Action game protagonists: only severe looking caucasians need apply

I was playing Dead Rising last night when I noticed something interesting about the lead character. Maybe it’s because I just got a 360 and did a review of every game released looking for stuff to buy.

There’s apparently only one way for action game protagonists to look if they’re human, their characterization is a major focus of the game’s design, and they’re created from scratch by the designers. Severe looking face, strong chin, dark hair, caucasian, leather jacket - it’s the same every damn time. From the action game list, not counting licensed human characters like Constantine or Blade:

Alan Wake
Dead to Rights
Dead Rising
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Far Cry Instincts Predator
Gears of War
Max Payne
Prey (they say he’s Native American, but he looks the same to me)
Serious Sam

There’s a few variants on the rule (Hitman featured a character with a shaved head, Gordon in Half Life 2 doesn’t look that severe), but ones that don’t seem to fit the pattern, like Second Sight (shaved head, no chin) and Saints Row (multi-ethnic cast, normal chins) are rare. The female leads in Perfect Dark Zero, Rogue Ops, and Stolen all kind of look the same too, but it’s only a set of three.

Is that strong chin so recognizable as a symbol of extreme testosterone that it’s required for commercial gaming success? Action movies aren’t a bastion of innovative casting either, but even they seem to vary a lot more than this - lots of strong-chin black actors in action movies, but we rarely get that in games (True Crime). I don’t have time to go hunting for more games to show it, but this seems to be a general thing with action games, not just on the xbox.

(they say he’s native american, but he looks the same to me)

This might be better as a P&R thread but what if no one wants to take the chance to cast a negative stereotype? IE: If Mr. Hero was a black man toting a gun shooting people, you might get flack for promoting a racist stereotype.

If he was a German, you might be accused of being pro-nazi or something equally as stupid.


I hope Master Chief turns out to be a woman.

…a woman with a voice modulator.

My point is that if he’s native american, they’ve done nothing with the actual character to make it noticeable.

God help me for defending 3D Realms, but I think he looks plenty native american. What else would you have them do, stick a feather in his hair and dress him up in buffalo skins?

And FWIW, I think this is a larger societal problem that is actually prevalent in movies, tv shows, etc. Which doesn’t mean game developers shouldn’t be taken to task for it, but they are hardly the only ones.

Psh, Master Chief is black. Everyone knows that.

He looks pretty native to me. But then again, I grew up around a ton of natives.

Caucasian designers use Caucasian protagonists! A bizarre agenda, I do declare.

Eh, maybe I’m wrong on the Prey thing.

He still has that chin! I’m actually more fascinated by the chin and the grimace - oooh, I’m in pain and had lots of testostorone in my body during a critical growth period, resulting in this chin! I’m an action star!

A strong jaw doesn’t make you white.

what about vice city stories?

San Andreas?

sin 1 & 2?


Prince of Persia’s entire series?

Tomb Raider’s entire series?

Bloodrayne 1/2?

all the fancy-lad metrosexuals in every japanese game?

lots of action games dont have male caucasian toughs. msot do, sure, but most action movies do the same. most comic heroes are white steroid freaks as well.

Dead Rising was made by Capcom, so i dunno why they used a caucasian guy. And the dude from prey looks semi native american (i’m guessing, like alot of bloodlines in america, he’s probably really a mix of european and native american)

Also don’t forget that sometimes textures are changed depending in the country that the game is being produced. Alot of FFX’s characters were changed to look more european when it was released here.

Isn’t the protagonist in GTA:SA a black man toting a gun shooting people? Perhaps Rockstar got a pass on that because the previous games in the series featured a white guy?

Beaten by Moore.

I should have clarified that by “human” I meant “human done in a semi-realistic art style.” Mario is obviously the most out there action star in existence, but he’s part of the cartoony jumping game genre, not “action.” Also applies to Prince of Persia.

Sin and San Andreas go against the grain, yes. Crackdown isn’t out yet. Tomb Raider and Bloodrayne just go in the female stereotype bucket with the rest of them.

All the fancy-lad metrosexuals in every japanese game?

Not in xbox games!

PoP isnt an action game series featuring a persian lead? it’s not cartoony at all.

and plenty of xbox titles have fruity metrosexuals, just not a shit ton of them. Raiden, anyone?

They all watched Army of Darkness too many times and are constantly trying to recreate Ash.

You guys can point out exceptions till the cows come home, but it doesn’t invalidate Jason’s point:

However, I’d say it has more to do with Hollywood than videogaming. The anvil-jawed grim-faced white dude is the typical way you do an action hero in movies.

Gaming apes Hollywood. With a few exceptions, it is not its own medium. Culturally speaking, videogaming is downstream from other forms of entertainment, and the stereotypical protagonist is one example of this.


Also, how does SiN go against the grain? Isn’t John Blade a poster child for the kind of stereotypical chiseled, tough-guy action hero being talked about here? (I guess there’s some ambiguity about his skin color?)