It's 2015 and the Japanese video game market is still spoiling it's western gamers with brand new JRPG releases which is evident when looking at all the new rpgs and re-releases coming to the PS4, Stream and Nintendo 3DS.
In fact JRPG titles have been going strong for a very long time, but let's take a closer look at the games with character creation, which often try to cater to a wider audience by allowing the player to create their own avatar which the player can in most ways can identify with by cosmetic standards.
After many years of experimenting with character creation in Japanese games over the years, we're found certain trouble creating an avatar in which best represents ourselves or just just any normal looking ( black African / African American) character.
In more recent times we've seen many western RPGS include a more diverse set of options which extend to facial features and hairstyles commonly reflected in black culture. ( i.e Mass effect/Destiny/Dragon Age Inquisition), but more often than not they are usually just sports titles with a tacked on character creator mode.
Let's not play this off with the usual "it doesn't matter", "what about my race" or "Japan isn't used to black people" comment trope which often rears it's ugly head when discussing this type of issue in video games, as we feel this should be addressed since video games are becoming more diverse and games with character creation should give you major freedom into regard of how you want to look and not limit your experience.
And let's also not claim that Japan doesn't know how to do aesthetically pleasing black people because many previous games have proven this notion wrong..
Specifically our issues with Xenoblade Chronicles X are...
- Hairstyles are locked to specific character types
- Hairstyles are very limited, where's the dreadlocks, high/low fades or ridiculously big afros? Not everyone can get down with cornrows.
- Character types that are not the typical Anime Style (first 6) appear more realistic, yet appear aged. In many MMO games you can select an appearance and age, yet all the ethnic looking types appear middle aged.
Youtuber KoKuTanLufi further explained it in his video highlighting his issues with Xenoblade Chronicle X's character creation.
With regards to hairstyles in games, at minimum, we'd like to see hairstyles such as:
Remember back when some games only allowed you to change the skin colour of your avatar from pale to peachy colour, so in that regard things have gotten better but there needs to be more effort put in rather than games developers just treating the whole thing as an afterthought.
Three good examples of decent character creation in JRPGS for black avatars are Phantasy Star Online 2, Dark Soul II and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (barely). A more better example would be the Perfect World which was surely ahead of it's time. We're quite sure character creation in games (especially JRPGS) will never be flawless, but we're hoping for them to have a wider variety of options in the near future that better represent people of all races and backgrounds.
Ethnic hairstyles - A variety of ethnic hairstyles for both genders would benefit players who simply don't want straight hair. Afros, hi fades, twists, braids, dreadlocks, fro hawk and curly hair are all popular types of hairstyles that should game developers should consider including in their character creation.
Skin tone - Well things are sort of improving in this area but it can still be an issue in some games with the most recent offenders being Bloodborne and Dragon Ball Z Xenoverse, the solution? Well there either should be a variety of different colours to choose from or preferably a slider which covers realistic human skin tones.
Body type - Well you could say this goes beyond the topic or is beyond what's available today but if the 2011 MMORPG Body & Soul can achieve this feat then it shouldn't be far out of reach for gamers today. Imagine if you could give your black female the thickalicious body type and big booty she was destined for?~
Research - Getting some actual black people/other minorities and getting feedback or taking their advice on what hairstyles or facial features to add would be the best solution, or better yet search engines are your best friend. It doesn't take even a minute to google relevant information.
While JRPG can be the biggest offenders in treating black avatars as an afterthought it's not to say they are the only ones as many games outside of Japan also could take note and apply the above advice to their character creation, thus allowing players to create more diverse characters without feeling limited or held back.