On May 5th, 2017, Bethesda released “Prey“ for the XBox, PS4, and PC to the excitement of video game fans everywhere. The beloved title was officially unveiled at last year’s E3 as a revival of the fan-favorite series that had been on hiatus for over a decade. Bethesda and Arkane teamed up to make the title, and with a solid 9/10 rating on Steam, it’s clear that the game did not disappoint.
The game takes place in outer space aboard the space station Talos I. You’re part of an experiment meant to alter humanity forever — only it’s gone horribly wrong, and now you’re being hunted by hostile aliens. The fate of Talos I and everyone on board is in your hands.
There’s one key feature of Prey that stands out to many: an Asian protagonist — specifically, a half-Chinese, half-German lead character named “Morgan Yu” (player can choose between male or female).
Arkane had the following to say of their choice of character (according to VentureBeat):
“With any game you go through lots of iterations around who might be the main character, their role in the game world, things like that,” said Ricardo Bare, the lead designer at Arkane Studios in Austin, Texas. “Morgan’s father is a Chinese neuroscientist and his mother is a German entrepreneur. At one point we had those flipped. Part of it is just—it’s hard to come up with a super logical explanation where we all concurred that this would be the best thing to do. ‘We just thought it was cool’ is really the honest answer.”
The male Morgan Yu is voiced by Tim Kang:
And the female Morgan Yu is voiced by Sumalee Montano:
Morgan Yu being the protagonist of a major video game is a huge breakthrough, not only because the character is Asian, but because the video game is not tied to “Orientalism” in any way, shape, or form. Consider that most games featuring Asian characters pigeon-hole them into the “martial arts” stereotype or don’t include them at all.
The reason why this is important is because many gamers happen to have Asian descent and would like to see themselves represented in the games they play. While games like “Sleeping Dogs“ have fantastic representation for both Asian men and women, the storyline is centered around the characters and their “otherness”.
This can make some Asian-Americans, Canadians, etc. feel that the only stories of theirs worth telling are ones deeply rooted in their race, which is not everything about them. To see Asian video game characters doing things that a character of any other race would do is actually more progressive than yet another martial arts game, as that narrative is so overused that it has become stale (regardless, games like Sleeping Dogs should be encouraged, as a title with all Asian leads in a Western game is still noteworthy; additionally, it was a very fun game).
Perhaps the most notable examples of Asian characters done right in video games are Faith Connors from “Mirror’s Edge” (voiced by Jules de Jongh/Faye Kingslee) and Johnny Gat from “Saints Row” (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim).
Faith is a half-Asian Runner (courier) with a troubled upbringing rooted in political activism, while Johnny Gat is a streetwise gangster-turned-Alien-hunter-slash-devil-slayer in a relationship with a beautiful African-American woman.
Both characters buck stereotypes, as anything-but-passive Faith seems to have superheroic athleticism while Gat is a sexually-desireable tough guy who strikes fear into the hearts of the most powerful beings in the universe.
In addition to Morgan Yu’s character being an anomaly due to race, Yu’s parents’ races are also uncommon, as the Asian male/White female pairing is typically not represented in media despite the growing trend in this relationship pairing.
So bravo, Bethesda and Arkane — hats off to you for your progressive portrayal of diversity. We hope to see many more instances of this in the future.