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May 23, 2007

Black Women Got Game?: Why Alyx Matters

Posted in: Games,Race

Yesterday, Valve founder Gabe Newell dropped a not-so-subtle hint that Half-Life sidekick Alyx Vance might get her own game. Props for sticking that neck out.

While she wouldn’t be the first black woman to star in a videogame (that honor falls to Jade or Catwoman depending), it would be a landmark nonetheless — the first black woman to head up a AAA franchise, and one of the most loved franchises in videogame history no less. Not to mention the first black female to appear as a central character in of the testosterone fueled first person shooter genre. (She didn’t even have to double her cup size to do it.) That’s saying something. And, oh yeah, she’d be only the second (or third?) black woman main character ever.

The biggest reason Alyx is important, though, is that both Catwoman and Jade’s Beyond Good & Evil bombed. While there are many possible explanations (a poor license and a poor title, for instance), what’s really important now is for the industry to show that, with the right content, gamers can get excited about playing these kinds of characters — characters that fall outside typical stereotypes. I can’t think of a better company to make it happen than the ever-inventive Valve, particularly since their bread and butter is the hardcore gamer.

Videogames need the diversity. Do it, Valve. Please.

For more, see Race in Games: The Unanswered Question

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