(Guest Post) The Console Color Barrier
**Our Guest Blog today comes from Charles Moody, a good friend of mine and the author/creator of The Grey Backpack, a very dope gaming and entertainment blog. Check it out and read his post on Black lead characters in video games. Enjoy**
If I were to ask you how many video games feature a black character as the lead, how many would you name?
The fact that you may struggle to answer this question will shed light on a problem within the gaming industry. For all the billions of dollars that the industry makes each year, it still struggles with race and how to integrate race into games. I’ve had people within the industry tell me that part of the problem is marketing; publishers have no idea how to market a game with minorities as the lead. Another issue is the makeup of the development team. The next time you are playing a game, check out the development team and see how many are African-American. Chances are, you won’t make it off your left hand.
With all these issues you would think that a game featuring a mature, black character would equate to the election of Obama. You see, the last time we got a black lead, Rockstar gave us CJ from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2004. Hardly a character we would place in the pantheon of black entertainers, but we made due. This past year, however, the most important game in the gaming industry was released, The Walking Dead. Developed by Tell Tale Games, The Walking Dead was an episodic adventure game that was available on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace. Winner of multiple Game of The Year (GOTY) awards, including GOTY for Spike TV’s Video Game Awards (VGAs). The Walking Dead has also received positive reviews from popular websites like Giant Bomb (5/5 stars) and IGN (9.3/10). The game’s current Metacritic score is 95/100.
The greatest and most overlooked aspect about the game was the lead character, Lee Everett. A former UGA professor, Lee was the moral compass and leader of a small band of survivors. Each episode, you are charged with the task of deciding who survives and who meets a gruesome fate. You must also take care of young girl, Clementine, who is abandoned in the ﬁrst episode. Tell Tale made sure that the character, like those in the Walking Dead, are fully developed. Lee has his own ﬂaws, including his past, however, it is these ﬂaws that build a solid character. Lee feels real, like a person you might know in real life. Unlike the stereotypical characters that we must accept, Lee is gaming’s equivalent of Sidney Portier.
So here we are in 2013 with a monumental occasion that happened as the year closed. Tell Tale Games proved that a game can be successful and achieve critical acclaim with a black character at the helm. Yet, this story was downplayed by the gaming press. No matter how far we have come there are still hurdles that must be overcome. Lee Everett has cemented his place in gaming history and will go down as an unsung hero in the movement for more minorities in games. When we get our gaming equivalent of Denzel we can look back at Lee Everett and Tell Tale Games as the shining example that black characters can carry video games to success.