[Featurama] Top 10 Minorities in Gaming

16

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!

 

5-10. N/A:

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!

Share.

About Author

(Associate Editor)

Hi! I'm the Managing Editor here at Twinfinite. I'm more than a little bit crazy but I'm great at hiding it. When I'm not gaming on XBL (Muazimus Prime) or PSN (MuazimusPrime), you can find me reading mountains of comic books or watching an obscene amount of movies. I LOVE the Mass Effect series and can't be your friend if you don't love it too.

  • [email protected]

    yo how about my boy the COLE TRAIN! Legit this guy and Marcus sneak into the lair of the enemy, and Cole starts cussing out the queen on a loud speaker…. one of the best characters ever/scenes ever

    • muazimusprime

      While I love his voice actor, Lester Speight, he just felt like the typical loud low ranking soldier to me. And the fact that he had a history as a professional sports athlete didn’t help either.

    • muazimusprime

      While I love his voice actor, Lester Speight, he just felt like the typical loud low ranking soldier to me. And the fact that he had a history as a professional sports athlete didn’t help either.

  • Tyler Humphrey

    I personally love Wei Shen from Sleeping Dogs.

    • http://www.twinfinite.net/ idsanty

      Yeah I agree that he’s a good one.

  • Jack Gardner

    I can think of a few minority video game protagonists that really stand out off the top of my head:
    Jade – Beyond Good & Evil
    Alex and Eli Vance – Half-Life 2
    Aveline de Grandpré – Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
    John Dalton – Unreal II
    Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Fu
    Michael Jackson – Moonwalker
    Jackie Estacado – The Darkness 1 & 2
    William Mendoza/Billy Candle – Call of Juarez
    I’m sure there are more. However, I agree with you. There aren’t nearly enough representations of minorities as main characters or important side characters.

    • muazimusprime

      Let’s be real, Shaq and MJ don’t count for the purposes of this list, no matter how nostaligically great those games were. And was Jade a minority? Or as she just tan?

      • Jack Gardner

        I just looked at the Wikipedia article about Jade and it says that she has no ethnicity because she is on another planet, but that she has also been cited as black character. So… Maybe?

        • muazimusprime

          Touche

  • MikeEaton

    I should say I’m a little disappointed by the lack of Canadians on your list.

  • val

    What’s a minority? Altair is white (according to the US census standards), so why can’t you have any of the huge number of other white characters on the list? Religion is irrelevant, Islam is not a “minority” religion any more than Christianity or Buddhism are. And Altair is not a muslim. The plot of assassin’s creed makes it clear that Islam is a false religion in their fictional universe. Religion doesn’t come up in the vast majority of games. For all you know the lead characters in call of duty are muslims. If you’re going to pick a character in AC, have you not played the latest one where the main character is a native American?

    I could list you 10 great “minority” characters from GTAIV alone. Niko is more of a minority than CJ in America. Assuming that your standard of “minority” is non-white (which rules out Altair), that’s 83.3% of the world’s population who are a minority… Do you not count Asian as a minority (that would actually be smart given they make up ~60% of the population)? There are a huge number of Asian characters given that Japan is a major part of the game industry. You just often can’t tell they are Asian because the graphics are poor or cartoony and they give them wider eyes because that’s the cartoonish style used in anime. With realistic graphics you can tell that for example in Advent Children the final fantasy characters are mostly meant to be Asian.

    What is the point of the article anyway? It’s just searching for hits with a “controversial” list that is actually nonsensical and you haven’t even finished but post it anyway. You should take it down and read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_%28human_classification%29

    • muazimusprime

      The point I was trying to make was that there is a small number of games that have non-white characters in leading/main roles and of the few that do have them, a large number are typical stereotypes. Percentages of worldwide populations was never anything that I wanted to discuss, only the portrayal of minorities in gaming.

      Now as to your allegation that this is merely “searching for hits”, I had every intention of filling out a top 10, but I found myself not being able to put anybody else on the list that fit the requirements I set for myself which if you read the introductory paragraph a bit closer would point out “they had to be either a main character or integral to the advancement of the story, and I have to had played the game”. Whether this gets zero hits or a million is unimportant to me, as long as it met my standards and the standards of my editors (who all gave it a green light).

      As far as Altair goes, I will agree that he is most likely not Muslim but if you read that explanation I did CLEARLY state “in my head” he was Muslim and many of my Muslim friends felt the same way. Plus, seeing how he has an Arabic name and Arabic parents, I think it’s safe to assume is is of Arab descent and therefore NOT white, regardless of what the US Census Bureau has to say on the matter.

      All that being said, I wanted to thank you for your comment, since this discussion is somethign that I feel needs to happen in the gaming industry.

    • MikeEaton

      Perhaps the word ‘minority’ needs to be reevaluated in larger society. Yes, if you are taking that word literally, then maybe some of the people represented here are not part of a mathematical minority of people. The point however is that representation of different ethnic/racial groups are not proportional to actual populations, When they are, they are more often than not poorly fleshed out and often offensively portrayed. It may not be intentional, but that doesn’t make it okay — I’m thinking specifically of the ‘spear chucking savages’ in Resident Evil 5, but there are many examples out there.

      I’m really glad Muaz wrote this article because as I’ve said (many many many times) it’s important that we start addressing these issues and really talking about them if we expect this community to be perceived as anything but a bunch of basement dwellers. As he said at the beginning, it’s okay to disagree with his stance here. However, making snarky accusations of trying to drum up controversy and saying he should remove his article only makes me wonder why you feel so threatened by his opinions.

  • Matthew_Stevens

    Barret from FF7. Dude just wanted to make sure his daughter was happy and to save the planet.

  • Jayborino

    This is a fantastic article, Muaz!