The History of Black Video Game Characters | NowThis Nerd

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In honor of Black History Month, Unchenna explores the complex history of Black and African-American characters in videogames.
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For Black History Month 2019, we wanted to explore the evolution of Black characters in video games, from the earliest days of the medium to modern heroes in Assassins Creed, Watch Dogs, Mafia 3, Uncharted, Far Cry: New Dawn, Apex Legends, and more. When it comes to Black videogame characters, we’ve come a long way since the early days of Black history in games, when Black gamers and Black nerds had few icons of their own to look up to. Black videogames were few and far between in the early days, and for a Black nerd hoping to see themselves represented, African American and Black characters in video games were mostly limited to sports titles and stereotypes.

Things are slowly changing as the social justice movement has made great strides in movies, comics, and other fields in 2019. But Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo still have a long way to go when it comes to equality, and no, Punchout isn’t going to cut it. Games need more Black characters, and Black gamer icons like Sonicfox and Reggie Fils-Aime, but more importantly, the entire industry needs to step up and hire more Black video game developers from the top down. Throughout the history of gaming, Black gamers and Black characters have existed on the periphery for far too long, and now that race is at the forefront of our cultural consciousness, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge the contributions that Black and African American gamers have made to the art form.

#blackhistorymonth #videogames #gaming #games #blacknerds #reggie

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for watching, nerds! Who are your favorite Black and African-American game characters throughout the years? Let us know!

  2. No love for my boy Cyrus from Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard? Come on, he was like the first black protagonist in video games.

  3. I’m surprised Lenny from rdr2 wasn’t mentioned, even though he is a side character he captures an important time in African American history by being the son of a former slave in the first few decades after emancipation and being on the run because of his skin

  4. In The Last of Us, Marlene the leader of the Fireflies and Riley, Ellie's friend were notable black characters.

  5. Maybe if more black people got into game development, probably through the indi scene mainly to have more leeway to make the games they wanna make, then we'd see more main black characters in games.

  6. Watching this again because of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Still disappointed with Barrett, but Rude was cool. Streets of Rage 4's best character is a black girl with an electric guitar, but it's still disappointing when I play online and most people are still only picking the white guy when the majority of the cast isn't.

  7. Thank you for this vid! I always loved Lt. Duran from Starcraft BW. He was the second black character I had ever seen in a video game. The first was Barrett. My white friends didn't understand why I didn't like Barrett and at the time I'm not sure I understood either ("But he's a good dad lol", they would say). Something about him being the typical big, dumb, emotionally immature black guy vs awesome Cloud who gets all the girls. But Duran wasn't like that. He was portrayed as intelligent, confident, capable, and he had his own plans going on. Although it turns out that he is a villain, the SC narrative is morally grey, and for me at that time, it was just enough to see someone who was black and cool enough to want to be like. It's not about making black characters always good, it's about making them dynamic and present. And that goes for all people.

  8. Apart from the fact there’s more to Black people and culture than North America and HipHop. I agree. I was looking for the term “African descent” or “African Diaspora”. And about the lack of Hispanic representation, that isn’t Black North Americans, Africans, or AfroLatino peoples fault. Blacks have lead the way in terms of representation for people of color, in-spite of barely being able to survive their own systemic lack of representation & equal opportunity. How can you save others when you can barely save yourself. Also Hispanic is not a race so I’m guessing you mean ”mestizo”. Black people are Hispanic and they are Latino. So if you want to complain about the lack of Hispanic representation, you need to know what being Hispanic actually is. The people that are represented even less than Black North Americans are Afro Latinos, Black Hispanics & other members of the African diaspora. Not all Hispanics are freakin “brown” or White. Lastly, Japan (South Korea after the Korean War) was heavily reconstructed by the United States after WW2, which aided its game/animation industry. African countries never got any of this reconstruction from the US or European nations, that exploited them during colonization & continue to. All they got was assassinations, spies, sabotage, of infrastructure and the CIA.

  9. Oh my God! I remember Edgar Quartet! That was the first Black action character I played on the Sega Master System at my friend's house when I was a child! I was so excited to play as him because of how innovative it was back then in 1986 and it was my first time seeing a character that looked just like me.

  10. You are right black skin do requires careful lighting effect to glorify the beauty of a black skin. As an adult gamer being able to play as a hot sweaty black girl is all I hope for. Saint Raw 3 and 4 came very close at that.

  11. Though not playable, the 70 plus man who knows what the ladies like will always be my favorit. Rest in peace Sargent Johnson.

  12. Why is this also inclusive to only African Americans?, your not special compared to the black people worldwide, you just complain more about it instead of doing something about it.
    That's what set African Americans apart from the Africans worldwide.

  13. look at for honor. the writer of for honor is a chinese woman. they make new characters every like few months to a year, characters that are "warriors" of the past. not one african warrior character yet an there are so many african warriors in the past.

  14. Am i the only one who also feels it sucks they give certain characters dreads, with tribal origins in jungle settings and they make them white?? Cough cough horizon zero dawn.

  15. My only complain is about black people working in the industry:

    You give the damn job to the people who qualifies, no matter the gender, race, religion or anything, if that means that they all have to white, black or asian, so be it. Otherwise you are being racist.

  16. Actually DJ Pooh wrote for San Andreas & GTA online as well. I don't know why you wouldn't give credit to a black man. Motown Games was a black videogame company so they wasn't "cashing in on hip hop" with Rap Jam Vol. 1. Shadowman wasn't obscure when his games were release, his comics were kinda popular at that time…….which is why they made games based on him.

    Akuji was a good game with an all black character cast voiced by black people and you hating on that, wtf?! There is nothing wrong with Urban Chaos "D'arci." I guess if it was spell the white way, you'll like it better? Sigh you have problems with these other games being stereotypical yet praise San Andreas even tho that game is just some stupid ghetto hot mess like the movies that inspired it! Doomfist ain't even stereotype, he is far from it. This video is good but there is alot of false things in it.

  17. The pokemon series has done a much better job being more inclusive for ALL people.

    I think we have to be careful about specifically talking about certain representation in videogames rather than just more in general.

    I mean, take another demographic in videogames, women. They are very much in the same boat as POC when it comes to representation and how they are portrayed.

    Anyway, this was a good video.

  18. Not to be racist or anything but most if not all of these characters were made by white video game developers.

    If black people want representation in games, then its time for us to be making them and not waiting for other people to do it for us.

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