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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.
Although recent news that MSNBC is ready to hire Al Sharpton has continued the trend of no black journalists in prime time, we should see this as an opportunity rather than a thinly veiled slight. It’s no secret that cable news networks’ primary audience is not black people so why would we expect them to pander to our interests? We have the resources to create our own wide reaching news. Now is as good a time as ever to carve out our place in the market.
The potential hiring Al Sharpton for MSNBC’s weekday 6 pm slot represents the larger theme of infotainment throughout cable news. All three major stations, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News represent center to extreme right flavors of the same news, catered to the same socioeconomic audiences. As news has become less valued in our society, they have chose to hire based on celebrity rather than journalist credentials. Everyone from Mike Huckabee to Piers Morgan (who is actually a journalist but probably wouldn’t be on CNN if it weren’t for his fame as a winner of Celebrity Apprentice and judge on popular TV talent shows) to Al Sharpton follows the pattern.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see Al Sharpton get a show even if I disagree with his tactics for advocacy from time to time. I respect his work and look forward to him giving a voice to black people on the infotainment airwaves.
However, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is correct in crying foul over no black journalists serving as anchors or hosts in prime time. With the trend towards hiring personalities rather than journalists, it doesn’t seem like this will be resolved any time soon.
Instead of asking for change from news organizations that don’t prioritize their black consumers, we should step in and serve ourselves. We have organs like the NABJ, the NAACP, Johnson Publishing Company as well as numerous national news organizations like The Root and Our News Now. To say we don’t have the resources to compete with national news conglomerates only makes sense as long as we’re not willing to work together. If there was ever a worthy area to apply the gang mentality then this is it.
It’s a foregone conclusion that black culture and expression is infectious across the globe. Joining together to create an international news competitor could not just serve our own constituency but take in a number of people that couldn’t get into cable news previously. Who knows? It could even steal viewers from the old guard.
Back when I was in elementary school I remember when Black Entertainment Television (BET) used to have the nightly news and weekly panel discussions. I loved tuning into Jacque Reid and getting informed on world events every night.
Ever since Viacom bought BET and decided to give the station a makeover for a larger white audience things haven’t been the same. There’s no channel I can turn to for nightly news catering to me. Getting news that serves the black community is a matter of digging through an assortment of internet sources and occasionally coming across token stories on the TV news.
With the advent of new media and more televisions with internet capabilities, this is the time to take advantage of the shift in technology. Soon we’ll no longer need to buy TV channels to compete with corporations whose only advantage is a larger bullhorn.
Instead of waiting for them to figure out how to monopolize the next wave, let’s hit them before they see it coming. The lane is open. The people are waiting to be served. All we need is people brave enough to stop playing the game with these gatekeeper news organizations. After all, we aren’t winning.