Latinx Video Game Characters Are Still Being Written With Mostly Villainous Traits
It is the year 2020 and we are seeing a spike in representation in our pop culture. LGBTQ romance options in games, a whole range of beautiful skin tones for playable characters, and an effort to bring different cultures into world-building. All of it is wonderful, especially for me as a minority who consumes a borderline unhealthy amount of games! However, I am finding an unfortunate trend of Latinx characters, typically with accents and dark skin, being written mostly as criminals or having morally questionable traits.
This is not okay and needs to change.
As an example, here is a list of the Latinx characters from some of the mainstream games today.
Loba was only recently added to Apex Legends as an infamous thief. Due to her family being killed by an assassin, she had to fend for herself any way she could. She is smart, cunning, driven, and self-made.
Sombra is an infamous young hacker who helps the terrorist group, Talon, with their operations by bypassing security systems. Smart, cunning, looks out for herself, and fearless.
Octavio Silva is a daredevil who continues to seek more and more thrills to the point where he even voluntarily used a grenade to blow off his legs to complete a stunt. He since then got replacements and uses performance-enhancing drugs in order to continue his lust for excitement. He might actually be the morally best character out of this list all because he chooses only to harm himself and does stunts for his own enjoyment but it is hard to ignore the fact that all signs point to him being a drug addict.
Reaper or Gabriel Reyes was once a respected and renowned member of Blackwatch whose sole purpose was to do black op missions for high-risk objectives that needed to be discreet. Along the way Gabriel diverted from Overwatch and joined a terrorist organization, Talon, to become Reaper. He is a strong leader, strategic, tenacious, and bold.
Admittedly, not much information is available for a backstory for Reyna but from what we can gather she is powerful, confident, and uses vampiric powers to consume the souls of others. All of her voice line showcase aggression, overconfidence, and a hint of greed.
Can you see the issue?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore them all and have logged tons of hours playing them! These characters are fun to play, have beautiful aesthetics, and implement rich, dark skin tones that help bring more Latinx characters to mainstream video games. My question is why can we not also have characters who are morally good? We know it is possible to create both entertaining and good characters and we’ve seen it get implemented with a lot of other cultures but why not Latinx?
We, the Latinx community, are a beautiful people that are capable of so much more than just betrayal, lying, stealing, or abusing ourselves with drugs. Why is it so hard to associate Latinx with intelligence, honor, trust, justice, and more? As a proud Mexican-American, I am overjoyed that we’re getting more and more representation in our media but we clearly have such a long way to go. The saddest part is that this isn’t just limited to Riot Games, Blizzard, or EA but a lot of other video game companies make a deliberate effort to write us as the villain.
My call to action is to be vocal about this issue and demand change. We have seen all too well that staying quiet and swallowing our pride gets us nowhere. Many of us minorities stayed quiet while growing up because we got it in our mind that this was just how the world worked. White men owned the companies, they hired white writers, those writers created white characters to be the heroes of our games. It was poison because it pushed away any and all thoughts of equality in exchange for settling. I personally, on many occasions, appreciated the villain just because they were of the same nationality, even though their voice actor would butcher the accent and was oftentimes white.
Right now, if a character speaks Spanish, has an accent, and has brown skin, then they are probably nefarious in some way. Is that what they think of us? That we, their loyal consumers, are so vile that most of us are criminals?
Recently, many of us POC geeks are standing up for ourselves, pleading for long-overdue equality so that the next generation does not have to question their value or self-worth. They can instead judge the characters they see by the content of their character rather than the color of the skin.
This is why we, the community, must band together to write to our favorite companies and plead for them to change their ways. The Latinx community have $1.5 Trillion Spending power in the US, we should never be ignored in any conversation or meeting. Not to mention that gamers overall should be getting great writing instead of cheap villains with dark skin tones, we all deserve better.
I want to give a shout out to Lucio from Overwatch who is from Brazil!
He is pretty much holding up the Latinx community with his kindness, intelligence, and hard work. Not to mention he represents Afro-Latinx which is beautiful for so many reasons! However, I’m still bummed that his nationality and dreads are the only things that highlight his roots. His voice is very American which doesn’t help us in our fight for proper representation, but hey, it is something!