Diversity in Video Games

Diversity has changed drastically in the past ten years in nearly every medium except video games. Most of these changes in media occurred through the wave of Obama, modern feminists, and the advent of social media.  As such, we have seen movies like Moonlight – prominent Black LGBT, TV shows like Orange is the New Black, and rapid rise in women authors’ success (though literature was centuries ahead with diversity in the first place). Still, video games remain stagnant with few exceptions.  Much of this is due to most of the gamer base being white straight men who tend to have a lot of biases and claim victimhood whenever a game tries to go away from their norm and be progressive.

 

With diversity in video games progress has been slow in gender, sexuality and race. As such, the video game examples of diversity are few and far in between.

 

In regards to gender, Metroid was revolutionary in a secret ending in which the hardened space marine, Samus Aran, was a woman all along.  Samus would remain the figurehead for a strong woman video game protagonist for years. Women would vary in representation from a secondary protagonist like Claire Redfield in Resident Evil 2 to damsels in distress in many JRPGs. It was often difficult for women to be leads outside of create-a-character options. These options for the create-a-character to be woman only really became prominent in the 2000s. Overall, video games with women on the cover tend to be a hard sell until very recently. 

The best example of this is Horizon Zero Dawn, a game with a badass woman on the cover, a 3rd person open world game, and most importantly a brand new IP (intellectual property).   However, not only did Horizon Zero Dawn get great scores but it also sold well from a brand new game concept featuring a woman prominently. What else is fascinating with Horizon Zero Dawn, is how the main protagonist, Aloy, never gets into romance with any men, meets several other strong women of several ethnic backgrounds and remains a highly skilled warrior throughout.  While one may think the lack of romance means that Aloy can’t be a strong woman and married, I find that it progresses in a different direction in that she needs no man for her prowess.

 

Sexuality coming to prominence is probably the slowest aspect of video games to be modernized. Many times homosexuality is often still seen as a joke from two random NPCs in Persona 5 to the village people NPCs in GTA Vice City who are flat one note jokes. More recently some queer characters have come to prominence but there are almost no instances of queer characters in older games.  One of the only prominent ones, who happened to be transgender, was Poison and it wasn’t known until years later and she’s someone you beat up – essentially gay bashing.  Other instances early on are lesbian or gay question marks that are implicit but not explicit or the characters a bisexual shoe-ins (usually women).   The only other large example of queer characters is many of Bioware’s RPGs that have create-a-characters. In Bioware’s RPGs many characters can be gay, lesbian, bisexual and pansexual (transcending other fantasy or sci-fi races). Arguably the most progressive in the Mass Effect series as you could potentially date several men, women and different races in the trilogy.

In recent times, the most prominent queer character would be The Last of Us’ Ellie who will be as of Last of Us 2 featured heavily on the cover of the game (she’s also on the first, but it’s not known before playing how her sexuality and importance is). She’s an active lesbian and features heavily/being playable in both games. As such, she is the most successful queer character to be playable and to feature on a game cover. However, sexuality and queer character representation is the least represented in video games and outside of Ellie and the progress of Bioware (recently even having a transgender character for romance) there aren’t many that aren’t bigoted jokes.

 

Race is one of the most discussed aspects of video game culture because of how heated the debates can be. In the past sports games were some of the only appearances of non-white or Japanese characters. Furthermore, recent times feature a toxic online atmosphere of gaming where young white kids yell and have names like niggerlife and you’reanigger for the laughs. While there is nothing funny about that; there are far more people who play online around the world than ever before.

As such, this becomes in essence an oxymoron in that yes a guy from India can challenge a woman from Brasil; however, so too can I guy from Arkansas throw racial epithets at them both.

While online still has a lot of work to be done in its bigotry, the changing landscape of protagonists through the years is an important one.  There are several non-white protagonists in games as of late. There’s Native American protagonist, Delsin Rowe, the growing amount of Black protagonists (CJ, Lincoln Clay, Marcus from Watch Dogs 2), mixed race people (Alyx Vance, Jade of Beyond Good and Evil), East Asian – Noriko, Arab (Bayek) and even Indian (Chloe of Uncharted).  There are still missing perspectives overall though, as there are few Latinx protagonists, the smallest amount represented overall in gaming.  Furthermore, the experience of the dark-skinned Black woman is only appearing now with Sharla in Beyond Good and Evil 2.  Much is this is due to a growing community of gamers of color both men and women around the world who are proclaiming their perspectives need to be met. Worlds of white are often seen as limited, diverse casts like the randomized races of Horizon Zero Dawn’s characters or the in depth discussions of ethnic groups in Red Dead Redemption 2, make for progress in a world with a main white character. Even a game with particular European setting featuring white characters – in alignment with its location – gets called out. As such, the world is playing and the world would like to see themselves.

 

            Still, all of this is progress for more diversity in games. As character customization gets larger more options for how well you want someone to match your perspective grows. Furthermore, more and more games feature diverse protagonists in terms of sexuality, gender or race. And if the protagonist isn’t diverse than their world must be, giving way to same sex unions, multidimensional racial characters and women who need no man’s input.   Video Games maybe the medium that is the most behind, but there is progress occurring. When I can shoot an ex-slaver, KKK, and retired confederate soldiers and gain positive honor for it that is a game progress for 2018. Through and through, I could write ad infinitum about this topic, but at the moment this overview seeks to be the beginning of a world of information.

Eminem: An analysis, perspective, thinkpiece, blog post.....

Whatever you want to call it this is a write up on Eminem. My sense of not necessarily being too concerned with the nuance of the title gives credence into how I feel about him.  Eminem is an odd figure in the canon of hip-hop due to the distinct path that he moves on. Let's get a couple ideas out of the way because I think they matter. He is not the first successful white rapper, nor is he the first. He's also not the first controversial white rapper. With the white history out of the way, for the remainder of this blog post I want you to view the person I'm talking about as a Black man.Whatever you want to call it this is a write up on Eminem. My sense of not necessarily being too concerned with the nuance of the title gives credence into how I feel about him.  Eminem is an odd figure in the canon of hip-hop due to the distinct path that he moves on. Let's get a couple ideas out of the way because I think they matter. He is not the first successful white rapper, nor is he the first. He's also not the first controversial white rapper. With the white history out of the way, for the remainder of this blog post I want you to view the person I'm talking about as a Black man.


Eminem was born on the 8 mile line in a poor trailer park in Detroit. The guy had writing talent and a few people who were supportive of him and his rise in the game of hip-hop. He at first was clowned on stage, but then given a chance from a good friend named Proof to begin some legendary battle rapping. As such, his lyrical prowess drew the attention of Dr. Dre who would eventually sign him to Aftermath. Under Dre's beat making skills and tutelage, Eminem would begin to take from his Marshall Matthers LP. 

The mainstream media got a hold of his controversial lyrics and amazing flow which began a whirlwind of attention.  He had lyrics that called out several celebrities like Limp Bizkit and Moby. His lyrics also were extremely misogynist and homophobic as he bashed gays over their sexuality blatantly and then found hatred by antagonizing his wife and in a sense his daughter with threats of murder and drama. He also promoted a crass sense of jackassery with a style that many kids wanted to imitate from drug use, vulgarity, raping and killing women. Tons of kids wanted to dress and be like him even in suburbia kids wanted to be like him.  Also many other poor trailer park people looking for a vanguard for their plight, found one in Eminem and supported his ideals while preaching their pride for their poverty.  People often enjoyed his critique of president Clinton and president Bush and found a voice that they were looking for even though they may have had Republican ideals.

Eventually his fame and skill grew so large that respectable hip-hop heads considered him to be worthy of being in the top 5. As such, his skill and respect in so much so that he was able to transcend race as people are highly excited when he is on a track or makes some new music due to his reputation. Still, his verbal disrespect in and outside of his lyrics has often tarnished while popularizing his overall image. He is also not the only rapper to be misogynist and homophobic either. It is personally, my least favorite aspect and personal struggle about hip-hop/rap in general as it doesn't respect women and LGBT people in any capacity; which leads into that idea of separating the art from the person. This skill seems to be easy though with Eminem because of his reputation and what his upbringing is.

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Now I have to ask, as you have imagined this story and analysis as if this person was a Black man, is this even possible for a Black hip-hop artist to achieve? No it is not because Eminem is actually white and regardless of his upbringing, his lyricism and controversy he is allowed to move in spaces where Black rappers cannot. He can be heralded at a frat party, bumped a summer garden party in white suburbia, give credence to white poor people and their issues, and even be thought of as a white savior to several Black people who say "hey he's one of us and can be invited to the cook out!" However, he isn't one of us and never has been. Sure he's made some support of his hometown in Detroit in both white and Black spheres, but it's never been consistent. Furthermore, could a Black rapper get away with threatening to rape and kill his wife in front of his daughter? No he absolutely couldn't he would be hung out to dry same as any other controversial hip-hop figure. And while I will not go into his specific songs, albums or even videos there is an entire acceptance to all that he does purely because he is white. 

Do I think there are better rappers? Absolutely - go look at my top 10 MCs list along with my ode to Tribe Called Quest. 

Do I think there are more controversial rappers? Depends on what you mean by controversy. Dr. Dre beats women, but not as many people know about that as they do Eminem's blatant disrespect.

Can I ignore the whiteness for talent? It's not even that I cannot, it's that you cannot look at Eminem and ignore it, it is why he is so famous, it is why he can move through circles, it is why people let his condemnation of America, women, gays, and so much more slide.

Therefore, in an argument I've had since his inception into common knowledge, Eminem is not in my top 5 or my top 10 not only because of talent, but because if he was a Black man we would never even be having this conversation. 

The Pervasiveness of Whiteness (Not just Trump's)

This post will not be about the NFL movement, but about what surrounds it. Overall, whiteness is pervasive in every fabric of our society and Trump has existed to highlight that. Yes, whiteness is everywhere and it is constantly everywhere I cannot watch a piece of media without seeing Trump or the issue of whiteness in some form. To give some recent examples:

NFL Sunday - Trump calls them out and everyone follows Kaep (late and not entirely the right reason but solidarity against white supremacy is great only because of the costs). Hopefully people continue the protest.

Kingsman 2: The President is a caricature of Trump

The Deuce: People hate on the current mayor and changes as if it's Trump

South Park: Trump's tweets

Game of Thrones: The Night King/Cersei and their political moves

I could continue on and on, but the whole point is no matter where you look, whiteness and Trump in particular wraps itself around all of the US.  However, as I read a soul-cleansing  book, called Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, I have learned that whiteness still keeps its tendrils in parts of Africa, South America and more. Hence countries that have little influence (Cuba and Myanmar) often feel unfamiliar because they move to their own beat. At times, I view it as a disease as most people moved to their own beats in general before whiteness. Yes there were wars and other atrocities, but the level at which whiteness has overcompensated for the weakness of its ancestors is thorough and damaging for generations.

Continue to speak out and call out white supremacy. White people from within must continue to do so as well. I can only hope one day it fades. 

Dear White People Reflections- *Spoilers!*

If you haven’t by now, then I hope you run to see the magnificent Dear White People on Netflix. The show picks up where the film left off but explores far more areas of Black society, culture, themes identity, mentality and Blackism than the film had time to do. While at first, one would think that the show would be a call to action like the film was for white people; however, instead the show is a deep exploration about what it means to be Black in the millennial era. The show explores many types of Black people and what their journeys mean when they compete, intersect and stand-alone. As such, this article will be to discuss the character development arcs and what they bring to Blackness and some notes about other characters.

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Americanah - A review and some thougts

Americanah is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, two Nigerians in how they navigate the modernization of their own country while experiencing diasporas in the most Western worlds of England and America. While it is far more depth in Ifemelu's time in America, it highlights a great deal of Nigeria, England and the spaces in between frequently. To extrapolate on each: the American segment deals primarily with Ifemelu's comprehension of Blackness versus African in America. Obinze's time in England serves to express the world of the expat in general. Meanwhile, all the Nigeria segments both showcase and critique the increasing Westernization of one of the most modern countries in the world. 

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