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Horizon criticized by Native American writer for "brave", "savage", other terms

KyleOnTheRun

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Feb 5, 2013
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EDIT: The original essay, by writer Dia Lacina. https://medium.com/@dialacina/what-we-talk-about-when-we-dont-talk-about-natives-60f4af9ef675#.9nnctdy0v

Excerpt:

Writers have openly discussed what we would call ”Hollywood Indian" tropes without any commentary. Praised the game's ”unique" and ”refreshing" take on gender, social politics, matriarchies — nearly every aspect of Horizon's world building has been critically praised using terms that explicitly and historically have applied to indigenous peoples often to disparage our ways of life and oppress us, all while ignoring that unique and refreshing world building has been lifted almost entirely from our cultures.

Horizon: Zero Dawn has been described as taking place in a world ”where life has seemingly reverted to the tribal-like ways of the past" a phrase that erases how many indigenous peoples still associate as tribal communities and governments, and despite colonialist demands for assimilation, actively live their cultures in much the way they always have.

The uncritical use of words like ”primitive" and ”savage" to describe appropriated cultural signifiers on large media platforms serves to reinforce racist and colonialist ideas about indigenous people.

Look, I understand that no one wants to step outside of their lane. We're all exhausted by The Discourse and don't want to stoke that anymore than we have to. And that professional relationships require tact.

Lead writer John Gonzales' response, via Waypoint: https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/art...to-criticism-of-native-american-appropriation

"The vocabulary was certainly discussed during the creative process, in terms of wanting to make sure we were sensitive to the cultural concerns of our audience," he told me. "We weren't looking for inspiration from one particular group, and we cast the net widely to look at cultures, tribal cultures, around the world, and also throughout history. That's why a lot of the people talk about the Nora as being like Vikings, or why there are visual elements reminiscent of Celtic pictographs. So, inspiration came from a lot of different places.

"Talking about the term 'brave'—with that in particular, our research into it was that it was not a term that would seem to be offensive. We were trying to find a term that would combine the capabilities of a warrior and the capabilities of a hunter. It was a term that [we felt] was not derogatory, as we came across some terms that were definitely slurs against Native Americans and other groups throughout history. And so, our decision was based on 'brave' not being a 'hot button' term.

"That said, with the kind of culture of the internet that we have right now, it's impossible to predict what it is that may offend. Certainly we were not intentionally being insensitive, or to offend in any manner."

Polygon rewrite (first OP; not super-relevant anymore): http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/3/14809342/horizon-zero-dawn-native-criticisms-response

Personally, I think this criticism is unfounded when it comes to Horizon. Anyone who's played knows that instances where the word "savage" is used says something about the prejudices and isolationism of the person using them, altogether building the fiction of the world. As for "brave," certainly the Nora call themselves that, but it's used here as a term of pride and endearment--something to aspire to. And, again, these words are used as a reflection and mirror--calling forth specific images in the players' mind and challenging them.
 

jtb

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Jun 20, 2009
19,674
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Reasonable response by Gonzalez.

As an aside, it doesn't surprise me at all that Gonzalez was the lead writer on Honest Hearts, which carries a pretty similar vibe.
 

Madame M

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The phrase Horizon Zero Dawn just sounds like three random words stringed together, like Tokyo Mirage Sessions or Neutral Milk Hotel
 

Memento

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Cultural appropriation is the most ridiculous argument I have ever seen on the internet.
 

paragonpro

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Again like alot of subjects im going to try to be careful, im not native american so im not allowed to say if this is or is not offensive or appropriation. But it would make sense for a society thats reverted back to tribalism to use terminology like this right? Maybe im completley off the mark here and im sorry if i am.
 

JayEH

Junior Member
Dec 3, 2013
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I didn't know terms like "primitive" or "tribal" could be offensive...
 

Inuhanyou

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First thing that came to mind, sorry.

Should we not be more interested in standing rock than some words of the english dictionary being used in their proper context?
 

Iksenpets

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Sep 3, 2007
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“That said, with the kind of culture of the internet that we have right now, it's impossible to predict what it is that may offend,” Gonzales said.

It's a pretty decent response until he throws in this little jab at the end. Like he gives a pretty well reasoned response about how they tried to pull from multiple cultures and how they settled on the term "brave" as something neutral enough that still had the right connotations, but then he also feels the need to imply that anyone who was offended is just part of the inscrutable internet culture, to dismiss it.

Again like alot of subjects im going to try to be careful, im not native american so im not allowed to say if this is or is not offensive or appropriation. But it would make sense for a society thats reverted back to tribalism to use terminology like this right? Maybe im completley off the mark here and im sorry if i am.

I don't think there's anything bad about describing it as tribal. They're people who organize their society around tribes. In the original piece that the Waypoint article was working off of, the complaint was more about how people treat "tribal" as inherently "primitive" and "savage", when many modern Native Americans still live a lifestyle that they would consider tribal while still considering themselves modern. And "savage" does have an actual history of being used as a slur against Natives, but I'm not sure if the game ever used that term. I think that was more discussed in the context of reviewers using it to describe the world.
 

lvl99 Pixel

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Oct 28, 2011
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Horizon was appropriating? this seems like such an overreaction and there was clearly no ill will involved :/ It feels more like the critique was done by someone who hasn't played the game in question.
 

Prototype

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Nov 15, 2013
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This wholen argument is superfluous. For anyone whose actually played the game, none of this stuff sticks. Context matters.

Just another person looking for their outrage to give them their 15 mins.
 
V

Vilix

Unconfirmed Member
So Native Americans have the sole ownership on the word "brave"?
 

Harlequin

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Dec 4, 2012
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Cultural appropriation is the most ridiculous argument I have ever seen on the internet.

I'm not sure if it's the most ridiculous but it's certainly up there, yeah. I mean, the alternative to cultural appropriation is essentially cultural segregation and that's certainly not going to foster any kind of intercultural tolerance, respect or understanding.
 

Madness

Banned
Jan 1, 2013
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Gamers defending cultural appropriation and worse, pretending it's not an actual thing, is a lot worse

Are you really saying that we shouldn't criticize or scoff at those saying the gameplay of Horizon is cultural appropriation of native/first nations culture? Gonzalez even said his team looked at different tribal groups to sort of make an amalgam.
 

Anton Sugar

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Jul 26, 2007
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Some of y'all need to take a step back from your "that's it? that's not offensive" POV and understand that marginalized groups or people of color have to deal with "small" offenses like this continually, throughout their lives. That shit adds up.

Horizon was appropriating? this seems like such an overreaction and there was clearly no ill will involved :/ It feels more like the critique was done by someone who hasn't played the game in question.

I don't doubt there wasn't ill will involved, but that doesn't really matter.
 

Bronetta

Ask me about the moon landing or the temperature at which jet fuel burns. You may be surprised at what you learn.
Feb 24, 2013
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The phrase Horizon Zero Dawn just sounds like three random words stringed together, like Tokyo Mirage Sessions or Neutral Milk Hotel

For real lol its a terrible title, not catchy memorable or unique at all.

"Hey have you heard of Horizon?"

"No whats that?"

"Horizon Zero Dawn"

"Lol wtf"


Its not only generic but the full title sounds so dumb said out loud. The game itself is phenomenal though.
 

Hexa

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May 31, 2013
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Cultural appropriation is the most ridiculous argument I have ever seen on the internet.

Agreed tremendously. The morals surrounding intellectual property are complex enough without something as nonsensical as ownership of some nebulous amount of culture by an undefined set of people for an indefinite amount of time.
 

Inuhanyou

Believes Dragon Quest is a franchise managed by Sony
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It feels a little strange how this society so closely resembles North American Native society, yeah.

Well it does take place in America. Dutch folks having some cultural generalizations going on?
 

Spinosaurus

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Jul 1, 2014
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Sucks seeing the writer, who I don't doubt had good intentions, pull out the "it's impossible to not offend someone" shit in response to this. :/
 

Moose Biscuits

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Oct 21, 2016
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Is Neutral Milk Hotel an actual videogame? :eek:
Yeah, it was a pretty obscure PS2 game. I enjoyed the sections where you flew an aeroplane over the sea, but the fight against the king of carrot flowers was too hard for me.

The less said about the mountaintop level the better.
 
Jun 12, 2015
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You can't really denote criticism like this; saying it isn't valid to you shows you don't really understand the point of view, and thus, you refuse to care about it. The writer isn't attacking the game, she's giving honest commentary on the game's dialogue. It's from the perspective of a person who's ethnicity had part inspiring their game, as well. You can't really use the fact that it's a mix of various cultures as a cop-out, either. Words like savage have been used against various indigenous groups, not just Native Americans. Ideally, Horizon's writer will take note for future projects. I mean, his response is not ideal, but at least he did respond, and not dismissively. Though, still a shame that fans will brush this off as "Political Correctness", or some other silly buzzword.

Is Neutral Milk Hotel an actual videogame? :eek:
It's a band, actually. Silly name either way.
 

-Mutsukki-

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Mar 19, 2015
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Personally, I think we can fire this criticism into the sun. Anyone who's played Horizon knows that instances where the word "savage" is used says something about the prejudices and isolationism of the person using them, altogether building the fiction of the world. As for "brave," certainly the Nora call themselves that, but it's used here as a term of pride and endearment--something to aspire to. And, again, these words are used as a reflection and mirror--calling forth specific images in the players' mind and challenging them.

I haven't played Horizon but if that's really the case that's super reaching. Like, and this has been a trend recently, can't we have piece of shit characters in our games anymore? Just because they were wrote in the game doesn't mean they agree with what they're saying, we're usually supposed to hate these characters and all.
 

joedick

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Jul 24, 2007
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I may not agree but it's good to listen to other people's perspectives. Honestly, I'm starting to hate the angry reactions more than the 'over-sensitive' comments. Can't anybody keep their cool? Nobody's going to take your video games away.
 

Mojoraisin

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Oct 13, 2014
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Sucks seeing the writer, who I don't doubt had well intentions, pull out the "it's impossible to not offend someone" shit in response to this. :/
Why does that suck? It's so true. It IS almost impossible today. That is what really sucks.
 

PSqueak

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Jan 31, 2015
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At least pretend like you tried to find the context of the words use.

Serious question, can i get some context on how it relates to natives? Im not from the USA and the first time i heard the word Brave in the context of natives was in the simpsons (where they also call on the cultural appropriation of a not-boyscouts society using the name "Preteen Braves") but i never understood how it became a "slur".
 

Chuck Norris

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Feb 13, 2006
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Seems like Guerrilla is being attacked from all sides about the apparent political and social philosophies it carries. Right wing gamers all over calling it SJW propaganda, and on the other side it's now being accused of cultural appropriation

How about it's just a good story that borrows elements from all cultures, genders and races and gives them all equally significant presence within the world
 

Anton Sugar

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I'm not sure if it's the most ridiculous but it's certainly up there, yeah. I mean, the alternative to cultural appropriation is essentially cultural segregation and that's certainly not going to foster any kind of intercultural tolerance, respect or understanding.

Cultural appropriation and cultural exchange or appreciation are two different things. You're mixing up "alternative" with "opposite"...maybe.

No one is demanding for cultures to be kept completely separate and siloed off--but, historically (at least in the US), cultural appropriation is something that is frequently done to the detriment of the original ethnic/cultural group that it was taken from.

Truth be told, it's not an easy distinction to make--but that doesn't mean we should dismiss the complaints of numerous marginalized groups just because we don't understand it or it's difficult.
 

Jawbreaker

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It's not bad to have different perspectives on issues of this nature, no matter how much you may disagree with them. At best, you may learn something and rectify it in the future; at worst, it's just one opinion amongst many other differing ones.
 

Kinyou

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Sep 12, 2009
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It's a pretty decent response until he throws in this little jab at the end. Like he gives a pretty well reasoned response about how they tried to pull from multiple cultures and how they settled on the term "brave" as something neutral enough that still had the right connotations, but then he also feels the need to imply that anyone who was offended is just part of the inscrutable internet culture, to dismiss it.
Is he wrong? It's definitely very hard to predict what people might be offended by. I dont think he specifically meant that the complaints are invalid but with every single person being able to share their opinion it's just likely going to happen.
 
V

Vilix

Unconfirmed Member
Some of y'all need to take a step back from your "that's it? that's not offensive" POV and understand that marginalized groups or people of color have to deal with "small" offenses like this continually, throughout their lives. That shit adds up.

But where does one draw the line? Can't a character in a piece of fiction be called "brave" or "warrior"?