Conversations on blackness in games


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The black spaces are violent, ruined, and dangerously mysterious.

This is how an awful lot of white people view black neighborhoods - like a little slice of the African jungle. When I moved here, a young fellow helpfully warned me which neighborhoods to avoid at night. I wonder if the rebel flag tattooed on his neck had anything to do with his popularity among black people?


It probably also doesn’t help that so many games are set in genres like “fantasy” that don’t traditionally have a lot of racial diversity (that is, diversity of human races). Even making a movie with a black Asgardian or a black stormtrooper is enough to make some people flip out.


Right now in the real actual world real live black people are having varied lives and experiences in literal African jungles. Of course I’m sure they’d portray black people just as stereotypically if they were portraying them as small remote communities as well. That’s the big issue, it’s that they don’t think black people are people, whether in the jungle or in the city.


Couple the dearth of black characters across all types of media with the utterly pathetic quality of writing exclusive to video games, and you get GTA…er…I mean Watch Dogs…uh…Bioshock Infinite, Resident Evil, etc.

Oh come on now, pathetic writing is hardly exclusive to games. Having seen/played neither, I’d still put $20 that Watchdogs has been writing than 50 shades of grey.

I spent a couple of years working as a video journalist in a city that’s approximately half black/half white. In that time, I was dispatched to about 40 different shooting incidents. 3 of those were in white neighborhoods.

It’s sad, but relative to their white counterparts, black spaces tend to be “violent, ruined, and dangerously mysterious”. (They’re also full of wonderful people.) Blame whomever you like for the situation. My money’s on the roaring drug trade that rewards crappy behavior, but if I was being totally honest, I’d have to say an unwillingness to assimilate into a culture they’ve been repeatedly taught to distrust plays a role as well.

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What percentage of those white neighborhoods were poor, vs. percentage of black neighborhoods?


If you would like even more insight into this article. We had Evan on our show the week this story ran on Kotaku. There are lots of other tidbits that round this story out even more. Here is a link:

It’s not that bad writing is exclusive to video games, but rather that video games are almost exclusively badly written, and that lack of quality is in a class of its own. More diversity would definitely be a good thing, but what that would mean, in practice, is just a palette swap for the grizzled space marine.

Didn’t Episodes 2 and 3 establish that the early stormtroopers were clones of someone who isn’t white (played by a Maori actor)?

And who did the teaching? It’s not like black communities have been given much reason to trust the prevalent culture.


Yes, which made that outrage even sillier. In any case it seemed pretty clear that the stormtroopers in the original trilogy only Star Wars trilogy to date weren’t clones, or at least weren’t all cloned from the same guy (different voices, different heights, etc.).


Having a few black characters - or any other ethnicity - doesn’t really mean much if the framing of your narrative is still the same old European/colonial view of the world. Despite claims to the contrary, most of the world does not live that way. Changing the characters without considering the narratives makes them as much window-dressing as any other superficial choices.

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Hard to answer that exact question, but that city has 13% black unemployment vs 6% white unemployment. Interestingly enough, the white on white shootings were never in poor neighborhoods, though there were no shortage of trailer parks. 2 of them were men killing their wives. The third was a new wife killing an ex-wife who was breaking into the home.

There’s an interesting bit from Michael Kirkbride, who formerly worked for Bethesda, on his writing for Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard:

On the Redguards:

No, I was actually referring to The Black Panthers and their radicalism.

As some people know I’m not really a fan of the United Colors of Beneton approach to Tamrielicreation, which smacks of white guilt and offensery rather than some holistic form of beautiful inclusion. Thus, it’s my fault that the Asian analogues got eaten. Oops. Looks like others are bringing 'em back, though. But I promise my choice had nothing to do with Yellow Peril, it had to do with co-opting “coolness of color” without thinking about it intelligently and compassionately.

(Hunkers down for the flame.)

That said, when I started writing Redguard I really thought about how unique the black people of Tamriel were: they came in and kicked ass and slaughtered the indigenes while doing so. They invaded. It was the first time I had encountered the idea of “black imperialism”…and it struck me big time, as something 1) new, 2) potentially dangerous if taken as commentary, and 3) potentially rad if taken as commentary.

Who knows. AVault did say it had a story worthy of being on stage, and Michael Mack (Cyrus) once thanked me for giving him words that “Black folks don’t get to say” (referring to Cyrus’ speech and the reversal of Son to the Father)… which broke my heart and made me puff my chest all at the same time.

Which is a long way of saying: panther-love.

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I was just talking about this topic. I’m making a game using Project Spark. There is no hairstyles for black males. Can I get a buzz cut, Afro and etc?

There is some truth to it. Minorities tend to be poorer and thus get stuck in the crappier neighborhoods. Couple that with white flight and you can get ghettos. None of these things happen directly because minorities are intrinsically “different” somehow, but because our culture discriminates harshly against those who aren’t white. They do the best with what they’ve got, and they get a lot less than whites do systematically.

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