Call of Duty: Stono Rebellion?

I’m not a programmer so my vision of a Black Power video game where you can free Mumia or save Fred Hampton won’t be happening soon. Neither will my Wii accessible “Martin Luther King’s Marcher”.

My best hope for a black video game that doesn’t primarily involve sports or music will most likely come whenever The Boondocks hits platforms.

Bringing black history and culture into the realm of video games may seem trivial, but it is one of the last spaces where people of all ages can get graphic, unadulterated characterizations of things otherwise ignored/kept secret.

Where else besides the video game world can you assassinate John F. Kennedy or go on a car jacking rampage with no consequences? The only place where you can get a more graphic depiction of US military covert operations is by actually being in the field.

Undoubtedly, overindulgence in video games desensitizes gamers of all ages to the violent realities they are simulating. However, engaging with this information in any way is better than completely ignoring it (Perhaps instead of banning sales of games, we should add historical and analytical context to what kids are playing).

Why not use video games to make black history more engaging? Is it too much of a stretch to assume that the same people that enjoy playing as military murderers, terrorists, mobsters and car thieves could get a kick out of leading virtual slave revolts or blasting their way out of illegal police raids?

Instead of painting one picture of black characters (think CJ From Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) in these kind of games, there is plenty of room for historical heroes like Toussaint L’Overture, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and George Jackson. Even a video game version of “Monster” Kody Scott would be better than the static characters that dominate games today.

Part of the problem is that less than two percent of video game developers are black. This lack of representation translates into others imposing their ideals of black people into their games.

The solution is to take control of the means of production, especially considering that blacks are heavy video game consumers. Groups like the Urban Video Game Academy are working to empower under served populations in the programming industry and there needs to be similar efforts around the country.

Besides being a means to break into a fertile, multi-billion dollar industry, video game programming education presents a way to make math and writing more engaging to black students.

It may be instinctual to see video games as trivial or destructive but there are too many opportunities in the industry to educate the youth in technical skills and history. Instead of scorning how our youth use their free time, let’s use it as a venue for revolutionary change.


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