Video Game Characters Reimagined With Ethnic Diversity
Back in 2021, we worked on a creative piece where we reimagined popular male-led games to have female protagonists instead.
Our analysis of diversity in gaming had shown a real lack of gender diversity within video game characters.
A follow-up to this looked at female representation in 2022’s games and showed that gender diversity has been improving.
However, our original study had also highlighted a large disparity in the ethnicity of video game characters.
Something that is desperately needed, in my opinion, is more ethnically diverse main characters. How many non-white main characters in video games can you name?
So, we decided to repeat our previous design experiment; this time, we’ve reimagined how video games could have looked with more ethnically diverse characters.
Let’s start by analyzing the numbers.
As things stand, available data points towards a major preference for white protagonists in the most popular games.
Our 2021 study showed that 61.2% of all characters in major game releases over the previous 5 years were white (Caucasian), despite estimates suggesting the race accounts for just 10-15% of the global population.
9.5% of games had no other ethnic representation in any character other than white, yet only 5.3% of games did not have any white characters – with many of these games relying solely on ‘cartoon animals’ or other non-human casts, rather than ethnically diverse ones.
It’s just not an accurate representation of how diverse modern society is in reality. Something needs to change.
We hope to spark conversations around important topics like this in the hope of achieving some long-term good.
Below is our latest effort to do exactly that. We’ve reimagined how six popular games could have looked with ethnically diverse, non-Caucasian main characters.
Captain Price is the main protagonist of the Modern Warfare sub-series of Call of Duty.
CoD is an incredibly popular franchise worldwide, and I think that as far as promoting ethnic diversity in gaming goes, industry leaders such as this one could make a real impact with the way their main characters are presented.
Besides, I can’t think of many more overused tropes than making a white male soldier the lead character in a video game shooter.
Our reimagined version of Captain Price is a British-Asian Sikh.
There are around 150 Sikhs actively serving in the UK army, as well as 450 Muslims, 690 Buddhists, and 1,000 Hindus – the majority of which are almost never represented as the main character in games. In fact, have they ever been represented?
According to the 2011 UK census, up to 7.5% of people in the U.K are from Asian ethnic groups, and 2019 estimates have this population up to 8%.
Aloy is the main character in the Horizon series. The series is set in the United States, many years into the future (3020, to be precise).
The reimagined version of Aloy is a female of Native American descent.
Native Americans are known to be very particular about passing on their values and traditions across generations through their tribal language, which is something that is taken to heart throughout the Horizon series.
Most importantly, I don’t think the ethnicity switch changes the story or premise of the game in any way but instead lends a bit more credence to the presentation of various tribes in the post-apocalyptic U.S. that the game is set in.
Link is one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters. He is the main protagonist of The Legend of Zelda series, which is one of the publisher’s biggest games. The character made his debut when the first game was published in 1986.
Whilst there are unanswered questions and differing opinions about Link’s real ethnicity, he is visibly white and of the ‘Hylian’ race, which is a fantasy region based on medieval Europe, so we’re classifying him as Caucasian.
Our reimagined version of Link is a European teenager with African ancestry.
Princess Peach is the love interest of Mario, one of the main characters in the globally acclaimed Super Mario series.
Her character is presented to be an attractive white lady and ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Wishing to increase diversity in positions of power as well as in gaming, we redesigned Peach to be a status symbol for an even bigger underlying issue.
The world of Mario has been criticized for a long time regarding its lack of diversity, including in this review of Mario Kart 8 dating way back to 2014. Sadly, not much has improved on this front yet, but there’s always time to make improvements.
Chris Redfield is one of the main protagonists in the Resident Evil game series, making his first appearance as one of two playable characters in the original Resident Evil game published in 1996.
Whilst Chris is visibly white and Capcom has previously stated that he’s Caucasian, with his surname having Scottish origins, it has sometimes been claimed that he is a Native American of part-Mohawk decent.
The reimagined version of the character is a Samoan man; often known to be strong and reliable, sharing cultural values with the original character of Chris, such a close bond with friends and family, as well as respect for teammates.
Lara Croft first appeared in 1996’s Tomb Raider, and the character has since gone on to become one of the most instantly recognizable video game characters ever (perhaps because she’s one of only a small number of AAA titles released with a female protagonist throughout the early years of gaming, and even then, her original design was criticized for being sexualized).
Like Call of Duty, Tomb Raider has the potential to make a real difference with ethnic diversity in gaming. There is so much more that can be done with it, even if it means introducing a new main character via a standalone expansion as we’ve seen with games like Uncharted.
The original Lara Croft character is a British archaeologist, and our reimagined version features a third-generation British woman with African heritage.
I think that the ethnicity switch would do wonders for maintaining the symbol of the character as a role model for strong women, just as the original Lara Croft does.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License — you’re more than welcome to re-use or republish our character designs, we just request fair credit.
What is fair credit? All we ask is that you link to DiamondLobby as the original source of the images.
If you’d like the original image files in a higher resolution, please email luke [at] diamondlobby.com and we’d be happy to send them your way.
If you’re a designer and this post has inspired you to create some of your own characters, please tweet them out and tag @DiamondLobby so we can see them! We might even feature some community designs within this post.