I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember, and there’s a good chance you too play video games of some sort.  Take a quick look at any video game forum and you’ll likely notice something: gamers are not segregated.  Sure, we may make fun of others if they claim Call of Duty to be the best game ever, but it’s really all in good fun.  So if there are no boundaries between gamers when it comes to ethnicity or gender, why then are so many games pushing the same old characters on us?

You all know the ones I’m talking about: steroid man, emotionless man, annoying guy who just wants to blow stuff up, generic hero white guy, obligatory tough leader black guy, female who does nothing but is stuck in there for the sake of saying they put a female in,  and need I say more?

See, I don’t understand how gamers expect anyone to take video games seriously with so many of the mainstream games made up of these characters.  I know there are deeper characters in gaming, but for the major players in the industry, the characters are very far behind.  More often I keep hearing developers say they can never have a female protagonist because it wouldn’t work, and instead they’ll throw in a random female character for no reason other than to say they listened to the complaints and put one in.  This is why I like how Ubisoft has an African American female protagonist in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation.  There’s so much rich history that has the possibility of being explored by creating a diverse character.

Likewise, if a modern era game had a diverse character that was a real person instead of a shoot-anything-that-moves character then maybe we would be able to play as a character that could show us a new way of thinking.  After all, I don’t think many people are full world travelers, so living in the US, I’d be interested in playing as a character from modern China or Middle-East.  While there are those who don’t want to admit or accept it, video games are a dominant form of media, and it seems logical to allow games to depict people in a real way.  This brings me to another main point: how mature are video games?

Yes, video games have a specific “mature” rating, but that does not mean they are mature in subject matter, at least not when it comes to characters.  Really, it mainly means the game will be violent, but how far does that go towards a mature story?  Not much at all.  Now, I don’t want to get rid of the rating, as I don’t ever want to see a little kid playing Grand Theft Auto or any other ultra-violent game, but obviously the ratings are not doing a great job of stopping that (i.e. just go online with Call of Duty and your ear will bleed with the shrieks of pre-teens cursing you out and saying they have done things to your mom even though they have only just been born a few years ago).  What I would like to see is two mature ratings: one for the ultra-violence and one for story.

This may not seem like a big deal, but I believe it will give gaming a new image.  Yes, a mature story can be told in a teen rated game, but for the sake of this I will focus on mature rated games.  If we look at the upcoming game, The Last of Us, it is obvious the game is violent.  However, there are glimpses of character interaction that look to touch on an emotional level.  The same can be said for Bioshock: Infinite.  I cannot really blame the public for looking down on these games for promoting violence, after all, the previews shown have all included a ton of killing.  Even the boxart of Bioshock: Infinite has the main character holding a gun (I believe The Last of Us has a similar cover).  Why not put a picture of the main character with the main side character?  The story revolves around the side character, but yet she might as well not exist in the majority of recent previews.  I appreciate she will be the focus, but so far they’re trying hard not to focus on her (which is odd since in the beginning they showed her off like there was no tomorrow, and now nothing).

Could this be due to an immature market?  I don’t think so.  Sure there will be those who want to play violent games all the time, and I have to problem with that.  They’re often easily accessible, and to be honest, dominating in Call of Duty or Halo online can be great fun.  But why try to trick these players into buying a game that is not something they would be interested in?  Or even worse, change the direction of a series to appeal to a wider audience, and in turn alienate the original audience.  Resident Evil has done this to no end, Silent Hill is kind of doing this, and Dead Space is making it painfully obvious.  There’s a reason these games made it to where they are, and that is the original fanbase.  Enough people must have originally bought the game for the series to take off, so why ignore them down the line?

See, gamers can come together from all around the world and play games.  The internet has made this substantially easier, but game companies are making it more difficult.  Developers are far too often scared to make a character that isn’t a white macho man.  Well, as a white male, I have grown painfully tired of that character.  Perhaps that is why Mass Effect was so well liked.  The characters were diverse and all served a point.  When a character died I cared about it, and that has a lot to do with how they developed and their back story.  If a fictional character can create a connection with the player, why can’t a fictional character based on modern people from around the world be depicted in a realistic way?

I don’t think video games can be taken seriously until they deliver mature stories with realistic and diverse characters.  This obviously cannot be done in a war game, as we have seen nothing but stereotypes in every modern war game.  Perhaps a survival game with people from around the world having to come together after coming to terms with prior prejudices and ultimately discovering how, when spending time together, we are all just people.  That is the game I want to play.  I think that is the game to change how people look at video games as an entertainment medium as well as a social commentary tool.  One day I hope this game exists, but with the current trend of brainless macho men, I sadly do not see this coming for a long time.