So I originally planned to write this piece in time for Dr. Martin Luther King Day back in January but several months ago I read an article about procrastination and how it leads to divergent thinking. The idea is that with moderate levels of procrastination the brain practices divergent thinking and leads to more creative processes and results. Alternatively, if one is a “PREcrastinator” and tries to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, the brain will formulate the thoughts and equations that are well proven and tried but as bland as British cuisine.
So when The Big Boss rides me about content and schedules and the importance of meeting deadlines, I simply reply, “Just trying to get that divergent thinking, man.” He looks at me in disgust much like my wife when I tell her, “I would take out the garbage but my divergent mind has not told me yet how to do it better.” But I diverge and digress.
While MLK, one of the most influential people in American history, should be honored and remembered, he should not be minimized by some hack blogger writing some shitty piece. Coincidence would offer another opportunity for me to list MY favorite Black video game characters. That coincidence is Black History Month. By the way, February is the worst month to be honored. It’s the coldest, shortest, most boring fucking month that includes a faux holiday, disguising a shameless attempt to get consumers spending again after we’ve gone broke from the holidays. Godiva isn’t that good, the up-charge on roses is ludicrous and good luck getting reservations at her favorite restaurant. Hopefully she won’t be too full or tired for sex afterwards.
With that said, here’s my Top 5 favorite Black Video Game Characters:
#5 – James Heller Prototype 2
Radical Entertainment had an economic collapse in 2012 but it was to no fault of the second installment of Prototype. The game was the best seller that April and James Heller was the lead character.
A former Marine, husband and father and when the Blacklight plague struck New York, killing his family, shapeshifter James Heller, leads a story of vengeance and redemption. What makes Prototype 2 even more interesting is the main character vs. main character plot as Heller seeks to destroy Alex Mercer, the main protagonist in the first installment. Who doesn’t like a little white vs. black action. I know CNN does. It was a sci-fi version of the Balboa vs. Creed battle.
Though the Prototype series may be dead, it had a nice little run and Heller was hella cool.
#4 – Franklin Clinton GTA V
Franklin Clinton is as stereotypic as they come and exactly the problem with media’s depiction of minority groups. This is the kind of thing I preached against as a professor teaching Digital Video 101 but despite the stereotypes, Franklin was a well thought out character in one of the biggest titles in video game history. Besides, he was a stereotype in a game that involves car theft, prostitution, and random acts of every form of aggravated violence.
GTA 5 was the best selling game on the best system, selling over 20 million copies on PS3 and another 17 million one the Xbox 360. You can’t be a main player on a championship team and not get some credit. Well, unless your name is Chris Bosh.
Franklin, though just a gang-banger, has to be considered one of the greatest Black video game characters ever.
#3 – Balrog Street Fighter
With my new love for procrastinating, I spent a lot of time “researching” this topic and found that many people added Dudley from The Street Fighter series as a favorite Black character. WTF?
I’m all for cultural assimilation. I’m a Latino man who loves apple pie, baseball and the Rascal Flats. I’m American through and through but if you are going to pick a Black boxer from Street Fighter, it has to be Balrog (known as Mike Bison in Japan). Mike Bison! Like Mike Tyson, a household name for the last thirty years! Balrog resembled the ear-chewing, power punching, heavyweight champ and along Sagat, Vega, and American M. Bison were essentially the 4 Hoursemen of fighting games.
Rich, pencil mustache touting, straight haired, bougie, British version Dudley has NOTHING on Balrog, as Balrog is as classic as they come.
#2 – Rochelle Left 4 Dead 2
Before you fucking trolls start hounding me with #GWUSoMale tweets, I’ve decided to be inclusive in my selections and add a female to my great Black characters list. To my delight, I found that it was fairly easy to find likable, respectable Black Woman characters.
It was not only important to find a character that isn’t filled with Black stereotypes but also one that isn’t portrayed as a sex symbol with thunder-thighs and lady canons. Though those attributes are thoroughly appreciated, it in itself doesn’t make a great character.
I could’ve easily gone with the likes of Alyx Vance or Sheva Alomar or Aveline, but I think I have to go with my girl Rochelle from Left 4 Dead 2. Rochelle, with her Depeche Mode shirt and natural down to Earth style, it was easy to enjoy her character. It’s not a surprise that the zombie genre, shoot-em up are my game of choice but Rochelle made this one memorable for all the right reasons. She was kick-ass and outright fun!
#1 – Lee Everett The Walking Dead
The TV series continues to kill off its Black characters. Rest in peace T-Dog, Bob, and Tyrese. It’s not much different in the video game as Lee Everett would suffer the same fate but before his heroic and emotional passing, Lee was a wonderful character.
Sure his character was introduced while being in police custody but pre-apocalyptic Lee was a well regarded history professor at The University of Georgia. A good backstory and a noble profession doesn’t exactly make him a great character, rather his character makes him great. Lee was a compassionate man with a genuine care for those around him, especially Clementine. He played a father, a protective figure in a way that pulls at the heart strings and in the most endearing ways.
Lee Everett’s character is the most important Black character in video games thus far because he doesn’t portray a Black man. Colin Campbell from IGN described him as an “everyman.” Lee Everett is a man with flaws and qualities like any other man or woman. A man that made errors and learned and lived and died. He could’ve been named Daniel, Peter or Sandy.
As we move forward as a nation and as we continue moving away from bigotry and segregation, character portrayals like those of Lee Everett or Michonne on the TV series, will become the norm and in part making them some of the first of its kind. Making them great characters that happen to be Black.
Ok, that was my Top 5 Favorite Black Video Game Characters… Use some of that divergent thinking and share yours!