Since it’s Black History month, I wanted to write a little piece about my favorite minorities in gaming. Now this is a personal list so feel free to disagree and let me know why I’m wrong in the comments. The only two requirements I had for a character to be on this list was that they had to be either a main character or integral to the advancement of the story, and I have to had played the game. Hit the jump for the my picks.
1. Altair-Assassin’s Creed:
Hands down, Altair is my favorite character not only because of the fact that he is an Arab but also because (in my head) he is Muslim. As a Muslim, it’s tough to play game after game portraying them as terrorists, villains, and psychopaths. It felt amazing to be able to have a character I so closely connected with be the hero for once. Even better was the fact the ALL the good guys were Muslim. For this reason alone, I think I was one of the few people who, because of this fact, could forgive the game its flaws and just enjoy it. I was disappointed when the sequel shifted to Ezio and was only won over by experiencing the improved gameplay and deep story; but I will always have a special place in my heart for the Arab assassin.
2. Carl “CJ” Johnson-GTA San Andreas:
CJ takes the number two spot because he was a reflection of the person playing him. For the first time in gaming history (as far as I can tell and if you can prove otherwise please do), that reflection was the same color as me. As the first main black character, he helped people of color have somebody to call their own. The fact that you could make him be as fat or muscular and as dapper or thuggish as you want helped immerse me deeper in the game than ever before. Hopefully Franklin (the black character) will help immerse me in the upcoming GTA 5, and signs are good from his words about self-improvement in the trailer , but we’ll wait and see.
3. Admiral David Anderson-Mass Effect series:
Anderson is on this list because of his long life filled with distinguished service. While the majority of colored soldiers fall relatively low on the chain of command, Anderson reaches the prestigious rank of Admiral. He was a candidate for first human Spectre, and served as the first human on the Council. As you play through the series, he is one of the few characters that ALWAYS had Shepard’s back. All this awesomeness is only surpassed by the fact that he is voiced by Keith David, who in my estimation has one of the top 10 voices ever.I don’t want to get into spoilers for those who haven’t gotten a chance to finish the game yet, but for me, the end of Mass Effect 3 was as powerful as it was because of his role in it.
4. Lee Everett-The Walking Dead:
The start of The Walking Dead had Lee in the back of a cop car headed to jail. Not the most auspicious start for one of the best, if not THE best, characters of the year. From there however, he grew into a leader, protector, and fan-favorite. His relationship with little Clementine is one of the sweetest things ever. After seeing black male after black male portrayed as a negligent or non-existent father, it was great to see one being so father-like to a child that wasn’t even biologically his. Voiced by Dave Fennoy, his smooth baritone is a source of calm from the harsh, jarring world that Telltale created and cements his spot on this list. As a small note, Dave Fennoy does the voice for the Hulu ad guy!
When I first had the idea for doing this list, I thought it would be easy to rattle off 10 great minority characters. Unfortunately, it was anything but. The rest of the minority characters I could look up (and there aren’t that many to begin with) were either blatant stereotypes or just bad characters. I looked up similar lists on different sites and what I found wasn’t very reassuring.
Most of the list were populated with characters from fighting games. Before anyone gets insulted by that statement, I want to clarify that I have nothing against fighting games but honestly, how many are known for their deep and enthralling storylines. There is some backstory to each fighter and it differs from game to game but it isn’t a focus of those games.The rest of the lists included stereotypical characters like the loud-mouthed soldier or the thuggish rapper turned mercenary.
I understand that the gaming industry is mostly white males and their experiences probably won’t line up with my experiences or the experiences of people from different racial, religious, or economic backgrounds. BUT this doesn’t mean that whenever a minority character is needed, they go into the stereotype pool to dig out somebody. There are countless resources that can be tapped for information, from historical references to flesh and blood people.
I’m worried that a game that has an accurate representation of minorities won’t be around any time soon. With the increasing interconnectivity and diversification of the world, it’s time for minorities to take a bigger place in the gaming industry and portray ourselves the way we want to be seen, not the way we are assumed (whether accurately or not) to dress, talk, behave, and live.
Let me know if you agree or disagree and any thoughts you might have on the topic in the comments!