Escapism has been something that people have used in order to remove themselves from the harsh reality of the world. However, that hasn’t been the case for people of color. For me, video games have always been a way to leave all of the stress and bulls**t from my day to day. It’s just something so comforting about being able to hop on the console and be someone else, be somewhere else, even if it’s just for an hour. But, like with everything that holds some sort of economic profit, it holds a racist underbelly that most people ignore. Especially those who benefit from the representation that they hold a monopoly over.
With worldwide Video Game Day occurring last week, it’s a reminder about how big of an industry video gaming is. The video game industry has expanded over the past several years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, grossing an estimated revenue of $200 billion from 2015 to 2022. This number has only been increasing with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s crazy thinking how video games as an industry outclasses every other entertainment industry as a whole. A more interesting question is who’s the largest demographic of consumers that power this industry?
In 2015 there was a study that attempted to find out who was the largest demographic of people who purchase video games. The study showed that on average, 83% of Black teens and 69% Hispanic teens play video games, which completely eclipses the 71% of white teens. You would think that with these numbers video game developers would have a history of inclusivity and good representation in their video games right? Well I’m here to tell you to be disappointed.
Historically, video games have always been a white dominated field, especially in terms of representation. Many of my childhood moments playing video games, the heroes that I would typically play as would white men. What makes it even worse looking back on it was that outside of the white characters that would be in abundance, most (if not all) of the other characters were aliens. So you’re gonna look me in the eye and tell me that a white person can exist in some sort of dystopian video game world but people of color can’t? This delusional behavior from video game developers has occurred for some time now.
Most of the imagery that I and many other people of color got in video games were sports games like FIFA, 2K, and GTA. So aliens and all kinds of fictional creatures can exist alongside white characters in science fiction games and have deep and multifaceted storylines, but all black and brown people amount to are athletes and robbers?
Now I’m not saying that the games aren’t enjoyable, cause I play them. However, sometimes people just wanna see a Black mage or wizard, or a Black main character that actually looks black. H*ll, Spider-Man on the PS4, one of my all time favorite games, had Miles Morales looking like he was in serious need of a haircut. They fixed it in the second game starring Miles but the point stands. Now I wish other video game companies would follow by example.
Why do we have to nag and pester video game companies to have more and better representation of people of color in video games? Especially since people of color are their primary consumer. Without us the franchises that make them so much money wouldn’t be able to be as popular as they are.
You would think in a fictional world that it wouldn’t just be white people doing the saving. But, like many other things, they seem to constantly be painted as the main character to everything. While there are developers that are finally adding black characters into video games that actually give good representation, we still have a long way to go.