We’ve seen most of the video games we’ll be playing in 2014 and beyond, and saving the world is still largely the domain of white males. There’s never been a good excuse for this, but publishers can no longer say they’re merely playing to the audience. There are millions of female gamers, and that part of the audience is growing constantly.
Crazy thing is that Ubisoft, who actually thought to include Aisha Tyler as its event host, is taking the most flak for its games right now. After revealing a new Assassin’s Creed Unity with potentially four protagonists, questions arose about making at least one female. Ubisoft’s response was that it would have taken too much work. Pretty much nobody is buying that explanation. More likely, nobody at Ubisoft realized this was something people would care about. Trying to throw something together now would slow the process down. Had anyone considered including a female character at the beginning, it would have been much easier to do.
Most of the presenters at the press events are designers or company executives, and the majority of people in these positions are still white males. Thus, it’s not shocking that the heroes they create often fall into the same category. But the audience is only growing more diverse, and they’re not going to keep accepting “we didn’t get around to it” as a valid explanation.
Sony’s recent hit Infamous: Second Son is a great example of how to handle this. Delsin Rowe is Native American, but it’s not his only defining characteristic. As with previous Infamous games, much of his story is up to the player to write. Somewhere along the way, somebody decided to make Rowe’s background different from 99 percent of the heroes in games. From the game footage we’ve seen this week, he won’t have a whole lot of company in 2014.