For one of the most vital and vibrant creative industries in the world, video games sure do lack imagination in one key area. As this supercut featuring the heroes of 40 different games announced at E3 this week makes clear, seemingly every protagonist looks more or less identical to every other protagonist. That is to say: white, male, with usually a few days’ growth of beard on their chins, and a glint in their eye that marks them as someone who plays by their own rules in a world that’s set up against them.
The lack of diversity in video games has been mentioned many times as an issue of representation and social justice–and while that’s entirely reasonable, the fact that, say, female gamers rarely have the opportunity to see themselves represented through the characters they play is only one of the reasons the game industry might want to diversify itself.
From a creative standpoint, all of these games look decidedly uninspired. The setting, the costumes, the plot, and the gameplay may all be different–but there’s not a whole lot of difference in playing a grizzled anti-hero with an anti-authoritarian streak who’s out to perform assassinations in revolutionary France (as in Assassin’s Creed 5) or one who’s determined to keep the streets of Gotham City safe from a cadre of criminally insane mental patients (Batman: Arkham Knight).
The first-person fantasy of playing as another character eventually gets a bit old when that “other character” is essentially the same guy that you’ve played in 39 other games. As this supercut makes clear, the power of games as a storytelling medium is limited every time the stories are told through cookie-cutter protagonists.