Hello again, my FGC brothers & sisters. In case you haven't already noticed, we got some new blood around here in the form of Soapdog & Parappa. You'll be hearing more from them soon enough. Right now, though, I have a thought that I need to finish...
Last week, we were talking about the concept of identity regarding the ethnicity of fighting game characters. I mentioned tourism & history as factors, and while their context makes a noticeable impact, they're not the most concrete parameters to measure someone's identity. At that point, you're painting with some incredibly broad strokes. Hell, that's dangerously close to flirting with profiling based solely on geography. Not cool. To be honest, using the "broad strokes" idiom was a precursor to something else that's been going on for way too long.
You see, when it comes to filling out a character roster, there are (by my count, and I could be always be mistaken) only five fairly indiscriminate colors programmers choose to paint with: Asian, White, Black, Brown & Other. I'm not faulting anyone for this, but I can't help but feel that it's an easy way out to get around adding more lucid detail to their characters. I mentioned the Williams sisters from Tekken before. They're colored White, no way of getting around that. However, unless you're waist deep in the history & canon of the franchise, would you even know they're Irish? How about Seth from King of Fighters? Yes, we can -clearly- see that he's Black, but is he from Chicago or Johannesburg? The obvious visual cues we're given work in terms of sating that base desire we all have to see variety, but they do next to nothing when it comes to enriching the character.
Another unfortunate side effect of the aforementioned broad strokes: stereotyping. Ramon from King of Fighters, El Fuerte from Street Fighter IV, El Blaze from Virtua Fighter 5... I love lucha libre as much as the next guy, but does every fighter from Mexico have to be a luchadore? After a while, it kind of gets insulting. At this point, I wouldn't be too opposed to the idea of a drug cartel soldier popping up just to break the monotony. On the flipside, leaving some choices relatively blank doesn't make things any better. Using that "indiscriminate color pallette" only leads to confusion. I can understand that most programmers want to avoid drawing the ire of any one group, but going those few extra yards -- not necessarily the whole mile -- can make all the difference in the world.
Ironically, I want to bring this to a close by coming back to Tekken. In the days between this & my last article, it was announced that Tekken 7 would include its first Filipina character, Josie Rizal. Considering that her inclusion would be groundbreaking, it wasn't long before actual Filipinos noticed that Josie (besides being named after national hero, Dr. José Rizal) didn't exactly come off as Filipino. Sure, she has a Pinoy surname, wears an outfit bearing the same colors as the Philippine flag & fights using eskrima, but that's where the connection ends. I give Namco points for trying, but it kind of looks like they took the easy way out. That right there, my friends, is borderline tokenism. I'm positive that wasn't the intention, but the end result is apparent.
Again, I want to be clear, I appreciate the inclusion of so many diverse cultures in gaming, but there's nothing wrong with wanting a little in-depth representation. I'd like to think we've earned that much over the years. Like I said before, we've become a global community and it's high time games displayed as much.
Until next time... keep fighting the good fight, my friends.