Videogames are a beacon of creativity. An intersection between art, sound, and personal imagination, games take us to painstakingly well realized worlds and scenarios. So what on earth is up with character design?
In 2014 we’ve reviewed 25 different games. By design we are trying to critique the games we’re interested in playing and talking about. Still, 5 of the 25 games we analyzed (20% of the games we covered) feature fit, handsome, generic, white dudes as their protagonist — and of course, a lot of the ones we didn’t take the time to write about have the same problem.
Have you lost your wife? Then you are probably a generic white male.
Are you on a quest for revenge? Then you are a probably a generic white male.
Get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time? You are probably a generic white male.
The problem here isn’t that having men as protagonists is bad, it’s that main characters —our heroes— are being designed arbitrarily. It should be obvious that the central character of a story is critical to telling a good narrative. That games have a de facto ‘look’ for player characters isn’t just stupid, it’s limiting.
It’s one thing to have players embody a silent protagonist, or shell, and quite another to try and create character fiction without drawing on this phenomenal tool called design. Imagine all the scenarios we could cook up by drawing upon all the small details that make a character tick. The Last of Us (2013) literally ties Joel’s entire character to a wrist-watch — just think what we could do with physique and heritage!
I’d like to do more than point at the problem and laugh, but hopefully (hopefully) we’ll see more normal looking guys like this one next year.