It’s a tradition unlike any other.
Hispanic Heritage Month is here and, unlike other month-long celebrations, this one encompasses the latter half of September along with the first half of October. Regardless of the wonky scheduling, it’s a great time to celebrate Hispanic culture and contributions from this diverse community.
Hispanics have added a lot to American culture thanks to stalwarts such as Frida Kahlo, Cesar Chavez, Ellen Ochoa, and so many others.
Furthermore, Hispanics and Latinos make up a diverse culture with many having different backgrounds.
There are some who come from homes where Spanish is the primary language while others are several generations removed from native Spanish speakers. Hispanics and Latinos come from a host of different countries including the Caribbean Islands as well as Central and South America.
I am a proud Hispanic with a unique background. My last name is Martinez, and I have darker skin but Spanish was not taught in my home, and I am several generations removed from native speakers. I didn’t learn Spanish until I was 20.
Furthermore, many of my ancestors did not traditionally immigrate from Mexico. Many lived in the Albuquerque area while it was still part of Mexico before transitioning to the U.S. after the Mexican-American War.
My history is diverse, much like the Hispanic and Latino population in the U.S. It’s what made me, and I am proud of it.
One of my many passions includes gaming along with other nerd culture niches such as comic books, movies, and TV shows.
Hispanics in Gaming
When it comes to gaming, Hispanics make up a large chunk of the population. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, about 51% of all Hispanic adults play video games with 19% identifying as a gamer.
The amount of Hispanic adults who play video games is larger than White Americans (48%) but less than Black Americans (53%). Furthermore, more Hispanics identified as gamers than both White (7%) and Black (11%) Americans.
Despite this large share, Hispanics are not represented nearly close to that amount in gaming. A 2009 study canvassed 150 games across 19 platforms over the course of a year and found only 3% of those games had “recognizably Hispanic” characters. All these characters were non-playable.
That’s not to say there are no Hispanic characters. Reyna from Valorant, Rico Rodriguez in the Just Cause series, Miles Morales from the Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Carlos Oliveira from Resident Evil 3, and Vega from the Street Fighter series, not to mention Hispanic athletes in series like FIFA or the NBA 2K, are all examples.
I’m sure there are more, but none come to mind easily.
Furthermore, there’s a lot to be said about the quality of these representations, but there are people far more qualified than I to further discuss that topic.
All I can say is representation is important.
Why Representation Matters
Throughout my high school and collegiate years, I had aspirations of becoming a sportswriter.
I used to watch ESPN shows like Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption, which are debate programs featuring sportswriters from around the country. One point I did notice was few, if any, of those reporters looked like me.
One did stick out. Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald found his way on PTI and later became the host of his own show called Highly Questionable. Le Batard is a Cuban-American from South Florida and Highly Questionable unapologetically drew from the Hispanic culture of the area.
This meant a lot to me as an aspiring sportswriter. I had found someone similar to me who made it.
The more I delved into this realm, there were many other Latino reporters who left lasting impacts on me. Pedro Gomez, Izzy Guittierez, and Jorge Sedano were just a few who I came to revere as Hispanics who had made it in the sports journalism industry.
Seeing other Hispanics in sports media made me feel like I could make it because I could see myself in that spot.
Representation isn’t only throwing up a token character solely to appease society. Representation can mean something to those who don’t find connections with who they see working where they want to be.
“Woke” has become an unfortunate insult from those who think clamoring for more representation is, for some reason, a bad thing. I acknowledge there may be some who come across as overbearing, but painting all with similar thoughts as bad is just unfair.
Many want to just see themselves in the media they consume.
Hispanic Representation in Gaming
So what can be done? A good start is for more Hispanics to be in the industry.
Statistics show many Hispanics are gaming and we’re starting to see more becoming game designers. Having more Hispanic voices in the writers and designer rooms allows for better representation in the actual games.
Those not familiar with the culture can only do so much when it comes to crafting characters. Hispanic voices are vital to improving the quality and quantity of representation.
Another great approach is for companies to realize their audience. Hispanic children would eat up any game that showcases someone who looks like them and doesn’t rely on stereotypes.
I’m not calling for all games to become Hispanic-centric titles. I think there’s a lot of beauty in diversity because more people can feel like they belong. It also provides for an opportunity to learn about a culture unfamiliar to you.
The movie Coco is an excellent example of a movie that teaches the vibrant culture of Mexico and Día de los Muertos.
Video games can have that same effect.