Earlier this year, The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment launched “Raise The Game,” an initiative seeking to sign up 200 video game developers and publishers to agree to the pledge principles and increasing diversity within their company. Since then, improvements have been seen from a number of developers.
The Game of the Year winner for 2020, The Last of Us Part II, sees players control Ellie, an openly gay teenager, whilst we have seen the Assassin's Creed series allow players more decisions for the chosen character.
While there is still a long way to go for complete diversity and inclusion within video games, these are steps in the right direction. With the arrival of Black History Month, Xbox has shown its intent to highlight the voices of those who need to be heard.
BLACK VOICES AMPLIFIED
In a post on Xbox Wire, Xbox and Microsoft outlined their commitment to celebrating Black History Month, by “highlighting the contributions of influential Black and African American developers and creators.”
Throughout the post, Xbox shined a light on a number of entertainment forms, from video games to blockbuster movies, “while raising awareness of important causes that matter to Black communities.”
Watch Dogs 2, Apex Legends, and Afterparty are all known for their iconic playable characters, while The Sims 4 is praised for its work with an influential Black member of the modding community to produce an update for the game, adding over 100 new skin tones as well as improving hairstyles and makeup.
A Black History Month nameplate has also been added to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, giving players the opportunity to “showcase their pride in their own identities, celebrate Black History Month and continue to drive a culture of inclusion in gaming.”
Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse are also highlighted within the post, reminding fans that despite Chadwick Boseman's tragic loss, “he remains a guide to an inspiring world where Black, African, and Brown people are equal.”
A full list of the Black History Month Collection can be seen here.
Xbox also shared a number of stories submitted by members of their Xbox Ambassadors program, asking those who identify as Black/African American to share their experiences of how they feel represented within the gaming communities. The full list of published stories can be read here.
All live-streaming content for the month of February will be dedicated to Black History Month, with Xbox showcasing Black protagonists in games, developers, content creators, and streamers over on Twitch:
Week of February 1 – Black Heroes Week “Let’s play and watch Black heroes be the star of their own games”
Week of February 8 – Black Creators/Developers and their Games Week “Meet Black Creators & Developers and learn more about their titles”
Week of February 15 – Black Streamers Takeover Week “Meet new & familiar faces in Black gaming communities”
Week of February 22 – Black Streamers Takeover Week “Meet new & familiar faces in Black gaming communities”
Minecraft: Education Edition is also getting a free update for Black History Month, with a number of new lessons coming to the platform:
"Minecraft: Education Edition is offering four new lessons and a free demo experience to support students and educators as they address these critical topics. Students can learn about the life and activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., investigate ideas behind identity, experience important moments in the American Civil Rights movement, and learn how Black Lives Matter is continuing the work of racial justice. Additionally, players and families will be able to download Minecraft: Education Edition and access Lessons in Good Trouble as a free demo through the month of February in honor of Black History Month. Lessons in Good Trouble is based on the life and teachings of Civil Rights Leader and US Congressman John Lewis."
STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Xbox and Microsoft's intent is clear to see here, with the desire and focus to highlight the incredible work from Black voices all across the world.
While an acknowledgment of the month on the company's social media pages may have been sufficient, they have gone above and beyond, shining a light on some great pieces of entertainment created within the last few years, whether that is on the big screen or in video game form.
This amount of commitment from a huge company such as Microsoft shows steps being taken for a more inclusive and diverse community, and hopefully, others will follow suit.