Black History Month has rolled around again this year, celebrating and thinking about black people in society, present and past. Through this we discuss representation within all mediums, but one that is often overlooked is the representation of black people in gaming.
It seems now that most triple A games feature a white protagonist. Is it true that the role of black people in games, like films, is always just as a criminal or villain?
This is not an attempt to criticise just the video game industry’s attempts at representation. There have been great protagonists in video games such as Franklin in GTA V, Lee from the Walking Dead, Connor from Assassin’s Creed III, Jax from Mortal Kombat, and Marcus from Watch Dogs 2 – I’m not going to count LeBron James in NBA 2K19. But it seems clear to me that there is a massive lack of black female protagonists in video games. The only one I can think of is Aveline from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. She became our first female leading assassin back in 2012 when it was originally released exclusively for Playstation Vita. It was found to be quite popular so Ubisoft re-published it as Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation HD. The game was put on the three top platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. This was a great achievement in gaming at the time, for a black woman to front the cover of such a large gaming franchise.
Especially this year, and with the release of Tomb Raider and Horizon: Zero Dawn, we can see that the industry is continuing to produce strong females with great stories that are not just there to look at. But, if you look at the rest of the year there’s no female protagonists in many of the upcoming big releases and importantly, no black protagonists.
There’s a reason some black kids want to become basketball players or footballers. It’s because it is what they are represented in the most. It shouldn’t be that black people are only thought about when the next NBA game is about to come out and we are provided with a revived roster of players to choose from. If the video game industry doesn’t want to keep churning out the same stories with the same typical white man on the cover, it needs to realise this as well.