174: What if the Player is Black?

handshakes

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Sep 18, 2008
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I don't quite understand why some people think that the Cole Train from Gears is somehow racist and wrong. I can't think of a black videogame character that is more accepted and loved by the gaming community at large than Cole, how can that be a bad thing? By the by, "most black characters tend to be prone to violence and opposed to any course of action that requires patience or critical thinking skills"? Name me one character in Gears of War who isn't quick to violence.

Fable 2 has a black will user, hmm... So far so good. Oh wait, nope, he has cornrows. Damn, automatic disqualification.

Also, I don't recall the Italian uproar over The Darkness which forced you to play as a lumbering, ex-mafia hitman and complete dolt who relates more than one life experience to pasta and meatballs.

The point is that if you are looking for something to offend you, you will probably be able to find it. Developers should just make cool characters, and whether or not they are black, white or asian should be incidental.
 

atr_23

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Nov 4, 2008
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At least in western europe, i think the flaw affects all media... it is a pity that even in wide spread WoW you can only play über-tanned white heroines and heroes... maybe we have to wait for a stabilization in africa etc. to get games where we feel underrepresented...
 

jemborg

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Oct 10, 2008
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What? Try, Michael LeRoi, a former English literature student made into the Shadow Man. 1999!! See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Man_(video_game)
It has a sequel too. Based on the comics. This game has Caribbean connections also- so you kid just might find his dad look-alike here.

Here's a question: WHAT IF THE PLAYER IS NOT AMERICAN?

I doubt this idea ever occurs to people of the USA as as they seem phobic or completely incapable of imagining a world with any other kind of protagonists in it. Movies, hah! How many movies are made in my country or next store in NZ that HAVE to have fake American accents in it so Americans won't freak out watching them or even go?

Americans obsess over "race" like no other country I know of- one doco I watched postulated it was because of the conflict between the new constitution and the reality of continued slavery. How about the human race? The refugees in my neighbourhood from war-torn African nations are far darker in skin tone (and satin-like) than any African-Americans I've seen. And they will pick differences between someone from Nigeria and Burundi. I have never had any grief from these people btw. You might get over the the notion that the human race is classified into only Caucasian, Asian or Negro (and American). Created by separation and a need to balance vitamin D production against sunburn, there are far more types in the world and we all came from the same place.
 

Robyrt

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Aug 1, 2008
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While the article raises a valid point, it misses the larger message: that video games aggressively employ stereotypes instead of creating real characters, no matter where they come from. I don't think every game needs a black character. (Or a white character, for that matter.)

Looking at the proportional representation is only good for a quick surface check. Cole from Gears of War is a good example: he's one-dimensional, but compared to his white comrades, he's Denzel Washington, so it's hard to come down for Epic on this. By contrast, Fahrenheit has an intricate story involving a bunch of normal white people and basketball-loving Superfly Johnson... 'nuff said.

I would also like to note that Rock Band's character creator allows for convincing black people as well as stereotypes.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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MorkFromOrk said:
You know we still have tokenism in TV commercials and shows. Hard to believe in this day and age but it's true. Aside from Black representation in video games what about a decent Asian lead or how about a Latin American lead woman who is fully clothed. I wonder how popular Prince of Persia would be if people knew that Persia is now Iran.
An English man who didn't speak Cockney would be quite pleasant as well, innit.

BTW, is that Commander Link Hog-throb?
 

PedroSteckecilo

Mexican Fugitive
Feb 7, 2008
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I don't think "created" characters count, because they are just that, created by the player. As well custom made characters rarely come across as "characters" and clearly resemble avatars instead.
 

Eilanis

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Mar 14, 2008
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Someone already mentioned it, but Eli Vance and his daughter are good examples of black protagonists. Eli Vance, for example, is one of my favorite characters from a game. There have been few games in which I found myself shouting at a game for killing a beloved character, Eli being one of them (sorry to spoil Ep2, but it has been out long enough).

Staff Sergeant Griggs from Call of Duty 4 can be stereotyped with the bad-ass, violent, hip-hop driven African American, but he's more than that. He's patriotic, he works well with others, he wants to make sure that his country and the world is safe from a lunatic, and ultimately gives his life to serve that cause.

How about Prophet from Crysis? A strong leader that favors stealth and subtlety over direct assault unlike the aptly-named Psycho. A leader who struggles between discretion and honestly with Raptor Team. Sure, he goes a bit off the rocker towards the end, but that has more to do with what happened to him, not who he was.

Three recent games with strong black males as characters, one with a portrayal of an intelligent, strong-willed black female to boot. The article brings up a good point, but many of the games that the author mentions are poor examples.
 

GloatingSwine

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Nov 10, 2007
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Cyclomega said:
I thought Mariposa was Mexican, and as such, not black (hispanics, even when mixed with amerindian ancestry are closely related to whites (arabs too) in terms of ethnic ancestry).
It's really hard to determine, given that no-one in Dead or Alive is anywhere near phenotypically normal, but she looks more black/white mixed race than mexican. The only mexican connection is that she's a Luchadora.

Cole from Gears of War is a good example:
Cole is Terry Tate, Office Linebacker with a gun. Literally.
 

NewClassic_v1legacy

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Jul 30, 2008
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I agree with a lot of what the article is saying here, but there's something to consider here that hasn't really been stated.

Go to your local mall, and walk into your local Foot Locker, or sports-shoe store. Count the people who come in, make mental notes of the ratios of the races of the people that walk in. If it's anything like it is here, these stores are way more Black to in ratio.

Now consider communities, like the people you see in BET music videos and the democraphics who buy and empathize with games like True Crime: New York and 50 Cent: Bullet Proof. Even in San Andreas, there are large groups that can empathize with Grove Street.

People who aspire to be like Julius in Saints Row, whose repertoire for plurals is pretty limited to "playas," "homeys," and "gangstas." Even in my experience in the 'black-hating south,' there are many, many people in that demographic that also play games.

Just look at shows like The Boondocks, which constantly satirize the culture, but it is celebrated and loved, universally, and without hatred for the heavy and blatant satire of their culture and hobbies. Insults that would earn me two black eyes for attempting the same statements.

Although, I'd also like to point out that if you look hard enough for wrong, you'll find it, no matter where you're looking. To provide another example, once again using Saints Row, the most violent, sociopathic killer in the series is a white guy named Johnny.

I agree for the most part, but don't be afraid to call forth some praise to the people that did it "right." Games like The Sims, KoToR, and Saints Row.

Also, consider people who like things like that, and how games like Def Jam, Fiddy Cent's Bul'tproof, and San Andreas, and how they feel at home and completely empathetic with those characters. To suggest people like that don't count is just as racist as suggesting people like yourself don't exist.

Decent read, but a little too biased for me to go on without saying something.
 

PieMaker

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Oct 7, 2008
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The_root_of_all_evil said:
Guild Wars : Nightfall. It's even set in a fantasy Africa.
I was just about to say that.

On a general note, Guild Wars also has a wide range of character customization. It does not stereotype character by the color of the skin (even though the fro is available to use on your character).
 

Aeranlaes

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Jul 27, 2008
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Neat article, although I prefer 'black' to what I see as the anally-pc 'African American.' I realize it's more sensitive, but it's contrary to logic in some scenarios. Like if you met a black Briton; he wouldn't be American, would he?
 

VanishedOne

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Oct 9, 2007
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No mention yet for Darci Stern (Urban Chaos)?

I read (somewhere; I'm working from memory) that one of the people who worked on the game thought it failed to sell well because of the premise: playing as a black, female, rookie cop, etc. Maybe the implication is that a white lead is a commercially 'safer' choice when you're trying to innovate in other respects.
 

Chaos Marine

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Feb 6, 2008
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Wasn't one of those Vietnam shooters, I can't think of the name, one of the first games to sport a main character who was black and part of the story was centred around the fact that he was black during a time when racism was far more widely accepted. I've never played the game so I don't really know how it is.
 

Littaly

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Jun 26, 2008
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Isn't Barret more than a hotheaded muscular black guy? From what I recall he showed a lot of emotion and care for his family as well, even though he wasn't maybe the most politically correct character he was not the least either.
 

SerbianWolf

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Oct 26, 2008
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Fable 2 has a very introspective african-american named Garth that is one example against the over-violent stereotype. He's neutral and thoughtful and a breath of fresh air in the game.
 

MrGFunk

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Oct 29, 2008
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Personally, as long as the character in the game suits the game, I don't care what colour they are.
I mean if at the end of Half Life if there was a mirror and you found out Gordon Freeman was white would it have changed the game.

And I'm pretty sure TJ Combo pulled a gun and shot the loser because he's badass not because he's black.

I do think it's sad that her son couldn't make a character like his Dad. Ouch.
 

nullunit

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Sep 19, 2008
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aBlackKnight said:
Alyx and Eli Vance (her dad) from HL2 are good characters, though I cannot tell if they are "good black characters". At least Alyx was voiced by a black Woman. Dunno about Eli.
Eli Vance is voiced by Robert Guillame, a black actor who has been around for years and years. Voice for the baboon shaman in Lion King and lead actor in the TV show Benson. He has fantastic range; a great actor.

I think Half Life 2 is one of the only times where I have seen black people portrayed not so much positively but normally. Something which is overlooked sometimes is that in games pretty much everyone is a stereotype. But becasue of the lack of opportunity available to people of color the list of archetypal or stereotypical roles are much more limited and often negative.

Just my point of view as a "black" gamer.
 

ReverseEngineered

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Apr 30, 2008
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While I myself am the epitome of the typical American (white, male, middle-classed, mildly obese, and from Canada), I can certainly relate to the feeling of not being able to relate to characters. If a character is young, he is angsty and rebellious. If he's intelligent, he's socially-inept. It he's a she, she's wearing less clothing than a supermodel on the beach.

Myself? I'm a nerd. Well, in the sense that I have two university degrees and am currently employed as a programmer. I'm not socially-inept, nor do I have acne, wear glasses, and have a nasally voice. Can I relate to the nerd in any game, movie, or book? Generally not.

In contrast, I'm also fat, like over 50% of the American population. Even for stereotypes that are typically heavy, I've seen very few obese characters. Even worse than the token black man, there's the token fat man -- his entire purpose for being is to be laughed at for his obesity.

Of all the places I expected to be able to make a fat character, Rock Band really disappointed. I could adjust the slider between twig and bodybuilder, but nowhere in there was the big drummer. The only character harder to make than Tupac Shakur is Notorious B.I.G. And trying to recreate The Blues Brothers? Forget it.


The truth is that our media -- and video games in particular -- rely heavily on stereotypes for all of their characters. Maybe it's to make them familiar and recognizable, or maybe it's a lack of creativity. The excuse is often that it's supposed to be fantasy, but I fantasize about myself being a drummer, not something that looks like Steven Tyler.

In their defense, could you imagine making character customization that allowed for every type of facial structure, hair style, and accent in existance? It's not going to happen. The fact that we have black people and British accents is a already a large step towards customization -- integrating every nuance of facial structure, accent, and vocabulary would be a game in and of itself. If a game takes itself so seriously on character customization, how much time did they spend on the rest of it?
 

A Concerned Citizen

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Nov 4, 2008
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The problem with thinking like this is that the same applies for every single minority, as she herself even mentions on the first page, offhandedly "what if the player is female". So every character in every game is a racial stereotype, who cares? I don't pick up an avatar game expecting to find a character looking like me, that's selfish. The sheer costs alone to trying to create a system that would all-encompass every person on earth would be somewhere near the budget of a motion picture no doubt. And when you start playing less popular games, developers have even less money to spend; being politically correct should be their last concern. Just make a good game so I get my money's worth, that's all I ask. Not "what if the player is a troglodite".

And how come nobody is mentioning Cole?!?!?! It's the Cole train, baby!