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Practical Politics


Whether you know it or not, a gigantic population of youth—Latinx, Native American, Asian-American and African-American—play video games. And they play a lot.

Several recent studies (2018, 2019) indicate that African-Americans, Latinx (the gender-neutral term for Latinos and Latinas), and Asians are more active in the gaming community than even White youth, although the latter are still the face of the industry. These studies also show emphatically that Black folks play more video games than other youth, and that overall, 83 percent of African-American youth reported playing video games regularly as compared to 71 percent of White teens.

Video gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry that is yearly getting even bigger. The pandemic did not decrease money-making in this industry, it only increased it. With more time on their hands, youth did not just binge on movies and streaming channels, they played all levels of digital video games.

One of the very noticeable aspects of the gaming industry is that most of the gaming programming is being done, and has always been done, by White men. Thus, most of the positive content, philosophies, heroes and heroines in the industry reflect what young White men want to see. Yes, of course, there are lots of depictions of others, including African-Americans, but they are mostly stereotypical images of gangsters, criminals, dope fiends and other low-lifes. The longevity of rap music has heavily influenced the popularity of such images.

Until the proportion of the game creators begins to look much more like the population of game players, the future of gaming will be frozen in time. That would be such a nullification that the industry itself would probably collapse. That would be a waste of some $200 billion dollars.

To help speed up that change, more accurate history can provide different role models, story lines and situations. One clear example is that of the Black samurai.

Most of us have never heard the story, but Japanese historical records relate that after coming to Japan in 1579 in the service of Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, an African named Yasuke eventually crossed paths with and began to work for the powerful feudal lord, Nobunaga.  This personage was the first of the three  Great Unifiers  of the Japanese nation—Oda Nobunaga. Yasuke was accepted into Nobunaga s orbit and eventually selected to join Nobunaga s warrior clan. In that service, because of his great skill, Yasuke earned the rank of samurai, equivalent to a Japanese knight.

Yasuke long fought alongside Nobunaga and was even present as a trusted retainer at the infamous HonnM-ji incident of 1582 when Nobunaga was forced to commit ritual suicide. This was a famous historical  incident in Japanese culture.

With Nobunaga, Yasuke was entrusted with and welded the great and fearsome katana sword weapon of the samurai. He also came to signify the armed Japanese samurai who represented  the positive traits of the warrior class, including honor, self-control, mastery, respect and loyalty. That Yasuke was knighted into the samurai status affirms that Japanese-Africans have always embodied these virtues in Japanese history and culture.

Programming a series of video games themed on Yasuke s exploits would seem to be a natural in the near future. We need more such Black heroes and sheroes as role models.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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