As the entertainment industry seeks to be more inclusive, non-white actors in video games are finding opportunities to play heroes and villains who share their backgrounds.
Asian-American actors have a higher barrier to entry than white actors, even when it comes to voicing non-white characters. Charlet Chung, who spent years booking TV guest roles and commercials before working in video games, recalls a time when the world of voice over was closed off to people like her.
“Before I entered the industry it was a predominately white male, if not just male industry,” she says. “It’s harder to get into voice over than television or film. It is a tight-knit community, and traditionally studios use the same exact people over and over again.”
“I always looked at the things that made me uniquely me in the eyes of somebody else, and felt it was a disadvantage,” she says. “I’m small. I sound young. I’m a woman. I’m a minority. I was always called ‘cute’ and I hated that.”
There wasn’t one watershed moment that opened the doors for a more diverse acting pool, but it is a new development. Asian-Americans, in particular, wrestle with pursuing creative fields due to cultural expectations. Parents raising kids to become doctors or lawyers is a stereotype that many Asian-Americans acknowledge is true. Some Asian comedians even joke about it.
“Representation is extremely important, especially for younger people,” he says. “When they see someone like themselves, it expands possibilities for them. It goes for most ethnicities, but especially Asian-Americans.”
“Stepping into the role of a hero who looks and sounds like you can have a deeply meaningful impact on how you see the world,” Paul Nakauchi, who voices a character on Overwatch says. “A white hero, you see it all the time. It’s reinforced. When people try an ethnic character as heroic as any other, it gives everyone a chance to learn what that’s like.”