The peeps behind TAY’s open forum decided to use a pic of a poutine and made me think of this fact. Still, this is sort of a dumby follow up to my pro wrestling post that stated that pro wrestling is in a lot of games, but pro wrestling games were few and far between. The same can be said of, well, French Canadian/Quebec culture (Yes, there is a divide between the two, and if you don’t think so, swing on by to Northern Ontario to find out the hard way by calling them Quebecers) when you think about it.
Thanks to generous subsidies and tax breaks offered by the provincial government, video game publishers have established studios here like gangbusters, to the point where Ubisoft now has three studios in the province (Montréal, Québec City and the newly minted Saguenay studio). Still, unless you look at the credits of their games or listened to an E3 presentation from either them or Square-Enix, you’d never believe it. Worse still, Ubisoft has been at the forefront of using local talent for their games when they used Coeur de Pirate (who is absolutely not a favorite of mine) for the soundtrack of Child of Light, yet when it comes to actually featuring the place they’ve called home for years...
And you still can’t eat a gatdamn poutine in one of their games.
It’s not like the landscape is completely barren - there’s the very good (or so I hear - the gameplay never appealed to me) Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves written by local fantasy author Bryan Perro who has gone on to found his own publishing house these days but outside of that and edutainement, there’s just not much there. You could extend that to all of Canada and it’d still be true.
Then, I’m reminded of the abysimal representation we got in Syphon Filter (Just so you know, one of the later levels in the game happened in the Montreal subway system, and the enemies were French-Canadian terrorists) and I’m thinking: “Is this what I want from video games? Is it better to be invisible than a terrorist?” Then I’m reminded I’m white, and unlike various Arabic and Maghreb people who ask themselves this question because of media portrayal, I’m part of the goddamn problem. Still, it sucks because while we’re nowhere near as mistreated as black folk or muslim folk, we’re still the butt of jokes from all corners - Americans tend to not like us ‘cause we’re French, Canadians hate us because of that and various political things that I’m not gonna get into here (it has to do with redistribution of federal taxes and the structure thereof in Canada and the perception of such as well as other issues), and France views us as their retarded cousins - only good for a laugh but otherwise undesirable. It ain’t exactly fun being on the internet with this.
I’m not even considering Western Canada into this because when people think of Canadianisms, they tend to refer to the classic stereotypical “eh?”, poutine and constant apologies. Those are Eastern Canadian traits for the most part. Hell, for the longest time poutine was considered too good for regular Canada until they coopted it for their own purposes. Then again, French people were told to speak white in the early 1900s which made no goddamn sense when you consider the origins of French, but y’know, bigotry never made sense.
When people speak of seeing themselves in video games, I’m part of the people who never get that chance. I can’t complain about Bear Hugger because he’s legitimately a funny send-up of a lot of Canadian stereotypes in a game that’s all about that (and let’s be real anyone who shares a jug of maple syrup with a bear is a friendly chap) but few people would see themselves in him like anyone else in Punch-Out!!! Of course, considering who made the latest installment (Next Level Games, housed in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, which is in Canada, which is on Earth, which is in Canada [/Picnicface]) that is not really surprising.
In my favorite genre, Street Fighter is king. I’m not a fan, but it is. It took 30 years and an idiotic re-tool of a Final Fight boss before we got a Canadian character in the game. How do people know he’s Canadian? Well, just like any other fighting game character - You get told he is (also, the Maple Leaf haircut). At least I actually like the other characters that get slapped on with the Canadian flag - Maxima, regardless of his cyborg parts and inexplicable love of natto, is still the team dad to K’ and Kula. Wolf Hawkfield has been in Virtua Fighter since the beginning and isn’t treated as a joke. Rig, who’s informed Canadianship is likely false due to DoA5 revealing he’s actually Donovan’s son (aka the big bad of DOATech) who’s been working on handing it over back to him - he’s still somewhat serious as a bad guy. Last but not least, you have Tekken who often have decent representation when they bother, giving us Raven and Master Raven, who are both Canadians, leading me to believe they established their ninja clan in Canada... for some reason. It makes no sense, but the characters are treated seriously and it’s a damn cool concept so I’m not gonna complain.
We also got lip service in Mass Effect where the Earth HQ of something is in Vancouver. I never actually played the games so that’s all I know.
None of them speak French. Then again, is that surprising? All of these games are Japanese for the most part, and the idea that Japan has about Canada is... probably even more stereotypical and without first-hand knowledge than what most non-Canadians have of the country. For example, hockey manga Go Ahead featured a flashback where the protagonist was living in Montreal before moving back to Japan with THIS scene:
By the way... while I personally feel it’s bad for us, it’s about ten times worse for the different Native Americans tribes out there. Their culture gets slathered with inaccuracies, outright stealing from their folklore without acknowledging the people who actually came up with it, or making no differences between the different cultures, assuming just because it’s Native it’s true for all of their nations. Hell, even when a company tries to make it right, such as Firaxis for Civilization, they screw up in the most ridiculous of ways.
Two examples: The first is minor - In Civilization V, if you go deep enough in the Iroquois civilization’s settlements, you’ll find the name Montréal. However, that is the name of the city AFTER the French had come and colonized it! It was named this after Mont Royal (If you pronounce it fast you’ll get what I mean and it’s closer to the 17th century French pronounciation) which was just the mountain, as the actual settlement was named Ville-Marie. And even then, had they even done the research, they’d have gone with Hochelaga anyway since that’s the actual name the locals had for this area!
Then, the major one. I believe everyone is familiar with the Cree civilization in the Civlization VI: Rise and Fall expansion? If not, allow me to bring you up to speed with this article. The problem is that Civilization, as a game, is built on a white european perception of imperialism. In order to actually portray them in the game, they have to have them conform to that ideal, which runs counter to what the Cree actually did. After playing as them and reading the complaints, I think the best compromise I can come up with would have been that Cree cannot Enforce Borders (meaning they’re Open Borders at all times) but “lay claim” to territory even faster. Even then, I could be VERY VERY wrong as I am not a Native American scholar and I am MUCH LESS Cree.
In conclusion - Is it an injustice? If it is, it’s a minor one. There’s a lot of bigger problems in video gaming even if we’re just thinking as far as representation goes. New York had the Game Developers of Color conference which showcases things that are much more urgent as far as representation is concerned than my dumb self.
Knowing that doesn’t make it less frustrating when faced with it though.