Black Stereotypes in Gaming

- Samer Farag

African Americans, or the black community as a whole, have not been recognized the way they should be in the gaming medium. This is due to the fact that rather than being considered as people, black characters are instead seen as archetypes, fitting into the stereotypes already informed by different medias. The gaming world is predominantly held by white males, and as such, they are unable to relate to nor understand this other race, so instead rely on caricatures of our race (“our”, as I am black as well). 

Consider, for example, Barret of Final Fantasy 7. He is essentially a walking expletive machine, a Mr. T lookalike, with a gun permanently attached to his arm. What images does this send to you? Also consider Sazh Katzroy, a man with an afro that is essentially a nest for a tiny chocobo. As you can see, black characters are being depicted as one dimensional characters, that are molded out of the stereotypes that have accumulated over the years. 

The japanese are not the only ones who have had this occur, and in fact could be seen to one up their competition across the sea. Sheva, of Resident Evil 5, is one of my favorite black characters in videogames. She is a strong and independent female character, for one, and secondly, she is regarded less as a black character, and more as simply a character, devoid of any gimmick. However, Cole, from gears of war, is completely unrelatable as a black character. An unoriginal sports super star, who is completely obnoxious (though this could be said of most Gears characters), and devoid of any growth as a character. 

And in the end, this is what it comes down to: Growth. Whereas most white characters in gaming are dynamic, and experience growth and change as time passes, black characters are usually one dimensional, and lack any growth as characters. Either that, or they are husks of characters, in which we implement our own feelings, I.e. being a Redguard in the Elder Scrolls series, or creating a black Commander Shepard.

I believe the solution to this problem is focusing less on the fact that a character is black, and as such must be stereotyped, and focusing more on a character that is simply a character with dark skin. Doing so will allow us as a gaming community to relate to that character more, whether we are black or not, and subsequently be able to respect and enjoy black characters as they are portrayed onscreen.

Do you believe that black characters are unfairly stereotyped in gaming? If so, could you give us some examples?