Racial representation in video games has been a hot topic for many years. The gaming industry does not have many characters who are not either Asian or Caucasian. There are only a few minority game developers in the gaming industry. These relatable topics are connected at the hip. It is time to have a healthy discussion on possible solutions to improve the gaming industry’s lack of representation of minorities.
I am an African-American man, and I notice race due to the experiences from my life. People want to see characters who look like them and have similar backgrounds. Although we all can relate to a character of a different race and gender in some stories, the connection sometimes feels more personal when we see a character who has the same racial background.
In 2014, Paste Magazine’s Casey Malone criticized Nintendo for the lack of diversity in Mario Kart 8. The Mushroom Kingdom does not feature any minorities (human characters) in its impressive library of games. The most recognized and popular video game franchise does not have an image of inclusion.
The solution is not as easy as one may believe. There are many factors in diversity in media. We must open the door to this discussion in order to progress. Let’s review each of those major factors.
First, we must discuss Japan because a large number of mainstream titles come from there. One of the biggest factors contributing to the lack of minorities in games is Japan’s culture. Western culture has strongly influenced Japan. Their standard of beauty is white skin. This is the reason for many characters from Japan’s media physically appear to be either Asian or Caucasian. Their media has very little representation of Blacks, Hispanics, and Indians.
You will quickly notice the lack of diversity from all types of media in Japan. Most anime, manga, and trading card games feature Caucasians and Asians. Despite most of these series have fans around the world, there is very little interest in creating minority characters.
Furthermore, the few black characters in Japanese media are extreme stereotypes. The majority of these black characters are very aggressive and unintelligent. For example, Barret from Final Fantasy VII was Square Enix’s poor attempt to mimic Mr T.
Intended Racism or Ignorance
Some occurrences of racism or stereotypes such as Barrel occur due to a game developer’s ignorance. Some game developers create extreme stereotypes without the intention to offend players. They do not have enough knowledge of cultures from different ethnic groups. Creators of all media should research a race and a culture before creating a story and character.
Furthermore, race and culture are often connected, but a person’s race does not determine their culture. I am an African American man with zero interest in rap music, urban culture, hip hop, and America’s black culture. My race does not determine my interest and lifestyle. I love rock music, sports, trading card games, and of course video games.
False Accusations of Racism
On the other hand, false accusations of racism are counterproductive to the cause of diversity. This does not resolve the problem and creates needless conflict for game developers. People will walk away from these types of discussions. Adult gamers need to look at the entire context before making false accusations.
For example, many critics wrongly accused Capcom of racism, due to the large number of African enemies in Resident Evil 5. The game’s setting is in Africa and the large black population is a realistic representation of the region. The majority of zombies or infected individuals should be black because the setting is Africa.
Resident Evil 5 also has a black character as one of the game’s main characters, Sheva Alomar. We look at the entire picture before making false accusations. This type of behavior may discourage game developers from creating minority characters.
A Game Developer is an Artist
Game developers should be viewed as artists with visions to express ideas. Every character, level, boss, and cutscene are part of the overall expression. We want game developers to maintain their true expressions because this allows a variety of awesome stories in video games. We can enjoy the amazing storytelling told in locations such as the world of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda and the scary galaxy from Dead Space.
Freedom of expression is not freedom from criticism. All players (consumers) have the right to criticize game developers for missing the mark. However, forcing diversity is not the answer for inclusion. We should not force artists to change their expressions and visions for games. it would remove the genuineness and passion. We would not receive a real expression from game developers.
For example, nobody demanded Telltale Games to create Lee Everett, a black man as the lead for The Walking Dead. It was a genuine decision from the developers, not a forced decision. Lee is one of the best characters from The Walking Dead in my opinion.
He is a good character not because he is black, but because he has a strong story and character.
There are a few solutions to add diversity in video games. Each option has a true passion for video games and respects a game developer’s vision of his or her game. These are just a few ways our community can progress to diversity.
Hire With Diversity In Mind
I think the best solution is for gaming companies to hire game developers who have ideas to feature diversity. Companies would be hiring people with the true passion of expressing different groups of people from different races, ethnicities, sexualities and world views. These game developers genuineness will shine and is more likely to receive praise from gamers.
Support Talented Game Developers of All Races
In addition, minority game developers are more likely to create characters that represent them. Some of these individuals produce indie titles such as AURION: LEGACY OF THE KORI-ODAN by Kiro’o Games. Consider supporting a minority game developer if you enjoy his or her games.
Gamers should not support a game developer because he or she is a member of a particular race. A person’s race should not be the reason to support them. Players should support talented game developers with amazing games. These talented game developers may be Caucasian, Black, Asian, Indian, etc. That is genuine support for those indie developers, small companies, and large companies.
Think about it in terms not related to video games. Restaurants with minority owners want your support during the COVID-19 pandemic. You want to order tasty food. Those restaurants with minority owners will likely only get your support if they serve tasty dishes and for no other reason.
Create Your Own Game
Finally, sometimes the best course is taking action. You can become a game developer, and create games with a diverse cast of characters. There are many programs with the capabilities to create amazing video games. You can create a positive move towards inclusion with a game with a variety of characters. Your positive narrative may influence more developers to create more inclusive games.
The discussions about race may become a positive influence in the gaming industry. This is s a tall task to overcome. Cultural barriers, ignorance of other races, and some current game developers are affecting racial representation in video games. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The awareness of racism and lack of representation may turn the gaming industry to a more inclusive direction.