I think it’s no secret that the state of diversity in video games is even worse than that of movies these days. Game designers are overwhelmingly white males and, no surprise, they design large numbers of white male characters. Woe to anyone who points this out, the white males will turn out in droves to defend their turf and their right exclude anyone who isn’t a white male. Ask Anita Sarkeesian who reviews video games from a feminist perspective about it, she has received rape threats for speaking the truth. Look up #gamergate if you don’t believe me. (Fair warning if you look up #gamergate, you will need a shower and stiff drink afterwards. Those dudes are damaged goods.)
So knowing about all this, I was still surprised that the Houston Press could count only 14 playable black women characters in all of video gaming, since the start of video gaming. (This excludes games where you can design your character and choose their skin color like the old Tony Hawk skateboarding games, and it also exclude games like X-Men that are licensed from other properties.) The Houston Press kinda had to fudge the number a bit to get it that high by including a couple of characters whose ethnicity is a bit questionable, like one character who generally considered black in gamer circles but belongs to an alien race. Of the 14 on the list, three of the characters are killed in the end by the white hero. I see no problems there, do you?
The comments on the article point out a few more playable black women, but the numbers are still dinky even when you add in those new names. Of course a lot of commentators take the author to task for their criteria, but I think the author has a point. If you are not a white dude, playing character who actually looks like you is pretty rare. This probably due to the fact that white dudes dominate game design. Only 18% of software engineers are women and despite how engineers like to think of our profession as a meritocracy, there are real barriers to WOC. Full disclosure, I am a female software engineer with nearly 30 years in high tech, and I have only worked with one black woman in that whole time. Until we have more WOC game designers this in equality will continue.