The recent accusations against Quantic Dream founder David Cage do not exist in a vacuum, nor without precedent. He wants to be judged by his work, and indeed if one looks critically at his games, a theme emerges. People of color are reduced to caricatures, invoke harmful stereotypes, and should remain at the margins, if they appear at all. Even if that means literally erasing them from settings where they predominate. This is not the cross-burning of the past or the anger-marching racism so en vogue these days, but the more deeply entrenched racism underlying all of our media institutions.
Diverse representations of black people in media has nothing to do with “political correctness”. It has little to do with fairness, either. This is not a zero-sum game by which black gain equals white loss. What it concerns, most significantly, is the acceptance of this proposal that Black Lives Matter. That Black People Matter. Black representations are a matter of survival. Of casting us as fully-realized human beings with thoughts, feelings, dreams, aspirations, complexity, agency — against a backdrop that explicitly shows and tells us (everyone) that the opposite is true.
Fear Effect is coming back. Have you heard? After the heartbreak of Inferno’s cancellation, and a 15 year wait with no new game in sight, French indie studio Sushee Games is creating Fear Effect: Sedna. Concerned about representations of Inuit peoples in the game, I decided to contact Sushee Games about how they would handle the use of Inuit aesthetic, cultural stories and history.
I have argued in the past that video games are the ultimate form of expression, and what is art if not expression? Indeed video games are a convergence of art from just about every medium – audio, visual, literary – and their social impact is ever-increasing. Ebert makes his statement by observing video footage of a few games offered up as art, already prepared to deny the possibility. Aside from the sheer fallacy of denying art as a form of expression, there is also the matter of his evaluation not being made from the proper standpoint.
In spite of the near unanimously European-inspired cast of characters, Dragon Age: Origins demonstrates inclusion of diverse experiences in ways that no game has ever done before. Bioware has again established themselves as a trailblazer in an industry that so far has shied away from challenging the status quo or tackling tough issues.
Those of us who are not white, but hope to identify with the characters we play in games the same as anyone, find the industry to be deficient. At best we have had to settle for ethnically ambiguous characters, often in non-Earth settings, which while fulfilling an aesthetic need still leave players wanting for a more substantial connection. When characters of non-European ethnicities are depicted in video games, it is true that they are often stereotypes.