Guess how many playable Black women characters there have been in gaming?

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.)

Meet Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, one of the few playable black women in video games

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.

3 thoughts on “Guess how many playable Black women characters there have been in gaming?

  1. I’m going to agree with you that the number is less. Based on the fact that most of these female characters are usually given the “tan treatment” because the game play is usually set outdoors. I stopped looking and started going toward the more design your own character games, like the sims.  I was fortunate enough that my dad who was a programmer use to create games for me and my siblings so we got a chance to see ourselves.

    1. Too bad your dad never marketed those games, a lot of kids could have used them! You being up diversity on any of the game boards and they tell you to get over it and then to fuck off if you don’t like it.

      1. He did actually but he got the usual spiel. I think the companies gave him a hard time because he inserted POC history and WOC characters into the games.  He ws very big on us learning our history so we can build on it.  I think he ended up selling two or three racing type games. But he started saving the other games for myself and my siblings.  We were the testers and he even started to teach us how to code, etc.  That is one skill, I am sorry I didn’t keep up with.

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