MTV Looks at the Role of Race in Video Games

Tracey John of MTV Multiplayer is running a weeklong special report, Black Professionals in Games, which features in-depth interviews on the role of race in games and the game business.

The first installment featured Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal (left) who offered his view on why there aren’t more black game designers:

A lot of black students go to college with a different mission in mind… It’s very pre-professional. It’s pre-law, it’s pre-med… things like that… given the racial history of [the U.S.], given the fact that we approach parity in terms of income, there’s still an asset disparity…

So my point is that if there’s an asset disparity… then it’s going to be hard for your family to support you in a profession that doesn’t pay well, assuming the [low paid] entry-level position we’re talking about is [game] testing…

…in terms of the enthusiast press, there’s probably also some invisibility there… It’s like just knowing it’s Spike Lee… starred in his own movies… For me as a 16 year-old, that was really powerful… I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from black students in high school and college who’ve written me and said that it was inspiring to them — to see my photo on the blog and read my stuff.

Croal also considered whether diversity is important to the game biz: 

We don’t yet know how important diversity is in the games industry because the industry is not as diverse as it could be… I know from my own experience video games are a powerful draw in [black] communities…

You say to yourself, if more black people had access to the means of production in video games… what would you see? Other people could share their stories and their experiences… there’s so much more that games could be…

As to the depiction of black characters in games, Croal said:

It’s been largely stereotypical portrayals but video games tend to be very much about stereotypes… there was some criticism, which I think was fair, of “Gears of War” for its portrayal of Cole Train… people don’t realize how colonized their minds are by stereotypes.

I don’t think “Def Jam Vendetta” is a bad thing; I don’t think featuring rappers in games is a bad thing. I liked the portrayal in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”…

In the second installment, developer Morgan Gray of Crystal Dynamics discusses Gears of War and Cole Train:

Cole Train on his own, no harm no foul. But what is Cole Train? …basically like every other effin’ black character in a video game. Like here comes the urban stereotype…

There’s not a lot of black folks in games. I used to joke that I can’t wait to go to E3 and see all five of them and hang out… I think when people think of games they think of Japanese cats, they think of white cats. They just assume…

I am sick of playing the average white dude character. I’m just done with it. And I’m sick of playing a black stereotype… the fear is that if the industry is dominated by white cats, then the characterization is going to be extremely shallow and extremely one-dimensional…

Gray also dished on the portrayal of black characters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and last year’s controversy over Resident Evil 5.

I’m not saying Rockstar is a bunch of racist evil dudes, but… when it comes to [GTA] “San Andreas,” …it was so close to their perception of the real world [racial stereotype] instead of knowing it was pure playland. So that’s where that game kind of scares me a little bit because this is doing more harm than good…

[Resident Evil 5 is ] absolutely not racist. Zombies in Haiti? Hmm. I think they’re gonna be brown… where was the outcry for the poor Spanish villagers in “Resident Evil 4“?  …I don’t really see it on this one. I think Cole Train bothers me more. [laughs]…

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply