Update: After posting the article I received some great feedback as well as links to videos showcasing many of us who work in the industry and internet personalities. Be sure to check them out!
As the work week comes to a close and we reflect back on yet another successful E3, the question must be asked…Where were all the Black people? When we talk about diversity in gaming the conversation usually hovers around the inclusion and treatment of women, which isn’t a bad thing. You’ll never hear me complain about women playing games, reporting on games, or even making games. I still don’t understand why people try to keep women out of games, but that’s an article for another time. Today we are talking about the absence of people of color from the E3 experience. This year I decided to keep count of how many Black people I saw in front of my web browser during E3 2015. Here’s what I found.
Black Characters Making Strides
In terms of Black characters in video games we are making some progress. The first Black face in a video game appeared during the Fallout 4 gaming demo. During the create-a-player segment the team actually created a person of color, however the player reverted back to the default character before the game began. I wish they would’ve stuck with the Black character–but I guess that would’ve required more strength. Seeing that they put most of the stat points in luck, I guess it simply wasn’t in the cards. This would be the only Black digital face we would see for the night.
Microsoft kicked off the first official day of E3 and their conference started off with Halo 5: Guardians. For those that don’t know, a Black character plays the lead role in this game. Lieutenant Commander Jameson Locke is the head of the Spartan team in search of Master Chief. This is big news–a Black character will be a lead in one of the largest franchises in the gaming industry.
We also found lead characters in The Division, Mirror’s Edge 2, Fable Legends and NPC characters in Fallout 4 and Sea of Thieves.
In terms of digital presence, the inclusion of Black characters is growing. We are leads in popular franchises and becoming more visible in the gaming universe.
Black People Are still absent on camera
While we are making strides on the digital front, we still have a long way to go with regards to being in front of the camera. With both a Twitch and YouTube feed running, I only saw one Black person speak with an on air personality and that was Richard Taylor, the Senior VP of the ESA. I did not see any Black faces reviewing the press conferences with Geoff Keighley or any of the people on the Twitch broadcast. When it comes to on air personalities We are nonexistent.
The HoopGawd Incident
What I saw take place on screen was borderline disgusting. During the NBA Live segment of EA’s press conference the presenter brings a Black male on stage. Known solely as the ‘Hoop Gawd’ this young man demonstrates the new facial technology used in the upcoming NBA Live game. The Hoop Gawd has no script, he just yells out the typical “urban” phrases that you would see on television. At one point he falls deep into the typical stereotypes uttering phrases like “oh snap that’s me” after scanning his face with the NBA Live camera app…as if this is his the first time understanding how a camera works. Then before the segment is wrapped up he does some silly ass pose and yells out something “urban”, all before being told “get out of here” by the presenter.
As I type it I still can’t believe it. We all watched one of the biggest publishers try to pander to our community using the lowest common denominator. It felt as though the Hoop Gawd was randomly selected off the floor and asked if he wanted to be on stage for a quick second so that Black people could remember NBA Live is still cool. When his segment was over the presenter abruptly dismissed him by saying “get out of here” as if he were some sort of animal. If there was any indication how far we have to go in terms of Us having a place at the table, this was it. I was and still am disappointed at what I saw on screen. I think this picture sums it up.
Pelé and Aisha Tyler
Thankfully some of my faith was restored after The Hoop Gawd incident. There was a segment that gave props to Pelé, but it fell on deaf ears as the interview went on for far too long and by the time Pelé hit the stage the crowd was tired of looking at sports games.
This leads us to Aisha Tyler…my lamb, my beacon of hope in the game industry. For the second year in a row Aisha Tyler continues to hold it down for Black gamers. She is our Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X wrapped into one tall package. She is the best representation of the multifaceted aspects of Black culture. She is knowledgeable of the industry, has great stage presence, and will carry an interview if need be. I love watching her present because I can relate to her. She looks and sounds like the people I communicate with on a daily basis. Aisha is proof that We belong not only in games but in front of the camera as well. We just need the opportunity.
E3 has come and gone and as we look forward to the games announced this year I offer a challenge to my fellow Black gamers. Just as women have raised their voices for more equality and a seat at the table, so should we. This year I was pleasantly surprised at the number of women on stage, speaking in front of the camera and holding down event coverage. Their collective voices did not go unheard. It is time for Our voices to be heard as well. Let’s make E3 2016 the year Our collective voices are heard!