Controversy in computer games centres on violence and sexism — but what about race? The List salutes :— / 2/ ’«L i It 3 _/ which
stars the industry's first pixelated black hero.
Words: Iain Davidson
u of the
FOR SOME, ENTERTAINMENT IS ABOUT making a fast buck. Tease the public with flashing lights. ringing bells and cereal box promotions. then skcdaddle before the suckers know what hit them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of compttter gaming.
'l‘hankfully. software developers lguana and publishers Acclaim have bitten the bullet and produced what could he one of the most important games of the year. Based on the Valiant comic of the same name. .S'liuduwmun dares to he different.
With the dark mythology of voodoo as its backdrop. this action adventure attempts to destroy many of the accepted boundaries associated with what is perceived as an adolescent’s pastime. Children’s nightmares. serial rapists and mass murderers are openly presented in the game as challenges to be overcome by the player. Sure. this will upset many who still see consoles such as the PlayStation or Nintendo ()4 as children‘s toys. and much has been made of .S'liudmrmmz‘s disturbing elements in the press. However. one innovation seems to have slipped by unnoticed: namely that the main character. .\like l.eRoi. is black. Nowadays this may seem like a minor point but. believe it or not. Mike is the first black computer game hero.
Since Pac-man first gobbled his way onto an arcade screen. iconic characters have dominated the world of gaming. Pixelated personalities. from Mario to Sonic and now the ubiquitous Lara Croft. have drawn more
pounds from pockets than any amount of
groundbreaking programming or ferocious marketing. Gaming characters are so much more than plot devices or interactive storytellers. They can make or break a game. Yet for all this. Mike LeRoi’s appearance has passed with a silence that Sidney Poitier
14 THE “ST 9- 23 Sea 1999
questions are beneath them. After idolising a blue hedgehog, worrying about colour seems
l l °
would have killed for. The reasons for this ambivalence are not entirely
clear. Iguana and Acclaim say they have done nothing special because the character existed long before they decided to become involved in
Many gamers would like to think
his dark adventures. Their role has simply been to transfer one medium into another. (iames players are often depicted as sexist. aggressive. young white men. yet .S'liuzlmrmmi has been accepted wholeheatedly by them. liven more strange is the lack of positive press. Think of the never-ending adulation heaped on (inudnmts‘ Gracious .lrlv. British television‘s first Asian comedy sketch show. Shadnn'man is expected to be experienced by roughly the same number of people as‘ Gum/muss (hm-ions .llt'. yet race appears to be irrelevant.
that racial questions are beneath
them. After idolising a blue hedgehog. worrying about colour seems
ridiculous. Perhaps. However, another argument might be that the majority of computer game publications are still very immature and would never consider tackling anything as controversial race. That would be a shame. now that computer entertainment is beginning to mature as an art form. If violence and sexism are valid areas for discussion. then why not race'.’
In the end. .S'lim/mrmun's achievements will probably remain unrecognised: btit there can be no doubt that a greater number of positive black characters in entertaimnent can only he a good thing. Slim/airman may not initiate the revolution . . . but every little helps.
Shadowman is available now for PlayStation, N64 and PC. For game review, see page 94.