Top 20 Black Characters in Gaming (Numbers 20-11)
With 2009 blazing by we are right in the middle of an important month for Black people, Black History Month. With all the changes that have come, and the many more to go, TrueGameHeadz, in conjunction with our brother blog over at BET, have decided to take a look at the state of the gaming industry, and see how black characters are being represented in games by putting together a list of the Top 20 Black Characters in Gaming.
Not too long ago, we wouldn’t have been able to make it to 20 characters, but I’m happy to say that I’ve actually had to leave some characters off the list. Before we get started, here’s the criteria I used to make this list:
1. You cannot be a representation of a real person, so no Michael Jackson in Moonwalker, or real life athletes like Tiger Woods.
2. The character needs to have a meaningful role in the game, and not just a cameo.
3. I’ve generally left out 2D characters from the 8, 16, 32 and 64-bit generations and focused more on the most recent iterations of games.
That’s it, feel free to debate and argue about who should or shouldn’t be on the as we reveal each of the Top 10 over the course of the next few weeks of February.
#20 Sgt. Major Avery Johnson of the Halo series
We gotta give props to the team at Bungie for not only showing the brothers some love in their game, but also giving him an important role. Showing he’s not just all talk, we get to see the Sgt. in many areas of combat throughout the trilogy and he even became the focus of the special ending to Halo1 (I won’t spoil it here, but you can look it up.)
Throughout the series you get to see that the Sgt. cares deeply about the cause and will be the first in line when its time to fight. Overall Sgt. Johnson portrays a well rounded character who could’ve easily been overlooked and made into a caricature. Big props to him for making our list.
#19 Alyx Vance of the Half-Life series
Not only is Alyx of African American descent, she’s also bi-racial, and if you haven’t noticed a woman. Valve Software just went down the line on this one ticking off the boxes. Some fans of the series may argue for her father’s inclusion on this list, but we have to say that she’s one tough cookie and just as smart. Alyx rises to prominence in the two expansions to the Half-Life 2 game, and that is where you really get to see her shine. She hacks doors, finds solutions to problems, and is quite the marksman with the ooo op. (lol)
She’s definitely worth getting to know and this is why she’s made our list. We’re still waiting for a possible side story where she’s the main protagonist. If you haven’t checked out the Half-Life Series there’s no excuse, just cop the Orange Box for XBOX360 & PS3 in which you get the entire HL2 series for only $40.
#18 Augustus Cole of the Gears of War series
Many people may not like the “Cole Train”, thinking that he comes off as a stereo typical reflection of what a black person is. But to those people I say, “I think Epic got it right.” The Gears of War series isn’t about a bunch of “normal” lawyer and doctor dudes. It’s about these rough and tumble behemoths that take on an alien race.
Not only that they reference that Augustus is a former “Thrashball” i.e. Football star. Not sure how many former football players you’ve come across, but they can be boastful! We should be happy for his inclusion in this title, and he is really a part of the team. The world is filled with minorities, so should the future of video games.
Now many will argue that Cole or a black character should be the lead of a hit game like Gears of War. I can argue that point both ways, but lets see who else makes our Top 20 and we can have a summation then.If you haven’t seen the “Cole Train” in action, definitely check out the Gears of War series on the XBOX360.
#17 Louis from Left 4 Dead
This character made the list as our first “playable” character. This game is fairly new but it is oh so good. What we like about Valve’s latest game is that it is multiplayer at heart. Four protagonists trapped in a Zombie movie scenario that forces them to work together to fight their way out.
Not long ago this group would be made up of zany skaters, rock punks, caucasian military or suburban dads. Valve showing their flexibility chose a Biker, and old militant guy, a female, and our boy Louis who happens to be a systems analyst in an IT company. He’s the only one in “dress clothes”.
Valve could’ve easily went with the “stereotypical” black dude, in jeans, timbs, and a hoodie, or even an “Athlete”, but here’s a regular 9 - 5 white collar black guy trying to stay alive. It’s those “staying alive” moments that make Louis a likable character. Because he doesn’t act a fool in these circumstances, he says and reacts like we all know we would. if you haven’t checked out Left4Dead with a bunch of your friends, you are missing out. Available for the XBOX360 and PC.
#16 Zack of the Dead or Alive series
This cat Zack… what can we say about this guy? He went from a pretty Non-descript dude in the first version of DOA on the Sega Saturn, to an outlandish punk-rock emo typ guy in DOA2. That’s where the connection to the at the time all over the news Dennis Rodman comparisons came about. Not to be outdone, famous (former) Tecmo developer Tomonobu Itagaki, decided to fully convert this Zack guy to a Dennis Rodman clone.
But the real reason Zack is on this list is after the 3rd Dead or Alive game he took his winnings from the tourney and went to Vegas. He wins HUGE and decides to buy an island. Which he in turn calls “Zack” island. But then being a true playa for real, he lures all the females from the fighting tournament telling them it’ll be a new tourney for them to take part in. So guess what? It’s the Mac and all the honeys all to himself!
The girls in turn make the best of a bad situation and just straight relax and play volleyball. While the users enjoy the best in video voyeurism. Brilliant!
#15 Garcian Smith from Killer 7
Now I personally know that many of you haven’t even heard of the game Killer 7. This game dropped on the Nintendo GameCube (which nobody copped) and then again on PS2, still failing to sell any copies. But that’s not the point of game making according to studio head Suda51. His games are usually waaaay out there in terms of content and context, but they definitely do think. He’s latest gem, No More Heroes for the Wii keeps the tradition of quirky bad ass fun. But I digress…
Garcian makes this list, because he’s an assassin. What? Yeah he is. A brother as an assassin? Wow. Yeah. But is he really a brother? You see, in the game Killer 7, you play as 7 guys who may or may not be 1 guy. Get it? Nope, that’s because it’s hard talking about this title without giving away the secrets. So I won’t. Let’s just say that this is a good, out of the norm representation of a black character in games and leave it at that. Check out Killer 7 for the Nintendo GameCube (works in your Wii as well), or Playstation 2 (which works on some PS3s)
#14 Marcus Reed from True Crime New York City
Before GTA thought about bringing open world video games to the NYC, a little game called True Crime developed by Luxoflux for Activision, followed up their sleeper hit True Crime LA with an NYC version. I personally think they did a better job recreating Los Angeles as that game was pretty much street for street like the real thing. Maybe it was a rushed job to create NYC, but they took some liberty (no pun intended) with the geography of Manhattan. The streets are longer for instance and there aren’t that many landmarks.
Activision spared no expense when it came the voice actors for this game. Making appearances are Laurence Fishbourne, Traci Lords, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, Redman, and Howard Stern’s sideshow act Beetlejuice. They all lend support to the main character Marcus Reed (voiced by an unknown). Who’s Marcus? Well he’s the stereotypical “gang member” who inherits his fathers empire in NYC when he gets put away. Now before you go getting all bummed out, this game takes a twist not seen in most movies.
After coming to a cross roads in his life Marcus, hitting rock bottom, decides to give it up and become of all things a police officer. Yes, NYPD. Not many gamers are used to seeing the boys in blue as a black male, and like the popular show New York Undecover, we actually get to see the character in street clothes doing police work. I don’t want to give too much away, but I applaud Luxoflux and Activision for giving this title to a minority character. Many skipped over this game because it was right at the dawn of the “Next-Gen” but it was a good title (not to mention controlled way better than any GTA). It also flew under the radar, due to the Rockstar blockbuster GTA: San Andreas. But one thing that True Crime can boast about is they got Jay-Z and Camron to bless their opening track with the smash “Welcome to New York City”. I can’t think of another game that has a Jay-Z song as the title track, can you?
#13 Torque from The Suffering series
#13 on TGH’z Top Black Video Game Characters list goes to Torque of The Suffering
For a little stretch on the last gen of consoles, Midway had a bit of a run at out of the box sleeper hits that didn’t have a “Kombat” or a “NBA” in the name. One of those sleeper hits was a title by the name of The Suffering.
Now I’m really reaching down in this deep bag of tricks for these titles, because you almost never hear about them in the mainstream press. But The Suffering was one of the best survival horror games to ever come out. The premise is that you are locked up (yes another black man in jail lol) and all you know about the main character Torque is that he’s on death row for killing his wife and kids. Now once again before you get all riled up, the story is a bit deeper than that you see, because Torque claims he has no recollection of doing the deed. But all the evidence points to him…
Throughout the game we see this huge monster like hulk that appears during certain times and you wonder what connection it has with Torque. The coolest part of this game is the location. It’s set on an island Alcatraz style and is haunted by the former inmates who come back in a unique form pertaining to how they were executed. No, this is not a light hearted affair and you will genuinely be disturbed by some of the scenes from this game. But again I applaud a developer for reaching out of the box and having the main character be a minority when so often it would’ve been super easy to go with a generic Caucasian male.
If you haven’t checked this game out and in the mood for some real survival horror check out The Suffering.
P.S. DO NOT BY ANY MEANS PLAY PART 2!!!
#12 Riddick from The Chronicles of Riddick Escape from Butcher Bay
Yes Sir! The Eye Shines! We just keep dropping sleeper hits on ya’ll. Shame on you if you haven’t played these games. You go wait a minute! Riddick isn’t Black. Well technically he is. He’s biracial. So you know how that goes, if you are 1% then you are black…
I digress. Coming out of nowhere Starbreeze studios and Tigon founded, or I should say funded by Vin Diesel himself, brought the noise with this original Xbox exclusive title. This game really pushed the system in terms of the graphics that it boasted. Basically a first person “shooter” Escape from Butcher Bay rises to the top with it’s excellent story telling and gameplay. Laying the groundwork for modern first person “hand to hand” fighting. This game was really ahead of its time. Not to mention that you could play either run and gun or stealthy snapping necks.
Another cool thing for its time was they made sure that they milked the main character. For a first person game, you definitely saw Vin’s mug plenty of times. We must say that the voice acting is superb ad Vin gives this character a sense of real life. Your boy X to tha Z, Xzibit, makes an appearance in this game and he’s also believable.
This game put all the fanboys into a frenzy leading up to the second movie. The movie was a complete and utter failure when compared to it. Butcher Bay showed you why Riddick was such a bad ass and you really got to see the man in action. While The Chronicles movies was a quasi Matrix meets Conan farse… Let’s hope that they make another game… Oh wait they are! Due out next month will be an updated version of Butcher Bay called The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena for the XBOX360 and Playstation 3, it will also feature an entire new story that picks up right after. The devs are giving the users the option to just skip through to the new stuff. DON’T DO IT! MAKE SURE YOU. PLAY. THIS. GAME!!!
#11 Mike Leroi in Shadow Man
Awww snap. We’re really digging in the crates for this one ya’ll. Before I continue, I gotta say, this is a helluva list. For all those out there that really think that the majority of black characters in gaming are stereotypical, just peep this list for variety for your ass. Any one of these guys could’ve been played by a caucasian character, but the devs took a chance.
Granted some of these joints are sleeper hits, but they are ALL quality. That’s at least a step in the right direction. Now, just so you know, Shadow Man was a popular comic book before being a game. This one could’ve turned out so bad, but thankfully it didn’t.
We pick up this joint not knowing what to really expect, and right off the bat, we are treated to some Jack Da Ripper demon ritual, and you already know that you are about to be in for some ish. Next we roll on the man right after doing the deed, with what looks to be the local witch doctor. (Think the Jamaican chick in Pirates of the Caribbean) She actually has to do it with him to receive voodoo power from him and remain youthful.
Shadow Man, a.k.a. Mike Leroi, could’ve been some jive talking cat, or some dumb goon, but he’s not. He’s actually a former English Literature major, and you can tell by the way he speaks, which is very intellectual and pointed. What other game out there can you point me to that has all of what I just described going for it? Don’t sleep on this. Somebody out there that’s listening, pick up the Shadow Man license and give us a new game!
Remember to check back for the next couple of weeks as we roll out the Top 10 Black Characters in Gaming everyday for the next two weeks.