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Portuguese is not Spanish!


Ed. note: Thad kindly provided this after its first appearance on an industry-only list

I'm going to get up on a soapbox here and rant a wee bit about something that's been bothering me. For those of you who have heard this before and/or aren't guilty of what I'm describing here, sorry...

Isn't geography a recognized field of study in American schools?

As most of you know, I live in Brazil, a fairly large country -180 million people, bigger than the continental US - with a fairly large economy. You'd think, then, that game designers choosing to portray this nation in their books would bother to pick up an encyclopedia before hitting the word processing software.

For one, we speak Portuguese here, not Spanish. And Portuguese - especially Brazilian Portuguese - names are not Spanish names. So please quit naming your Brazilian NPCs Chavez, Mendez, Vasquez and the like. It's irritating. Like reading an RPG were all the American NPCs have Scottish last names. Secondly, Brazil is not just a minor blip lost in the depths of Latin America: it's the biggest nation therein. Bigger than Mexico. About 4-5 times bigger than Argentina (surprise, surprise). So please quit describing it as if it were a nation on par with, say, Belize.

Third: Brazil is not a rain forest. Sorry to disappoint the romantics out there, but the Amazon, to me, is about as distant as Alaska is to most US citizens. Between me and it, there's thousands of miles of hills, badlands and some of the nastiest deserts on Earth. And that's not even mentioning environments that are unique to Brazil, such as the caatinga.

Likewise, 95% of the Brazilian population lives far, far away from anything even resembling a jungle, so please, no more Brazilian characters who where raised by Indians in the depths of the rain forest. (As a matter of fact, North America has a bigger Indian population than we do these days, depending on how you count it.)

Finally, the Portuguese were ///major/// movers and shakers in the 16th and 17th centuries. They had this little Papal moderated treaty with the Spanish whereby they basically split the world into two halves. It's thus disconcerting to read RPGs (even fantasy RPGs) set during this time period which completely ignore the Portuguese Empire or - worse yet - fold it into Spain as sort of a glorified province.

It bothers me a hell of a lot when basic stuff - and I mean basic on the level of encyclopedia entry research - is ignored. Perhaps the worst offender in this category is White Wolf's "Rage Across the Amazon", where Brazil is described as a mountainous nation (it's geologically one of the oldest spots on the face of the planet), with an incredibly unstable government (Brazil has had 3 "coups" in the last century - fewer than some European nations I could name), a history of civil strife (one civil war - in 1932 - in which around a thousand people died) and where all the NPCs are Bolivian immigrants, to judge by their last names.

To give WW it's due, the vision of Brazil presented in "Trinity" is much improved. At least it shows basic research. Then we have Palladium's books on South America for "Rifts", where Kevin S. basically wipes the country out with a wave of his hand rather than go through the trouble of actually having to do research about it. Kudos to Hogshead for "Baron Munchausen", however. They give the Portuguese the reaming they deserve... ;)

I could go on, but enough, already. Do you think this is a bit extreme? I should hope so. But reflect on the fact that you all spent /days/ arguing about a "symbolism" that didn't even exist - certainly Pokemon's swastika was not meant to be seen as an affirmation of nazism. Anyone with half a brain should be able to reach that conclusion right away. So the issue then becomes "sensitivity". Well, the game industry is blithely insensitive to countries and peoples all the time. If the kind of mistakes and stereotypes that are /routinely/ made in portraying Brazil were made in the context of, say, Japan, game creators would be getting /tons/ of flack mail from anime fans pointing out their inconsistencies. Brazil just isn't visible enough to attract much attention, however.

What's the solution? Do your homework when portraying a people or nation that is not your own. Or at the very least crack open an encyclopedia!

Thad Blanchette
Games Imports Manager
Devir Livraria, Brazil

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