Darion White is a student of journalism and a gamer, living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is co-editor of PrimePlus.
February is Black History Month. As an African-American I want to take this opportunity to study some of the issue surrounding games and the portrayals of African characters or those with African heritage. I’d like to make comparisons between stereotypical, defective and one-dimensional characters like Barrett and Augustus Cole and more complex, but still problematic characters such as Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson. I’m also going to pick out some positive black characters in other entertainment media, as well as a precious few in games.
Also, I’ll argue that more rounded African-American or African-diaspora characters are a commercial imperative for game-makers, as the audience for games becomes more racially diverse. And I’ll explore how the marketing of games is changing, as personal modification of player-characters becomes more prevalent.
Black characters in video games aren’t difficult to find, but rare is the well-rounded and positive black protagonist. Black characters in games habitually range from stereotypical to non-existent. In contrast, black gamers consume a great deal of the medium and are a vastly growing and contributing demographic in the community. Why not create and implement characters that are actually relatable or who boast innovative societal behaviors?
Now, as a black gamer, I don’t want to single myself out in saying that creative black characters should entirely cater to representing me in whatever fashion. Nor do I exclusively desire to experience the personage of the black-American. What’s even more imperative is the element of portrayal, seen through the eyes and respective thought processes of all gamers.
This unfortunately, is most commonly based on worldwide mainstream media and/or simple unfamiliarity. It’s no secret that the game industry–in the Western hemisphere–is mostly populated by white males, be they designers, artists, programmers, etc. Fairly and honestly, those in creative positions will more than not, imagine and implement characters in their likeness. The same can be said in the Eastern world of development, though are more successful at in designing the white male character, and they do it often.