Race fights on video

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The Independent Online
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - The hottest-selling video game in the United States pits opponents of different ethnic backgrounds against one another in a brutal fight that ends with the loser lying bludgeoned and bloody on the ground. But against a backdrop of racial tension in US cities, Street Fighter II has stirred debate over whether it is a reflection of real life or could be construed as incitement to violence.

'It's a very destructive influence,' said Charles Espalin, director of counselling programmes for the Los Angeles school district. Many of his students were involved in the riots that erupted in April. 'I could see where that could really generate some terrible events, if you have one group of kids attacking another simply because they are different.'

According to Wes Nihei, managing editor of GamePro Magazine, it would be an exaggeration to say Street Fighter II promotes violence and ethnic tension. He sees the game as a reflection of America's increasingly violent society, from the Gulf war to the rage laid bare in the Los Angeles riots.

'The 'beat-em-up' genre is very popular,' he noted. 'It's a wildly popular game. The graphics are very well done and you have a high degree of control over the characters. I would say that it is another case of art representing life.'