It’s not very often we get serious around here, but I thought it’d be interesting to talk about diversity and representation in Vita games. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, as I am a Hispanic who, for many years, was an immigrant in Canada. I’ve since been publishing pieces related to Hispanic heritage in media, and so I thought this would be a good way to talk about the real lack of representation in PS Vita games.
FIRST OF ALL: I’M NOT HATING!
Listen, I know these are different times, and representation is front and center. I know that wasn’t the case before, even as recently as 2013, when the Vita was launched. I mean, you could talk about the diversity of pokies online back then, but certainly not about the diversity of video characters. This has changed for the better in recent times, but we still have work to do. However, I can admire and recognize the quality of games, regardless of who they portray (and their ethnicity, gender, orientation, etc). I just want to document a phenomenon that occurred. So, follow along.
It’s interesting to see just how close BIG Vita games got to being inclusive and representative of diversity, without actually getting there. For me, the prime example is Uncharted: Golden Abyss. This is a game set in Panama, for goodness’ sake! And not only that: the grandfather of the female protagonist is named Perez. So, the protagonist in question is named Perez also, right? Nope. Her last name is Chase. The only prominent character with a Hispanic name is Roberto Guerro, a warlord and the main antagonist in the game.
Then, there’s Gravity Rush. This is another big-name Vita exclusive that could have used its female protagonist to represent something a bit more in need of… well, representation. Sadly, they play it totally safe again. At least they fixed that in the sequel, right? Nope. Same thing, only this one didn’t even make it to Vita.
Sure, both games featured strong female leads (or co-leads). But they missed the opportunity to do a bit more.
INDIES TO THE RESCUE
The great thing about the Vita, though, is that while big franchises avoid representation like the plague, indie developers actually aim for it as a main target for their games. Releases like 2064: Read Only Memories, VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, Guacamelee!, and even Ragnarok Odyssey and Odin Sphere (to a degree), to name but 5, deal with representing something unique about demographics that aren’t usually seen in video games. Once again, then, the indie fringe in a medium is leading the charge in social change. Sure, the amount of representation isn’t nearly as wide as those seen in the diversity of pokies online, but we’re getting there. Oh, and let’s not forget about Persona 4 Golden’s Kanji Tatsumi!
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
While I think the bell has tolled when it comes to big Vita releases that feature diversity as one its core values, the future looks bright to me. From The Last Of Us’ Ellie (and Bill, for that matter) to Janey Springs in Borderlands: The Presequel, from Gears of War’s Dominic Santiago to Street Figher’s Vega, more and more big developers are exploring the idea of diversifying cast, exploring representation in their characters, and staying away from racial (and other) stereotypes.
There’s no doubt that we have a long way to go, but I think that as we as a society move forward in our quest for equality, it’ll be video games, along with other art forms, that lead the charge.