There are a lot of great games on the horizon for 2017, but I have to say, compared to 2016, I’m a bit disappointed.
Almost this time last year I wrote my #GamesSoWhite piece, shining a light on the fact that our industry and therefore, the lead characters in games are overwhelmingly white. As if striving to prove me wrong, 2016 also saw a rise in the number of games featuring black protagonists.
Virginia was my game of the year, with fantastic storytelling, despite no dialogue and a story centred on two black, female FBI agents. Then there was the critically acclaimed Mafia III, which put racial tension at the heart of its story. Watchdogs 2 gave us the likeable Marcus and tackled the micro aggressions of being a young, black man in America. In addition, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst puts an Asian woman front and centre, whilst Nadine Ross shone as a side character in Uncharted 4.
All in all, 2016 looked like a turning point in the story of diversity in games, but alas it was obviously a blip. I can take heart in the fact that this year has lots of female characters to celebrate, but they’re almost all white or racially ambiguous at best.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a completely new IP, set in an alternate world, so I can’t help feeling that it’s missed a real opportunity to have a person of colour in the lead role. Although it’s great to see another female character fronting a game, she’s a white girl with dreadlocks who is mentored by a white guy with dreadlocks. Why didn’t they just make them people of colour? Why is that still a step too far for AAA games?
Shuhei Yoshida, Sony boss told Polygon back in 2015 that they were even worried about having a woman as their protagonist. He said, “She’s a female lead character,” he said. “That has always been the vision by the team, but we had a discussion. Is it risky to do a female character?”
Clearly, making her black or Indian or anything other than white was not even up for discussion. It wasn’t even considered a risk, I suspect it just wasn’t considered. Sadly, this seems to be the case more often than not.
The only beacon of hope on my horizon this year is Uncharted The Lost Legacy. After being underused in Thief’s End, Nadine Ross the black South African antagonist is back in a stand alone adventure. She’s paired with Chloe Frazer, Nathan Drake’s ex and a favourite recurring character. Chloe was missed in the last game, so it’s exciting to see these two strong women embark on their own adventure. It’s just a shame that Lost Legacy is one of a very few games to feature a minority character.
Mass Effect Andromeda is incoming very soon and BioWare is always hot (in more ways than one), when it comes to representation in it’s games. I’m expecting a wide range of characters, as well as the chance to design my own and get to loving in space.
Among all the games that I’m looking forward to in 2017, it’s sad that only two of them offer any promise of representing the world I live in – you know, the one with people of different backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, cultures and colours. Until that happens, it’s all about Nadine and Chloe and Uncharted the Lost Legacy.
If I’ve missed any games in 2017 with diverse characters, let me know in the comments. I’m always looking to celebrate the games that tell different stories.