An End to the Standard
To start off this article, I want to speak to my friends who have played a video game, play them regularly or have even played them heavily in the past and now stopped. To you dear reader, I have a question that I feel needs to be asked and you will likely struggle to answer for me.
What’s that video game, you know, the one with the straight white male protagonist with dark hair, the one where he goes on some sort of personal quest to either save the world/his family or seek vengeance on someone who has wronged him or those close to him in recent/early history?
Was it the Gears of War series? Where straight white male protagonist Marcus Phoenix journeys forth on a personal quest to defeat the Locust Horde, save his father and the planet of Sera?
Or perhaps it was GTA 5? Where Michael De Santa reluctantly returns to a life of crime in order to provide for his family and heroically races home in a later mission to save his wife and daughter from thugs sent to kill them on the orders of another powerful straight white male?
You know what; maybe it’s neither of those. Perhaps it’s Uncharted, Splinter Cell, Call of Duty, Alan Wake, Heavy Rain, Max Payne or the Mass Effect series. All fit this common trend.
For how often we hear developers talk about “pushing the envelope” and bringing forth a bold new vision of “cinematic gaming”, it doesn’t seem like they’re living up to their promises.
Hollywood has gotten more diverse in recent years and so too should the types of characters given central status in video games. As audiences have changed for films, so too have they for games published by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA Games and every other developer around.
According to a 2014 study of interactive entertainment consumers, the average age of a person who plays video games is thirty one. In addition, the study also notes that 48% of those who play video games are female. In spite of this mixed market, we continue to see character trends skewing towards those portrayed in the featured image on this blog post I published.
Quite frankly, this makes me sad. By sticking to the same tired trends, developers are failing their obligation to provide great entertainment to consumers. When things become diverse, it’s reflected in the fact that media ends up telling better stories than those depicted in the past.
Want an example of this, look to the television shows Lost and Gilligan’s Island. One had clichéd and primarily white American characters anchoring episode after episode and was eventually cancelled, the other featured individuals from Australia, Korea, Iraq and Nigeria and managed to last for 6 seasons before eventually drawing to a close with a polarizing finale.
Bottom line is the trends in the industry have to change for the good of the art. Show me stories that chronicle women, gay men, Muslims, Mormons, deeply conservative people and even Satanists and I will show you a medium that will finally manage to win over its deepest critics.