Dear Video Game Character Creators: You Still Need Work
With all the strides other forms of entertainment are making year after year, I can’t help but look at the missed opportunities in video games. In particular, video games with character creators. They can do better, a lot better. But, as of 2019, it’s pretty clear there’s still a lot to be learned and considered.
Black Desert, Monster Hunter World, NBA 2K 2020, Guild Wars 2, Sunset Overdrive, etc. What do these games have in common? Well, they’re generally known to have robust character creators.
However, they all also share the same common issues you can see across similar titles. Those issues are: limited skin tone ranges, improper lighting of Black & Brown skin, and a lack of hair options. You can fire up the most recent releases and see these shortcomings like clockwork.
Well, these aren’t problems if you’re white and sports Eurocentric beauty standards — straight hair, light skin, etc. Games tend to adhere to these concepts of beauty mostly. Now, if you’re someone with skin that’s a beautiful shade of Black or Brown and or have fantastic hair that’s not straight, making yourself in games has been/is often a practice in frustration — Often we don’t feel seen as a result
The questions we’ll explore are: why are games behind like this, and are there solutions to said problems?
Skin Tone Ranges (or there lack of)
It’s no coincidence that this article comes a literal year after a viral tweet of mine regarding this very subject. The truth is, you’ll often see skin tone ranges you are lackluster — This is because they are so regularly limited. Most games (see Pokémon Masters and Greedfall) are okay with sticking to 3–5 shades.
Others have more choices; however, most don’t seem to bother. So, why not have a more extensive range for people? Is it a lack of caring? Or does it not register on the developer to-do lists?