With positive black characters, Montreal video game designer aims to break stereotypes
Published Monday, February 18, 2013 8:51PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 18, 2013 9:58PM EST
MONTREAL—The $1 billion video game industry isn’t an easy business to break into, but in a sparsely furnished loft on St-Laurent Blvd., Lateef Martin is getting his big break and he has a big idea.
A Montreal-based illustrator, Martin is aiming to create games with positive black character, something he hopes will create a positive new trend in gaming.
“It’s a dream, it’s like, this is actually happening?” said Martin.
Surrounded by video game designers hunched over computers creating new games for phones, Martin is working at Execution Labs. The company hopes that these experiments in gaming will come through and then get purchased by customers.
Each team at the company was selected for its talent and given the use of equipment, industry mentors and promotional services. When Martin applied to the program, he had an idea: a graphic comic called The Firemasters.
“One Christmas I was broke and I needed to make a present for my nephew, so I decided to make a colouring book and I looked through all my artwork and found these futuristic firefighters I had created,” said Martin.
His nephew was enamoured by the firefighters on Mars and the main character, Backdraft.
“Mankind has moved to Mars because we've decimated Earth's environment, a message for the boys and girls out there—and when they went to Mars they realized there were energy-based creatures there,” narrated Martin.
Mayhem ensues, some of it humorous. What also matters to Martin, is that many of his characters are black.
“Primarily it reflects who I am and as a kid growing up watching movies and stuff I was like, ‘Wow a, black Ghostbuster awesome,’ I can relate to this guy, cool,” said Marting.
There are black characters in games, but too few.
“There are a lot of negative stereotypes…a gangster again.”
So while he's hoping his hot idea catches on with gamers, he's also trying to fuel the public's collective imagination.
“That kind of thing needs to grow more, a lot more female characters who aren't sexualized, a lot more black characters who aren't stereotyped - its' a slow process but something that has to happen. I'm hoping The Firemasters can help,” said Martin.