Black Heroes of Gaming: David Anderson

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February is Black History Month, and to celebrate GamerTell is looking back at gaming’s most memorable Black characters. These heroes are a part of our pop culture fabric, and there is growing ethnic diversity among them. Next up is David Anderson, who helps humanity earn its place in the galaxy in Mass Effect.

Anderson isn’t the lead character in EA’s universe-spanning saga, but his exploits pave the way for Commander Shepard.  He was the first graduate of the N7 marine program, and a veteran of the First Contact War against the Turians.  He is the first captain of the SSV Normandy. Anderson would have been the first human inducted into the Spectres, the Citadel Council’s elite agents. But the Turian Spectre Saren betrayed Anderson as part of his alliance with the Reapers. The veteran serves as mentor to Shepard, because he knows there is far more at stake than his own career.

As Mass Effect starts, the Citadel Council refuses to believe Saren has gone rogue. Only Anderson and Shepard are aware things aren’t right. The Council forces Anderson out of the investigation because of his past history with Saren. He agrees Shepard should helm the Normandy and get to the bottom of things. The war hero steps down and hands over the Normandy after Shepard becomes humanity’s first Spectre. He remains on the Citadel to help the war effort, and one of the choices players can eventually make is appointing Anderson to the Citadel Council. If not appointed to the Council, he rises to the rank of admiral.

Mass Effect was a unique experiment with choices your character makes in the first game carrying over to other installments. In a game about maintaining relationships, the Anderson-Shepard dynamic is among the game’s most important. Even in Mass Effect 2 when your character works with shadowy organization Cerebus, Anderson trusts you to do the right thing. He also warns you to watch your back in dealing with Cerebus’ leader, The Illusive Man. Anderson is always right in these games, I swear. It doesn’t hurt that Anderson’s voice is that of actor Keith “Accelerate Your Life in the Navy” David. When he’s giving the commands, who wouldn’t follow?

David Anderson plays whatever role he must to end the Reaper threat. He’s a fall guy for a bad mission, a reluctant diplomat and finally, a soldier again when the aliens attack Earth. During this game trilogy he loses his wife to divorce, his Spectre career to treachery and is afraid he’s lost the war against the Reapers. The one thing he never loses is his belief that people of all races, Black or White, Human or Turian, can handle any threat by working together.

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