“Generic white dude video game protagonist.” How does this trend/phrase make you feel?

Oct 27, 2017
2,224
#1
After getting a PM demanding I further explain my distaste and worry for the protagonist of RDR2, it struck me that any time people complain about how generic a protagonist is and that protag is a white dude, there’s a subset of posters who get really indignant about those complaints. It happened with Days Gone’s Bikerman#334, and now it’s happening with RDR2’s guy.

We’ve all seen the Generic White Man protag collage at some point. Indeed, there’s been an abundance of nondescript, designed-by-committee white dudes as the protags in games. It seemed really prevalent in the mid 2000s on into the early 2010s.

There’s been plenty of white male protagonists who’ve been distinctive and memorable—I don’t recall seeing anyone complain about any white GTA (or rockstar, ore-RDR2 reveal) protagonist being generic. However, when there’s another generic white dude protag, it’s even worse because it’s only reinforcing that stereotype.

How do you feel about the generic white guy player character trend and the negativity surrounding the stereotype? If you’re a white guy, do you feel persecuted or shamed by it, and how come, if so?
 
Oct 27, 2017
656
#2
The "white men" part of it seems redundant. Generic characters are often white, and often men, but tbh that isn't what makes them generic. Which is why no one complained about the white characters in GTA.
 
Aug 4, 2018
39
#3
I think my personal issue is that there are just *so many* white male protags. Why? Why do we need so many? Even in games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age where you can choose the sex of the character, the official art and media all had the generic white man. Why? Homogeneity is boring.
 
Nov 3, 2017
2,824
#5
Bored.

As a white guy I don't really care about it on a personal level, I understand the need for diversity but calling every (white male) character generic based off of images is wild, there's much more to a character than a look, it's such a lazy critique.

That said, with something like Days Gone, if the lead character was a PoC the game probably wouldn't be different in any way and they could've very well gone in a different direction and I wouldn't have cared but people who need/want that representation would've and that would've been cool, but I guess he is how is he is cause he's based off the actor (not saying they couldn't have found an actor of colour just that's who they went with)

I disagree with Red Dead but that's more due to the setting and you could argue about playing as a Native for sure but I don't really trust Rockstar to cover that
 
Oct 25, 2017
11,105
Greater Vancouver
#6
It's not a trend, it's been the shitty status quo which has sidelined or ignored marginalized voices since forever, and only recently has been allowed any kind of actual traction within games as a criticism.

It's the norm which everyone beyond fucking white dudes has forced to accept their entire lives.
 
Oct 27, 2017
985
#7
The "white men" part of it seems redundant. Generic characters are often white, and often men, but tbh that isn't what makes them generic. Which is why no one complained about the white characters in GTA.
This is the truth of it. People pass judgement on a character design, when that's only part of what makes a character generic.

That said, this doesn't mean that all characters should be white men. There is certainly room for improvement in representation, though there have been strides in recent years.
 
Oct 29, 2017
2,115
#8
How do you feel about the generic white guy player character trend and the negativity surrounding the stereotype? If you’re a white guy, do you feel persecuted or shamed by it, and how come, if so?
Diversity and representation is one of the most important ideas that need to be present in all forms of modern media. No one should be ashamed about inclusiveness.
 
Oct 28, 2017
6,040
#9
I think the bigger problem with the generic bald space marine type (which is what I'll call this) is that it's more emblematic of game studios not really being able to see beyond their own hand. There's nothing wrong with having a CIS white male protagonist, but there is a problem when that protagonist is just aping the media that the developers and writers grew up with, resulting in each of these protagonists being essentially the same. It's a problem when every game hero is some variant of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Indiana Jones or Bruce Willis, especially when those archetypes bring nothing interesting or meaningful to the table.

Variety is important.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,410
#11
Someone post that bullshit image.

Maybe that phrase had some meaning last generation, I just don't see it this gen, if you do, you're cherry picking and ignoring great contributions.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,216
#13
Touching up on that Days Gone subject: How many biker protagonist are there in games to warrant a remakr about "Bikerman#334"? Because I honestly can't come up with them. I'm not saying there aren't any, but I know there aren't enough to attribute "generic" as something to describe bikers in games.
 
Oct 26, 2017
6,450
The Wild Mare
#14
The "white men" part of it seems redundant. Generic characters are often white, and often men, but tbh that isn't what makes them generic. Which is why no one complained about the white characters in GTA.
Yep. Your default character is 95% of the time a white male with short hair (or long hair, depending on where the game is made), abs, and other features of a male model.
 
Oct 25, 2017
9,709
#15
"im glad it's not as bad as it used to be, but it's still bad"

That's how i feel right now.

If people feel defensive about John, it's because they're attached to the character from the original Red Dead Redemption, if it was the first game and you complained about it nobody would be upset.
 
Oct 30, 2017
805
#16
Nah. That being said I think even when video games do show the MCs, even if theyre not white or male it still feels generic to me.

*Picks the purple skin color option*

Now we're talking.
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,295
Europe
#18
How do you feel about the generic white guy player character trend and the negativity surrounding the stereotype? If you’re a white guy, do you feel persecuted or shamed by it, and how come, if so?
No, not really. As long as the game's good I don't really care what the protagonist looks like.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,990
Dallas, TX
#20
The "white men" part of it seems redundant. Generic characters are often white, and often men, but tbh that isn't what makes them generic. Which is why no one complained about the white characters in GTA.
I think the thing there is when a developer goes out of their way to make a game starring a black character, or a female character, with all the pushback that generates from publishers, they’re pretty much never doing that for the sake of a generic character. When I see a game with a black and/or woman lead, I assume they must be planning to do something with it, because why else court the ire of internet trolls whining about breaking their immersion and angry marketing departments talking about how this will hurt sales? Whereas with a white guy lead, it feels like there’s a real possibility this guy is just a big ball of nothing, a focus-tested avatar of handsomeness for players to project their every fantasy onto. GTAV didn’t get any backlash for that because they made it pretty immediately apparent how Trevor and Michael weren’t generic. They’ve failed to do that with Red Dead, though I do think the backlash feels premature, given how little they’ve shown of anything.
 
Nov 16, 2017
273
#21
I think we need to play the game to know.
Personality is what make a good character for me.
The color of his skin doesn’t matter.
 
Oct 25, 2017
721
#22
I just think for the most part big budget character designs across the board has been all bad to me due to the people designing these characters all coming from similar places and it is natural that it will all look the same. The people who would make something different are not in place.
These games are made by a specific demographic expect the norms they are under to be similar.
 
Oct 25, 2017
14,684
#23
It means boring movie action star, some combination of Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis. Who are both great but I don't need 100 versions of them.

I also think there are a bunch of white male characters that are not generic.

The idea of feeling persecuted by the fact that there are generic characters in gaming is absolutely bizarre.
 
Dec 8, 2017
627
#24
First of all how do you know the protagonist of RDR2 will be generic? You haven't played the game yet. Also I find the phrase "generic white male" really shallow, I know what you mean, but a protagonist doesn't become generic based on his skin colour but based on the writing. Was RDR1 protagonist a "generic white male" because he was a white male? Or how about Joel or Geralt or Nathan etc...?
 
Oct 25, 2017
698
#25
I think that this "generic over-30 years old bearded gruff dude protagonist" thing only really started during the Ps360 western development console takeover generation, it never felt like an overwhelming trend to me before that.

I really don't care too much about that, not because of the protagonists themselves, but because the game they're attached to are most of the times completely unappealing to me.
 
Dec 6, 2017
1,862
#26
*shrug*

I'm all for some different flavours of protagonist, but I don't think a developer who isn't capable of making a white dude a distinctive and interesting character is going to suddenly be capable of making great characters by changing up gender or race.

Yes, I'm a white dude. No, I don't feel "persecuted or shamed" by the subject. (Haha.) Although I do frequently groan something along the lines of, "Oh, this topic is going to be fun."
 
Nov 2, 2017
2,387
#27
The "white men" part of it seems redundant. Generic characters are often white, and often men, but tbh that isn't what makes them generic. Which is why no one complained about the white characters in GTA.
Agreed

The short hair white guy is also usually attractive to me so whateaver lol
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,011
#28
People ITT not understanding marketing and how greedy big gaming companies & shareholders are.

They are always going to appeal to the most people buying their games to (OBVIOUSLY) make the most money.

That’s white men.

And they’re often generic as to appeal to as many of them as possible.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,459
#29
It's a pretty lazy critique for the most part, especially when someone posts that dumb collage of characters, one of which included Solid Snake and Alan Wake. Certainly applies for some games though.
 
May 10, 2018
363
#30
I would very much like to experience different voices and perspectives than my own, and see wider more interesting and inclusive representation in the medium

I feel like from the ps3 era onward a lot of games have been plagued by samey militant aggressive white male protagonists who appeal to the core demographic, and I think it's incredibly stagnant. rpgs are where you find greater variety of people and roles, but even then they often seem subservient or complementary to the default generic protagonist who, while changeable, will almost certainly by default be white

to give an example of what I'm talking about, I think gta san andreas 14 years ago was awesome for featuring a totally different protagonist and context from the norm even for today
 
Oct 25, 2017
10,365
Indonesia
#31
People ITT not understanding marketing and how greedy big gaming companies & shareholders are.

They are always going to appeal to the most people buying their games to (OBVIOUSLY) make the most money.

That’s white men.
Yeah, basically this. Just like how Japanese games mainly have Japanese cast, unless if it's already a worldwide franchise.
 
Oct 25, 2017
14,684
#32
*shrug*

I'm all for some different flavours of protagonist, but I don't think a developer who isn't capable of making a white dude a distinctive and interesting character is going to suddenly be capable of making great characters by changing up gender or race.

Yes, I'm a white dude. No, I don't feel "persecuted or shamed" by the subject. (Haha.) Although I do frequently groan something along the lines of, "Oh, this topic is going to be fun."
I'd say even if the minority character is not necessarily better as a character, it still serves a purpose of making gaming more accessible to people who feel like outsiders.
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,259
#33
"im glad it's not as bad as it used to be, but it's still bad"

That's how i feel right now.
Exactly this.


And then there's another thing i've noticed. I just played through Battlefield Hardline. The MC is called Mendoza. He's Cuban. I swear that without knowing this you would just think he's a white dude. I booted up Mirror's Edge Catalyst. Faith is Asian. But i could swear she looks 'whiter' in the sequel. Just like black women in games are almost always light skinned for example. It's like these games are allergic to skin colors other than white.

Sorry for the offtopic stuff.
 
Aug 4, 2018
39
#37
I think its easy for cishet white men to say "I don't care as long as the story is good" because they're just so used to representation, it doesn't matter if its GOOD representation. My issue with generic white dude protags is every time I see one I think "that could have been a POC, or a nonbinary person, or a trans person!" - I think this is because I grew up not being represented. Underrepresented groups are so starved for acknowledgement that every generic white dude feels like a (low effort) slap in the face.
 
Feb 26, 2018
1,339
#38
Games that are trying to be realistic have realistic characters designs. What a shock!
Really it boils down to what particular game is trying to achieve. Grounded games can have generic looking protags because the main thing that makes them good is their characterization, not their looks. John Marston and Joel look bland, but they are both great characters.

Dunno about the "white" part. Days Gone Bikerman#334 wont become more interesting if you change his skin color. Same with other bland looking characters.
 
Oct 27, 2017
10,330
#39
As a black male, I gladly welcome it. If you're a white guy it might seem antagonistic or like we're shitting on you, but it's more that we're shitting on the fact 99% of media, whether it be games, TV shows or movies in the West, have you guys as the main characters and a good chunk of the supporting characters. It's just tiring when we finally get glimpses of people who look like us, or other minority groups, and then they're sidelined.

Generic isn't in the sense that these protagonists are all exactly the same, it's in the fact that while their stories, personalities, etc might be different, you can find dozens more that look like them. You can't do that with any minority characters. The number of Indian female leads in AAA games? Uncharted Lost Legacy and...? Number of Hispanic leads? Black female leads, especially ones without afros? The list goes on and for most it's a handful of characters. You can find any kind of white male lead and find dozens of other characters who look like them.

Some of you are just so use to being completely immersed in seeing characters like yourselves your entire lives you don't realize how it is for people who don't fit that mold. Yeah, most minorities are use to it, but just imagine if suddenly you only started seeing a handful of white male characters in games. Imagine how different that would feel. Minorities deal with that every day to the point it doesn't even phase us anymore. We've become normalized to it, and that shouldn't be the case.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,049
London
#40
Would much prefer it if RDR2 had a female protagonist tbh for a change. Yes, I know the role of women in the 1900s was a lot different to now if they wanted a 1900s feel to the story, but it would be an interesting angle to take rather than play some generic gruff Rockstar dude protagonist.
 
Apr 10, 2018
2,918
#43
I don't have a problem with people wishing for more diversity, if anything more people should. I start to take issue when people start saying it about any realistically designed white male character and start posting that stupid "generic white protagonists" picture which claims they all look the same. Nobody in history has mistaken these two characters.

 
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Feb 26, 2018
1,339
#44
I don't have a problem with people wishing for more diversity, if anything more people should. I start to take issue when people start saying it about any realisticly designed white male character and star posting that stupid "generic white protagonists" picture which claims they all look the same. Nobody in history has mistaken these two characters.

Is this Joel from TLOU?
 
Oct 31, 2017
3,640
#45
I'm generic as hell so I don't really mind. I think a lot of suits have a misplaced perception of the white audience's need to identify with a white protagonist.

I was born in the 80s in Europe, didn't see a single black kid of my same age until I was probably 10, and still as a teenager Will Smith was my definition of cool. I'm still pissed of Mike Pondsmith didn't design the "default" Cyberpunk character as a self insert because I always associated his face with the franchise, and even designed one of my first characters to look like him in the 90s, when I played the TTRPG. Today I was stanning for Will Yun Lee as Superman. For a very long time Tony Leung has been my favourite actor. I rooted for Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, and Blade is still one of my favourite superhero movies. My current character in Pillars of Eternity is a black fighter with white hair and he looks better than anything I could design with the white character palette. I think I feel more connected to Alohy than I did with Kratos, and I'm a father!

I think it's something that is born by poor market analysis and listening to the loudest voices. I'd rather take a creative or cool non-white design than a generic white one, and I'm sure that goes for the majority of the white audience.
 
Oct 26, 2017
13,764
#46
As a black male, I gladly welcome it. If you're a white guy it might seem antagonistic or like we're shitting on you, but it's more that we're shitting on the fact 99% of media, whether it be games, TV shows or movies in the West, have you guys as the main characters and a good chunk of the supporting characters. It's just tiring when we finally get glimpses of people who look like us, or other minority groups, and then they're sidelined.

Generic isn't in the sense that these protagonists are all exactly the same, it's in the fact that while their stories, personalities, etc might be different, you can find dozens more that look like them. You can't do that with any minority characters. The number of Indian female leads in AAA games? Uncharted Lost Legacy and...? Number of Hispanic leads? Black female leads, especially ones without afros? The list goes on and for most it's a handful of characters. You can find any kind of white male lead and find dozens of other characters who look like them.

Some of you are just so use to being completely immersed in seeing characters like yourselves your entire lives you don't realize how it is for people who don't fit that mold. Yeah, most minorities are use to it, but just imagine if suddenly you only started seeing a handful of white male characters in games. Imagine how different that would feel. Minorities deal with that every day to the point it doesn't even phase us anymore. We've become normalized to it, and that shouldn't be the case.
^^^^^^^
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,502
#47
Well, I often pick to play as a female if i can because they usually have cooler armor/animations imo. Think all my WoW characters are female except one.
I don't really see a game and think "that's some boring generic white male shit, i'm out" though.
All depends on how the character is written and portrayed for me.
 

SG-17

Community Resettler
Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,932
#49
You don't need the "white guy" part of the generic player character phrase. You get very well written characters and poorly written characters regardless of race or gender. Knowing Rockstar's pedigree Arthur Morgan will be a well written character just like Marston before him.

There are still a ton of games that have poor written characters, a very recent one that comes to mind is Far Cry 5. Talk about bland.
 

Cap G

Banned
Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,488
#50
I struggle to rmember the last time I played a game as a 30 something white male, unless we're counting Mario.

RDR2 is just about the only upcoming game I can think of that has a 30 something white male lead and doesn't have some sort of gender or protagonist option. Maybe it's endemic to call of duty or some other series I don't play.