Entertainment mediums in the West are introducing likable South Asian protagonists into fiction–slightly steering away from its history of brownface casting and becoming more inclusive of South Asian storytellers. Although Squid Game’s Ali Abdul and Midnight Mass’ Sheriff Hassan weren’t the main characters of their respective stories, they were unapologetically brown, purposeful, and supported by the story. Even the imperfect desi girl Devi Vishwakumar from Never Have I Ever–whose actor also voiced Priya in Turning Red–has become a relatable character to South Asians, teens, and people recollecting their messy formative high-school years. However, representation doesn’t need to be limited to solely relatable stories when something as fantastical as The Green Knight makes brown characters shine. And while other mediums are exploring what South Asian representation looks like from a variety of angles, video games are still struggling with the basics.
The term South Asian is incredibly broad–including almost two billion people across multiple countries and the diaspora–but diverse experiences that leverage the people that have lived them in their creation are a way to achieve an authentic story that avoids generalizations and typecasting. However, purposeful representation of the subcontinental people and its diaspora as protagonists remains largely absent in games. I spoke to a few South Asian game developers about their thoughts on the current state of South Asian representation in the games industry, and what it could become in the indie and AAA spaces.
“I think the indie space is leading the charge [in South Asian representation]–the game I’m currently working on with Outerloop is specifically about the South Asian experience, and the protagonist is a young South Asian woman,” said Meghna Jayanth, narrative designer at Outerloop. “Brianna Lei’s Butterfly Soup was the first time I felt in any way like my identity was represented in a game. Visai Games’ Venba is a beautiful, grounded South Asian story of cooking and family. Indian designers are doing interesting work as well–look at the gorgeous Raji: An Ancient Epic by Nodding Head Games.”
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Source: Game Spot Mashup