Clash of Clans is a game available on the App Store for any person over the age of nine. Embedded in Clash of Clans’ gameplay is racist undertones—a claim that may raise some eyebrows, considering Clash of Clans markets to nine year-olds as its youngest intended audience. Nonetheless, hidden in Clash of Clan’s gameplay are dominant cultural messages about race.
Anna Everett and S. Craig Watkins discuss race portrayal in video games in their article The Power of Play: The Portrayal and Performance of Race in Video Games. Everett and Watkins introduce the concept of “racialized pedagogical zones,” which has to do with game creators drawing heavily upon racist mainstream perceptions and intensifying them to create problematic, racist embedded messages within the gameplay (142).
This is immediately apparent in Clash of Clans, which, on the surface, appears to be a harmless casual game. In Everett and Watkins’ article, they reference a study by the Children Now organization which found that in the top-selling console and computer games, “black and Latino characters were often restricted to athletic, violent, and victim roles, or rendered entirely invisible” (143).
The vast majority of characters in Clash of Clans, as shown in the two screenshots below, are either white humans or mystical animals, such as dragons or golems. However, there is one black character: the Hog Rider. The Hog Rider is unlocked when the Dark Barracks are upgraded to level two, and it is a black man with a mohawk that rides on top of a hog with a large hammer in hand. The Hog Rider attacks any enemy defenses first, moving quickly and dealing out damage at a high rate.
This construction of the Hog Rider as a black man perfectly fits the stereotype that Everett and Watkins warn of. The Hog Rider is athletic, as he must be strong to destroy enemy defenses quickly. Additionally, he is violent, as he first goes for enemy defenses in a reckless manner. This depiction of the Hog Rider reinforces dominant cultural stereotypes of black men as violent and athletic.
Furthermore, the game reinforces the notion that Everett and Watkins put forth, that “hegemonic whiteness is positioned as the taken for granted racial norm in game-world environments” (145). The game introduces “heroes” as you progress further; the Barbarian King is unlocked at Town Hall level seven, and the Archer Queen is unlocked at level nine.
These characters are deemed essential in the game, as they do not cost money to train like normal troops, and can take high damage from enemy defenses while simultaneously dealing out high amounts of damage. These characters can be considered the best in the game, and are unsurprisingly white. By representing these two characters as white, Supercell, Clash of Clan’s developer, reinforces the stereotype of “white heroism” in society. As Everett and Watkins specified, “whiteness” is accepted as the norm in video games, and Supercell only furthers this notion with their skin color decision of the heroes.
Anna Everett and S. Craig Watkins, “The Power of Play: The Portrayal and Performance of Race in Video Games” from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning (2007), pp. 141–164.