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We Need More Black Protagonists in Gaming

malyse

Community Resetter
Member
#1
One day in 2005, I saw my brother playing a game he called Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I shouldn't have been watching this game since I was only eight and there were massive amounts of violence and profanity. But there was something that really resonated with me at that time: my brother was playing as someone that was black. This was surprising since in most games I would play, it was either an animal-like character or a white person that I controlled. The only games that I can remember playing from that time that had black playable characters were Beyond Good and Eviland the WWE games. But I felt like Carl Johnson, the main character in GTA: San Andreas, resonated with me because he looked like me.

Even though CJ portrayed many of the stereotypes our community should steer away from, just him being the playable character affected me deeply. Every other game that comes out usually features a white playable character. Look at some of the most popular series right now, such as Uncharted, The Witcher, or even Call of Duty. I enjoy these games, and some of them are my favorite games of all time. But they usually feature some sort of rough-looking white guy, which can be tiring to play as. This also isn't good for promoting diversity in gaming.


This is why I feel games like Mafia 3 andWatch Dogs 2 are necessary. Mafia 3 wasn't the best game, but playing as Lincoln Clay felt like a fresh experience because we got to play as a black male who didn't perpetrate any stereotypes. Watch Dogs 2's main character, Marcus Holloway, was also a character that wasn't plagued with black stereotypes. They both fight injustices because of their race in their respective time periods, even though Holloway's fight with racism is way more relaxed than Clay's. These two characters show the reality of black people in American culture, and I feel that such representation is much needed in the climate that America is in today.

————

Characters like Augustus Cole from Gears of War, Barrett Wallace from Final Fantasy 7, or even Coach from Left 4 Dead 2 are not needed in gaming. Even though it is undeniable that they do bring character to their games, they are plagued with stereotypes like being a sports star or affiliated with sports, being musicians, cursing excessively, and being extremely loud. Stereotypical black characters in gaming can hinder the experience of the game or just downright insult the player.

The Opportunity Agenda published a scholarly piece called Media Representations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys in which they explain the way black characters are stereotyped in media. In one section called "Distorted patterns of portrayal," they explain that positive associations of black males are limited to "sports, physical achievement in general, virility, and musicality." The article goes on:

"While the media’s version of America is populated by some black males intended to inspire, they tend to represent a relatively limited range of qualities to the exclusion of a variety of other everyday virtues."
Much more at https://www.gameskinny.com/0nwmx/we-need-more-black-protagonists-in-gaming
 

Dice

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,660
Canada
#3
But I felt like Carl Johnson, the main character in GTA: San Andreas, resonated with me because he looked like me.

This sort of thing can't be said enough for why more PoCs need to be in games more. The world is way more interesting with more colour in it.

When I was young I'd always pick the girl characters in fighting games or in RPG parties. I liked being able to play as someone who looked like me.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,040
#4
Alright I will speak only for GTA V this time as I don't see the need of that game being mentioned in the same subject but I think Franklin Clinton is the most important protag in that game since the fate of the other two main chars depends on his choices in the final part of the game (your choice playing as him actually). And Frankin gets the funniest missions out all of three main protagonists imo.
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,966
#5
Definitely.

It bothers me so much recently as well when games will ship out the most generic white protagonist imaginable like in Titanfall 2. At that point, just add some character presets and make it all a bit better.
 
Oct 28, 2017
2,803
#6
Well...whenever the fuck I finish my game (LOL) it will be a black protagonist. :) But overall, I agree.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,192
#7
I was surprised when EA got Micheal K Williams for one of the BF games and then went with generic white dude on the cover.
 
Oct 27, 2017
4,471
#8
Yup, that BHM: Favorite Black Protagonist thread was pitiful. It was practically the same characters over and over with a few being stereotypes. Overall, more non white male would be great.
 
Nov 6, 2017
1,202
#9
We need good ones not just any one. Also you can technically play almost any Bioware game as your main character black so in a sense one of the best protagonists in gaming can be black which is Shepard.
 
#11
What do you think of games that let you choose your characters race?
It amused me that Alex Denton was on that pic seeing as the player could choose between a male or female version with varying skin tones (Mass Effect too)


I guess you could argue that these aren't 'real' black characters but I don't like to see people write off these as generic white male characters when you are meant to play as your own.
 
Oct 27, 2017
714
#14
The image in the op is always way too exaggerated. I want more diversive characters but starting with beyond good & evil and gta: san andreas, the protagonists did got more diverse. Even resident evil 5 had a black female main protagonist. The main protagonists of the last uncharted are females and non-white.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,329
#17
I'm on the side of "make the character make the most sense in the story/setting/whatever he/she is being put into". Whatever makes more sense I guess (I don't know if I'm phrasing it correctly).
If the main character is not "defined by the story", just make a couple of models for the player to choose from if the dev team has the time for it, if not, just throw a dice and let it decide.

More diverse characters are needed though, ofc.
 

Lime

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,266
#18
Yes we do, but game publishers are run by rich white men who hold racist assumptions about the market and gaming audiences (the nature of white supremacy) and refuse to take any financial risks (the nature of capitalism).
 
Oct 28, 2017
2,118
#19
Eh I think Cole is a more positive character than the guy from GTA san andreas.
The stereotype of being a sports star is a lot less harmful than being a criminal.
 
Oct 28, 2017
5,839
#20
Eh I think Cole is a more positive character than the guy from GTA san andreas.
The stereotype of being a sports star is a lot less harmful than being a criminal.
I mean, Cole is basically a stereotype of an old marketing ad campaign from 10 years ago. He only really got any characterization in 3. It's the same problem.

What do you think of games that let you choose your characters race?
It amused me that Alex Denton was on that pic seeing as the player could choose between a male or female version with varying skin tones (Mass Effect too)


I guess you could argue that these aren't 'real' black characters but I don't like to see people write off these as generic white male characters when you are meant to play as your own.
If you're going to do that, you need to put in black features that actually resemble black people. Black hair is religated to bad afro, bad corn rows, bad dreadlocks or bald in nearly every game except maybe WWE titles.
 
#21
No.

We need more variety, period.

Thanks for doing this thread. We were talking with my co writer about this and he pointed something at me that stroke me:
Even I, have been white washing in my scripts, always describing and naming characters the same way. Because, even if I had my issues and struggles, I didn't come from a "minority" (I hate that word by the way, so stupid and tells a lot about the problem), never had to struggle only because of my name or look and I simply write "the easy way" or the more familiar way (which is stupid because I see more diversity in my every day life than in my scripts).

I never saw this that way.
 

____

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,336
Miami, FL
#22
Yes! More characters written like those games you mentioned plus look at Lost Legacy. Strong and well-written women of color are underrepresented as well since that’s a minority within a minority.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,379
#23
I think the problem is precisely that companies do think that people want to play games with characters that look like them, so they make characters for the largest segment of the gamer audience -- white men.

I reject that premise, though. I don't want to play characters that look like me, I want to play characters that are interesting and have good stories behind them. To that end, I would really like to see more diversity in games, especially in story-driven games where different perspectives can really make a game stand out.

Even in create-a-character games, I often make non-white or female characters just because I feel like they look like how I envision the character I want to play. I don't just try to make "me" over and over again.
 
Oct 28, 2017
305
#24
We definitely do, I still can't think of a Black Protagonist in games, who doesn't engage in any criminal acts at all and isn't a blantant stereotype which more than a little disappointing. Sports games are the closest but those are all real people so I don't think that should count for true and proper representation.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,329
#25
No.

We need more variety, period.

Thanks for doing this thread. We were talking with my co writer about this and he pointed something at me that stroke me:
Even I, have been white washing in my scripts, always describing and naming characters the same way. Because, even if I had my issues and struggles, I didn't come from a "minority" (I hate that word by the way, so stupid and tells a lot about the problem), never had to struggle only because of my name or look and I simply write "the easy way" or the more familiar way (which is stupid because I see more diversity in my every day life than in my scripts).

I never saw this that way.
I think it's natural to some degree that people write about what they know or feel identified as. Who is going to write a more believable "minority" character than someone form a "minority"?

This could be solved by talking, by educating oneself, writing stuff and being critized about what you did right or wrong. By understanding each other.
 
Nov 1, 2017
311
Paris, France
#26
We need less 20-something to 40-something white characters with brown hair, I'd say.

Saying "we need more black characters" still excludes all other ethnicities, and sounds, to my ears at least (I might be paranoid) more like an American problem (where the Afro population is the biggest minority/second biggest majority - depending on how you see it - I think) than a worldwide problem.
 
Oct 27, 2017
3,280
#27
Diversity would help characters stand out and be unique. I truly think it would benefit developers to do that.

However I notice many people want to play as a character that looks like them, I would imagine most gamers who care about that stuff are white men, so publishers might be hesitant and feel like it would alienate people. Personally, I don't really care about characters looking like me so I'm open to whatever.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,396
#28
Agreed so very very much! At this point in time it's embarassing that there are so few black hero characters, black characters are either used as side characters or comical characters, they're almost never the hero.

Same thing in movies. Me and my wife saw The Dark Tower this weekend and discussed this thing afterwards, it's extremely rare to see a black man (or woman) be that awesome badass hero character, the movie wasn't all that great but Idris Elba was sooo cool as the gunslinger.
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,354
Georgia
#29
Thanks for not buying Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, everyone

Billie Lurk is leaps and bounds ahead of other black protagonists in terms of characterization, ulterior motives, plot development etc etc.
 
Oct 25, 2017
13,198
Oman
#30
Thanks for not buying Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, everyone

Billie Lurk is leaps and bounds ahead of other black protagonists in terms of characterization, ulterior motives, plot development etc etc.
Only reason I hadn't bought it yet is cuz I'm waiting for it to be USD 10 >_>;;;;;;
 
OP
OP
malyse

malyse

Community Resetter
Member
#32
What do you think of games that let you choose your characters race?
It amused me that Alex Denton was on that pic seeing as the player could choose between a male or female version with varying skin tones (Mass Effect too)


I guess you could argue that these aren't 'real' black characters but I don't like to see people write off these as generic white male characters when you are meant to play as your own.
80% of the time the character looked like a white character with an aggressive tan.
However I notice many people want to play as a character that looks like them, I would imagine most gamers who care about that stuff are white men, so publishers might be hesitant and feel like it would alienate people.
You’d probably be surprised.
We need less 20-something to 40-something white characters with brown hair, I'd say.

Saying "we need more black characters" still excludes all other ethnicities, and sounds, to my ears at least (I might be paranoid) more like an American problem (where the Afro population is the biggest minority/second biggest majority - depending on how you see it - I think) than a worldwide problem.
Whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument, which is particularly associated with Soviet and Russian propaganda. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the Soviet response would be "What about..." followed by an event in the Western world.

————

Perfect is the enemy of good is an aphorism, an English variant of the older better is the enemy of good, which was popularized by Voltaire in French form. Alternative forms include "the perfect is the enemy of the good" or "the enemy of the good is the better", which more closely translate French and earlier Italian sayings, or "[the] perfect is the enemy of [the] good enough". Similar sentiments occur in other phrases, including from English, and are all attested since around 1600.
 
Oct 30, 2017
3,219
#33
Yeah, we do.

It reminds me as a Native American how few games star Native Americans, and even fewer without their being some sort of bow and arrow, tomahawk, or warpaint and feathers involved....
 
Nov 1, 2017
311
Paris, France
#35
Whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument, which is particularly associated with Soviet and Russian propaganda. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the Soviet response would be "What about..." followed by an event in the Western world.

————

Perfect is the enemy of good is an aphorism, an English variant of the older better is the enemy of good, which was popularized by Voltaire in French form. Alternative forms include "the perfect is the enemy of the good" or "the enemy of the good is the better", which more closely translate French and earlier Italian sayings, or "[the] perfect is the enemy of [the] good enough". Similar sentiments occur in other phrases, including from English, and are all attested since around 1600.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,396
#36
However I notice many people want to play as a character that looks like them, I would imagine most gamers who care about that stuff are white men
I don't know is that the case for real? Lots of guys always play as girls in RPGs, Fem-Shepard was super popular, Lara Croft is still popular as well and people really wanted Link to be a girl once that was said to be a possibility after BOTW's first teaser trailer. As for myself I have not once in 35 years as a gamer tried to create myself in a game where I can craft my own character, I'm not that interesting :P I created myself as a Nintendo Mii, Xbox Avatar and Playstation Home character though.
 

Soony Xbone Uhh

Attempted to circumvent ban with alt account
Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,162
#37
More authentic and great written lead protagonist and storys about black people.
Not just some random black protagonists put into a game for the sake of diversity.

Good examples are Assassin's Creed: Origins or Black Panther.
Balant ones being Gears of War 4 or Star Wars among several other. You get the idea.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,743
#38
I honestly do not care if the character looks like me or not as long as the character is awesome. There's always other ways to identify with a character besides race. But I agree looking at where games are now there's still a severe lack of diversity, although I do think it is getting a bit better.
 

RabbidPeach

Banned
Member
Oct 29, 2017
913
England
#39
So many people say that they want to play games with characters that look like them, yet whenever asked or polled, most men on here (And Gaf) chose the opposite gender in games where they can choose.

I find that interesting.
 
Feb 1, 2018
5
Tempe, AZ
#41
I think we need more diversity in games but not for the sake off it. Like, I really enjoyed Mafia III because, for all it's flaws, it approached race in a such a specific, honest way. The same could even be said for Virginia or even Sleeping Dogs with it's Chinese lead. I don't want a basic ass Call of Duty with a minority as the protagonist just to check a box. I want real, honest portrayals of us. I think the only way we're going to get that is just having more Black and Minority creatives in the industry. When you watch E3 or any gaming show it's more often than not a white dude coming out to talk about his game.I think the AAA space is too risk-averse to do anything interesting in this regard but I hope in the indie space we start to see more perspectives being shown that just the relative few we've been getting.
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,354
Georgia
#42
Only reason I hadn't bought it yet is cuz I'm waiting for it to be USD 10 >_>;;;;;;
thanks a lot

Good examples are Assassin's Creed: Origins or Black Panther.
Balant ones being Gears of War 4 or Star Wars among several other. You get the idea.
This is a bullshit ass claim on Del's part, a character who had actively warned JD about progressing through the rabbit hole of the Swarm. To downplay his character is outright ridiculous.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,105
#46
Completely agree, as well as just more PoC in general. The thing I hate the most is that anything that's not the 'default' white dude with brown hair gets thought of as some kind of political stance for diverting from the norm. People don't actually think why it's stupid there is a norm to begin with. I've been playing games for decades and it took until Far Cry 4 to play a triple-A game with a South Asian protagonist (and cast), that is an area that contains 1 billion people.
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,966
#48
More authentic and great written lead protagonist and storys about black people.
Not just some random black protagonists put into a game for the sake of diversity.

Good examples are Assassin's Creed: Origins or Black Panther.
Balant ones being Gears of War 4 or Star Wars among several other. You get the idea.
???

Nah. Why is white the default but black characters need crazy justification for inclusion?
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,354
Georgia
#49
Not only did Death of the Outsider had an excellent black protagonist, it also had an excellent black antagonist at that

A no-name banker managed to rally together scraps of fallen gangs and Delilah's coven to form a gang of heretic thugs that quickly overtake Karnaca's criminal population after Paolo goes clean in 2