I find it fascinating that Japanese companies, again and again, create games featuring predominantly white characters – or, to put it another way, games where there are no characters that look Asian. This is particularly interesting considering the demographics of Japan, and also their reputation, earned or otherwise, for colonization and nationalism. And as an American gamer who is Asian American, it’s also an issue since most American and European game makers also make games where the majority of the characters are white.
Sure, there are exceptions: the Yakuza series and Lost Planet, for example, or fighting games which tend to be more inclusive in their stereotypes of people the world over. But those are, again, exceptions. For the few that we can think of that have characters with Asian features, let’s create a list of games and characters that are white, and for the sake of argument, let’s limit it to ones created by the Japanese game industry: Link and the Zelda series, Mario, Snake from the Metal Gear series, almost all of the characters from the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, as well as the vast majority of characters from the multitudes of Final Fantasy games. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These are not niche characters or games: these are well-known, well-loved franchises, commercially and critically acclaimed.
Though the part that made me snorf was
Games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Age are based in European folklore and there were no people of color in Medieval Europe. Actually there were people of color in Medieval Europe. You know what? There were more actual people of color in Medieval Europe than there were REAL FIREBREATHING DRAGONS OR PEOPLE WHO COULD SUMMON MOTORCYCLES OUT OF THIN AIR WITH THEIR MAGIC POWERS.
Carl Joshua Brandon was a fictional black fan writer invented by white writers Terry Carr and Peter Graham in the fifties. A hoax that lasted for over two years, Carl Brandon was nearly elected to office in a fan writers association, and was for a time one of the most popular fan writers in the genre. But the existence of a lone, fictional black writer underscores the fact that a fictional voice had to be invented for people of color, because we had none in fandom.
We named ourselves after Carl Brandon in much the same way that the Tiptree Award named itself after the fictional male writer James Tiptree, Jr, a pseudonym for the feminist SF writer Alice Sheldon. Just as women can now write under their own names, so can people of color now write (and publish) our own stories. We’ve got much further to go yet. This is why we’re working to make fandom a more rewarding place for people of color, to build a readership for the speculative writing of people of color, and to help the world understand that we can’t create a just future if people of color aren’t including in its imagining.