical moment or the currently dominant economic regime? Doesn’t seem very likely given the cultural salience of the Iliad, the Odyssey, Beowulf, the Song of Roland, Shakespeare, the Old Testament, the Book of Revelations, etc. in the Western tradition or the Ramayana in India, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Water Margin in China, Chushingura in Japan.

    If we throw out Lionel Tigerish paleolithic and/or primate nastiness pseudo-science, what have we got to say about these elephants in the room?

  8. John, where’s your sense of humour? My point is that blog posts, much less comments on them, do not have to meet your (or the AAA’s) standards of disciplinary integrity. You asked if this game was worth ‘our’ attention. If you don’t think so then don’t read the post or the comments.

    For my answer to your questions about why this game is popular see my first comment on this post – I think games like this allow children (of all ages) to objectify and play out the experience of power as arbitrary and capricious. This particular game does this by drawing on numerous cultural tropes. Such games are part of the emergence of children’s culture in the West enabling the objectification of inferiority and opposition to dominant interests through role play. I am thinking of Miller’s Material Culture and Mass Consumption p.168 on sweets.

    But this wasn’t exactly Kerim’s question – which was why is no one upset by this game, when they are upset by games which allow us to throw shoes at (ex)Presidents. The answer was that some are upset, but most aren’t because they don’t recognise Pacific Islanders as ‘presently real’ or offendable in the way that Eskimo, Jews, or other groups are. To many they are the stuff of cartoons, early C20th films, and a long abandoned past.

  9. Fair enough. Writing while in the grip of a nasty spring cold is, perhaps, something I should avoid.

    That said, how about taking your argument one step further? Why are the Pacific Islanders not presently real, a.k.a., offendable? Is it because

    1. There aren’t very many of them
    2. They aren’t effectively organized
    3. Given both 1. and 2. they are not likely to be “news” at a level that breaks through the usual clutter
    4. They are unaware of the depiction
    5. They know about the game but are not particularly bothered by it, since the stereotypic images are so far from their own current self-image that the stereotypes are someone else not me?

    I ask because one thing this discussion has done for me is to make me think about the grossly stereotypic images of Japanese that frequently occur in popular cartoons drawn by Japanese artists that are, as far as I can see, regarded with affection by their fans. Or, again, in a local context, the variety shows in which actors or audience contestants are subjected to all sorts of, admittedly less than deadly, abuse, which is, judging by audience response taken to be hysterically funny.

  10. Moral of the story is that when you set out to create representations of fictional and mythical people in a game, make sure you don’t inadvertently create non-fictional and non-mythical representations that in the end turn out to be completely fictional and mythical. Right?

  11. i think you are really overeacting to something that no one else finds offensive. this game is not meant to offend or even joke about a certain race, and you are purposely trying to make a problem out of nothing. it is people like you that actually cause more problems than the game. you fill people’s heads with false ideas and start an outrage, ultimately which you claim Pocket God is causing, you are to blame if anyone is offended. nice job, jerk-off.

  12. The camp that continuously maintains the position that these are innocently conjured images invented from no-where for our amusement demonstrate the long standing problem of colonialism. Denying and defending what are obviously racist depictions of indigenous peoples in line with colonial historical definitions of who indigenous peoples are is symptomatic of the larger problem: the ongoing colonial relationship between settler society and indigenous nations.

    Of course, to the creators and users of the game, it seems like they are being picked on as a random single example without realizing that we are bombarded with images like this everywhere. Perhaps, the most obvious are the sports teams.

    It may be remembered that Vine Deloria, Norbert Hill, Ray Apodca and Bill Means, Mateo Romero, and Manley Begay brought lawsuits against the Washingtons Redskins for their offensive name brand. In 1999, three trademark judges agreed that the word, team name, “disparages Narive Americans and holds us to contempt and holds us up o disrepute”. The suit one, but in 2003, the federal district court said that plaintiffs were too late and that they were not bothered. Here is what Suzan Shown Harjo says:

    “I remember during my deposition, they kept showing me photos of program covers that had Sitting Bull on the cover and it said “Redskins.” And they said, “You dont find this disparaging, do you?” “Well, yes I do. If you put Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of the team brochure with the n-word, it would not have secondary meaning.” This is what is reall at issue here. Its fascinating hearing people tell us what we are bothered by, which is th whole crux of the lawsuit. We say we are offended. The Washington team owners say, no you are no; you are honored. We say, no, we are offended. And they say, shut up. That is the lawsuit, and they really dont like to talk to living Indinas and have gone out of their way not to. They have kept us out of any deposition and negotiations– it can only be the lawyers present and not any of us– as they call us the activists.”

    Now all the problems with video games aside. There is a real popular belief that is supported by education at all levels that depicts indigenous peoples as people of the past. These are not caricatures, not innocent creations animators pull out of some empty imaginary. They are specific examples rooted in a colonial history that is not past, but ever present in Canada, the US, Australia and many other places that are not post-colonies.

    The creators of such things are not to blame. The problem is in the very structure of colonialism that makes all of us complicit. The way out is to point things out; it is to address settler states continued assimilatory and racist agendas towards indigenous nations: put political pressure on settler poltiticians and governments to honour their treaty obligations. Change our educational progrmas to stop revising history at all levels.

    It is these kinds of colonial images that were/are used to validate a violent and paternal attitude towards the true owners, occupiers of what is known as Canada, the USA, Australia, Oceania and so on.

    When we say that ‘no one’ is offended by the game, its not the game itself, its what the game is complicit in as well as the creators, the players, and the society that sanctions the game by their silence and ignorance towards it. And who is ‘no one’ anyway?

  13. Extremely disturbing, too, is a former comment within this thread that suggested Canadian anthropology has effectively decolonized (?)…. Really?……..Really……!?!?

  14. @James.

    While I think you make some interesting (and true) points, your extreme position and bombastic language is what makes people like you easy to dismiss by “settler” governments and “complicit” populations.

  15. Well, actually James illustrates an important point (I am guessing inadvertently). He wants to talk about settler states, and in particular Canada and the US. I suppose that must mean he believes the characters in this game represent indigenous North Americans (“obviously” as he says). It seems like most other anthropologists thought they were Pacific Islanders but clearly (“obviously”) not. From there it would be interesting to see how he thinks this game has influence over, say, legal disputes over land in British Columbia.

    So who is really represented in this game? Pacific Islanders? Indigenous Canadians? Native Americans? This neatly demonstrates the problem when you just label things “obviously racist depictions of indigenous peoples” with no actual basis in individual intention but simply your own interpretation that they are all-encompassing images (“invented from no-where”!) ubiquitous somewhere out there in our nebulous “culture”. Without making too many facetious comparisons (maybe this game actually represents Jews! The game designers might be anti-semites!), at least I can point out this is an example where “indigenous” really breaks down as a coherent analytic concept. And this method provides a disconcerting launching pad to talk about whatever happens to be your beef (let’s guess what it is for James!).

    Anyway, the rest of the argument follows Said (for better or for worse), but at least in Orientalism everyone could agree that the original authors were indeed trying to accurately represent Middle Eastern people. No such luck!

  16. The stupid and racist “game” does NOT refers to Pacific islanders but specifically to Easter islanders … from Easter Island, or Rapa Nui (you all miss the moai at the right side, a unique icon for the Rapanui culture). Killing “real” people is more than a colonial offense, it is a crime, but we all know language makes all the difference.

  17. I said the specific example of the game is a part of a larger problem that has to do with representations of ALL indigenous peoples. In turn, these representations are tied to a very real colonial hostory that is still in the making; this is why I use the word settler to refer to non-indigenous society. This is not an isolated, random moment of indigenous representation; it cuts to the core of how indigenous people are seen by non-indigenous society.

    It is the common and penetrating idea that a large population of the world are savages- or as Hobbes says, their lives are nasty, brutish and short. This attitude (that is injected into stadial theories going back to the enlightenment) DOES have an affect, since it is the anthropologists, geographers, and so on that the courts deter to decide if a.) a society of people is who they say they are and b.) if the society is at an appropriate stage of cultural development to be considered worthy of rights or not (there is your answer to land claims).

    How am I an extremist?

  18. @Jose Miguel: Thanks for clearing up this controversy.

    @James: That’s the link to land claims? Do you call that the Six Degrees of Separation Method to Social and Historical Analysis? Next up: How Kevin Bacon was responsible for both World Wars and the colonization of Africa.

  19. All teasing aside, you are the one who brought up land claims. We could go further into the absurdity of land claims whereby the original nations of north america try to pursue their title in a foreign system of law (again, colonialism in action today).

    However, I am a bit surprised by the instance that since pocket god referes to a specific group of indigenous people, we are unable to address issues of indigenous representation beyond it(?) and get at what I suggest is the bigger problem: why this form of racism exists in the first place and our role in it?

  20. I believe the game is inadvertently racist, but I don’t really blame anyone for not noticing. I come from a PI background (Tongan), and even in Australia it is not uncommon for someone to not even know where or what Tonga is.
    People outside of the islands generally don’t know a great deal (or anything) about our history and cultures, so when a game like this is released, I don’t think they can connect the dots between fantasy and reality.
    Sure, it’s all just fantasy. But they are fantasies based on stereotypes of reality. Any Pacific Islander can see this. Whether or not we’re offended (on an individual basis) is irrelevant.

    I can’t say I find it hugely offensive in itself, though I can easily see how other PIs could find it very insulting. Mistakes made in ignorance can’t really be attacked. However, I do find it disturbing that the developers (and many others) can’t seem to see how it could be offensive. Why can’t the developer admit that they made a bad judgment call and make some simple changes? Get rid of the Moai… get creative and create characters that don’t follow the racist stereotypes.

    I can however see the difference between the game and examples people are describing (e.g. the plantation game concepts, etc) in that Pocket God isn’t actually based on true events, so can be dismissed as less racist.
    But what if we take an unfair stereotype based on nothing more than fantasy and compare that? For example, I’m sure we could agree a game would be racist if the main character is a dark skinned man with afro hair, a FUBU shirt and loose jeans, an exaggerated big nose and lips, constantly making remarks like “I luurrrve chicken!” whilst on a mission to eat as much fried chicken (found in places that look strikingly similar to KFC) and watermelons as possible. Now someone can easily state “We never claimed that the character was African American. He’s purely fictional”, but those who know of African American stereotypes can obviously see through that statement.
    Why is Pocket God any less racist than this? Sure it doesn’t directly say “Hey! These are Western Samoans/Easter Islanders/Fijians/Raros/etc”, but placing a Maoi in the background and making them look like racist stereotypes really does throw the ‘fictional character’ argument out the window.

    In my eyes, the developers did inadvertently base their characters on real stereotypes and they really should make changes (it would be mainly aesthetic changes… I work in game development so I know it’s fairly, easily do-able).
    Though I do believe the Pacific Islander population globally is so tiny (e.g. Tonga’s total population is less than 130K) that it won’t be heard. It won’t be the first or last time they’ve been ignored.

  21. They are not publishing about it because of Savage Minds but because of Malakai Koloamatangi at Canterbury University and the Pacific Women’s Information Network, both of which have raised objections to the game. It is possible they learned about the game from Savage Minds, but it is also possible they simply own iPhones.

  22. Pocket God is degrading? Look who’s talking. I stand up for what is right in this world and that is certainly not you. What happened to the good old days where people could crowd around your iPhone and watch a few generic islanders on a generic island swimming with the shark and eating coconuts. According to you people as long as sewing prevails over any moral stance then it is ok. You kind of people are the kind of people who throw around now meaningless phrases that previously depicted hatred between society e.g that is racist. If Pocket God is going to go down it won’t go down without a fight I assure you there will be war between what is right in this world and what human society has been forced into thinking by people like you. If a petition has to be signed for Pocket God to prevail so help me God I will fly from Scotland just to sign it. If my use of the word ‘God’ in that previous sentence offended anyone then please do not hesitate to complain to getalife@hotmail.com but don’t expect a reply. You kind of people make me sick by ridiculing any one human who actually wants to have fun in this life and transfer that fun to others at the same time. Mankind is slowly degrading to the level of you kind of people but built upon good foundations of those who won’t give up fighting like me, a 14 year old man of a Christian background and who is a strong believer in a better world. You had better wish that Apple or any other outside agency doesn’t take this further or you will be held 100% responsible. I will lead the charge to a better world where people do not read too much into things and people actually talk to one an other if a problem needs to be resolved. I will lead the charge against people like you for as long as it takes.

  23. @littlewiiguy: yeah, and what happened to the good old days when you could get around your iPhone and watch generic kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing uniformed people drinking whiskey, marching in regiments, fighting generic kings with elephants and hunting generic wild cats and having a jolly good laugh about it all?

    clearly, that’s just made up shit, eh?

    maybe we should have a game where an alien swarm takes over the earth and hunts down earthlings from their saucers, turning them into little fried puddles of goo.. we’d play the aliens, of course..

  24. @genericbrownguy: yes that is a lot of rubbish as I have yet to stumble upon anyone to fall into that specific typecast of which you forgot the Ginger hair as most people associate with us Scottish.

  25. I think generic brown guy has accidentally hit upon the point. Precisely because no Scot actually identifies themselves in that way, it’s not offensive to real Scots. Similarly, if Pacific Islanders don’t define themselves in that way, it’s unlikely to be offensive. Indeed, they might enjoy playing with the stereotypes themselves.

    See Father Ted… massively popular in Ireland, but playing on very politically incorrect stereotypes of both Ireland and Irish Catholicism.

  26. So apparently the game developers have found a fireproof way of responding to charges of racism – “First, we stop calling them Islanders or Pygmies and use a new fictional name: Oogs with the addition of a backstory. Then we remove the Moai and replace it with a fictional octopus (or qudrapus) god statue to be used in a future story.” (http://pocketgod.blogspot.com/) At long last, engaged anthropology has actually made a difference.

  27. Maniaku’s failure observe the direct link between a.) the racist depictions of indigenous people, largely created and produced by disemminated by the science of anthropology and b.) the ongoing injustices sustained by the imperial and colonial state of Canada (its ongoing refusal to honour nearly every Treaty obligation).

    When indigneous peoples have to go to a foreign court of law and pass a legal test as to who they are and what rights they have, who are the expert witnesses…? Anthropologists (scientists).

    I am baffled and perplexed at how much focus and attention is put on the specifics of pocket game in correlation with debates as to whether or not is racist or offensive.

    Maniaku’s suggestion that the connection between images like the ones the designers invoked is so far removed from the ongoing perpetual myth that indigenous peoples occupy a lower stage of human development is shocking. To mock me for suggesting that the link between images such as this, anthropology (science) and the violent injustices people sustain because of bullshit stadial theories ala Kant is absurd.

    Yet, these kinds of theories are salient in the curriculums of education systems; in popular media and have strong roots running deep since at least the enlightenment.

    Canadian settlement is legally justified by the British Common Law of ‘Terra Nullius’ (empty land); moreover, court cases that have come to pass in these recent decades litigate to what extent indigenous people are indigenous and where they fit into civilization. So what who the people if the land is empty (flora and fauna?)

    Essentially, what is taken as a post-colony of the Canadian state (since they are no longer governed by Britain) tries to paternalistically proclaim jurisdiction and responsibility for indigenous nations. This is a huge distortion and an imperial move to forego the Treaty obligations Canadian crown is legally bound to honour. Yet in the court of law we have justices ruling that indigenous peoples are of so low of a society and that their lives are ‘nasty brutish and short’ as does the justice in the relatively recent Delgamuukw case.

    The role anthropologists play in testifying on behalf of the crown and invoking the highly salient image of the backward and primitive savage is not much different than those working in the CIA or for any counterinsurgency or imperial agenda.

    Of course there have been a few esteemed anthros whose work should be emulated such as:

    Sally M. Weaver, Making Canadian Indian Policy: The Hidden Agenda, 1968-1970 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981).

    Non-indigenous people or, settler society, seems quite content to easily say, oh, these are racist images, but what can we do? The real fight is in challenging the longstanding colonial relationship and spirit of these imgages because of their role in invoking what is a myth produces by science and history that is still, today, the faoundation of denying entire nations their Treaty rights; worse, yet, settler society denies themselves the benefits of honouring their Treaty obligations.

    What is happening as it happened in 1928, when the County Court of Nova Scotia in R. v. Syliboy rejected applying the international legal principle of a 1752 treaty between the British soveriegn and Mi’kmaq tribes on the grounds that Mi’kmaq were uncivilized persons or savages who did not have the capacity to enter into into the treaties; the grand chief of Mick Macks was originally convicted of unlawful possession of furs contrary to the Nova Scotia Lands and Forests Act).

    You can look through these cases. You can read what anthropologists say about a peoples ‘level’ of existence. I dont need to provide a social or historical analysis to make a direct link between these images and the abuse of law to benefit the society that wrote that law.

    As Sol Tax said during the Indian Claims Commissions (proceedings set up to help expediate the theft of INdian land) of the 1940’s (just before Congress and the BIA pursued the termination policies of the 50s): Anthropologists have got themselves into a bad spot right now.

    Well, anthropology has not dealt with colonialism. It needs to restore honor its ancestors, written out of the history, who did stand up to colonialism such as Sol Tax Robert Thomas.

    But whenever you write critically of anthropology in north america these days, everyone is quick to defend the proffession- the science, the objectivity. Or, like Maniaku, make it irrelevant so we dont have to deal with it at all. As Tax said: To resolve an impossible problem one imagines it does not exist.

    In recalling Deloria’s critique of anthros in 1969, all kinds of anthros called foul suggesting they never did anything wrong including Leslie White who was deeply disturbed and insulted by Deloria’s critique. Yet, White’s theories of evolution, along with other evolutionary theories, are damaging to indigenous people claims and for no good reason.

    Are anthropologists (and others) so obtuse that we cannot see how theorizing an entire nation is so low that, unless they become something that is other than what they are, there is no future for them. And then when states form policies to actualize this annhilation (passed off euphemistically as assimilation) or expediate it, anthropologists sit back and say, “Im a detached, dispassionate scientist”.

    It is not enough to start and end with these manifestations, like pocket god, and whether or not they are racist. It is vital, in order to live right in treaty, together, and moving the same direction without each of us destroying the other, to look closely at Treaty and what it means to be a non-indigenous person living on their land (or doing nuclear tests near it).

  28. You are all absolute and utter morons. Those who are defending Pocket God like littlewiiguy I apologise because you are good people. The rest of you are just demoralised citizens who take pleasure in criticizing anything they do because you cannot be as successful as they are. I would like to see the maker of this post arguing against a >1000000 strong army of PG fans.

  29. Thanks for the interesting posting and the debate in the thread. I must confess, I own a copy of the game and enjoy the digital violence I perpetrate upon the characters in the game.

    I also confess it had never entered into my mind that this would be seen as a racist game. Your posting does give me food for thought but I think I need more convincing.

    While I recognize the overtly “cute” depiction of the characters and the exaggeration of their “primitive” nature are problematic and I think the company is right to respond to the criticism and minimize associations between the characters in the game and any specific ethnic group, I worry that this kind of criticism can be taken too far.

    In my years of casual gaming I have caused far greater death and destruction to the civilians of the cities I have created (and then destroyed) in SimCity. The references to American city life are seen throughout various elements of the game (including the newspaper issues one reads) but one might protest that the sort of identification between SimCity and America is not enough to define the violence of monsters in SimCity against its digital inhabitants is not a good comparison. Then, let us take a closer example, what about the simulation Tropico. Set in a banana republic you, as “El presidente” (sp?) build and manage a simulated island community which you can starve, oppress, grant democracy, promote tourism, and sell out to Communism at one’s whim. Should we condemn this game for its representations of central american peoples, its exaggerated in-game accents, etc.? Do the “tourist” native ruins one can construct in rural areas stand out for special criticism?

    My instincts lead me to Kerim’s view that censorship of such games is generally undesirable but while I am willing to be persuaded, I also feel that the idea of a “right not to be insulted [through depiction in widespread stereotypes]” comes at too great a cost to society, creativity, humor, and yes, even cultural production.

    Thanks to @ilya to pointing out the discussion here and @kerim for the posting.

  30. Konrad,

    Thanks for your comments. There seem to be three separate questions raised by most commentators:

    1. Are the images racist?

    2. Should we be offended?

    3. Should such images be censored?

    I started by stating that these images are indeed racist, although without any malicious intent on the part of the developers. (The above comments by both developers and others make it clear that the link with specific ethnic groups was even closer than I had imagined when I wrote the post.) You yourself acknowledge that “the exaggeration of their “primitive” nature [is] problematic.” So lets assume we agree on this.

    You and other commentators then focus on issues 2 and 3 which were not central to my post. What I am interested in is a different question which is why the racist nature of these images has not provoked a reaction in the many, many, people who have given this game nothing but positive praise in their user reviews on the iTunes Application store, or in the numerous glowing reviews on various web sites.

    My point was that because indigenous people are seen as existing in the past, depictions of them as primitives are not seen as racist. To the extent that indigenous people are modern they are not seen as being indigenous people any more, and so should not be offended by this game.

    In an important sense, then, my post was more about the construction of indigeniety than about whether we should be offended at this game or not. But I see how easy it is for one issue to slide into the other, for if we accept my argument, then we must – in turn – question our own passive acceptance of these representations. I think that questioning is a good thing, although I don’t have any easy answers about what the result of that questioning should be.

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