What a time to be a blerd! A black nerd, that is. Movies, TV shows, and comics have all made great strides in diversity and representation, with the mammoth successes of Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Ironheart getting his own comic book series. But video games? Well that’s another story…
The gaming industry continues to lag behind when it comes to diversity and inclusion. As it is, black characters in video games are mostly relegated to the level of “minor supporting characters” and rely too heavily on outdated, one-dimensional stereotypes.
Take a look at the opening scene of the first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, in which the series’ lead, Lee Everett, a black man, sits in the back of a police car with a white cop at the wheel. . Yes, that should tell you a lot. At least his humility warmed me up as the story-driven series progressed. Then there’s Jax Briggs in the Mortal Kombat franchise, whose huge bulging biceps and rowdy demeanor are his main character traits.
What I really want to see is black female characters transition from supporting characters to female leads. There’s a lot of potential for an original IP centered around a black female lead, one that goes far beyond a walking, talking, talking pixelated stereotype.
When it comes to black female characters in video games, we’ve had Jacqui Briggs in Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11, Marlene in Naughty Dog’s masterpiece The Last of Us, and Nadine Ross in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The lost. Legacy. The latter two are hardened characters who have proven to be nuanced and compelling leads for the most part. But both also badly needed more screen time. I think that to create a compelling black female character, you need to have depth and vulnerability rather than just the very lazy “strong black woman” trait. We’ve got the upcoming Deathloop from Arkane Studios, the masterminds behind Dishonored 2, showing a glimmer of promise with a black female lead, though she also appears to be another cold-blooded assassin.
change from within
A representative character of more diversity is a good thing. The people we interpret need something more than representation as a reason for existing, otherwise it becomes symbolic. Fans like me will not only pay close attention to the characters, but also to the people who create them. It’s hard for me to think of many black developers who are prominent and highly respected in the industry today.
The industry needs to recognize the value of bringing in more Black developers to bring that vision not just to games and characters, but to the industry as a whole. These are people who have lived and breathed the experience and understand the complexities of telling these much-needed stories and portraying black characters in a faithful and compelling way. I really hope there are more implementations of black characters in video games that feel serious and authentic. Hopefully, the doors will open for developers to make their stories more inclusive and amplify Black voices to full volume.
Find more articles and opinion pieces from Official PlayStation Magazine here, or take a OPM Subscription to have the magazine delivered right to your door.