Los Angeles: After introducing the world to several new female heroes at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, story-driven game makers at this week's gathering of the interactive industry are uncharacteristically putting more racially diverse protagonists front and center in their games.
From an Indian-American space dweller in "Tacoma" to a biracial Vietnam War veteran in "Mafia III," the heroes and anti-heroes appearing on the massive posters and screens across the Los Angeles Convention Center represent more ethnicities than have been showcased in the past.
"We wanted to tell a very different 'Mafia' story this time," said Christoph Hartmann, president of "Mafia" publisher 2K Games. "That meant getting away from classic 'Godfather' fare with a bunch of Italian characters. Once we decided to set the game in New Orleans in 1968, it just made sense for the character to be an African-American war vet."
For decades, when players haven't able to pick their own protagonist's skin color or background, the interactive medium has mostly focused on telling stories of white leading men and women, relegating characters of other ethnicities to villainous or supporting roles. That's changing.
"At the end of the day, this is the group that we're interested in seeing on screen," said Karla Zimonja, co-founder of "Tacoma" developer Fullbright. "It's always more interesting to pay attention to things that don't get a lot of attention in media. This is a direction that hasn't really been explored in video games, so we wanted to explore it."