The growing relationship between video games and the world’s biggest franchises has become more and more common as of late. With games like Fortnite and Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout doing “crossovers” with huge brands, the role of video games in society is becoming more accepted.
That’s why adding Marvel’s superhero Black Panther into these games is going to be an extremely important task. With the recent passing of Chadwick Boseman, game studios like Epic Games and Crystal Dynamics now have to implement his iconic character into their games with a spotlight like no other.
Black Panther has always been one of the most important superheroes in recent times, with his feature film having an incredible influence over cinema and the way that Black culture is portrayed. The fictional kingdom of Wakanda was created from a wide mix of African influences, giving Hollywood the Black representation audiences absolutely needed.
Now, the issue has returned in the form of video games. Fortnite’s current season, Nexus War, is entirely themed around Marvel characters, and it is rumoured to add a Black Panther skin into its item shop in the near future.
Currently in-game, you can find a monument to Black Panther, which stands aside locations related to Ant-Man and mutants from X-Men. The monument includes a chest inside the statue’s mouth, and plays music when you approach it. With the addition of this monument, it seems to confirm that Epic Games might move forward with plans to add Black Panther into its universe. Suffice to say, I’m relieved.
I had hoped that Fortnite would not delay the release of Black Panther, as the game desperately needs the influence the character holds. While the game does include quite a diverse lineup of skins, its current Marvel season has a predominantly white battle pass. As a large majority of Fortnite’s audience is made up of kids, and with representation being more important than ever, Epic adding a Black Marvel superhero into the game is going to be a task that seems almost necessary at this point.
It’s likely to be the first thing that happens to Black Panther as a property since Boseman’s passing, and it makes the spotlight on Epic Games even bigger. While the game will likely feature the comic book version of the character, most of us associate Black Panther with the actor who immortalised him as a cultural milestone.
Epic Games now has to implement the skin with respect, knowledge of its importance and transparency. I would like to know where the money from the skin will go, as I believe it’s best that all proceeds go to a colon cancer research charity or a related cause.
Regardless, this spotlight is a good chance for Epic Games to raise light on issues around racism, representation and culture. It has shown itself as a company who cares about that, with its in-game panel on racism in America last July. But more has to be done, and even something as small as Black Panther in Fortnite is a monumental step in the right direction.