Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

I didn’t really know racism until I made a game about Africa

So…I’m a white guy from England. You can see a picture of me on the right there. I grew up in London in the 1970s and early 1980s. Racism was a thing, for sure. We had TV programmes that i remember watching such as ‘the black and white minstrel show‘. That was on prime time TV. We also had ‘love thy neighbour‘ a ‘hilarious comedy’ about what happens when a non-white neighbor moves in next door. To quote from wikipedia:

He is even more annoyed when Bill gets a job at the same factory as he has, and refers to him as a “nig-nog”, “Sambo”, “choc-ice” or “King Kong”. He also has a tendency to call Chinese, Pakistanis or Indians names like “Fu Manchu“, “Gunga Din” and “Ali Baba“.


Thats the world I grew up in.

Luckily, that world isn’t here any more. I think Britain has come a long long way in this regard. I remember the guy who everyone knew as ‘the black newsreader’ because that was such a big deal. Recently BBC Radio 4 got a Jamaican continuity announcer and hardly anyone even noticed. If you watch ‘Life on mars’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’, you see the world I grew up in, and its striking how different it seems to the world today regarding both sexism and racism.

So I thought here we all were in a wonderful modern non racist society and I could make a game about African Politics and the worst thing that could happen would be people not being interested.

But no! In fact the worst thing that can happen is spending a lot of time deleting, blocking, banning and reporting racist abuse on twitter, facebook and the steam forums (to name just 3). I’m not exactly a cosseted middle class liberal who has never seen online (or real world) harassment. I used to be a boat-builder and bridge builder. I was just surprised at home many people could, in the year 2016, go out of their way to tell me that the solution to all Africas problems would be ‘rule of the white man’ or that ‘they are all savages and rapists anyway’ and so on, and so on. I guess so far, so normal stupid internet abuse, albeit with a particularly offensive nature. The other thing that shocked me, and was arguable more interesting was the skewed world view…

It seemed to me (mostly from the time of day when such comments appeared) that a lot of North Americans have a complete warped idea of what Africa is like. The assumption from a large swathe of the comments I’ve seen is that no African states have Democracy, that there are no functioning economies there, that basically the whole continent is kept afloat by foreign aid, and that at least half the continent is constantly at war, or raping or beheading their neighbors. The most popular comment was ‘Democracy, Africa, pick one! LOL’.

Now of course, I’m not the one to point out that the USA is currently pitting a guy who inherited millions of dollars and is best known as a reality TV star against the wife of a previous president in a two-party race which they call ‘Democracy’ and possibly is in too glass a house to throw stones. I do have some understanding of why people have this point of view, and here it is.

This is Russia:


This is Iran:


This is Japan:

japanExcept obviously thats all bollocks isn’t it? This is the media ‘image’ that we get fed, and used as the ‘shorthand’ for those countries. I have not visited any of them, and in my mind, Japan really is full of Samurai soldiers guarding cherry blossom while geisha girls sing karaoke. Thats laughable, about as laughable as assuming because I’m English, I live here:


Ok, TBH I do live there, but that isn’t the point. To turn it on its head and show the American ‘shorthand’ its probably this:


Which again, we can all laugh about. The thing to remember is that ALL of these are simplifications, exaggerations and caricatures. And that means SO IS THIS:

aidBut in some parts of the world we forget that.

The population of Africa is 1.1 Billion people. It contains 54 sovereign states. I can’t even name them all, and we just made a game about 10 of them. The idea that all 54 states can be summed up in the same image, or the same way is laughable. If I said people in Chicago probably all wear sombreros and eat quesadillas, you’d say ‘hold on thats Mexico’, but thats about as daft as lumping South Africa in with Egypt, or Mauritius.

Its similarly dumb to discount African democracy. take a look at the ratio of Female to male politicians for one thing. You will find Senegal, South Africa and Rwanda all rank above both the UK and the USA. To look closer at South Africa, it has higher voter turnout that both the UK and USA. In terms of economics South Africa has a lower budget deficit that the USA, the USA’s total debt is 65% higher as a proportion as GDP than South Africa. Total crime rate in the USA is 4 times higher than South Africa. SA has 34% more cellphones per 1,000 people than the USA…etc etc. Obviously I’m cherry picking, but the idea that everyone in Africa sits in a tent waiting for an aid package to arrive is bullshit, and yet it persists.

So TL;DR: USA, your media gives you a very, very skewed opinion of the one billion people living in Africa. Do some research. Do not accept stereotypes as facts, just as you don’t expect us to see you all as obese, flag waving, hummer driving, gun-toting cliches. I would write more on this topic, but Carson informs me that tea is served in the drawing room, and I do enjoy those cucumber sandwiches.

7 thoughts on I didn’t really know racism until I made a game about Africa

  1. I’m South African. (I am also white, and have relations in the UK that are often visited.)

    My online experiences as a whole have been a very mixed bag. There is a huge disparity in the comments I’ll sometimes receive when I mention where I am from. Interactions range from light-hearted jokes, sincere questions, and silence to the more deplorable hate-filled rhetoric that you’ve described in your piece.

    Most of the “bad” interactions I’ve experienced are sadly from North-Americans. I attribute this partly to the fact that the US as a whole is more of a media creator than consumer. From what I gather Americans rarely consume media that originates from other places in the world (with the possible exception of a lot of UK television shows). This contrasts to the fact that most other countries will consume a lot of media that originates from the US and other ‘Western’ nations. This is obviously not the sole cause of the bad interactions online I’ve had but it does appear that it contributes greatly. A large amount of television and film that is created in America does have a lot of stereotypes and tropes that more often than not reinforce the idea that America is the world’s sole “beacon of progress” – so to speak.

    That said, I wish to sincerely thank you – and everyone who worked on Democracy 3: Africa- for putting so much thought and time into creating something that attempts to honestly represent something that is, more often than not, either overlooked or attacked.

    Thank you so much.

  2. I’m African-American from the United States and I’m always trying to look every year at the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report and that’s where I found that Malawi has more women in the workforce than even the Nordic countries Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Blew away America and the UK by miles.

    It’s like I’ve said before, you guys are awesome for making Democracy 3 Africa.


    1. Many Scandinavian women choose to take care of their families and households instead of pursuing careers. They can afford not to work and more often than not it’s their choice and not some sort of predicament they find themselves in.

      Checking the statistics is fine but you have to take into account the individual country’s culture, social structure and welfare system, for example, before making a statement that one country is more female-friendly (by western standards) than the other because more women happen to be actively employed in the full-time workforce.

      1. he said no such thing, he said “I found that Malawi has more women in the workforce than even the Nordic countries Finland, Norway, and Sweden.”

        1. If that’s just a completely random fact he stated, why did he choose the amount of women in the country’s workforce and not something entirely else from that report? People having equal opportunities in the workforce regardless of race, gender and other traits is obviously a good thing, but then why compare it to rich Scandinavian countries with different set of values, culture, social structure and economic situation? In my opinion he made that comparison to make a statement that Malawi is somehow better than, say, Norway, because look, raw numbers from an economic report say so.

          Of course I could be wrong and that’s not what he meant at all – in that case, my apologies, I’ll proceed to bother someone else on the internet.

  3. Born and raised in California, USA, it’s funny to me how much I see the people around me as obese, flag waving, hummer driving, gun toting buffoons. It is of course the exception to be one of these buffoons, but there are still far too many of them around for me to feel comfortable about the electorate in our version of a democracy.

    I mean look at Alex Jones. Why? Just why?

  4. Racism, xenophobia and classism combine to form a hilariously ignorant delusion of the world.

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