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Police abuse. Whites Allowed: The Most Relevant Anti-Racism Video Game of 2020

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On March 31, much of the United States was struggling to settle into a home lifestyle adopted to stem the spread of coronavirus. The gaming world, in particular, was obsessed with the newly released “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, who became a phenomenon for providing cute connections and a sense of normalcy when many lacked both.

Widely neglected was “Betrayal at Beatdown City” a retro-style video game that at first glance seemed to refer to a time when games like “Double Dragon” were king than they are today. Boasting a silly setup in which a president, clearly modeled on Barack Obama, is kidnapped by ninjas, “Treachery in Beatdown City” was not evident in the ad which is in fact an invigorating work of political commentary. .

“My game has a certain aesthetic, and it’s tough,” says Shawn Alexander Allen of the challenge of publicizing the work, which was done with collaborator Manuel Nico Marcano.

Allen says some friends advised him to go more to the point.

“Say, ‘You can hit the racist. “I don’t know how to make this my slogan. I don’t know if it would hurt or help. I think it’s a little difficult to know if my game contains this message or not.”

It does.

“Treachery in Beatdown City,” available now on Nintendo Switch and PC, is one of the most relevant and topical video games of 2020, portraying a city on the cutting edge and on the verge of breaking down. Its residents are made up of law enforcement who harass first and ask questions later, bikers and runners who behave as if they own the road, white people who can yell “officer” when a person of color tries to pet their dog – yes, before Amy Cooper called the cops with false accusations against Christian Cooper in Central Park – and by and large, a world based on racial profiling.

“Treachery in Beatdown City” is deliberately open in its post.


In her opening scene, one of the game’s idealistic protagonists, Lisa Santiago, was mistaken for assisting the concierge as she attempted to report verbal abuse at her local gym. Bruce Maxwell doesn’t get any better, as with every walk around the world of “Beatdown City” he’s confused with just about every other black resident, meeting a cop along the way who brags about all his arrests with selfies, a blonde woman who screams censorship when he corrects her usefully, not to mention the dog walkers who don’t hesitate to call him, a powerful businessman with awesome kicks, a ‘thug’.

Shawn Alexander Allen's

Shawn Alexander Allen’s “Treachery in Beatdown City” delivers social commentary in retro game form.

(Photo by Shawn Alexander Allen)

We can practically hear Bruce sigh as he says, via the text panel, “I think we’re seeing a confluence of idiots and rights” and then starts to fight.

Then, it’s time to rumble in battles that allow players to strategically piece together a series of moves to counter an opponent’s fighting style. Rather than relying on button mashing, we tactically choose combos from a list, and although in many fights the losers come back for later, sometimes with officers in tow, sometimes there are lessons. learned: “I shouldn’t have yelled at you for wanting to pet my dog.”

This mix of tones – blending harsh realities with over-the-top fight scenes, vintage styling, and, above all, humor – came naturally to Allen, in part because any random day in 2020 is filled. such variations.

“I am a lot of far left people, a lot of black revolutionaries, poets and musicians, as well as game lovers,” says biracial Allen, who is one of the main organizers of Game Devs of Color Expo in New York. “So I see this neat division of ‘Here’s my dinner! Let’s play a fun thing! And then, “This is the video of someone being beaten by a cop.” Here are 100. Here is a great cut. I watch a lot of this stuff. It makes me angry. It helps me put things into words.

This is undoubtedly one reason why “Treachery in Beatdown City” is so vital and reflects our times. His accounts of police officers walking into the wrong house, arresting innocent people and spraying tear gas on protesters are not as learned from any cases as the last decade of American life.

A battle in

It’s time for a fight in “Treachery in Beatdown City”.


But for the characters in the game, who primarily want to know why the president was kidnapped, life is a never-ending series of hyper-responsive roadblocks, like the woman preventing their trip by constantly talking about how she doesn’t want to go. . through the “sket-chay” part of town. “Hashtag is not practical, am I right?” she says.

“Treachery in Beatdown City” wants to have a conversation with us through the game. It does so by giving us bursts of dialogue, action, humor and brutal realism. Although the game has been in development since 2012, think of “Treachery in Beatdown City” as an interactive add-on to films such as “Get out” and “Sorry to disturb you,Both cited by Allen as proof that there was a need and a thirst for personal projects that approached the issues of racial inequality with frankness.

“The fact that ‘Get Out’ was very micoaggressive, the fact that the term was in vogue at the time, allowed me to better describe my game,” he says.

Although a lot of horror can be found in the subjects of “Treachery in Beatdown City”, it is always a funny game. Allen wants the jokes to hit hard and fast

“I saw someone tell how when they started playing my game they were put off because it was very up front, on the nose and openly aggressive in the face of racism,” Allen says. “Well, I learned a lot from my comedian friends. You can’t tell jokes that don’t have a hitting line, and you only have a few minutes to talk to each person. “

Allen is careful not to over-romanticize the decades-old games that helped inspire “Treachery in Beatdown City”. He notes that the art and commerce mix of the video game industry, as well as misguided insistence that the games are apolitical, regularly results in questionable content decisions about representation. But looking back, he says it’s no surprise either that he was drawn to the original “Double Dragon” for the Nintendo Entertainment System at a young age.

It was a game, he said, in which he could see – sort of – characters who looked like him and his friends. “I’ve always felt different, and the nature of the city is that people are yelling at you,” Allen says. “So when we played ‘Double Dragon’ – and ‘Double Dragon’ on Nintendo, in particular – it was so abstract that you could imprint your existence on it.”

“Treachery in Beatdown City” is a natural evolution of this thought process, it is only now that the characters are inspired by those of Allen’s real existence.

“I thought, ‘What if’ Double Dragon ‘- what if every character has a story, what if you have real interaction with them and a reason to fight them? They are not amorphous villains. “

The police went thug in

The police went rogue in “Treachery in Beatdown City”.


They are very recognizable villains.

Allen can relate many examples of the eight years he worked on the game. He recalls walking his New York neighborhood in 2014 wearing a shirt expressing his support for those protesting the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting down a black teenager by a white policeman. The mere fact of wearing the shirt raised constant fears that he would be arrested by the police. Or, to be more precise, increased an already existing fear.

Manuel Nico Marcano

Manuel Nico Marcano co-developed “Treachery in Beatdown City,” which, his creative partner says, handles essentially all of the back-end programming work.

(Game Devs of Color Expo)

“One day when I was coming home from working on the game – I was working my day job, then I was working on the game until 11pm – and I got off the train in Bushwick and two cops white people in civilian clothes arrested me, ”Allen said. “One of them tried to do the ‘take off your headphones’ movement, which I didn’t. I am a pedestrian from New York. I don’t take off my headphones. But then he flashed his badge and said I matched a description of someone holding someone at the end of a knife. Somehow I got away from it all, but it was the scariest moment of my life. I knew I shouldn’t have answered. It was dark and there was no one around.

There are many parallels that could be drawn to today’s events and the game’s stories. Even selfishly antagonistic cyclists, for example, will have people thinking of a video that has surfaced of a resident of Maryland, who has then been arrested, for antagonize people who posted leaflets against police brutality along a cycle path.

But this is not a game that was built for a moment of national protests; rather, it reflects various threads that have been occurring for a long time in America.

“I’m glad, anyway, that this thing I worked on could speak to people and be satire,” Allen says, adding that an overall message from the game is, “How [awful] are people? Good to know: you won’t just be fighting corrupt cops in “Treachery in Beatdown City”. You will also attack the lawyers who defend them.

“It’s very weird because we share it a lot because everyone makes their list of ‘black game developers’,” he adds. “It seems very strange to me. I don’t wanna be your favorite black developer just like nobody wants to be your favorite white rapper. “

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