Black characters in video games must be more than stereotypes of the inhuman


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I do the same thing all the time. I even made an image for it. Feel free to use it :smiley:


Finally, a thread where we get to find out if the :video_game: :crocodile: :crocodile: are as racist as they are sexist!

[edit] Just to spite @crenquis, I’ve added another croc. Why no alligators, emoji makers?


I understand the jist of this article, but using the Street Fighter series is a terrible example. There already is a variety of black male characters in Street Fighter, going all the way back to Street Fighter II, when Balrog was introduced. DeeJay was introduced shortly after Balrog, and there’s also Dudley and Sean. All very different from Balrog and not “menacing”. Granted they are all some sort of cartoonish stereotype, but all characters in Street Fighter are some sort of cartoonish stereotype, regardless of race or gender.


Great read. The Lara Croft example is really good too because her design shift was considered from the ground up, rather than tacked on as a passing aesthetic choice. The stereotypes for black men are even more exaggerated from the Japanese gaze (which admittedly exaggerates a lot of things). I seem to recall there being black athletes who have become celebrities with Japanese audiences simply because of their race and build, and they are usually presented as loud and intense personalities.


haha that’s handy. But yeah i had some comments to make on the BoingBoing post but i felt i was making the case for something different, or that deviated from the intention of the post. So yeah, i’d rather get rid of what i wrote :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:




I am all for increased diversity, but I think that appeals for “humanity” are merely a backdoor to speciesism. Most of the world is “inhuman”, and all the better for it. Seeing others as “like me” does little to confront xenophobia.


Yeah i had thought the same thing. Even the asian characters are reductionistic caricatures of their cultures. But that’s kind of the point of Street Fighter, it’s just a fighting game and it by taking a quick glance of a character you should get an immediate feel for what they are like. If Street Fighter were a game with more emphasis on story i think people would demand more subtlety and complexity from the cast.


The beauty/beast example like the Vogue cover does seem to come up so much more often with black men (particularly athletes) that I completely agree with the premise of the story. As a tangent, most of the examples are Japanese stories, art, and design and their track record with building black characters reflects the media they get from the west so it’s a circle of historical examples of American black characters being send overseas and then a fun-house mirror gets reflected back over and over again.

I mean, just look at something like Gantz where less than ten years ago they had a Japanese character disguise himself as a black man to commit mass murder with automatic weapons… when the character intended to die the entire time at the end of the massacre. There was no reason to have him disguise himself other than a mangaka who thought the appearance of a black man doing the shooting “looked cooler” or “more indimidating” or something else.


I totes get that, we all do it, and no harm no foul. Self reflection means you are by definition a hoopy frood.


Yeah, Balrog in Street Fighter was designed by Capcom in Japan. In Japan, the Balrog character is known as “M. Bison” (whereas in the U.S. “M.Bison” was the name given to the game’s Dictator/Boss [who is known as “Vega” in Japan]). The reason for the name change? They were worried about legal issues in the U.S. due to the name’s resemblance to Mike Tyson. It’s pretty widely believed that resemblance was intentional. I mention this mostly because the article also mentions his design as no doubt being influenced by various things including the War on Drugs (a Reagan era US phenomenon that’s still influencing things here today). That probably influences his reception by US audiences, but I’m not sure how much Reagan enacted policies were on Akira Yasuda’s mind as he sat in Capcom’s Osaka offices.


well it’s basically the professional wrestling rules of character design. Boil down a character’s personality to something that can be easily communicated at a glance.

The rest is based on Jojo, a long running manga series that has dictated Japanese character design since it’s inception.


seriously - all the asian characters appear to know some form of martial arts in street fighter; it`s ridiculous i tells ya.


Funny you mention Diablo 3 in the article, yet fail to mention the most prominent black character in the series–Tyrael


I take issue for a different reason. I don’t really see how it’s fair to pick on Balrog specifically when literally every character in street fighter is intentionally an overblown stereotype. He’s not special in that regard as far as the world works, far as I can tell.


I just started replaying Borderlands. Roland, the main black character, is the team player soldier type, and he takes on a leadership role as an NPC in the sequel. The “inhuman” one that intimidates everyone is Brick, who is white.

However, this and other examples don’t mean I don’t agree that black representation in video games isn’t a bit problematic overall.


I blame mr T.


This is an incredibly lazy article (like the June piece about The Witcher 3), all too common in identity politics, especially as it relates to video games. To make the kinds of broad generalizations found in this article, you need a broader survey of the field.

Several games are poor examples: as other commentators have said of Street Fighter, all of the characters are caricatures; Mortal Kombat, Gears of War, and most characters in the Arkham series are the same. The author chose a tiny slice of games from mostly combat-oriented genres (which generally are like action films, not very subtle or cultured), and half of the examples come from Asian developers. Likewise, the Elder Scrolls series contains many dozens of Redguard NPC’s that don’t fit into the narrative of the article.

No mention is made of several major games with glaring counterexamples. I’ll name a few important ones that have not been mentioned so far in this discussion:

Eli Vance, scientist, Half-Life
Jonas Palmer, scientist, Fallout 3
Lucas Simms, sherriff and mayor, Fallout 3
David Anderson, admiral, Mass Effect
Jacob Taylor, soldier (not de-humanized or caricatured), Mass Effect 3
James Heller (the incredible trailer is worth watching), player-character/protagonist and soldier, Prototype 2
Louis, former systems analyst and playable survivor, Left 4 Dead
Henry, survivor, The Last of Us
Donald Anderson, DARPA Chief, Metal Gear Solid

It is important to talk about how positive portrayals of black characters are lacking in our media, and that includes video games. However, this article, and others like it, are a detriment, and not an asset, to that project.


I use to play Louis a lot because he wore a tie. Nothing is cooler than shooting zombies while you’re wearing a tie.