Many people discuss the lack of women represented in video games outside of stereotypes. Sometimes the lack of diversity in race and ethnicity is overlooked too. There is a lack of representation from African, Asian, and South American descent in the games we play. Seriously, think of 10 game characters from these descents that you can actually play with that don’t fit the stereotype of athlete, gangster, or soldiers.Recently, my husband and I were discussing how cool it was to see Idris Elba in the commercial for Rainbow Six Siege and Michael Bae Jordan – I mean Michael B. Jordan – and Marshawn Lynch in the Call of Duty commercial. It makes me wonder, are we witnessing a shift to include more people of color in video games for the sake of progress, or is this all a cheap marketing move? Could it be a combination of progress and marketing tactics?
It’s possible that Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan have helped open the doors of diversity for other people of color in the future. In 2011, Jordan and Elba were voice actors in Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 respectively. Could it be the fact that Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan have been ranked for being two of the sexiest men alive? Or that they have ties to geek culture?
More recently, Elba plays Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor films and Jordan played Human Torch in the recent Fantastic Four adaptation. Both of these casting choices received backlash from racists and sentimentalists alike who believed these roles are reserved for white actors only. Cisgender white males tend to dominate most of the entertainment and media that people consume on a regular basis. They are the primary actors on our screens, the top ranked musicians, and even the main characters in our games. White males as primary characters are so common that if a video game does something different they are thoroughly questioned or threatened with being boycotted.
In 2015, we are still witnessing video games where there are no people of color in a main role. Even in games where customization is allowed, you will typically start out with a white male that you have to change to look like you. This lack of diversity for people of color is dehumanizing us in the digital space. It is telling the world that white males are what normal is. Each time the argument is brought up to video game companies and players alike, there are always excuses made as to why the game must be ‘historically accurate’. As a woman of color with a love for all things related to comics, video games, science fiction and fantasy, it is disheartening to know that I may never see someone who looks like me as a main character in a AAA video game unless I create her myself.
With the industry acknowledging the pull that actors such as Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, and Anna Kendrick have will attract us to games, I am hoping that they will also see what diversifying their characters’ appearances can do for a game’s relatability. Characters like Christie Montiero in Tekken, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, and Aveline de Grandpre in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation prove someone is working to diversify games for us.
We are making progress and I hope that we can continue to cultivate a level of diversity that would contribute to a welcoming gaming community for all.