‘One clan defined themselves as default, one clan defined themselves as authentic.’
- Narrator (Hayleigh Joy-Rose), Finding Fanon: Part III
It’s noteworthy that when I’ve played video games (even those with violent storylines), I sought characters with my likeness. In tournament-style games like Mortal Kombat, my characters had skin dark like mine, bodies and hair curved like mine. That was how I fought best — being as close to myself as possible.
In GTA: Vice City, I memorized the ‘skin-change’ cheat code that could transplant Tommy Vercetti’s ‘soul’ into one of two Black-woman NPCs. And when I tired of high-stress missions (or my motor skills weren’t sharp enough), I entered the ‘Ladies’ Man’ cheat, recruited a mob of girlfriends, beat up people who ‘disrespected’ us, and used stolen buses as caravans for trips around the unlocked map— it was like a higher-res Barbie doll game.
There was some dissonance in my GTA romps: Tommy’s wise-guy voice and gestures remained after I changed his body (my avatar was Frankensteinian), but tuning Tommy to me made his invincibility more accessible. There was no mischief Liza-Tommy couldn’t get away with if s-he ran long and hard enough; no death s-he couldn’t return from. I’d never had such power in my real life. Though, I don’t think that lack of consequence exists for anyone, really — not even elevated white people and men. While collections may come late, every action is already paid for. We see this in the sulky state of Western empire.