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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(12/30/05)


Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

BoycottGun.com

FROM: Association for American Indian Development

RE: BOYCOTT "Gun" The Video Game

Call to action: We are demanding of Activision Incorporated, (the publishers of "Gun") to edit and remove all derogatory, harmful and inaccurate depictions of American Indians from the video game "gun" including, but not limited to, the slaughtering of the "renegade" Apaches, the atrocity of "Indian scalping" and the mis-information of Indian traditions of "killing" sacred white animals. We also demand that upon the re-release of the edited version of said video game, that Activision do so in a manner that is responsible to the great Apache people and is culturally and historically accurate to the struggle and plight of all people of American Indian ancestry.

BOYCOTT "GUN" Information

It has come to our attention that video game publisher, Activision, has released for Xbox 360, Xbox, Playstation , PS2 and PC, a new game set in the American West with some very disturbing racist and genocidal elements toward Native Americans. The game is called "Gun" and features a frontiersman hero named Colton White. One of his earliest tasks that the game player must complete before advancing to the next level is to slaughter, not once, but on an ongoing basis, Apache Indians. Not only slaughter (and this is the terminology used in the game) but to scalp (terminology also used in the game) them as well with a "scalping knife" that can be purchased as part of the many weapons offered to the hero of the game, Colton White.

Yes, we understand that this game is rated "M" for mature audiences, and yes, we understand that historically, this kind of violence occurred all too often. No one knows this better than this organization and Indigenous people from all tribes throughout the continents of North, Central and South America. In fact, the repercussions of such acts of genocide are why there is a desperate need for the Association for American Indian Development today. What is of the greatest concern and outrage is the outright, unabashed and implied righteousness of its genocidal nature toward Native Americans.

To create a game where one must slaughter members of a racial group in order to move forward promotes and condones the near genocide of Native Americans in this country. If a game were created that had its hero slaughter, say African Americans, Irish, Mexicans, or Jews, would there not be an outcry of extreme proportions? We're not talking about generic bandits or outlaws who could be any race -- this is a game that specifies the slaughter of a living, breathing existing racial group of human beings. There is no indication of the complexities of the period, even as interviews with its author, talk about how he was able to delve into the history of the period. Native people during this time were protecting their homeland, their way of life. Something that is instilled in good old American values.

What's next, the Civil War era game where "The Hero" must capture and lynch runaway slaves? Of course not. That would be wrong. But apparently, killing Indians is still fair game. And, even further, "The Hero" at one point, bemoans the fact that although he's killed so many Apaches, he's let so many get away?

We wonder if the authors of this script and game even took the time to think about the fact that real, existing Apache people can be adversely affected by this element of their "game?" This most definitely is not a "game" to those still suffering from the repercussions of this shameful chapter in American history. How many kids will (and although rated for mature players, young kids will still manage to get a copy of it) play this game and then carry what they've experienced into their interactions with real, live Apaches and other Native Americans? Yes, Native people still live here in America. They are not a lost or extinct people and they don't all live secluded on reservations. And, believe it or not, Indian kids play Xbox, too. And Activision (and scriptwriter Randall Jahnson) have just written a game that says killing all Apaches is the right thing to do and in the game you not only have to slaughter the Apache to advance in the game, but you can purchase a "scalping knife" to "scalp them all!" This is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in a "civilized" society.

Let's be clear...contrary to popular belief and myth, the near genocide of Native Americans is a shameful chapter in American history and should not be condoned or trivialized in a game as if it were okay. Yes, the brutal slaying of America's indigenous people is historically accurate...it happened. But so did slavery, lynching and the Holocaust and we don't see games glamorizing it as if it were the right thing to do.

As if to make amends, "The Hero" switches sides later in the game and discovers a secret about his own indigenous heritage, but that does NOT make the preceding chapters any easier to accept. In fact, in the official guide to the game, it actually says that because "The Hero" rescues some Apaches held captive on a train, perhaps it cancels a karmic debt for his earlier actions. Are they serious? Obviously not. This is typical of a flippant comment about a very real, damaging and tragic aspect of American history, the aftermath of which is still very much in evidence today all across North America.

Why is it that still today, Americans think it's okay to talk, let alone spend millions of dollars to create video games about killing a bunch of Indians so casually? This is grossly insensitive and does not in any way acknowledge the brutality camouflaged as Manifest Destiny.

This is why the Association for American Indian Development asks you to join us in letting the publishers of this offensive game know that this will not be tolerated BOYCOTT "Gun" the video game, as well as other games published by Activision. We also encourage you to use your American right to voice you concern to Activision by writing them at:

Activision Incorporated
3100 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 255-2000

Review of Gun
From GamerGod.com:

GUN Misfires

By Beth Dillon on 2006-01-31 22:17:41

Custer's Revenge hit retail shelves during the advent of console videogames in the 1980's. In the Atari 2600 videogame, the player takes the role of a pixilated, naked General George Armstrong Custer, the historic military officer who devastated American Indian communities prior to his death in a battle at Little Big Horn in 1876. The object of the game is to dodge Indian arrows as you make your way to the other side of the screen, where an Indian woman is already tied to a pole. The game ends in one of two ways. You either lose by getting shot by arrows, or you rape the Indian woman and win.

Despite its boxy graphics, Custer's Revenge was graphic and delivered clear messages of racism and sexism. Protestors gathered in an effort to have Custer's Revenge permanently removed from retail shelves. "Kristen Reilly, a leading member of Women Against Pornography, organized the protesters, with help from the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the American Indian Community House" (Gonzalez). When the boycott and protests started, organizations targeted Atari 2600. However, Atari 2600 was not in control of games developed for their console at that point in time. Mystique was the developer responsible for the content. As Tom Moriarty reported in the October 1983 issue of Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated, "Atari filed a lawsuit against AMI/Mystique for 'wrongful association' of Custer's Revenge to the Atari 2600" (Gonzalez).

As described on ClassicGaming.com's history of Custer's Revenge, a group of Atari programmers who felt they were not properly credited for their work left the company and started Activision. "Activision opened the door for other companies to develop games for the Atari 2600. Prior to Activision's formation, Atari developed all the games themselves. But after the foundation (and success) of Activision, other companies started to join the fray. Atari didn't plan for this kind of occurrence, had no way of preventing games from being released, and had no licensing system. Hundreds of companies churned out games of vastly varying quality" (Fragmaster). GUN Comes Under Fire

Ironically, Activision now faces a boycott for reasons very similar to those facing Atari. Neversoft Entertainment developed the game GUN with screenwriter Randall Jahnson and published it through Activision to the platforms Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, and PC. Although Activision can argue that they are detached from the development process in the same way that Atari was for Mystique's X-rated products, Activision certainly played an active role as a publisher in the distribution of GUN.

GUN puts the player in a raw, violent Wild West setting. In the second opening scene labeled with the date "1542," Indians, presumably from the Apache tribe, are portrayed with monstrous, animalistic expressions as they slaughter missionary travelers. A defenseless missionary with a large cross falls in submission, and the Indians ruthlessly murder him. The scene ends with blood splattering over the large cross.

The game begins in 1880 as the player takes on the role of Colton White, who is traveling the Missouri river with his father Ned. Suspiciously, Colton wears a recognizably Indian choker. During a raid by "white men turned savages" on the Morning Star steamboat, Ned confesses to Colton that he is not Colton's father, and Colton must leave Ned behind to survive. Colton is later told that everyone on the steamboat was scalped by the "bloody savages."

The first training session prior to the steamboat attack involves primarily killing wolves and an angry grizzly bear, and the second focuses on shooting at wild elk and buffalo. At the end of the second training session, Colton White is ambushed by white men for wearing an "Alhambra token," which Colton later uses to get information from Jenny at the Dodge City Alhambra Saloon. All the while, even though Colton kills white men to defend Jenny, the emphasis remains on the "fugitive band of Apaches on a rampage" between Dodge City and Empire City.

Colton is sent to clear the bridge of the Apaches who are trying to destroy it, because it has been built on their land. The man handling the development of the bridge makes other racist comments-"even the Irish won't work" and the "China men" are stalled in work. When Colton kills Apaches, they die more dramatically than do white men. Their screams are louder. Few use guns, and most use arrows or tomahawks. Colton uses a Scalping Knife to scalp them for graphic effects as there is no benefit to scalping enemies other than experiencing the violence itself. A series of massacres of the Apache people follows as Colton escorts Jenny to Empire City.

Colton travels to Hoodoo's casino to fight against the Indian "resistance." The game direction turns when Hoodoo turns on Colton and puts him in jail. When Colton saves Indians on a train, it "cancels a karmic debt." Later on, Colton helps an Indian who is cruelly beaten on a steamboat, but for his own benefit. If he saves the Indian's brothers, the Indians help Colton escape. Colton then protects an Indian village. The Blackfeet lead Colton to an attack on Hollister's Fort.

Side quests involve killing sacred white animals for an Indian hunter for $5 to $20 each. Eventually, the content routes back to the second opening scene of the game. Part of the initial cross is found by killing the Reverend Reeds. The second half of the cross must be found through Many Wounds. Soapy, whom Colton earlier saved from hanging, helps Colton as well. "I've seen the other half of this cross. The Apache Chief has it. If I can put the pieces together, then I can beat Magruder at his own game." Magruder has been searching for Quivira, a Lost City. During the process of getting the second part of the cross and finding Magruder, it turns out that Colton is also Indian, which supposedly makes his past acts of violence acceptable.

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.

In reaction to the content of GUN, the Association for American Indian Development has started a boycott against Activision. They have requested that certain explicit violence and stereotyping be removed from the game. Ultimately, the Association for American Indian Development simply wants to see the content corrected in respect of the Apache people.This comprise is more accepting than the boycott on Custer's Revenge, which called for the game to be removed from all retail outlets. Ironically, years later, it is available through many web sites for free.

Advertisements gloss over the monstrous or violent depictions of the Apache in GUN. Screenshots are carefully selected. GUN received a great deal of marketing through television and the typical videogame venues-game magazines and game web sites. However, it was also given additional marketing that few games receive.

An Alternate Reality Game (ARG) was created to market GUN. ARGs are cross media games, primarily used to advertise upcoming videogames. The GUN ARG featured a Wild West themed poker web site with strange phone calls related to the story of Colton's gun in the 21st Century. Players choose avatars to represent themselves in the poker web site, only one of which looked remotely American Indian-a woman wearing Western clothing. The ARG failed to take the opportunity to represent the current conditions of the Apache and Blackfeet and instead relied on the simplicity of the ongoing story of the gun. However, this culpability does not fall on the writers and designers in the ARG, but again on Activision, which should have been responsible for providing game content information.

American Indian content can be used successfully in videogames. Red Dead Revolver, developed by Rockstar Games, also casts a half-breed as its main character but uses fictional tribe names, represents American Indians as more than one-sided, and portrays other races working collaboratively. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath by Electronic Arts offers a creative analogy of the American Indian colonization experience. The overtones are made clear during a final serene scene at the end featuring a quote from Chief Standing Bear.

Even though the historical period portrayed in GUN was fraught with racism, Activision's decision to publish a racially stereotyped videogame represents a serious misstep in social responsibility. Like Custer's Revenge, GUN provokes wonder. In this case, the industry has unfortunately bought into the popular misconception that games are frivolous because they are made for fun.

For more information about the boycott against GUN, visit http://www.boycottgun.com.

Activision replies

Activision responds to accusations of racism

Ellie Gibson 14:35 02/02/2006

Publisher defends depiction of Native Americans in GUN

Activision has responded to accusations that PC and console title GUN promotes racism and genocide, apologising to Native Americans who have complained about the game for any offence caused.

In a statement issued to GamesIndustry.biz, the publisher said: "Activision does not condone or advocate any of the atrocities that occurred in the American West during the 1800s. GUN was designed to reflect the harshness of life on the American frontier at that time."

"It was not Activision's intention to offend any race or ethnic group with GUN, and we apologize to any who might have been offended by the game's depiction of historical events which have been conveyed not only through video games but through films, television programming, books and other media."

Activision's comments come after the Association for American Indian Development launched a campaign against GUN, claiming that the game glorifies racism and genocide.

GUN is set in the American west of the late 1800s, and sees players taking on the role of cowboy Colton White. According to Activision's own press information, players must face off with a variety of enemies including "corrupt lawmen, merciless outlaws and unforgiving Native Americans."

The AAID claims that the game features "some very disturbing racist and genocidal elements toward Native Americans," observing that players must slaughter a set number of Apache Indians in order to advance through levels. The association also objects to the fact that "Indian scalping" has a prominent place in the game, and "the mis-information of American Indian traditions of "killing" sacred white animals."

But according to Activision, "While GUN depicts scalping and killing, these actions are not directed exclusively toward any race or gender but are used against a variety of opponents, reflecting the realities of that time."

The AAID has already set up an online petition requesting that Activision "remove all derogatory, harmful and inaccurate depictions of American Indians from the videogame GUN." If this demand is not met, the AAID says it will campaign for the game to be removed from retailers' shelves worldwide.

The petition website goes on to outline the AAID's argument in full, with a statement which reads: "To create a game where one must slaughter members of a racial group in order to move forward promotes and condones the near genocide of Native Americans in this country."

"How many kids will (and although rated for mature players, young kids will still manage to get a copy of it) play this game and then carry what they've experienced into their interactions with real, live Apaches and other Native Americans?"

"Yes, Native people still live here in America. They are not a lost or extinct people and they don't all live secluded on reservations. And, believe it or not, Indian kids play Xbox, too."

The AAID also argues that Native Americans are not being treated with the same respect as other ethnic groups in this instance. "If a game were created that had its hero slaughter, say African Americans, Irish, Mexicans, or Jews, would there not be an outcry of extreme proportions?"

"Yes, the brutal slaying of America's indigenous people is historically accurate... It happened. But so did slavery, lynching and the Holocaust and we don't see games glamorizing it as if it were the right thing to do."

More thoughts on Gun

GUN video game is the subject of Native boycott

Posted: March 13, 2006

by: Matt Ross / Indian Country Today

SEATTLE Surrounded by an onslaught of hatchet-wielding Indians attempting to blockade a railway trestle, the "hero" fearlessly raises his rifle and begins to fire indiscriminately.

The ultimate goal is to kill all those who stand in the way of the hero's quest. During this particular mission, it was a band of Apache that was in the gun's crosshairs.

This depiction of the Wild West, whether this scenario ever occurred in the late 19th century, is being portrayed in thousands of homes across America in the form of a video game and has drawn the condemnation of an American Indian group. The Association for American Indian Development has launched a petition demanding the recall of the game GUN as produced by Activision Inc., of Santa Monica, Calif.

Citing the charge as to how the game is "damaging, socially harmful and insensitive," the boycott lists how the myth of the "savage Indian" is perpetuated including the practice of scalping human heads and killing sacred white animals. AAID Treasurer Litefoot pointed out how in neither the game nor the manual instructions provide historical details or references to attempt to explain the westward expansion of 150 years ago.

"When you just take a piece of history that no Americans know about and put it into a video game, when it reverts into a Native American context as in this game, all you see is the savage Indian that perpetuates the stereotype against every Indian," Litefoot said.

Released last November for game consoles including Xbox and PlayStation, GUN follows the main character, Colton White, who is on a journey to determine his family lineage. The subtitle of the game invites players to "Experience the Brutality, Lawlessness, Greed and Lust that was the West"; and with an unlimited supply of ammunition and other armaments available to Colton, the storyline quickly develops (or deteriorates) into a stream of extraneous violence.

GUN's premise is established in the second scene of the game when Colton's missionary ancestor was killed by an Indian. Litefoot believes this cold-blooded murder, which takes place so early in the game, acts as a stimulus to White's behavior.

"I don't know that it is those things that we find offensive, but how Native people are portrayed in this game," he said. "To me that is much bigger than what the purpose of the game is because it's out of context."

While Activision provided a copy of GUN upon request to Indian Country Today, the company remained unavailable for comment despite numerous attempts to obtain an interview. However, posted on several gaming Web sites and blogs, Activision has issued this statement:

"Activision does not condone or advocate any of the atrocities that occurred in the American West during the 1800s. GUN was designed to reflect the harshness of life on the American frontier at that time ... We apologize to any who might have been offended by the game's depiction of historical events which have been conveyed not only through video games but through films, television programming, books and other media."

GUN is marketed as a fictional game, with White participating in different jobs in order to accumulate points and purchase other weaponry. Yet, the task at hand can easily be lost in the heat of battle when the game's graphics provide a point-of-view perspective of staring down the barrel of a Winchester.

The intensity of violence and imagery of blood earned GUN an "M" for mature audience rating, and it's suggested that the game is intended for those older than 17 years. Such a rating, however, would not keep this video from getting into the hands of younger kids; even so, Litefoot claimed, most teenagers wouldn't have the educational background to distinguish some basic facts from this gaming fantasy.

"Does your average 17-year-old know or care about what happened to Native people today or in past? Unfortunately, no."

The petition requests if GUN cannot be re-released to "remove all derogatory, harmful and inaccurate depictions of American Indians," the game be recalled in its entirety. Nowhere, though, does the petition charge that GUN or Activision Inc. is racist, in part because White is just as likely to shoot non-Natives who impede his path. In one particular scene, White even frees numerous Apache who were trapped in a boxcar and destined for slavery as some method to repay a karmic debt.

Regardless of whether the political motives of the game's designers are debated, Litefoot said AAID's petition strikes at how American Indians and their imagery have been trivialized. He feels that if any other video game portrayed a distinct ethnicity, such as blacks, Jews or Hispanics, in such a manner there would have been a much greater uproar by the consuming public.

"When anything like this comes up in Indian country, it's asked: 'Aren't there other bigger issues that we need to be focused on?"' Litefoot rhetorically pointed out. "How are they going to find anything relevant in contemporary society when they don't understand the history and that these are the issues we face every day?"

The petition can be found at www.boycottgun.com.

Rob's reply
Even if Gun doesn't inspire thoughts of killing Indians, it may cause people to think less of them. That's what happens when you identify an ethnic group as savages or barbarians or people of the past. It puts them that much closer to cavemen or beast-men or wild animals. If you don't consider them fully human, you don't have to empathize with them or take their problems seriously.

Related links
The evidence against media violence:  video games
The harm of Native stereotyping:  facts and evidence


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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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