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The Top 7… Native American stereotypes

 

Brave - Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer

As Native Americans in games go, Brave isn’t half bad. There’s no scalping or ethnic cleansing or rape. It’s a cartoony, kid-friendly platformer in which the titular Brave learns “native skills” like tracking and imitating animal noises to solve puzzles and progress through levels.
 

While Brave does lean heavily on pan-Indian stereotypes relating to “connection to nature” and “shamanic powers,” it lacks the cruelty or indifference of some of the other entries on this list. It’s not going to win any awards for historical accuracy, but is definitely a step in the right direction.

 

 

Tommy - Prey

Prey deserves credit for presenting a Native American character who feels like a real person, whose heritage is explored as an integral part of character and backstory rather than a lame-assed excuse for why he has powers. The opening cutscene does a fantastic job of introducing Tommy and acknowledging the plight of current-day Native Americans torn between tradition and the modern world.


Above: The intro to Prey

Granted, the subsequent alien shoot-em-up is filled with sci-fi weapons and settings, but the relationship between Tommy, his girlfriend and his grandfather are well-developed throughout. As Tommy builds an understanding and acceptance of his heritage through communication with his grandfather’s spirit, his shamanic powers increase and he’s better able to fight the marauding aliens. Sure, there’s the token Spirit Hawk and Spirit Bow and shamanic mumbo jumbo, but few games have made the attempt to reconcile the iconography and spirituality of Native American culture with a coherent, realistic character. This is a perfect example of how to treat a sensitive subject with maturity and empathy, something that happens too infrequently in games.

Nov 24, 2008


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Topics

Top 7

27 comments

  • zeldagirl64 - January 4, 2009 8:26 p.m.

    Sweet! SCREW THOSE GAME MAKERS! YAAAAAAAAAAY! I, being solidly against stereotypes and being Native American, love that you made fun of them ^^
  • TrIp13G - November 24, 2008 11:29 p.m.

    @Wildboy: Why would that be exciting? Personally, I love playing as Tommy in Prey. He's an average dude...Who happens to have latent shamanistic powers, but you get the idea.
  • screath - November 25, 2008 12:50 a.m.

    My mistake. I meant Custer's female victim.
  • cuchillo0 - November 25, 2008 2:40 a.m.

    "The American Government should give more game characters the native american race, it's only fair, we did take all the native american game characters away. lol." i didn't notice that one of the american government's job is to decree the ethninticity of video game characters
  • Dinkymod - November 25, 2008 2:58 a.m.

    I'm glad to see Prey was praised. I loved that game. And also: OMG I had no idea Darkwatch had such a hilarious scene. I've never played the game.
  • iluvmyDS - November 25, 2008 3:26 a.m.

    Mostly, wtf @ Darkwatch? And is this a way of getting natives back on your side after the boys on Tdar offended them? You'll have to make this list again with the English, and the Japanese.
  • misfit119 - November 25, 2008 5:49 a.m.

    Oh and I meant to mention Tala too. While the story was incredibly cheesy and Darkwatch wasn't that great a game I would definitely say that it was a nice turnabout. Instead of being the sex object as she initially appears her sultry demeanor becomes a plot point. Well played if you ask me.
  • Moschetto - November 25, 2008 7:04 a.m.

    "The result is often as offensive to Native Americans as Piss Christ is to Christians." Yeah, I'm sure.
  • KHfan - November 25, 2008 10:46 a.m.

    lol @ the turok picture
  • JudgeDeath - November 25, 2008 3:20 p.m.

    Hah! I remember Gun! That was a gret game. And I also remember Dakrwatch, which was... a... game...
  • wharcraff - November 25, 2008 11:23 p.m.

    that should be Blackthorne.heh sorry
  • Defguru7777 - November 26, 2008 3:14 a.m.

    I have not played any of these games.
  • ReaperOfDarkness - November 27, 2008 12:31 a.m.

    Why is sex object a native american stereotype? Last time i checked women of all ethnicities, orientations, height or anything else you can imagine can easily be used as sex objects. You dont need to be a "native" american to be a sex object. As a matter of fact how many white people do you see on games that arent stereotypes?
  • wildboy57 - November 24, 2008 10:32 p.m.

    being native American i love seeing them in games its just a shame all are hardcore stereotypes you get no regular people who happen to be native American finally first for one of these
  • kingpin202 - November 24, 2008 11:01 p.m.

    Native American's use to appear in so many games and I just don't see it anymore! =( The American Government should give more game characters the native american race, it's only fair, we did take all the native american game characters away. lol.
  • screath - November 25, 2008 12:47 a.m.

    There are a few characters that should have made the list. Let's not forget Mumbo Jumbo from Banjo-Kazooie, Humba Wumba from Banjo-Tooie, and Custer from Custer's Revenge.
  • misfit119 - November 25, 2008 5:42 a.m.

    Woot for Fear Factory references. And I have a hard time feeling bad specifically for the Native Americans. Yes they suffered horribly but then again so did the African Americans. Look how far they've gotten in the time they've been actually considered people or rather have barely. They're still either comic relief or the tough talking token black guy in games. Walking sterotypes anyone?. Movies and video games for that matter. At least Prey does show that there's some progress being made in this regard. I can't honestly think of a non-thug or non-stereotype black character or even black main character.
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - November 25, 2008 8:16 a.m.

    Why would you doubt that? Also, for those who aren't aware, this is Piss Christ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ I wrote a very long essay about it in an art theory class. You probably don't want to read it. Even I don't.
  • MacGyver1138 - November 25, 2008 9:17 p.m.

    This is a pretty good article, and it makes a point. However, I personally think that Native Americans probably have the least offensive stereotypes in games of all stereotyped characters. I'm not saying that the stereotypes are correct, but at least the stereotypes depicted are somewhat positive. Native Americans are shown as warriors, connected to nature, mystical, etc. It is very narrow-minded, but it could be worse--they could always be depicted as evil (Germans, Russians, anyone from the Middle East), "Gangsta" (Black people), or sex objects (women). Prey is a good example of good narration in a game. It had a protagonist who was human, and that I identified with. I actually found myself wanting to save Jen and kill the aliens for a reason.
  • thereaper52 - November 25, 2008 10:39 p.m.

    What the hell man. what about vulcan raven!!

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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