Why Master Chief’s Race Reveal Was An Issue For Me

Oh Xeawn, why you always gotta talk controversy? I dunno man, s’just my steez! Why you always gotta be hatin’ on my steez!

I’m sorry, I was just watching Adventure Time and Bob’s Burgers.

Halo 4, games

So yes, I’m going to talk about Halo and Race and Race and Halo today. Little known secret; I’m not a big fan of Halo. I mean, I respect the crap out of the franchise, clearly if millions a year are buying it then it’s a pretty good game. Honestly I have no idea why Halo is more popular than, say, Timesplitters or Red Faction or…um…Doom? I’m running out of shooters that I know. But, y’know, it’s not bad.

Like, segway real quick here, I know why Call of Duty is so popular, and I probably wouldn’t buy it but I respect it. It’s not my thing, I mean I’m decent at story mode but despite being an army brat I’m not one of those guys who knows all there is to know about firearms and stuff. So, in multiplayer I generally die really quickly. A lot. Many times. But, I understand why it’s so popular. It controls well, it plays tight, it’s a very compelling fantasy adventure that strums all the right patriotism chords, and it’s a visual treat to experience.

It’s just not my kind of game.

But, back to Halo. I don’t like Halo. Part of my one hundred and ten percent distaste for the series stems from how my introduction and time was spent with it before I had an Xbox, part of it is that I just didn’t like the weird floaty physics, and part of it was that I’m not a jock and I don’t go for the “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! SPACE MARINES!!!” thing.

Interestingly enough however, I loved ODST and I adore Reach. Y’know, the two games where you’re not Chief. I loved ODST because you were considerably less invincible, and I loved Reach because, well, you weren’t Chief.

"In retrospect, I'm not so sure this was worth it..."

“In retrospect, I’m not so sure this was worth it…”

But, Halo 4 came and went, and I played it for a review but didn’t review it because it’s Halo 4 and it’s going to sell millions whether I say I liked it or not. I’ll still review it eventually, because that’s the joy of getting to write whatever you feel like writing about, but I can at least say the game is horrendously pretty. Possibly the prettiest game I’ve played on a console. I disliked that every encounter felt like someone stuck a portion of a multiplayer arena into story mode and sent waves of enemies after you, and every firefight felt like it lasted two waves two long, but, yeah, respectable effort.

One thing in particular did bother me though. I guess if you read the Halo books then it’s no secret that John is Master Chief and by extension you know his race, but for some reason I never quite made the correlation (I only read one and a half books). But, everyone with internet should know he’s got dem baby blues and is either a blonde or a brunette. Also he’s white.

This bothered me really for only one reason; you’re supposed to be Master Chief right? I mean, that was the whole point of him not talking much and them always teasing but never showing his face, right? And the developers always said they always teased but never revealed because they wanted you to fully assume the persona of Chief…but…there’s a bit of a problem.

Yeah, see, I’m not a white guy with sapphire eyes. I’m a (mostly black) mutt with eyes somewhere between chocolate and tawny. I’m also not a brunette, I’ve got black-ish (they start turning crimson in the summer) dreads down to my waist. And, the moment 343 Industries decided to be like “Just in case you were wondering, BAM!”, I lost what little interest I had left in the franchise.

Also, because Nathan Fillion.

Also, because Nathan Fillion. Everything is better with Nathan Fillion.

I loved ODST because of the challenge of being one of the less invincible unsung heroes of the war, and I loved Reach because I got to be my own Spartan. Many people don’t think it’s an issue that the overwhelming majority of protagonists are white males with the next group being white females, but for us, it’s a problem. This isn’t meant to be one of those articles where I make you squirm and get all uncomfortable about your world view, just a quick jaunt to say that perhaps 343 would’ve been on to something if the just left it as is. Honestly, how many Halo fans even read the books anyways? I’m not trying to insult anyone, it’s just…people who are going to read five to seven four hundred page novels…they’re…they’re kinda not your target demographic guys…

Honestly, Chief doesn’t even have to be black. It would’ve been awesome if he took off the mask and he was Native, or Indian, or Arabic, or some other minority I didn’t name yet. Of course, no big money studio wants to deal with the hate they would get if suddenly Chief was revealed black or some other minority. Just like when Captain America was black FOR ALL OF FOUR ISSUES OF A MINI-SERIES (it might have been a bit longer) everyone flipped the crap out. Just like if Batman was black or if Superman was black or if Wonder Woman were black or if Chief was Athabaskan or if Samus was Arabic, or if…

You get my point. I’m just saying, what little piece of Halo I could get into died when they put a face to the soldier.

Xeawn, out.


7 comments on “Why Master Chief’s Race Reveal Was An Issue For Me

  1. As a white guy gotta say..me no squirm at story..Just shake my head going why did they need to reveal his race..As in what’s the point and why does it matter(NOT in the so what he’s white way but in the why the hell do they even need to show it way). I mean i don;t really put myself in the characters shoes that much(maybe why i prefer JRPGs is because i prefer a story with a set character). But in agame where it’s OBVIOUSLY supposed to be a power fantasy(ironically i’m more a Duke Nukem fan now THERE is an OP FPS character) but still…Why bother doing this..I’d always heard Microsoft say that’s why they never revealed it but here they go and yeah…

    TBH i feel for ya man. It sucks to be different whether race or disabilities(at least i can pose as a member of the majority for a time) and yeah man…I unno why they gotta do this. Just don’t see the point.

    • Oh and I’d always thought MC was a black guy myself.

      • Yay! Only four typos this article! I don’t feel like changing them.

        I don’t so much mind being different (though I do have a great deal of dislike for the majority of people with my skin tone in the media, as so many seem to be in a race to see who can make blacks look the most asinine) as I mind that studios seem to think it’s a huge financial risk not worth taking to do a positive, intelligent black protagonist. It’s a little bit sad to say, but honestly at 25 years I’m just kinda used to white mothers yanking their daughters closer to them when I walk by, white males glaring if I so much as glance in their wife’s direction, white woman looking at me fearfully and so on. Being in Japan was difficult with countless people every day muttering their word for n****r under their breath or saying it to my face (though when I told them, in Japanese, that I speak Japanese their reactions were hilarious), but, I’m just kinda used to it by now.

        I find I don’t put myself in the shoes of the protagonists of games as much as I did when I was a kid, but I’ve also found that to be honest, my tolerance of look at a sea of white faces whether in games or movies is considerably lower than it used to be. I’ve got nothing against whites, I’m just tired of the heroes always being someone who doesn’t look even remotely like me, as well as trying to get my little cousins and nephew to understand that they aren’t ugly just because they look different. That’s why I’ll buy even the most poorly designed games if they have create-a-character.

        Something you mentioned that is even more rare to address is the idea of heroes with disabilities in some form or another. I saw an excellent article a few months back praising Murray in Sly Cooper for being a strong intellectual character with physical disabilities. I found it very well written and it raised several good points.

        As I’m playing through Gods Eater Burst, next to my silent protag (who can stop an argument with a nod or a stern look since Namco Bandai couldn’t be bothered to do dialogue trees :D) and Lindow (and maybe Soma because I guess I just like dour characters), Alisa Ilynichna Amiera is actually my favorite character. I didn’t like her at first because she’s kind of a pompous brat, but as they explored more that she’s struggling with dealing with being a paranoid schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder, she immediately became a far more compelling protagonist to me.

        I admire the writers for being willing to try to tackle something that is often viewed as too taboo to discuss in any form of media. I applaud them even more for making her a main character, calling her struggles out into the open, and dealing with them realistically. Gods Eater Burst goes a long way to show that just because you’re a MonHun or Raid style game that doesn’t mean you can’t have a deep and thought provoking story as well.

  2. Hmm won;t let me reply to you specifically. But yeah i know what ya mean…TBH these days men in general get some of that hold the kid close..It really got to me when this cute little kid at these tore asked my dad what he was holding. He replied a watermelon(was one of those new fangled super tiny ones) and i saw the mother just pull her kid close to her….

    So yeah it;s becoming a BIT more of a men thing but i get your point ina big way.

    As for me i gotta deal with some stereotypes myself since if i say autism people get the wrong idea same for asbergers….They all assume we can;t socialize or are just like the media…It may often be an acquired skill for us but we can.

    And hell man i STILL love it whenever Static shows up in a series he;s one of my absolute favorite characters. I’m kinda pissed still that Young Justice got canned i wanted more Static and Blue Beetle action.

    As for geenral racism sorry man…TBH i don;t believe in judging ANYONE by race. Judge a person by who THEY are not any group they may or may not belong to.

    So yeah i feel for ya man and i can easily see why it gets to ya more these days.

    If it helps any I always though MC was black cause he’s such a badass…Plus it just fit for some reason…. I don’t know why might be because of that old rumor of Samuel L Jackson playing him in the supposed Halo movie.

    So yeah tell you little cousins that to some white people at least black doesn’t mean ugly or bad it can mean cool and extra badass as well as being some of their fav heroes skin color.

    I hope that sorta thing might perk em up some.

  3. Dont forget a japanese guy designed master chief, do you think he is bllue eyed with brown hair? Right, he isnt. This whole article is just about you being dickhurt. Like if you dont even play the game, then why do you care? Cuz no one does. Im caramel skinned with brown curling hair, do I care? Not a single fuck.

    • I can appreciate your verbose passion and nigh excelsior fervor in your linguistic bandy and defense of this franchise. I will endeavor to be magnanimous as I riposte such assiduous asservations.

      Firstly I must correct your assertion that the artist who designed Master Chief is Japanese; in fact Mr. Shi Kai Wang is Taiwanese, born in Taipai to be exact. While your passion is palpable, one must endeavor not to make such blanket statements in regard to other’s nationalities and how they may or may not factor into one’s design process.

      In addition, Sean Binder, Matt Aldridge, Dan Sarca and Kyle Hefley, who are the only artists relevant to this discourse as Shi Kai works for Bungie and thus had no hand in the conception or artwork for Chief in 343’s halo 4, are likely not Japanese either. I couldn’t possibly tell you their race; I try not to stereotype by name. I can however tell you that the ultimate decision on Chief’s face likely fell somewhere between Microsoft and 343’s board of directors and market research more than any one man.

      Secondly, I do appreciate your concern on the health and injury of my member, but I can assure you that while I would perhaps be more comfortable were I in, say, a pair of shorts rather than dress slacks today, my phallus is experiencing nothing in the way of pain at the moment. You have my thanks and gratitude for your concern over my reproductive organ’s well-being.

      Lastly, while I cannot ascertain your race from the admittedly meager physical attributes you have imbued me with knowledge of, I must applaud your pride in your features as well your game of choice. I am most pleased that you experience no displeasure with 343’s decision, however I personally do, as did many other fans of many other races and ethnicity. The lack of representation of minorities in gaming is in fact a very widespread issue regardless of whether you feel it is or not.

      In closing, I did enjoy our discourse and hope you had a very merry Christmas, or whichever lovely expression of joy you endeavor to partake in.


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