Thanks to my mom I’m a casual Trekkie, and I have fond memories of watching a handful of episodes with her during marathons when I was younger. I’ve even gone on to watch through the original series on Netflix and Next Generation whenever I can catch a marathon. There is just something about exploring new worlds and interacting with alien life and learning about their cultures that I find fascinating. And Star Trek was one of the first sci-fi series (that I know of) to embrace diversity in a time where seeing folks from different racial and ethnic backgrounds just wasn’t a thing. Nichelle Nichols’s portrayal of Uhura on the original series was and still is one of the most culturally significant Black roles ever! Fast-forward today and it’s not uncommon to see a few characters of color woven in to most mainstream series. Just look at Star Trek: Discovery, Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, the first Black female lead in Star Trek series—which is absolutely monumental!
So, when I came across the 2017 NaNoRenO title, PAIRS—a sci-fi romance that not only embraces diversity, but also had not one but TWO Black female leads… I knew I had add it to my game library. PAIRS follows two unique couples—Carmelita and Ricardo, two heroes in training and James, Kitten Pink (Noiya), a human baker and an alien warrior princess— in the midst of an ongoing alien war between Earth and the invading Naian people.
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One of my first experiences with Japanese culture and anime came from watching Sailor Moon after school. Though the American dub of the series was HEAVILY edited, I was enamored with the series and tuned in every day to see Serena (yes, I know Usagi) and the rest of the Sailor Scouts kicking ass and protecting their city from evil… and Tuxedo Mask, he was like my first anime crush! I can STILL remember singing the opening theme at the top of my lungs much to the annoyance of my mom and brothers, but watching Sailor Moon sparked a love affair with anime and the magical girl genre that has lasted years…
I love me some Sailor Moon, but there weren’t exactly any Black sailor scouts (except for Pluto… I’m gonna go ahead and claim her for the culture), not that that stopped me from wanting to be a sailor scout. But, looking back, I would have loved to have seen someone that looked like me fighting along side the rest of the sailor scouts. So when I came across Xeregha Lopez’s magical girl yuri/otome visual novel, Magical Warrior Diamond Heart it set my little magical girl heart all a flutter!!
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Hey Hey!! Day 2 of my “mostly” month long shoutout to melanin friendly games!! It’s Black History Month, so for the remainder of the month, I want to write mini reviews spotlighting games that feature Black and Brown characters in prominent roles! As a Black woman and gamer, I am always on the lookout for games that feature characters that look like me and even more so, stories from creators of color. Because there is just something beautiful about creators of color telling their own stories!
And today’s Melanin Friendly Game pick has both!
Y’all may know S-morishita for her delightful webcomic series Catch Me! Fight Me! Love Me!, but did you know she also released a game too?! S-morishita is a triple threat- Artist, Writer, and Game Developer! Back in 2013, she released the fantasy romance visual novel, A Troll’s Fairy Tale, for the one month Game Jam, NaNoRenO. The game follows a 24 year old troll, named Acacia, who despite not being a beautiful dainty princess, wants to have her own fairytale romance just like the ones she’s heard about in stories. But, can a troll really have her own happily ever after? Join Acacia on her quest for the perfect fairytale romance and find out!
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It’s Black History Month, and while I’m a week late to the party, I wanted to do something special to celebrate and what better way to do that than to flood your timelines and readers with Melanin Friendly games?! Diversity in games has certainly gotten better over the years, and as a Black woman and a gamer, I really appreciate seeing more and more developers including narratives that focus on characters that look like me. I’ve written about representation in games before, focusing mostly on indie games and visual novels, since they tend to have more inclusive casts of characters and narratives. I wrote a post last year spotlighting a list of visual novels and otome games that featured Black and Brown characters in prominent roles and I want to kind of expand on that. Every day I’ll write mini reviews of games that I’ve found that have characters of color at the forefront.
First up is the fantasy romance visual novel, Nusantara – Legend of the Winged Ones from indie developer, Sweet Chiel. The game follows Tamara, a young woman who is transported from the present day into the past—a world of myths and legends. Embark on a journey into the unknown, as you are thrust into the ongoing conflict between the Sakma, a race of winged people and their enemies, the ruthless Komodo.
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I’ve written about the importance of representation in media quite a few times in the past, I even have a post series dedicated to talking about inclusion and diversity in nerd culture. Most recently, I wrote a post about diversity (or the lack there of) in otome games and after penning the post an indie developer friend of mine reached out to me about the topic. We had an awesome discussion about the depiction of people of color in visual novels and the importance of wholesome representation. She even gave me some insight into the difficulties some content creators have when crafting characters of color in their games, a perspective I hadn’t considered. I’ve seen quite a few polls and surveys floating around about the content of western otome games and visual novels, many of which have sections dedicated to gauging player interests in diverse characters.
I love that there is an open dialogue about diversity in games, especially in romance themed games since there is a noticeable disparity in the number of otome games that feature black and brown characters in major roles. However, I’ve heard through the grapevine that there are a handful of developers that have been saying that they don’t include darker skinned characters in their games because they “look bad” or aren’t as attractive as non black and brown characters. Some people have stated that it’s harder to create characters with darker complexions using the anime art style common in otome games… and hearing that is really heartbreaking. On some level, I feel like this is just a carryover of colorism, and the notion that dark skinned individuals are not as attractive as lighter skinned individuals (which is not the case at all). But, on other levels, it’s less an issue with darker characters looking bad and more a case of an artist needing more experience depicting characters of color.
There is a demand for more diverse games, heck, this past weekend someone used the search term ‘otome games black girl friendly’ to get to my site and I’m gonna be honest with you guys, it made my whole weekend! As more people start playing otome games (and romance visual novels) the demand for more inclusive characters and narratives will only rise and those who stay stuck in their ways are really limiting themselves. So, for the person that searched for black girl friendly otome games and for the folks that think “darker characters look bad” here are a few Melanin Friendly Otome Games and Visual Novels!!
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