Is it racist? When it comes to XBLIGs, sadly, it’s a question I have to ask myself frequently enough. Reasons aplenty. Could be the lack of an authoritative body, or maybe the community itself. Most times, I write it off to cultural differences, or vocabulary issues where English is not a developer’s first language. Less forgivable are the native speakers that do drag out archaic stereotypes for laughs (that often aren’t funny, just awkward), but even then I would resist from calling it outright racism. That is, until I played Border Dash1($1.00).
I’m hardly a bleeding-heart liberal, or someone that’s going to instigate a Twitter campaign to decry something minor, but with Border Dash, really, the game does it to itself. Taking control of the unfortunate Chuy, Border Dash is an ‘endless runner’ (of sorts) that has you avoiding Immigration agents and the DEA on the way to crossing the border back into the United States. Each stage even ends with you wading through a river and coming out on the other side. The idea isn’t overtly bad or objectionable just yet, but I’m not done.
To fight off his pursuers, Chuy gathers items via bricks (think Mario, like the developer’s last game, complete with reused assets) that he can toss to slow them down / defeat. These items include flip flops, roasted corn, tequila bombs, and money (for bribes). Oh, and by picking up tacos, Chuy can call on the special powers of a witch or a chupacabra. Basically, this amounts to every stereotype imaginable being put into play. The topper? If you lose all your health and are caught, you can buy your way out with a fake green card. So you see, all kinds of subtlety here, classy up and down the board.
The sloppy, simplistic gameplay that supports it isn’t any better. You can only attack enemies behind you, leaving yourself open to agents that come from the front, with no real way to avoid them (bizarrely, your jumps will land you directly on top of them, taking damage). The game also suffers from crippling slowdown from the second level (or ‘attempt’, as the game calls it) on, dropping the framerate down to a ridiculous crawl at some points.
So, Border Dash. Is it racist? Even by stretching the boundaries of good taste, and having a selective memory about the rest… probably. That may or may not bother you, but that’s a judgement call you’ll have to make for yourself. The good news— or easier news— in all of this, is that the game is terrible all on its own. No choosing sides in politics, no collective moral voting or decency mobs required, as I can’t picture anyone wanting to give this game more than a minute of their time.