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Characters Done Right (Retro Edition): Alpha Centauri
One of my favourite games of all time is Alpha Centauri, by Firaxis. To a large extent, it exists only because of legal wranglings over who held the rights to produce more Civilization games. With the rights uncertain, Sid Meier (who is still with Firaxis) and Brian Reynolds (who has most recently been the lead designer for Frontierville) decided to make a new 4X game, starting where Civilization finished, with humanity colonising Alpha Centauri. For me, though, it surpassed all the games of the Civilization series, both before and since. Over a decade after its release, I still go back and play it from time to time. There's a lot that I love about it. Many of its gameplay elements were new and innovative at the time. It had a wonderful storyline and an intriguing setting. It had different factions which played markedly differently from each other, increasing replayability. And then, it had characters. There were seven different factions who landed on Planet, as their new home was called, each holding a different ideology and each led by a different leader. [caption id="attachment_3631" align="alignnone" width="149" caption="Deirdre Skye: A fairly young white woman with medium-length wavy dark brown hair"][/caption] Deirdre Skye led the Gaia's Stepdaughters faction of environmentalists, and hailed from Scotland. [caption id="attachment_3671" align="alignnone" width="119" caption="Miriam Godwinson: A middle aged white woman with short red hair."][/caption] Miriam Godwinson, an American woman, was the leader of the religious fundamentalist faction, the Lord's Believers. [caption id="attachment_3672" align="alignnone" width="119" caption="Nwabudike Morgan: A black man with white hair."][/caption] The game's economic faction, Morgan Industries, were named for their CEO, Nwabudike Morgan from Namibia. [caption id="attachment_3673" align="alignnone" width="149" caption="Pravin Lal: A bearded South Asian man wearing some sort of head-covering (possibly a surgical cap, though it's hard to tell)."][/caption] The Peacekeepers, devoted to peace and the rule of law, were led by India's Pravin Lal. [caption id="attachment_3674" align="alignnone" width="149" caption="Corazon Santiago: A Hispanic woman with her long hair worn in a braid."][/caption] Puerto Rico's Corazon Santiago led the militant survivalis faction known as the Spartan Federation. [caption id="attachment_3675" align="alignnone" width="149" caption="Prokhor Zakharov: A white man with unkempt grey hair wearing a headset and pair of 3D glasses."][/caption] The University of Planet, dedicated to scientific discovery, was led by Prokhor Zakharov from Russia. [caption id="attachment_3676" align="alignnone" width="149" caption="Sheng-Ji Yang: An elderly East Asian man. He is balding, but does have some white hair remaining."][/caption] Finally, there is Sheng-Ji Yang of China, who led the communist Human Hive. Overall, that's 3 women and 4 men with ages ranging from (at a guess) at least 30 to 70, and includes representatives from multiple different races and ethnicities. Of the 7 faction leaders, there's only one white man, which I think is pretty impressive. It isn't perfect, but I think that pointing out the ways in which it could be more inclusive would be a little churlish. This is an excellent show of diversity, as far as I'm concerned. One thing that always strikes me in cases like this is how diversity, when done well, does not appear forced. When you don't treat a character as "the black man" or "the woman" but as a character in their own right, they are every bit as interesting and as natural as any other character.