In case you’re not keeping up with the exact facts and figures of the mighty Black Panther, it’s currently made 700 MILLION DOLLARS in revenue worldwide. That’s beaten Justice League’s 657 mil final take in just a few DAYS.
The movie is a love letter to - and bold reinforcement of - what it means to be black. What it means to recognise a collective African heritage, and celebrate it. There are many other awesome takeaways and things to be excited about, but the very reason it’s taken off so damn much, is predominantly down to surfacing a number of racial and cultural traits and qualities, that Hollywood had yet to do justice.
Yes, in terms of the superhero genre we’ve had Blade, we’ve seen Falcon alongside Captain America and there’s been, erm, Catwoman, but none of these movies put diversity and cultural values at the front of their message; at the front of their identities or personalities. Nothing about the Blade movies sought to pick apart or dissect what it meant to be a black superhero - mainly because that wasn’t the goal - but also because it wasn’t a notable conversation the majority of viewers even recognised, or wanted to have.
For any number of socio-economic, globally-reaching philosophical or psychological reasons, it just wasn’t the right time.
But it is now.
Take the lessons Black Panther seeks to teach - the impact of colonialism and slavery on heritage and culture; the need for diversity in a modern society - and apply them to gaming.
Our beloved industry very rarely goes anywhere near deep dissections of what it means to be “one with your people”. Assassin’s Creed certainly represents a phenomenal and consistent look at a number of different time periods, with protagonists that span a number of ethnicities - but how many of Ubisoft’s stories are about their heroes grappling with cultural issues?
Often, and herein lies the rub - games like Assassin’s Creed use their backdrops as playgrounds, and that’s certainly enjoyable and informative, but you certainly don’t come out of them the same way as millions have from Black Panther.
The nearest I can think of is Never Alone, a gorgeous indie title that retells the story of Kunuuksaayuka (ka-nook-sai-yuka), a Native Alaskan tale first written by Robert Nasruk Cleveland, detailing the history of various tribes and how they lived and survived together. Never Alone represents a video game purpose built to cast a light on an otherwise unknown part of the world, and though its gameplay wasn’t the most revolutionary, like Black Panther, the message and meaning of the project far outweighs any of these shortcomings.
What does all this mean for the future of Hollywood, and the future of mainstream entertainment? Well, thanks to those OVERWHELMING sales figures, even from a coldhearted business point of view, you’re going to start seeing way more movies with people of colour and women as the lead.
Ryan Coogler’s latest shows there is a world audience dying to see more unique, culturally and historically rich stories. It shows that - removed from any sort of racist undertone - there is a value to “non-white” stories, whatever they may be.
Modern gaming is certainly guilty of playing things too safe. For every Lucio, CJ, Lee Everett or an RPG where you have free reign over skin colour and gender, there are endless white protagonists.
There’s nothing WRONG with this, but try and list any well-known black protagonists, or female black protagonists. We’re in desperate need of projects that not only exude interest and engagement through everything I’ve mentioned, but to create games that wear these qualities on their sleeve, empowering, educating and progressing society in tow.