Image: PS4 Division 2 Screenshot
The world is in a pandemic. Lives have been changed, by a virus that is airborne. I remember the first time the news aired, and posted, COVID-19 headlines across my Facebook feed – many fearing the presence of a virus we couldn’t see. But one counter-narrative to this global challenge exists; at least I had Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (D2). With stories of countries closing their borders, countless deaths, and a US administration ravaged with uncertainty, D2 bunkered down my mental sanity while maintaining safe connectivity with other human beings (good, bad, and CRAZY mind you). What D2 does seamlessly well, is its inclusion of Black character gameplay, a racially-diverse storyline, and its industry-innovation as a game offering for Black gamers seeking to support Black representation in video games.
Quick Black Gaming History Lesson
I know many ask the question, “Why does it matter if D2 has Black characters? It’s just a game.” I’m not going to speak heavily about it. Representation matters, for more on that, let PBS educate you. The first Black video game characters were seen in SEGA’s Heavyweight Champ (1976), and Atari’s Basketball (1979). But the first shooter game with a Black character was “Edgar” in SEGA’s Quartet (1986). Besides “Cole Train” of Epic’s Gears of War (2006), Ubisoft’s Division 2 (made in 2019 through game engine Snowdrop) is the latest shooter-game to offer Black characters at your control. More than 40 years later, very few Black characters have hit this genre, and I’m so excited to see Ubisoft (a French company) make diversity a priority.
“Washington, D.C is on the brink of collapse (involving the D62 virus). Lawlessness and instability threaten our society, and rumors of a coup in the Capitol are only amplifying the chaos. All active Division agents are desperately needed to save the city before its too late.” – Ubisoft’s Division 2 Website
The Ability To Create Black Characters
Not only seeing, but having the ability to create a character in your own image is an amazing feeling. Capcom’s Street Fighter ( Balrog, Dee Jay), Bandai NAMCO Entertainment’ Tekken (Eddy Goro), and one of my all-time favorites Bethesda Softwork’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim all gave me the ability to get in the game with the option to play as a Black character. This wasn’t the case with many games. As an RPG guy, I would only find creatures, White, or Asian characters in major titles. Don’t get me wrong, a great story is a great story. But with all the years I’ve invested in gaming, it’s nice to see my shade of pixels included BEAUTIFULLY. D2 developed Black support characters and bosses. SWEET! Not only does the support characters and bosses add to the great story. Ubisoft provided work for Black voice talent. Jobs people, Jobs!
Matchmaking With Our Black Players
Social distancing has become a new norm and buzz word. D2 is the perfect solution. Division 2’s game design is such that you have to play through its online server – allowing for friends, and new players to engage through D2’s matchmaking ability. Research study shows that 83% of Black teens versus 71% of White teens play video games. Black folks play D2, and I’m all for it. With all of the challenges facing Black people, it’s nice to find a place to fellowship AND kick ass.
Tom Clancy’s Division 2’s inclusion of Black characters, bosses, and character design is top-notch. As a Black gamer, I want to thank Ubisoft for their carefully thought-out development of the Division’s second installment (The Division or D1, which was wonderful too). If you want to get into gaming, check out the game with friends – just stay out of the Dark Zone (DZ) if you don’t want to get hurt…
Shawn is a contributing writer for Dog Bark Media. He is a gamer and game design student out of Washington, D.C. His work has been published in Black Dance Magazine, and Ngoma Reader Magazine. His formal education includes programs at Howard University, Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Liverpool.