We know that video games can provide hours of entertainment and that they serve as a meeting point for groups with common interests. But they also provide different perspectives on the world and can even help people reinforce their cultural identity with the representations that appear in games.
However, for someone of Latino origin, it is difficult to identify with a character when most games have a white male as the protagonist, who displaces the other races to secondary roles, such as the companion of the hero or the antagonist.
Finding Latino characters who have a significant role in a triple A game is difficult, but finding some who are not stereotyped and who are not portrayed in a superficial way is even more difficult.
At a general level, if they are not Mexican wrestlers in fighting games – like King of Tekken, The Fort of Street fighter iv and The Blaze of Virtual fighter 5– Latinos are portrayed as temperamental thugs and traitors. For the most part, they take the role of the criminal, dividing the role between drug traffickers and gang members or people who live in tribes.
In addition, they usually appear on stage with an exaggerated accent (or speaking spanglish) and with unflattering characteristics. And the worst thing is that this has only helped to enhance stereotypes and prejudices about the Latino community.
Some examples of this are the villains Vaas Montenegro of Far cry 3 and Atoq Navarro from Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The first is a warrior who became an impulsive and unstable drug addict, and the second is a leader of a mercenary group who betrayed the person who raised him from a young age.
Rockstar Games titles have also been known to include non-playable Latino characters with a high level of stereotypes. On Red dead redemption Abraham Reyes appears, who begins as a noble leader of a revolution and then is the president of Mexico. However, in the end he becomes exactly what he intended to destroy at first: a tyrant.
On the other hand, in the Grand Theft Auto saga fictitious members and leaders who are part of a criminal organization have appeared (Vice city) and gangs with cliche names like “Los Cholos” (Vice City Stories) or “Varrios Aztecas” (San Andreas).
Now, what about the titles starring Latino characters? At least two games fall into this category: Shadows of the Danmed with Garcia Hotspur and the popular Just cause with Rico Rodríguez. In fact, this charismatic CIA agent has starred in four titles under that franchise, which is quite an achievement for the Latino community.
On the other hand, there is the expansion Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, which stars Luis López, a 25-year-old of Dominican descent. Although Luis is a gang member and has a criminal past, through interactions throughout the game he grows as a character and it is seen that he has the potential to get out of his troubled environment.
On the other hand, there are games that include Latino characters, but they are only playable optionally or the protagonism is distributed with other characters. This is the case of Dominic Santiago in Gears of war, Mordecai in Borderlands, Tyson Rios in Army of Two, Carlos Oliveira in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and Billy Candle in Call of Juarez.
Although they are all stereotyped on some level, there are characters who are loved by the Latino community and who have had more development as their franchises launch new titles.
King, for example, has an interesting story behind him and fights for just reasons, despite his fearsome appearance and reputation as a fighter. Due to his troubled childhood living on the streets, he decides to dedicate himself to helping orphaned children. In fact, his dream is to build a home so that they don’t have to live the same as him.
We can also consider Dominic Santiago, who added an emotional portion to a game that could perfectly have been about men shooting. The loss of some of his loved ones transforms Dom from a joker to a three-dimensional character with more melancholy dialogues.
As we have seen, when looking for Latino characters in video games, the results are not very encouraging. And if we enter the field of Latina women, the picture is even worse. In general, these do not have a great development and only appear on the scene to be reified. Still, there are a few female characters that go a bit out of the box.
Isabela Keyes from Dead rising is one of them. She started out as a villain, but after a series of events, she ended up being more of an ally. He has proven to be a complex character and is even considered one of the best developed in the franchise, with conflicts and with great devotion to his family.
On the other hand, we have Sombra, a slightly more recent example. She is a heroine of Overwatch whose real name is Olivia Colomar. A war between robots with AI and humans left her an orphan, but she managed to survive thanks to her talent for hacking and a revolutionary Mexican gang that took her in. Now he uses his abilities to manipulate those in power.
All these examples serve to show that a greater and better Latin representation in video games is necessary. Although time has passed, the picture has changed very little in recent years. Some characters do have better stories and motivations to back them up, but they are still a minority.
The Latino community that spends time playing is vast, and it needs characters that it can relate to. It is time for heroes and heroines to appear that are not just an accompaniment to the white protagonist.
According to a report by Pew Research Center As of 2015, approximately 19 percent of Latinos classify themselves as gamers, compared with 11 percent of Afro-descendants and 7 percent of whites.
On the other hand, according to a Newzoo global reportIn 2020, there were approximately 260 million players in Latin America, a higher number than the estimated in North America (around 210 million).
Developers naturally express their thoughts and perspectives in their games, therefore what we will see in the result will be that vision. The problem is that, if those ideas are biased, they can contribute to misrepresentation of a culture and underrepresentation.
So, for video games to be more representative of the world we live in, the industry itself must be more inclusive with its developers. That way, they could create content that can be identified with them and, consequently, also the players.
According to an April report by Statista, 75 percent of game developers around the world identified as white, and second was the Latino community with 9 percent.
On the other hand, we know that Latinos are not the only ones with a low representation in games; there are also the other ethnic groups, women, and the LGBTI + community. And they all have a factor in common that causes this problem: the lack of diversity in the video game industry.