I touched on this in my other post, but I'm curious as to what people think of the psychology behind this:
When I was younger, from about age 5-24, when I would sit down and create my cast of characters for my various comics and video games (I used to do a lot more coding when I was in my late teens, early 20's, trying my hand at developing games myself), they would almost always be a white male, or a white female. In many of my concepts, I even had a single minority character; either a black guy, or a black woman, or an asian guy, or an asian woman, etc, etc.
I'm a black man. Why is it that, even as a black male creator of fiction, I would almost exclusively default to white when creating my comics? Why do some of you think that is? I'm about 100% sure I know the answer to this question, but I'd like to hear an outside perspective on this.
Minorities of all types are often told to create the diversity themselves if that's what they want to see, but there is a real perception problem that has permeated not just whites in America, but minorities as well. The history of this country has done such a fantastic job of beating minorities over the head with how inferior to whites they are, that many minorities are ashamed of being a minority, and downplay their non-white lineage, and talk up any non-minority heritage they may have, and it's a shame. I've seen people do this on a regular basis, and it's very sad.
I've mentioned this numerous times before, but growing up, in school, I wasn't allowed to be Batman, or Superman, or The Flash or Spider-Man when playing superheroes with my white classmates. They made me play as the bad guy criminal. Not even Lex Luthor, or Zod, or The Joker. Their reasoning? Because I wasn't white. "Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man are white, so you can't play as them." That's not even exaggeration on my part. My "peers" and classmates had already learned, at that young of an age, the value of being white in America.
Growing up as a little mixed boy (I'm Black and Samoan), I'd turn on the TV, and what did I see? White heroes and villains, and the occasional sidekick and supporting character that was a minority, often played up as incompetent, the comic relief, or the person the white male hero got to save each episode.
GI Joe was one of the few cartoons of the 80's that I grew up with where there was a diverse cast of badasses that got to be heroes and save the day. From He-Man to MASK, there wasn't much for non-whites to latch onto. Superhero comics and shows rarely if ever focused on characters like Black Panther, Black Lightning, John Stewart Green Lantern, Luke Cage, or any of the other non-white/non-black minorities in fiction. I had no idea characters like those existed.
Not to mention that I grew up fairly poor, with no comic book shops, so I had to rely on the books that the nearby Walgreens or grocery store stocked; mainly Archie comics and Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. The affect this had on a young black boys mind was that I grew up thinking that there weren't any relevant black heroes to look up to. You had athletes, but I was never into sports. You had rappers, but I was never into hip hop. When you turned on the TV, whenever a black character was present, they were in trouble. Either a criminal or a fool. Seeing that reinforcement of ineptitude day in and day out, while seeing the competency and skillfullness of white males had a profoundly damaging effect on my own sense of self worth. The sad thing is that I am not alone.
That video of those little black kids talking about the differences between the white dolls and the black dolls is heartbreaking, but I lived that.
White kids seeing white heroes on the screen (whether video games, tv, or film) has a very different effect on their developing brains as Black kids seeing white heroes on the screen. That's just a fact.
Black kids seeing minorities portrayed stereotypically and negatively on the screen, has a very different effect on their developing brains as White kids seeing minorities portrayed stereotypically and negatively on the screen. Again, that's a fact.
The importance of seeing yourself represented in positive ways can't be understated. Whites in America have the luxury of having such a diverse pool of portrayals to pull from, that the occasional negative ones can be brushed off. Minorities don't have that luxury. It's also worth noting that the few minorities that are in creative positions in film, television, and the gaming industry, have also grown up in a country that has, for hundreds of years, portrayed their people as less than. It's why you have people like Bill Cosby pre-rape scandal, sitting up on his high horse telling black men to "pull their damn pants up." For generations, we've been told we aren't shit, and then the few that have actually been able to make it and live successful influential lives often look back at that struggling period of their life with disdain, and the people that are still living in that struggle with disdain as well. "If I could do it, you can too!" is one of the most infuriating things minorities are often told when we get too vocal about systemic racism.
The Stardew Valley developer most certainly had no ill intent when creating his characters for his game. He included as much diversity as he felt compelled to do, for whatever reasons he felt compelled to do it. I don't think this thread is about trashing Stardew Valley or the developer. It's just another discussion on the lack of inclusiveness in gaming.
But as usual, the discussion has gotten people overly defensive and sensitive. People have to come up with reasons and excuses as to why X developer didn't include Y minority/gender in their game, instead of just acknowledging that being more open in your creative decisions is a good thing. It's not pandering. It's not kowtowing to "social justice warriors," it's not force feeding diversity and political correctness on anyone. It's a developer/writer/artist, etc, actively evaluating his or her work and saying, "You know, there's no good reason why this person can't be Black, or Mexican, or Asian, or Middle Eastern," etc, etc.
As I said before, I always defaulted to white when creating my characters for my comics and stories. Why was that? That's the question I asked myself after some deep introspection. Now, when I sit down to draw a new character, I don't always see a 30 something white male with dark hair grinning up at me with pearly white teeth. It's made me a better creator, and has also allowed me to expand my drawing palette with differing facial features and structures. I just can't see how that's a negative. I gladly welcome diversity in my work. I'm sure many developers, once made aware of these incredibly easy and understandable oversights, will think twice. As I mentioned in another post, it happened when Anita Sarkisian started her series about women and tropes in gaming, and the gaming landscape has started to change significantly. Why can't the same be done for minorities (of all ethnicities, not just blacks)?
Nothing is being taken from white heroes. It's not even a knock against white heroes. It's letting minorities be a part of the heroics as well. It's letting them get to be Spider-Man and Superman every once in a while on the playground. There's nothing wrong with that at all.