Video games have always been dominated by white people. Whether it’s the characters in the games or those making them, the racial difference has always been way more white than any other. But that’s starting to change, slowly but surely, as game development becomes more accessible and games that challenge the status quo are able to be made. Clique is one such game. Clique is an action adventure game whose developers have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money for development. What makes Clique unique is that it’s being designed by an all African-American team. This is truly rare in an industry where 85% of developers are white and a mere 2% of developers are African-American (according to a study by the IGDA). The team have called themselves Dead Art Games and is composed of Neil Jones (@aerial_knight), Daniel Wilkins (@DanielWilkins90) and DeAndre Hall. These men are channelling their passion for games into an experience that reflects the harsh reality of growing up as an African-American.
“As African-Americans, the team at Dead Art Games wanted to show our struggle in the world of today. Being judged by the color of our skin, we find ourselves going the extra mile just to prove that we are the same as the next person. That we just want to be accepted without prejudice.” – Daniel Wilkins in an interview with Polygon
The gameplay of Clique is divided into two very distinct sections. One section is told through the eyes of an African-American girl who escapes from her troubles in the worlds of video games. This section is played in first-person and is experienced through branching dialogue options the girl has with her family and other characters. She the main character, the person who the player will experience the world through.
“I stayed in Highland Park for about 10 years, very deep inside of Detroit. It’s a very dangerous neighborhood. But I tried to stay away from all the gang violence. It’s hard doing that. It’s affected the way I see things in the world today.” – Daniel Wilkins in an interview with Polygon
The other section of the game is told through an action-adventure handheld game that the girl gets from her brother for her birthday. This game played within a game is where the player will spend most of their time. This section is a top down RPG-like game where players control a black alien who lands on a planet full of aliens of different colours. These other aliens don’t trust the black one so the black alien must earn their trust by completing quests, solving puzzles and battling monsters. It’s a very literal analogy for being an person of colour in the West. Before you even talk to someone they have already made a judgement call based on your skin colour.
Clique is a celebration of African-American culture and seeks to challenge the stereotypical depiction of African-Americans in video games. Usually in video games these characters are a thug or a muscular sidekick or the comic relief. This is a stereotype that these designers have seen countless times growing up playing games. The thug or gangster stereotype is a very tiresome one for these men having grown up in Detroit where gang violence was and is very close to home. They want to take their experiences both in the industry and in their day to day lives and channel them into Clique.
“We hope to give the player a connection of relatability and a better insight into African American culture.” – Kickstarter project description
Clique is not only intriguing as an action adventure game but also as an insight into the lives of African-Americans, a topic rarely approached in video games. It’s a topic I’m very unfamiliar with because it’s rarely talked about. Video games are dominated by Whitey McStubbly characters.. Clique is a very important step towards a more diverse and more inclusive industry. It also begins to open the dialogue around racism and bigotry in our games and our society. The fact that Clique is being developed by those most familiar with the topic makes it all the more meaningful and necessary. It’s also a very important game for Afrian-American gamers who almost never get games that have representation of them none the less realistic representation created by people who know their struggles. In an industry and a medium so trope-laden and dominated by white developers and characters it’s extremely important that games like Clique get made and get the attention and exposure that they deserve.