Friday, May 27, 2011

People of Colour and Video Games

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

I’m probably going to get hell for this post, mostly because I know a lot of my own friends are sick and tired of hearing me bounce up and down talking about video games. It may not be so obvious when one first meets/reads me, but I am a pretty good gamer.

Another thing I am just as equally good at is pointing out the POC characters in a game series or stand alone. So one of the things I love about most modern gaming, is that POC’s are taking the rise. They play supportive, constant roles, or they are actually the headlining person. I got into the gaming mood recently because of the release of L.A Noire and pre-ordering like mad some games coming up in the Fall. Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorites.

Michelle and Julia Chang – When I first got Playstation, Michelle Chang was always my first choice in the arcade fighting game Tekken. She’s half Native American, and half Chinese. She had a few outfits to choose from, and to me the best combos to remember. Her adopted daughter, Julia (who is assumed a full blood Native American), makes an appearance in Tekken 6, decked out in braids and boots to curb stomp. She is an archaeologist, and specifically of tribal lands.

King – Again another Tekken character, King was most memorable for his jaguar head mask. He’s a chicano that specializes in wrestling, and my Dad often picked him to play. His combos always landed a heavy health hit, and getting a K.O in 10 seconds flat was probably something awesome. Many of his outfits are flashy and reminiscent of Mexican wrestling style.

Christie Monteiro – Okay, last Tekken character, I swear! She’s a Brazilian jujitsu artist and is best at Capoeira. Her combos are sick, and headstands are deadly. She fights barefoot, like a genuine Portagee. Her story was especially touching because her grandfather, a capoeira master, falls ill, and thus entered into the Tekken realm, even being pitted against her male counterpart, Black Brazilian Eddy Gordo. And I must say, his character render looks oh-so-fine in the Brazilian flag colors. Mmm-mmm.

Sheva Alomar – From the pretty much all-white cast of characters in Resident Evil franchise, it was nice to see a POC female take the lead. Playable character Sheva is a West African from the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) created Post-Umbrella Corporation’s huge Zombie fallout in Raccoon City. Her family was subject to experimentation going on in India mentioned in the movie Resident Evil: Degeneration, and that’s what pushed her to work against bioterrorism and ultimately stopping zombies. Her voice actor is Black American actress, Karen Dyer. What I liked about the game was it discussed the effects of colonization via corporations, specifically pharmaceuticals and it’s parallel to incidents like the Tuskegee experimentation, and the exploitation of POCs.

Anaya – Only as a supporting character, Anaya made a one-shit appearance in the Tomb Raider series in Tomb Raider: Legend. What made me fall in love with her is that she is Black, South American, and clearly, there is some sort of lesbian subtext going on in that cutscene provided. Of course, I like many fans run under the suspicion that Lara Croft is a lesbian, and if her and Anaya had a thing, sooo much better.

Zip – Zip actually made his first appearance in the Tomb Raider franchise in Tomb Raider: Chronicles, during the mission of breaking into Werner Von Croy’s super deluxe building. He talks over the headset, and provided some snarky commentary. He shows up again in Tomb Raider: Legend, and continued into Underworld. Many remember his voice actor (Alex Désert) as Jake Malinak, the Black blind man from the show Becker. 

Liu Kang – is a Shaolin monk from Mortal Kombat fame, he was portrayed in the movie version by Robin Shou. His classic AB kick combo that sent him flying halfway across the screen was intensely memorable, and the bane to much of my cousins’ existence whenever we played against eachother.

Altaïr/Ezio/Desmond Miles – Probably the biggest game to hit the next generation systems in 2007 was Assassin’s Creed. This blew everyone, especially gamers, away. Many are quick to forget that Altaïr from the first game, is actually a Muslim Middle-Easterner from Syria. His full name is Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, or in Arabic الطائر بن لا أحد. His voice actor is also a POC, Philip Shahbaz, who is of Arab-Iranian descent. His descendant, Ezio Auditori da Firenze, is an Italian Renaissance man who ends up entangled with the Borgias. Desmond Miles is the headlining body of this game, since it is his ancestors who you are playing as. Some who are not familiar with the game, it centers on the idea that one can relive blood-memories of ancestors. Demond is special, since his family has a long line of people from the order of Assassins. The goal is to save the world, and by any means necessary. The big deal about Assassin’s Creed is that it makes POC’s up front and center. We are the ones protecting people, and kicking ass and taking names. From some leaks about the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (the fourth game in the console series), we’ll be seeing more POCs such as Altair yet again, Prince Suleiman, and Yusuf Tazim who is another Master Assassin living in Constantinople. I should also note that it is one of the few games to openly address homosexuality, with Leonardo DaVinci. The second most important thing is that Ubisoft Montreal (who makes the AC games) has tons and tons of people of color working in various departments of the games’ development. From the art, graphics, technical detail, storyboarding, marketing, score making, and voice acting, POCs are part of the creation that is representing us.

Like paranormal/sci-fi books we discuss, and like superheroes, video games are also an essential media in both child and adult lives. I have been so far fairly impressed with what has come out in my younger lifetime, and the further awesomeness of what’s coming out as an adult. Hopefully, it’ll only get better.