The gaming world has the potential to reach out to so many people, so I don’t understand why there are so many games’ developers that chose to cut off an entire community from being represented.
Whilst we’ve recently seen Black characters being included in new Spider Man games, if anything, this has highlighted how little Black representation there really is in the video game world.
When there are Black characters in certain games such as GTA, they are presented negatively, and as an offensive stereotype. Critics argue that Franklin’s representation is harmful and that showing Black characters as violent thugs is not representative of the Black community. In fact a Creative Skillset report from 2015, shows that BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) industry representation stood at only 4%. When those representations are mostly portraying these characters in a negative light, this does very little to help progress racial views.
Now while there are games like GTA, which are violence-based and so could be argued to naturally include violent characters, some of which happened to be Black, this argument does not apply when looking at the fantasy world of gaming.
League of Legends (LoL) is a game that appears extremely problematic when looking at its representation of the Black Community. LoL is a game where characters can appear in all shapes, sizes, and colours. There are blue characters, red characters, purple characters, and plenty of white characters, but there very few Black characters and before 2015 there was only one. Clearly there are not meant to be limits on appearance in this game, so why aren’t there more Black characters, or at least as many as there are white characters. What kind of message does it send to young Black gamers that the vast majority of human champions are white? Why out of over 140 champions, are so few Black?
In the past, LoL creators have said the lack of diversity isn’t intentional and Riot’s senior concept artist Eduardo Gonzales was quoted saying “It’s not meant to look or feel like real life on Earth” as a reason why the characters are as they are. I understand that the game is fantasy, but when you have such a wide platform of young people playing the game, there should be an attempt to at least try and represent a portion of those gamers within the game. If you are going to have human characters in the game, make these human characters relatable to the fans and players.
There are times however where it is not always possible to have Black representation in games. An argument can be made that a lot of games are made in countries where there isn’t a strong Black community, so putting Black characters in these games would be unnatural and forced. For example games set in modern day Japan, like Persona. In these cases, the lack of representation is mostly down to these countries not having a strong Black presence and population.
But for the most part, now more than ever, where ever possible, the Black community needs to be represented in the gaming world. Not only so young Black gamers can grow up playing with characters they can identify with, but so white gamers can love these Black characters too and start breaking down racist barriers from a younger age. I can only hope the recent BLM discussion will inspire more gaming companies to add in what their games are sorely missing.