It feels quite validating having someone approach character creation with the same kind of trepidation that I did when they started becoming more commonplace. I’m biracial (Black and Hispanic) and it always seemed like I was in the midst of some kind of identity crisis growing up. I went to a predominately Hispanic grammar school and I never really fit in with most of the kids there, and they knew I was mixed. And made sure I knew they knew. It also didn’t help that I only had a feigned interest in urban culture: I grew up listening to cassettes of Elton John and the first CD I bought was NSYNC (listen…it was the early 2000s and we all did some shit. “Bye Bye Bye” was huge, alright?!). It got weirder/better when I went to a prep school that was mostly white, and I fell in with a solid nerdy/multi-ethnic group and then got into metal—it was a whole thing.
So, ANYWAY, when games started introducing character creators I always made my characters light skinned. Not white white (unless I was going for an ethereal look) but most certainly lighter than my own. Cause that’s the way it is, right: light=good, darkness=evil. It was mostly guided by my subconscious which had grown up digesting the “black people are bad and violent” rhetoric from the media and there may have been some personal tilt because my father (my black half) was…let’s say…very strict in his disciplinary habits. But I’ve noticed that something has changed in me in the past five years or so and I’ve been making characters darker than I am. I started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic a week or two ago and when I reached the slider governing skin color my immediate thought was “This dude is gonna be DARK” (Er…dark skinned. He’s actually a light side Jedi. It’s imperative to distinguish with Star Wars). It’s a liberating experience and I largely credit better representation with that. I didn’t really know that I needed to see people who look like me in the media I consume until they were there. And it’s beautiful.
Oof, didn’t mean for it to be that long or personal. Ah well.
Good article, Patrick!