For years people have been asking for more diversity in their games. It makes sense to see a good representation of a culture or ethnicity in a positive spotlight rather a side character of stereotypes or a cartoonish villain. For a while during the PS3/Xbox 360 cycle the situation became meme-worthy, which also notes a lack of creativity. Not to diminish notable characters such as Faith from Mirror’s Edge or Lincoln Clay in Mafia III but there is still room for improvement however one genre that has done great leaps are MOBA shooters and other team based games.
“We build games for everybody” words by Blizzard Senior Vice President Chris Metzen in 2014 regarding the cast of women in Overwatch. The phrase rings true for racial demographics in similar shooters or team-based games as they aim to broaden their audience to help keep gamers from several countries and backgrounds engaged. It’s almost a requirement next to gameplay. Lin at Fandeomentals covers this in larger detail about Diversity And Representation in Overwatch
Rainbow Six: Siege is nearly in a class with itself. Usually online team-based games are similar to each other however Siege follows the strategic formula the franchise helped popularize in the 90s. But gameplay aside as far back as the first game the lore behind the Rainbow Six games and novel, the team is populated with operators from all over the world.
Rogue Company is a fluid third-person shooter but is practically a clone of Counter-Strike besides the perspective change and map the breakout for Rogue Company is heavily featured in their marketing, which is predominantly POC
One would think following this formula of more ethnicities would be a driving force in single player games, at this moment there are about four games that has a Native American lead – Infamous: Second Son, Turok, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Prey. There’s always room for improvement and representation as online shooters prove people are open to those characters. These decisions sometimes fall upon the hiring process of the studios.
It’s quite common that most companies don’t have several minorities working there or even in prominent positions. Hence, a main character will reflect the art and creative director’s decision. Ubisoft is actively trying to restructure by investing more in a graduate program for more women and people of color to be employed. It’s no surprise Insomniac and Arkane are ahead of the curve with Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Deathloop coming out soon with black people working behind the scenes. Insomanic has James Ham as the senior animator and Dinga Bakaba is a game director and designer at Arkane. Deathloop is driven by a black male and female lead as assassins hunting each other.
Ultimately, what is telling is the mindset that people of color can’t sell stories doesn’t work. Hence, almost all of the online shooters mentioned rarely people complain about a character’s race as their player choice and even companies are now marketing their games with several races on the cover. Black Panther, a movie with nearly an all black cast, directed and developed by black people became a hit and the audience was sending a message that they want more movies like that. An instance like that reflects video games as well for more companies not to fear putting people of color to drive a main story.
This isn’t an attack on the industry or any races just pointing out that one side of the industry (MOBA games and online shooters) are designing and marketing games than another side (single player narratives) proving that diversity and inclusion is a welcoming for gamers.