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How open are you to the idea of playing a VN with a Black Protagonist ?


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Posted (edited)

I have been wondering about this issue for a long time. As the number of Black otaku continues to rise every year, there are bound to be an increasing number of Black nerds that want the same ability as their Japanese and White counterparts in being able to consume media featuring main characters that look like them, in terms of skin color, hair or implied ethnicity.

Since Japanese people too are very open and unapologetic in wanting to enjoy mediums with relatable self-insert protagonists that share their ethnicity and skin color as evidenced by the sheer number of blank-state or bland Japanese MCs in Isekai and Narou stories, it would be foolish to assume that Black nerds won't think the same with regards to wanting to see relatable MCs in the media they love.

Therefore, I'd like to ask a simple question. How open are you to the idea of playing a VN with a Black Protagonist ?

There are some that says that the race or color of the MC doesn't matter as long as the story and Heroines are interesting enough. If that is really true, then they wouldn't mind if the protagonist is Black, right ?

It doesn't have to be NTR crap for such MCs to be introduced. Black MCs can appear as a normal hero too in a straightforward pure love VN or Eroge, as evidenced in the Netflix anime "Yasuke". I hope that the idea of Black Protagonists would be normalized in VNs, especially ones made in the West. They're human too just like you and me. Besides, there is no law that says you can't make a fictional work with a protagonist that has a different appearance, skin tone, background or ethnicity from your own.

Creators should be able to explore boundless limits in storytelling and be more adventurous to prevent cliched stagnation of overused elements in character relationship dynamics. I think multiracial countries like America and some Southeast Asian countries like Singapore can really lead the way in making games with diverse protagonists and interracial or intercultural romance, especially in the Visual Novel medium.

What do you guys think ?   

Edited by Nenor5VB
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Given the choice i would prefer playing a character that is identical to me, but i realize that won't ever happen. Japanese people are too timid and their culture is too alien for me to actually self insert properly. I'll just sit here annoyed or raging of their actions, while the japanese might actually be calm and collected as it makes perfect sense to them. 

Rambling aside, i wouldn't mind a black protagonist but don't get in my face over it as a political statement.

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With self-insert protagonists, it doesn't really matter to me.  My only question would be what type of VN it was.  As long as the writing is good, I like the subject matter, and the protagonist is someone I can escape into, I'm happy.

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I would give it a mild bonus to interest points, since that's an interesting and unusual choice, modulated by if it looks like an SJW wrote it, in which case I will give it a moderate minus to interest points.

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Posted (edited)

Smaller indie VNs sometimes already do that by letting you customize your MC in various ways, like giving them a darker skin tone or changing gender, but it comes with the cost of them not showing up in CGs and dialogue/story being generic enough to not clash with any possible configuration. I don't self-insert very much so for me the bland or invisible protagonists detract from my enjoyment. I'd indeed take a protagonist that is very much unlike myself, like a woman or a black person, over an empty shell any day.

The curious part of your question is that I'm not sure how to interpret the framing. Are you trying to make a protagonist that is essentially a self-insert but black/have a background that will appeal to black readers? If the protagonist has as little presence as those in JP eroge (meaning it won't lean very heavily into any kind of identity or personality traits to not get in the way of the reader filling the blanks), I don't think that would matter that much to usual VN readers. They should still have enough in common with the MC to self-insert without much issue, like they do for Japanese protags. It you want a well-defined black protagonist and a plot that refers to their race in meaningful ways... Than I definitely wouldn't mind it, but that's because it'll be clearly someone's story, and not masturbatory waifu fantasy. Other people that look for stories over fap material will also likely be interested with the unusual setup, like Zaka already suggested. The main issue is to communicate clearly what you're aiming for/what your game has going for it and not overstating the identity stuff.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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I am heavily inclined to say, that it would make things more interesting for me. I don't think I've ever played an VN, where the protagonists racial identity has any influence on the plot, so there might be a lot of potential for interesting conflicts hidden there. But that goes for all races and hasn't to be limited to the protagonist: Most characters, that I can think of in that regard are either from some sort of fantasy scenario or the typical blonde haired European heroine in an Japanese town. 

This of course isn't meant to be criticism, I don't think developers have some sort of moral obligation to discuss race as a part of their work. And I like these sort of Heroines, since I spent part of my childhood in a different country and can empathize with the estranged feelings that can come with it. Nevertheless I think there are a lot of possibilities how a talented writer could creatively add a new dimension to their work with this and I'd love to see someone taking the risk. 

That only applies of course to protagonists, which aren't written to be the self-insert type. In that case, it doesn't really matter to me, since I'm not Japanese either and kind of used to forget my cultural background for convenience sake. 

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Also, I really think that more Americans should try making VNs with Black Protagonists. After all, if Japan, a country that has not more than 1 percent of their population can make even a few VNs or Eroge with Black characters in them(even though they're mostly used for NTR roles), there should be no excuses why American creators to not try making it, since they actually have African-Americans there comprising 13 percent of the population that can be a valuable consumer target market for such VNs. Heck, why not try making an Isekai VN with an African-American MC instead who gets teleported to another world with fantasy and magic ? That way, you can easily throw any kind of romanceable heroines at it including elves, noblewomen, princesses, vampires, succubuses, female knights, etc.  Though it may be necessary to include at least one dark-skinned heroine too in the mix to prevent the creators to be accused of colorism imo. Just diversifying the kinds and types of protagonists in VNs and Isekai stories can really bring a refreshing new take or spin on a commonly-used theme and allows us to view them from another entertaining and new perspective. It's like meals. Anyone would get bored if they're fed the same kind of meal every single day, right ?That's why we need Black protagonists too. Not all VNs have to have Black MCs but one or two or three of them made in USA won't hurt. Don't you agree ? To explore things never been done before is part of human nature, right ?       By the way, I don't count ValiDate as a VN in my opinion as it is just an unenlightened politically-motivated game with potentially racist undertones that excludes White heroines and characters from the story. I can't relate to it as I have Black friends that have White spouses and they're pretty offended at such games that are not inclusive to both of their backgrounds. Therefore, other American creators need to exercise their own creative liberties to make proper VNs with a likeable Black MC and lovely and charismatic Romanceable Heroines from many races and colors regardless of whether the setting is in modern-day America, Isekai or a high-fantasy world. I myself am working on such a VN, but not with an African-American MC but with a fictional "Black race" in a fantasy world.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Nenor5VB said:

Heck, why not try making an Isekai VN with an African-American MC instead who gets teleported to another world with fantasy and magic ? That way, you can easily throw any kind of romanceable heroines at it including elves, noblewomen, princesses, vampires, succubuses, female knights, etc.  Though it may be necessary to include at least one dark-skinned heroine too in the mix to prevent the creators to be accused of colorism imo.

Man, I kind of assumed that varied love interests are an obvious choice in a project like that? Avoiding being accused of colorism is such an ass-backwards framing for this... Also, making a VN with all-PoC (but still diverse) cast is... Offensive to people in interracial marriages? Is there some genuine anti-white sentiment in that game? I understand you argue for inclusivity, but also, it's hard to tell whether you're trying to describe what you want to achieve in your project/see in other VNs or some kind of moral principle. I low-key hate diversity as a moral principle for all fiction, because while it's generally a positive thing to promote, most of it ends up being vapid pandering and kind of goes against the creative liberty you mention in your post. Maybe that's less of a risk in VNs, as they are not corporate-driven, but I think people should tell stories they want to tell, whether they include my identity or not. I mean, I think half of the VNs I've read were about Asian or American woman dating other woman. Inserting a slavic guy in his 30s in the middle of those stories would hardly make them more attractive to me... Or to anyone. 😛

Anyway, I think you've also briefly touched on an interesting point, because as someone who plays mostly small/indie VNs, in my experience there's a lot of diversity like this in western-produced stuff already. But for Japanese and more Japanese-inspired works, fantasy often is the means of introducing variety and themes of race and discrimination. I mean, you can still have a black protagonist or a black love interest mixed with various fantasy races, but narratively-speaking it will likely be little more than an aesthetic choice, as the contrast between them and non-human races will always be at the front. There's no reason not to do it, but unless you invent some creative narrative gimmick, like black people not being a thing in that world and the protagonist being treated as non-human for example, there's also not much to discuss here. It will be a bonus for PoC readers, a detriment to occasional racist f****, but overall, it won't matter much. In modern setting, there's a lot more potential for it being meaningful... But I'm still not getting any ideas about HOW you would like it to be included outside of sheer representation. Representation is a positive thing, but in this context also so inoffensive that talking about it for more than a few posts is kind of pointless. Unless you give us more context on what kind of stories you want to see, this discussion is doomed to being vapid as f***. And I'm just not sure whether you're walking on eggshells to not insult anyone/weren't sure what reaction you're going to get (the otaku community is what it is...) or just don't have any specific scenarios to pitch and discuss at this point...

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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Anyway, I sincerely, passionately and eagerly hope that some American Otakus from many different backgrounds ( White, Black and Asian,etc) band together and emulate the Chinese company Mihoyo in establishing a videogame company that specializes in Eroge or Visual Novels and Otaku-aimed anime games.

That way, that company can make VNs with all 3 Black, White, and Asian MCs ( with the first project being African-American MC due to Whites already having so much representation especially if you include games like Resident Evil with Chris Redfield as well as the MC from Death Stranding ) accompanied with diverse heroines from many races or colors.

The slogan can be something like, "American Otakus Make The USA Cool Again" or "US Otakus for Freedom and Liberty", or "US Otakus creating for every American".

The Otaku circle to start that company in the US can include members comprising of well-known anime artists based in the US that are active on sites like DeviantArt as well as programmers, fashion designers and many more.  No matter if you're White, Black, Asian or Native, as long as you're American you should feel united in a common cause to make VNs that cater to everyone over the next decades in operation ( hopefully the 1st project will be successful financially )  :) 

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Posted (edited)

I am not black, but guess what, neither am I japanese, and that doesn't stand in the way of my enjoyment of japanese VNs. In the same way I can't see why having a black MC, or a MC of any race, ethnicity or culture would be relevant for me. Just so happens that japanese VNs are mostly set in Japan, and in Japan, well, most people are asian, therefore you get asian MCs most of the times. Fairly obvious isn't it? But I think it's still worth pointing out.

That being said, I DO think I would be put off if I see an EVN whose main point they are trying to advertise is the fact that it features a black MC, because what that tells me is that the authors are likely to care more about identity politics than telling a story they consider worthy of being told.

The natural outcome of any story taking place in a culturally diverse place (which Japan isn't) would be to have a culturally diverse cast unless there's specific reasons that prevents it. It's a statistical fact. If more english speaking fellas start writing VNs and the setting is, let's say, The States, black MCs would naturally start to pop up, and I think that's how it has to happen.

Edited by Mehnot
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4 hours ago, Nenor5VB said:

The slogan can be something like, "American Otakus Make The USA Cool Again" or "US Otakus for Freedom and Liberty", or "US Otakus creating for every American".

Man, please don't... This is so cringe. You're turning a good idea into this weird social activism exercise that will appeal only to people that are already in your narrow niche and scare off everyone else. The indie VN community in the West is already very progressive. It doesn't need this virtue signalling and if you think there's some forms of diversity/representation that are too rare, remedy that by action (making your VN the way you feel is appropriate) and promoting games that already fit it (I assure you, if you look at game jams such as NaNoRenO or Yuri Game Jam and commercial projects by devs that show up there, you'll find plenty of diversity).

And really, you should be talking to other devs about this stuff, in places such as Lemma Soft and VN Devs subreddit. That's where you could make a difference.

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Again, I'd like to reiterate how I really really wanted so very much to play a straightforward vanilla VN but with adventure,
fantasy or Isekai elements featuring a Black Male Protagonist, that I'm now suffering from deep depression due to this issue.

Of course, I'm also attempting to make it myself, but I would really love and appreciate it if knowing that some other people
other than me is also making a VN with a similar setting for the protagonist, so that I could feel that I'm not alone in wanting to
do this thus making me feel less isolated with no one else that shares my feelings and passion concerning this matter.

So, I hope that before this year ends, I'll find out from Kickstarter that someone else is also making a proper VN with a Black
Male Protagonist ( preferably in an Isekai setting where the MC is an African-American teleported to another world ), albeit one
made with all kinds of heroines, with them not just being Black heroines, but also White heroines too. As for Asian or
Japanese/Oriental-likr heroines, such options would also be attractive to me, as in an Isekai or hi-fantasy world you can easily
create any races that resemble IRL races with their own settings( such as you meet them in a kingdom with a multiracial
population or some of those Japanese heroines are exchange students from a distant country or sort, in example), but for now
I'm content if it just has White and Black heroines along with a 1 or 2 non-human heroines such as elves or vampires, etc.

In the meantime I will work hard on my own VN's artwork and story, as I'm an Otaku that has been enjoying these kinds of
content for the past 20 years, but for now no VN seems to interest or excite me anymore unless if it features a Black Male
Protagonist. Maybe after I have enjoyed 1 or 2 wholesome vanilla VNs with a Black Male MC from now I will finally be "cured"
from my depression and be back to normal being able to enjoy any work made with any kind of MC, so I really hope so much
anyone here would be able to do anything within their power so as to make this happen.

I will be praying very hard tonight too in a New-Age style to the Universe, to beseech and implore that the Creator would help
open the hearts of some people in either America, Europe or even Japan so that anyone of them feels the initiative to make a
Pure-Love Fantasy Adventure or Isekai or Magic School Battle VN with a Black Male MC. Currently I'm very depressed and bored
due to not being able to play and experience any VN with this kind of protagonist settings, that I feel like there's nothing left in
this world that could make me live in anticipation more. Currently I'm just slogging through my dull and uninteresting daily life
with no girlfriend ( as I have my own very personal problems that would not permit me at this moment to start any kind of
romantic relationship in real life ), so finally being able to see that someone else is also making a VN with a Black MC would
really do tons to help cheer me up now knowing that there is still faith and hope to be had in humanity. As it would prove that
there are still open-minded, empathic and caring people out there that do consider the needs and cries of the Black nerd
community too.

Please, I implore to everyone here : Can you help do anything within your power to make such a VN come true or at the very
least, spread word of this heartfelt wish of mine ? Please......  I only need one vanilla VN with a Black Male MC and diverse
romanceable heroines of all types and colors, and then I'm good to go. That's the only thing I ever need in my entire life and I'll
be happy again.

Yoroshiku onegai shimasu   m(_ _)m

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  • 2 weeks later...

Starting from July or August onwards, I will start posting a lot of my own original character designs' concept art here in order to realize my dreams and wishes of seeing a VN with a Black Male Protagonist being made. Please look forward to it.   :)

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On 5/14/2021 at 1:01 PM, Stormwolf said:

Well you know. The identity police groups are the biggest racists of all. While the rest of us don't care about skin color, they don't do anything but single out colours. Wish they'd stop already

This is not true. Black people are systematically oppressed. There being a VN with a black MC about being black would be great.

You guys say you don't care for identity politics and stories that rely extensively on a character's race or nationality, but the truth is, you don't think it's "political" when it's stories with Japanese -- or white -- MCs. It's a familiar culture, one that you've consumed for a long time, so it doesn't feel foreign even though it's all culturally coded. All Japanese VNs are very much about being Japanese.

Black culture never had such structure to promote itself. Of course it's political. It needs to be to insert itself in the current structures. Don't be assholes, take the stories for what they are.

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2 hours ago, Palas said:

Black culture never had such structure to promote itself. Of course it's political. It needs to be to insert itself in the current structures. Don't be assholes, take the stories for what they are.

Yeah, I imagine this is a reason why this tread exists the way it does. Just let's be real, the question OP made was whether a VN with a black MC could have a broad appeal and presented a rather milktoast vision that would have such appeal by being pretty much like any generic VN. A serious VN about being black, on the other hand, would likely be niche even within the already super-niche VN market. We probably need more of such media, but making a commercial VN in such a formula, and on a scale suggested by the OP sounds suicidal. 

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Just now, Plk_Lesiak said:

Yeah, I imagine this is a reason why this tread exists the way it does. Just let's be real, the question OP made was whether a VN with a black MC could have a broad appeal and presented a rather milktoast vision that would have such appeal by being pretty much like any generic VN. A serious VN about being black, on the other hand, would likely be niche even within the already super-niche VN market. We probably need more of such media, but making a commercial VN in such a formula, and on a scale suggested by the OP sounds suicidal. 

Doesn't need to be serious. Oppression doesn't mean suffering, necessarily -- just means the individual's experience is tainted by oppression due to their skin color. Take Everybody Hates Chris, for instance. It's anything but serious, and is all about Chris Rock's childhood/teen years. And it's got a broad appeal. I don't get OP's posts very well or what they want, but I do think a VN with a black MC and a story that could only happen to a black person can still have a broad appeal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am currently thinking on what kind of story, plot and settings would be the best to support all sorts of story possibilities along the Action, Drama and Adventure genres.

I am thinking that a VN made with this kind of setting below might seem to do job well, but what do you guys think ? ( Since I have no experience writing Low-Fantasy settings but only High-Fantasy settings via some fanfics and web novels ) :

SCENARIO A :

The year is 2057 AD.

Advances in nanotechnology and advanced powered suit construction allowed for the birth of new infantry soldiers that packs multiple times more fighting abilities than the average grunt of the first half of the 21st century.

Alas, as fate would have had it, inexplicably a year later after the birth of low-cost manufacturing technologies allowing those suits to be mass-produced like chocolates, a rift to other dimensions opened up at several locations around the world :  near the cities of New York, Johannesburg, Tokyo, London, Lisbon, Shanghai, and Bangkok.

From there, swarmed forth monsters of varying powers and abilities. At first, they overwhelmed the ill-prepared humanity into chaos and disarray. But after months of hard-fighting, it seemed that the powered suit tech they had managed to help the humans hold the tide for long enough until a certain "game-changing" development occurred. 

"The Gifted Ones". Due to some unknown interaction with energies pouring in to our world from those portals, some people between the ages of 15 to 23start developing supernatural abilities allowing them to easily exterminate the alien monsters, now known as "The Unfamiliars".

It's now 2059 AD, and as Ademyi Khemysi from Nigeria who just awokened to the powers of "electromagnetism" and "telekinesis", now is approached by a Task force group known for combating the Unfamiliars known as "Team Lancelot", which is based in UK and has fighting members from multiple countries including Brits, French, Spaniards, Scandinavians, South Africans Japanese, Chinese and Koreans.

While Team Lancelot is a huge organization, you as Ademyi will only be tasked in Squad 2nd, "Foxtrot" which is mostly comprising of female members between 15 to 22 yo from these nationalities : England, France, Norway, South Africa, Japan for a total of 5 romance-able heroines. 

Ademyi and the 5 girls' direct commanding officer is a hot 24 yo lady chick with silver hair that smokes a cigar and wears a cool military outfit with hi-heel boots. Names for the heroines and the Boss I have yet to think of now.

 

So, there you go. Some of the monsters I'll introduce might look just a bit like some of the enemies in Turok : Dinosaur Hunter series but will have originality all on its own according to my own unique designs.

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