Race in Videogames: It’s not just one group of people that suffers from tropes.

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You know,
With all the coverage women have received in gaming,from sexism to objectification I sometimes think to myself “At least you have characters that are somewhat varied representations of your gender”.

I mean female gamers have Samus and Lara Croft(reboot) Claire Redfield ,on one end and zany characters like  Bayonetta, Princess Peach, Lightning so on and so forth.All these characters, regardless of what you think, have some kind of variance to their personality or demeanor. Critics  can pick and choose  from a veritable laundry list of female protagonists   which they feel are objectified or which characters are too “sexy”.On the other coin What do gamers who aren’t white or female have? If you’re black, different variations of Barrett from Final Fantasy 7 or Augustus Cole from Gears of War, what I call the “Cookie Cutter” Stereotype. From CJ from San Andreas to “Big Bo” Roy Boateng from Binary Domain. We’ve all seen these stereotypes of black men in  videogames, loud brash men that half the time sound like they had just moved from Detroit and had a stint at a comedy club.Now don’t get it twisted, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a Black character portrayed as “Boisterous”  and loud and funny. The problem I take up with is when that stereotypical character becomes the only representation of Africans and African Americans in videogames.

First off let me say that there are  African/African American characters represented in games that at least have been distinctive. An example would lie in Assassin’s Creed’s Adéwalé , A former slave from Trinidad. Adewale is featured in the DLC “Freedom Cry” but even then Freedom Cry  is DLC, it’s not part of the main campaign and can be passed up if the player doesn’t want to buy it. Basically regulating Adewale and his story as a “sidequest” lessening the importance of the character and his story. Another Assassin’s Creed game “Liberation” featured another  black protagonist, this time a woman, Aveline de Grandpré, unfortunately, Aveline’s game was initially released on the PlayStation Vita and later ported as an HD up conversion for other consoles but by that time, gamers had already moved on and Aveline and her story have basically faded away into obscurity as that “One Assassin’s Creed game on the Vita”

Aveline, Assassin’s Creed:Liberation

The pool of protagonists that women of color is even smaller. When I say protagonist, I mean the main character of the game. Not a side kick like Alyx Vance from Half life 2.I mean a woman that is a protagonist in her own game that isnt oversexualized  or fetishized . Nilin Cartier Wells from “Remember Me” is probably one of few women of color in recent memory that was of mixed race AND that was a main character in a game the other character being Aveline.

“Nilin, Remember Me”

I sometimes wonder to myself, why doesn’t anyone ever talk about any of this? why doesn’t anyone question why we’re so underrepresented and  portrayed like that in video games? why isn’t polygon writing ten articles a day about the lack of racial diversity or miss/under representation of people of color in gaming?

Then I realize something, it’s not “sexy” it won’t get websites like Polygon a massive amount of clicks, not like their daily posts about women, gaming and what developers are doing wrong.Those topics draw in hundreds of commentators, all arguing over who is right and what someone else is doing wrong. Then I start to think again and wonder why more people like myself aren’t talking about this, especially since this is a time where people are demanding that there be some kind of equal representation in gaming.

Then it hit me.

Just a few months ago a Micheal Brown was shot dead  by the police in Ferguson Missouri.  A few months later, another young black youth, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was shot six times in the back by the police in Utah. A few weeks ago, an irate caller called in to C-Span and  said that “Republicans hate the nigger Obama” on live television.

I’m torn,

On one end there are far more serious injustices to be concerned about and to be rallied against in the real world. At the same time, in the hobby that I love, I’d for once would like to see more characters that moved beyond the typical “Giant, Funny Black Guy that sounds like he was on Sanford and Son in the 70’s” and it’s time to start a dialogue about it.

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5 Responses to “Race in Videogames: It’s not just one group of people that suffers from tropes.”

  1. Chapel Says:

    Awesome article, I too have thought about that dude. Funny you mentioned binary domain and Cole Train (awsome games and likeable/Memorable characters) cause those were the games that got me thinking about the stereotype.

  2. Race in Videogames:Burning questions from the peanut gallery. | 9to5 Gamer Says:

    […] For the average everyday person…that's also a Gamer. « Race in Videogames: It’s not just one group of people that suffers from tropes. […]

  3. Cleveland English Says:

    Great article, and yes you hit the nail on the head with the reason why. I think it’s the same reason why a Black man can’t be positive and heroic in a movie and not be killed.

    And it’s not just with video games. I’ve been playing Table Top Role Playing Games, like Dungeons & Dragons for almost 30 years. And it wasn’t until just a few years ago when you would start to see strong black, and other non white, protagonists of merit. Heck when I was a kid you’d be hard pressed to find ANY one that looked like us that didn’t a have a dam bone through his nose.

    And don’t get me started on the Might & Magic franchise, the only black people there where Cannibals and of course, there was a quest were you could save the white damsel in distress from them.

  4. Why white? Eurocentrism and race in videogames | Very Very Gaming Says:

    […] heightened prominence of Anglo-American narratives in games. On Nine to Five Gamer too was a post on race in videogames which discusses the lack of non-stereotypical representations of black people in videogames. […]

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