The video game industry is one of the fastest-growing in recent decades, and its fan base has grown accordingly.
Unfortunately, and despite advances in other industries such as entertainment, Latinas continue to be subject to prejudice and stereotyping in the console world.
It is no secret that female characters in FPS games (first-person shooter) took much longer to appear than male ones and that their role in simulators was reduced to sexualized figures.
Although Shadow’s character in ‘Overwatch’ was the first step towards diversity in the character pool, FPS AAA video games (games with the highest development budgets and promotion levels) like ‘Valorant’ or ‘Apex Legends’ seem to know only one type of Latina: a hypersexualized and objectified one.
In a world where beauty standards are monopolized and regulated by the big platforms, they are also a social, cultural, and economic currency, especially when it is through a repetitive exercise as it happens in video games.
Characters like Sombra, Loba (Apex Legend), and Raze (Valorant) are trapped in racist and hypersexualized clichés, where the most deeply rooted prejudices converge.
“The Apex Games never looked so good,” says the character’s introduction, leaving little to the imagination.
The same goes for Loba, ranked as one of the most sexualized women on the character list. Compared to Sage, Jett, and Viper, who wear practical clothes, Raze’s abdomen is exposed, and her pants accentuate her hips. She was the only one wearing makeup until the addition of Reyna, whose attire makes her look more, let’s say, voluptuous.
According to a report by The Hispanic Media Coalition on media stereotypes and attitudes toward Latinos, “non-Latino respondents see Latinos in stereotypically negative or subordinate roles (gardeners, maids, dropouts, and criminals) more often on television and in movies.”
Despite the report, some women gamers applaud Latino diversity.
“We are used to seeing characters with foreign features and origins; the Latino community is usually not taken into account,” said a girl gamer to Gamer Focus, highlighting that there are other positive aspects in representation.
“I think it’s something that always happens with Latino characters, not just with women. It would be great to get out of the clichés, but it seems to me that neither Sombra nor Loba borders the unbearable,” she added.
However, despite the flexibility in the face of prejudice, journalist Natalie Flores explains that stereotypes also communicate through their audio characterization, which implies a superior bias.
According to Flores, these women suffer under a racist and monolithic concept, where there are no different accents and cultures in the Latino community, a perception also seen through these four Latino video game characters. Although Sombra and Reyna are Mexican, Raze is Brazilian, and Loba’s heritage is unknown, all four have virtually the same ambiguously Hispanic accent with no specific origin.
The characters continue to appear in the games, perhaps to fulfill a quota with Latinos in the United States. However, the diversity of Latinos continues to be ignored. In the same tone, Latinas are not only hypersexualized but reduced to a single stereotype.
As Flores continues, Loba’s voice actress, Fryda Wolff, has spoken out before about prejudice in the dubbing industry. Because of her American accent, she has been considered “not Latina enough” for some directors. She says she has to “speed up” an indescribable accent. “I’ve been in sessions where I’m supposed to have an Argentine accent, and the director in the white booth says, ‘Yeah, do it like Sofia Vergara,’ and I say, ‘She’s Colombian’.’
Beyond the Latino audience’s flexibility and understanding of their own identity, the biases and prejudices motivated by Latino women’s hypersexualized body reaffirm the prison-like categorization we must still endure.