As for the consolidation of the industry and thereby the increase of the threat of homogenized content, I feel that this is not an unreality. The trend in media companies has been a consolidating one in recent years. Due to the loosing of regulatory restrictions by the FCC (such as cross-ownership regulations, and more recently the radio industry's quarrels), the American media system is run by five - larger than life - companies: AOL/Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, News Corp, and General Electric.
There are dozens (possibly hundreds) of gaming companies in the United States, Japan, and much of Europe. More importantly, South Korea is breaking into the market in Asia and will probably have almost as much of an impact on the American market in five years as domestic games do right now. The issue of consolidation should be brought up when some companies begin to consolidate, not before then. And so far, the only consolidation of gaming companies that I've seen has been a few second party acquisitions (Nintendo with Rare, Sony with a portion of Square) so that the hardware makers can produce both software and hardware, as well as a few acquisitions of small businesses by larger businesses that share the exact same market and even much of the same staff (Square's acquisition of the remainder of Quest). That's not a whole lot of consolidation for a market this large. It wouldn't even be considered a lot of consolidation in a relatively small niche market.
especially in a young market as hostile and pressed for time as the software publishing industry ("release now, send bugfix later", in order to stay in business).
Console sales are what truly drives gaming, not PC game sales. Thus, the majority of the market doesn't even have the CAPABILITY to use the "release now, send bugfix later" market strategy. The X-Box has gained a small amount of this capability, but has so far only used it to give American gamers the extras that were added in additional international releases of their games, such as the Dead Or Alive 3 Booster Disk to give the American DOA3 the same features as the Japanese DOA3.
As for the feminists: it is true that Metroid starred a heroin (I love that game), but as much as and as often as we find storylines evolve around a non-traditional gender perspective (Lara Croft, but also think of the female characters in Street Fighter), we can always count on a barbie-version on the shelves.
Game characters, much like action movie characters, are intended to be demigods, not average people. Part of the reason for this is that it justifies their superhuman feats. Thus, they have perfect bodies, huge muscles, and look incredibly sexy... but this doesn't just apply to female characters. For every Lara Croft, there's a K'. For every Chun-Li, a Vega. For every Lulu, a Tidus. For every scantily clad, impossibly chesty video game heroine with a revealing top that you can name, I can name a scantily clad, impossibly muscular video game hero with his shirt off, so it's not as if women are being objectified in video games for the sake of male gamers. Both sexes are represented fairly equally, in that they are both beautiful, powerful, and kick tons of ass.
It is my opinion that certain racial profiles (e.g. the 'token black guy' in sitcoms) is something we can also find in video games. Characters like Link, Duke Nukem, and that kid from Final Fantasy do have a certain 'Arian' feel to them, in the same sense as perhaps "Seinfeild" is predominantly Jewish. To label this a cultural misunderstanding (which is something I hadn't thought of and you righteously point out), I feel, is too simple.
You, like any (I'm guessing) Western person, see blonde hair and blue eyes as "Aryan". But if there is some underlying racist, Nazi meaning to that, then what do K' (far left, as well as in the link above) and his numerous grey-haired, tan-skinned, muscular ilk (Dante from Devil May Cry) signify? The conquest of Earth by a race of human beings that does not exist? Personally, I think you're just seeing phantoms where there really isn't anything. Your argument has inconsistencies even in the links that you provided. Link's hair has changed numerous times over the years and the Final Fantasy series has also starred green-haired fairy women and grey-haired muscular men with tanned skin in the past, and its villains have included everything from grey-haired muscular men with tanned skin to white women to aliens covered in red feathers. If there are any racial stereotypes in these games, I'm not seeing them. The only thing I see is the inherent pliability in the drawing of animated characters that don't have to look like human beings.
Oh, and if you take a look at the second K' picture, you'll notice a black man in the middle of the picture who actually has much, much darker skin in the game (the "King Of Fighters" series of games from SNK/Playmore). I just happened to notice that right now and I thought I'd toss it in. The same company also allows you to reset the colors in their fighting games so that you can play as a black version of just about any character, including the albinos that star in the "Garou/Fatal Fury" series of fighting games.
Finally, I'd just like to say that the gaming industry is a very, very weird one. Due to the fact that they are a cross section of Japanese, American, European, and soon South Korean media, they do not represent the stereotypes or ideas of any single country. This is a radically different system in comparison to the movie or television industries, where only movies or television shows that are produced domestically are shown outside of the media ghettos that are art houses and independant/foreign film channels. A lack or presence of any certain types of characters does not infer a hatred of blacks, a love of aryans, or whatever else. To some cultures, people with blonde hair and blue eyes do not bring up the image of the failed ideal of the Nazi superman. Japan is one of these cultures. Similarly, a lack of Africans in a game does not mean a hatred of Africans. It simply means that the artist preferred the look of either a different set of human features or a completely inhuman set of features, such as the previously mentioned "grey hair, tanned skin, lots of muscle" pseudo-race or just a three foot tall puff of pink hair.
[ Parent ]