How video games perpetuate Muslim stereotypes

From Nicole Lee on engadget;

“We are often just reduced to four or five stereotypes,” said Dr. Romana Ramzan, a game design lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University in the UK. “It’s usually summed up by the clothes we wear. So if you’re a woman, you wear a hijab […] If you’re a man, you have a beard or wear your national dress.” She added that Muslims are also often portrayed as aggressive and violent. “In games, we will be represented as the ‘other’ people who are the ones you have to kill. Usually it’s a slightly dark-skinned character shouting Allahu Akbar, carrying an AK-47. Or he has a camel or a goat.”

Movies and video games often take their inspiration from current culture and news and at this point in history Islam and Muslims are seen as an easily identifiable “bad guy”. The easiest way to represent this “bad guy” is to fall back on stereotypes so that little explanation is needed and the story can quickly move forward. It is a point which is causing some Muslims to demand that changes are made as it reinforces negative images of Muslims. I certainly see the point being made, as shows like Homeland, do reinforce the idea that Muslims are all terrorists, however this is nothing new. For years during and after the Cold War Russians were stereotyped as the typical villain in movies, even as recently as last year Hollywood blockbusters were depicting Russians as the typical “bad guy”. After the World War II the Germans and Japanese become the villains.

So is this a demonisation of “The Muslims” or is this just the lazy way that Hollywood and the media work?

Khan also singled out upcoming titles like The Sun Also Rises (about civilians caught in the Afghan war), Dujanah (the story of a girl living in a Muslim country) and Saudi Girls Revolution (where the main characters are female motorcycle heroes who drive across post-apocalyptic Saudi Arabia) that show a different side of the Muslim world. The last in particular is a game developed by a Saudi prince, which Ismail said could inspire change.

Rather than complaining some people are taking direct action and working on titles which depict Muslims in a different light far removed from the usual stereotypes. More work like this is needed but as the Russians have found out little will change the medias’ ability to fall back on sloppy, lazy stereotypes.