Akil Fletcher lecture - "Black Fantasy: Reformatting Black Identity in Final Fantasy XIV"
Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at 11:00am to 12:30pm
How does it feel to be a problem online? In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois famously noted that there is a point at which every Black American comes to realize, first that they are Black, and second that they are a problem. Today, as online gamers represent themselves from a near boundless range of possible avatars—of any race, body type, or gender, from an elf to an orc who launches fire from their fingers—Black gamers have found that despite these fantastical possibilities, the online world is no haven from the racism that permeates the physical world. Specifically, many Black players in the game Final Fantasy XIV have reported feeling alienated from the community due to harassment, a lack of representation, and the inability to confidently portray their own Black identities within the game. Finding that despite the many fictional races and settings the game offers, Blackness remains the greatest fantasy within the game. As players suffer from high rates of racial, misogynistic, and class-based discrimination, both within and outside of the game, Black gamers must find clever ways to represent themselves, experiencing a form of what Du Bois calls “double consciousness”—where they must not only view themselves but do so through a veil of whiteness. But how are Black gamers dealing with this reality? And how do they view this “digital double consciousness”?
In this talk, Akil draws on his fieldwork in the online game Final Fantasy XIV to engage with questions of race and identity to explore the ways Black individuals find representation and express Black identity online.