I need to vent for a moment. I’m an avid consumer of mobile apps and games, specifically time killers that help my commute or waits at the dentist office go by faster. However, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend with games when it comes to characters of color.
The default character for most games is a white male and in order to play with a character that is Black and/or female you have to obtain some insane amount of points, special tokens (pun intended) or alien ore to do it.
The first offender was the popular “Temple Run.” The default character is a white man named Guy Dangerous. One Black character is Barry Bones described as “a city cop with an attitude” (really?) and in order to play as Bones you have to collect 10,000 coins. The other option is Zack Wonder, a football star (how original), who requires 25,000 coins to unlock.
There is nothing that differentiates these characters from Guy Dangerous other than their skin and clothes, so why do they cost so much to unlock? Or have to be unlocked at all?
The second offender is “Subway Surfers.” Again, your default character is the white kid named Jake, sporting a hoodie that Geraldo Rivera would have serious issues with (or maybe not). But if you are a player of color your options are Fresh (a Black kid with a boom box radio and a hi-top fade) Frizzy (a Black girl with an afro and hoop earrings) Prince K (a young brown-skinned kid in Arab garb) and Yutani (an Asian child in an Alien costume). Besides the insanely reductionist stereotypes used to name them, the price of entry to play with each is redamn-diculous.
Frizzy: 150,000 coins
Prince K: 980,000 coins
Fresh: 50 radio icons
Yutani: 500 flying saucer icons
To give you an idea of how long it takes to collect 50 radios, you might get one radio for every twenty times you play. It’s about as rare as a Jay Electronica verse. In the time it took me to collect 50 radios I’ve only gotten 42 of the 500 flying saucers, so your chances of playing with Yutani are as good as seeing the actual MF Doom come out at a show. And having to come up off a milli to play as a kid from the Middle East is some DJ Khaled influenced Bugatti-era bullsh*t.
Mind you, these games are kind of old and when I first noticed the trend I remembered the wise words of an old friend: “It takes three to establish a pattern.” So I sat on the idea of playing the conspiracy card until this most recent case.
While I was playing my latest download “Ramboat” I noticed once again that they had a black character to play with, but you had to unlock them after scoring a certain amount of points. Vincent was unlocked at level 6 and is armed with a ray gun, which is pretty cool. But the description made me want to throw my iPad: “His haircut makes him mad, be careful!”
Who are these clueless fucks programming these games from their mother’s basements? I don’t think these game makers have any Black friends, seriously. In their backwards thinking they probably feel that making these characters difficult to obtain makes them coveted or special, but they’re wrong. It just underscores the notion of people of color being these exotic collectibles reduced to their skin and hair for punchlines. I know that the world of gaming and apps isn’t “that serious” but I expect way more progress from an industry that revealed Samus from “Metroid” to actually be a woman at the end of the game way back in 1986. That was progressive ass shit. Almost 30 years later the systems we play on may be technologically advanced, but the ideas in the content are still stuck in the stone age.