In the 23 years that I have known my sister, Fortnite it’s the only video game i’ve been able to get him to play consistently since our gaming days Sonic the Hedgehog two Y 3 when we were kids. You may think, “Well, yes, everyone has fallen in love with Fortnite at one time or another. It’s a very popular game.” And you are right. Part of the reason is that it’s extremely fun, especially since she, my partner, our friend, and I have made it our group activity. But one big aspect that keeps bringing her back is the fact that she can see herself in the characters that she uses in the game.
In particular, he wears the prominent skins of Hollywood star Zendaya, who becomes the main character in his Fortnite experience. For her, it’s not about playing as her favorite Spider-Man character, but as a hero who really looks like her.
My sister has always looked up black women to look up to in pop culture. Women who look like her and share her sensitivity, and the big and small struggles she goes through. Zendaya became that, and her inclusion in Fortnite it literally changed the game for my sister. Suddenly, I wasn’t just playing a game as a white character that I had no connection to. She played as someone she looked up to and could relate to on multiple levels, including complexion.
My sister and other black gamers, especially women, are constantly looking for games where they can see a main character that looks a bit like them. Even though there are so many games on the market, it has never been an easy thing to do. We got our badass like Garcian Smith from murderer7Shinobu’s No More Heroesand a few more, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t just a stereotype or sex appeal (yes, that includes iconic heroes like Barrett from final fantasy 7 and Laura or Elena from Street Fighter). While Fortnite has been mocked by “hardcore gamers”, arguably doing better than 80% of the industry since its initial release with the series’ original characters.
There are titles that share cultural status with Fortnite in the world of video games: Super Smash Bros., World of Warcraft and Supervision, they all come to mind. But none of them have taken the various steps that Fortnite has been doing since its inception.
Super Smash Bros doesn’t have a real black character yet (no, I’m not counting palette swaps, and yes, I’m still burned from the Twintelle theft), world of warcraft did not allow players to be black or any other ethnicity for 15 years, and Supervision didn’t introduce the first black female character until recently, with its upcoming sequel. Meanwhile, as players who jump out of the battle bus, Fortnite has been releasing skins that are all shades of black and brown since its inception.
Epic Games has gone above and beyond most games in its approach to giving players more options. In Fortnite, there are certain outfits called “character styles” that appear frequently in the item shop. Many times Epic will add multiple characters that can be adapted to these styles. When that happens, the characters typically span many skin tones and ethnicities, allowing players to choose those they feel closest to. Systems like that naturally expand players’ ability to find a hero that best represents them.
Are you ready for #ShareTheLight?
Join the Lantern Fest – a month full of competitions, challenges, creativity and a handful of rewards!
– Fortnite (@FortniteGame) April 1, 2022
Do not, Fortnite he’s not perfect with his portrayal. There are still more groups that can be held in the game. But what other game are you looking at that features an in-game Ramadan-inspired Lantern Fest with Muslim-inspired masks? The fact that there is a video game looking to branch out to literally everyone who plays it is amazing to me as a black man. It’s something I never thought I’d see since my childhood days playing the Dreamcast.
Seeing my sister’s excitement for Zendaya becoming a Fortnite The skin serves as a constant reminder to me that representation in games and media in general does matter. I’m not saying that all games need to insert colors by obligation. However, as shown in blockbusters like apex legends, Horizon: Forbidden WestY Fortnite — as well as bad examples like elden ring and their lack of black hairstyles — there is always someone waiting to meet you in the games you play. The minds behind these experiences need to ensure that they can create better links between players and their virtual world, especially in an age where literally everyone is gaming.