Raydians: Persons of Color


de Blob is deceptively simple. The goals of the game are to combat the evil INKT corporation, who have sapped all the color from Chroma City, and made corporate drones of its citizens, the Raydians. Blob is on a mission with his crew to restore color and hope to the city.

Simple, right?

There are layers to this puzzle, and it goes beyond just mixing your primary and secondary colors to coat the buildings and trees in coat after coat of your choosing.

The story of a rebellion and leading that rebellion as its most able ‘fighter’ is by no means new; but de Blob parallels some rather poignant cultural signifiers. Not only are you coloring the city, but bringing function back to important landmarks; among these landmarks you will find jazz radio stations, sports centers, churches, and all with a slight graffiti drawl across the buildings you liberate. You are bringing an urban feel back to a metropolis that has become completely corporate.

The game has a rather funky soundtrack, with such titles as righteous, smooth, and funky. Its urban locations recall slums, factories, and a teeming city with discrete neighborhoods. The colors are bright, vibrant, and scream against the brownish gray overlay often seen in current-gen games. You are meant to bring back life to the game.

Now, pair this with the fact that the INKT Corporation very clearly draws on Nazi imagery with their marching, ‘Comrade’ Black (while socialism is not communism, the two often are conflated and considered in the same political direction in today’s political climes), and ridiculously tall headgear. They have rushed in to a city, demolished its morale, and consigned its citizens to work for and obey them, essentially making slaves of them. At one point you learn their bodies’ liquids, or the suits that encompass their bodies, are used to create the very ink that coats their city and robs it of life. They have stamped out all individuality, and suppressed the color of its citizens.

Instead of allowing them their culture, they have imposed what they believe right. They have white-washed the city, literally. Sure, it is a critique of the rise of corporations and what they mean for individuality and persons in the real world, but that coincides directly with how those effects are quite often felt even more by persons of color in this world, who are still vastly ignored, unless pandered to specifically with a token character or photoshoot here and there.

At this point it is very difficult not to draw parallels to race relations; and particularly those of African Americans in the U.S. and Jews in Europe, and how they were viewed by Hitler and his ilk. For myself, fighting this liberation struggle, freeing these poor Raydians from their tenements that had lost their color (by giving them back their culture through color), and breaking them out of the prisons that held them struck a chord in me that kept me playing through an infuriatingly designed game that assigned its jump function to waggling the Wii remote.

Again, it’s hardly new to be faced with the tale of a liberation in videogames, but to have one that is such a parable to the plight of non-white persons in general, and what I saw as African Americans and Jews in particular, intrigued me. In many ways, it is the easy way out. Much like with Abu’l Nuqoud in Assassin’s Creed, this is a story that can easily be glossed over, overlooked, and just be ignored by a player not really looking at it in the same angle as I was. There is also the fact that the game treats all this in a fairly light-hearted manner. The design itself is supposed to be whimsical.

This seems to have largely been designed with a childlike (not to be confused with childish) appeal to it. Given such a game, it would likely not directly address race relations, or the horrors various white cultures have inflicted on those deemed different. Then again, I have no idea if the designers themselves intended that to be the message, and my sneaking suspicion is that the foremost thought was to paint as evil corporations, and imply that the organic lifestyle of individuals and our cultural weight was what mattered.

However, when this is paired with distinct cultural landmarks that speak of a culture reminiscent of New York’s Harlem or draw allusions to the Third Reich, it can take a meaning on its own. Considering how personality-devoid the protagonist, Blob, actually is (he, in fact, is a colorless blob until he picks up color), it became very easy to see myself performing these acts, not Blob. Other than the cool-guy bravado, Blob himself brings nothing to the table, meaning for the story elements of why I was doing this, my own reading became much more important to me.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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7 Responses to Raydians: Persons of Color

  1. Seth says:

    I feel like I heard something about this game way back in the wayback. The plot elements you describe finding within it are compelling, but as soon as I got you the line about frustrating controls I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to get to that same point.

    Not to mention my lacking either wii or television, of course.

  2. Sharkbear says:

    I just beat the game this evening. I definitely don’t think you’re out of line in making these connections. I noticed the parallels myself while playing.

    The controls are a bit frustrating, but not nearly enough to kill the fun. I thoroughly enjoyed this one from beginning to end. Despite some of its flaws this is easily one of the most polished and enjoyable third party games on the Wii.

  3. Ben Abraham says:

    Intriguing… I wonder if you knew that the game was developed by an Australian studio, Denis? It’s interesting to me because finding other Australians for whom race relations is even on the radar is, well… Needle, meet Haystack.

    I’m glad that it supports the kind of reading you’re making, but I do suspect it may just be incidental.

  4. Denis Farr says:

    Indeed, Ben. Originally I had a comment about it being by an Australian designer, guessing that it meant the race relations, particularly as I saw them relating to Harlem, were moot. However, considering my knowledge of Australia stems entirely from news and various Australian bloggers I’ve known through both LiveJournal and in the gaming blogosphere, I was not comfortable painting that wide a brush.

    I also do not like making guesses as to where peoples’ gaps in knowledge lie. While I know much about African American history, urban migrations, and such, it was not something I could hazard a guess as to the studio’s leanings. Had they taken a more serious approach with a more direct statement in any direction, perhaps that’s where the argument would have gone; until then, I cannot speak on such a topic unless I were to speak with and interview the studio itself.

  5. Ben Abraham says:

    It would definitely be interesting to find out from the horse’s mouth whether it was planned. Another funny thing about the games is that it was originally developed by a duo form the Netherlands as a University project, which just adds more potential confusion! =P http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Blob#Development

    Daniel Purvis went to the Melbourne launch party of the game back-in-the-day, and he also wrote a thing for The Escapist about the game, if you’re interested.
    http://graffitigamer.com/?tag=de-blob

  6. Daniel says:

    Interesting article, Dennis. Sorry I missed it when it was posted up.

    I interviewed the project lead, the art lead and the music lead on this game just prior to launch. They were pretty keen to avoid any specific analogies that the game threw up – on being shown the game I immediately caught the political links (though the race thing is a new idea you’ve thrown up). They were very clear that they didn’t want to draw any straight references, but only were tapping in to images that we all connect with; evil fascists, cool hippie revolutionaries etc. The art lead was also very clear that he didn’t want to evoke a particular type of cityscape, but rather wanted a universal city made up of many influences, so the Harlem thing is presumably only one element.

    Noting the Australian connection, I’d also point out that a lot of Blue Tongue’s staff are expat English and the like, too, not to mention the Dutch origins of the game, so we’re not talking about a culturally homogenous development process.

  7. Hey Denis, I actually interviewed the Creative Director of de Blob and I can shed a little light on their motivations — http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_170/5327-Artistic-License

    Melbourne is considered the graffiti capital of Australia. The team behind the game were, in off-record conversation, very pissed off at the literal white-washing of graffiti culture from Melbourne streets during the Commonwealth Games held here a few years ago. They were passionate about bringing colour and joy back to the big city. And, yes, they are scared of big business wiping the individuality away from its citizens.

    I also had a chance to meet the team, which consisted of people from a wide cultural variety. Of course, your interpretation is entirely valid.

    Regarding Australians and race, we’re pretty laid back when it comes to most things. We’re not necessarily racist, though we’re extremely ignorant. During a recent art collaboration for Uni, we came to the conclusion that, in fact, Australians would be more racist if it didn’t require so much effort.

    That aside, we have a tendency to joke openly about all race and all religion without ever INTENDING harm.

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