Written By: Malik Bradley
Over the years of being an avid gamer, my love for video games has been almost bittersweet at many points for me, especially, in recent years. I began playing video games from Sega Genesis to Nintendo 64, but I never truly owned a platform until I got my PlayStation One for Christmas in 1999. Since then video games have been an ever-present activity in my life. Video games and addiction were never truly a problem for me as I was always able to achieve what I needed to in school or otherwise. Personally, throughout my childhood I was quite different from the average black youth who would play Madden, 2k, or even FIFA. I was always into RPGs and Action Adventure games the most, I loved espionage and great stories. Metal Gear Solid 2 was a game that made a permanent impact on my life and how I believe I have developed as an adult in the complexity of its conspiracies which hold real weight today. With all that being said, I have been playing video games for the better part of 20 years now, I have seen the evolution and great advances made to this medium and it’s the stuff we could only dream about 20 years ago. The problem I have is with all these amazing advances and narratives these developers can create, it amazes me that there is severe lack of diversity in video game protagonists and worlds.
If you have been playing video games for as long as I have, I am willing to wager that whenever you see a black character in a video game, they are always memorable… Why is that? The answer is- it’s because it’s something we almost never see. As a black person whenever I see a black character in a video game, I spend the rest of my time hoping to see them again or another one but I usually end up being disappointed by their lack of importance in the overall story. If there are black characters in a video game, they are almost always a sure stereotype.
The new trend I have been noticing is the inclusion of strong black women in video games and the complete omittance of any strong black males sometimes even pitting them against each other. This is a recurring theme in fact throughout movies, and even politics now. We have seen examples of this kind of venomous exchange between the black man and woman being portrayed in movies like “Harriet” which fictionalized a black man into the story to be a relentless and brutal bounty hunter who outright murdered a defenseless black woman in one scene, and in upcoming games like “Deathloop” being released by the legendary Bethesda Game Studios the makers of Skyrim, Fallout, Wolfenstein, and many other great games.
Their newest IP is “Deathloop” a game which pits a black man and a black woman in never-ending hell where they must keep killing each other over and over.
How can we also forget the blatant misrepresentation of Egypt in Assassins Creed Origins? I have never seen a game that got so many things right about the geography and culture of an area and in the same breath get so many things wrong about the people and its history. It is laughable to hear the black African voice actor “Abubakar Salim” they chose to voice Bayek a Medjay form Ptolemaic Egypt looking like he was from the East Indies.
The nonsense did not stop there. Throughout the game you are treated to all kinds of foolish storylines making it seem as if the Egyptian Medjay was working more for the invading Greeks and Romans than he was for his own people. Methodically killing them off through the storyline just to reach the end where his wife leaves him, and the salacious Cleopatra depicted as nothing more than a whore and as a white woman with dreads just gives up her kingdom to the Romans anyway.
As a black man who studies history and myself daily in order to gain personal dignity and purpose, I find it increasingly harder to ignore the purposeful misrepresentations in gaming and society. The cracks are starting to show in every medium but sadly as much as I love gaming as long as the narrative is controlled by those who are not black, we can only hope for inclusion which is not always a good representation.
–Malik Bradley of W&R