Not only are LEGO building toys one of the most popular brands in the world, but over the years, they have amassed a huge following in the video game realm as well, with dozens of titles featuring both original concepts and licensed properties. LEGO is one of the rare brands that holds the license to produce merchandise based on both Marvel and DC Comics.
In 2013, ‘LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ was released, allowing players to play as 180 different characters, and proved to be a solid hit. Last month saw the release of a follow-up, ‘LEGO Marvel’s Avengers’ which ups the number to over 200! The new game is available for both Playstation 3 and 4, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Xbox One and 360 as well as for PC and Mac.
Now the most important thing about this game is simply for it to be fun. And while the game treads closely to most other LEGO games, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Overall, it’s a cool, humorous romp for kids of all ages and Marvel fans should be especially pleased.
But one cool element that many might overlook or simply take for granted is the sheer diversity of the cast, reflective of that found in the comic books. In recent years, Marvel has taken huge strides to depict a more multicultural world, more reflective of its readership, who hail from all walks of life. Marvel has pushed more female, persons of color, religious minorities (at least minorities in the U.S.) and LGBTQ characters to the forefront, and for fans of both the comics and video games, that initiative continues here!
It’s a subtle factor, but one that should be applauded, as anyone who has faced any sort of marginalization can now feel included in the Marvel Universe and play as a character they relate to or see themselves in.
African American Sam Wilson is playable as both his classic persona, The Falcon, as well as Captain America, his current identity. And The Falcon comes in two varieties, the red and white-garbed comic book version and the more realistic (if visually unexciting) Anthony Mackie movie version. (Most of the dialogue for the movie characters is provided by the actual stars, so Sam Wilson’s voice is actually that of Mackie.) There’s even a downloadable add-on representation of The Falcon as he will appear in ‘Civil War’.
Wilson’s Captain America currently leads The All-New, All-Different Avengers in the comics and most of his cohorts are featured here as well, including Thor, now a female (Jane Foster) and Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) who is Pakistani American and Muslim. Sadly, there is NO version of Spider-Man in this game at all, most likely due to it being built around the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So sadly, the biracial (African America/Latino) Spider-Man, Miles Morales is absent.
Other notable black (American or otherwise) characters in the game include Black Goliath, Blue Marvel, Gorilla Girl, Heimdall, Luke Cage and Nick Fury. On the villain front, there is also Cotton Mouth. There is also a ‘Civil War’ Black Panther available for download.
Other racial minority characters in the game are Amadeus and Helen Cho (Asian), America Chavez (Latina), Bengal (Asian), Echo (Latina), Firebird (Latina), Hazmat (Asian), The Mandarin (Asian), Mantis (Asian, although with green skin), White Tiger (Latina) and Jolt (Asian, downloadable).
The website Geeks Out reported that there are 11 gay, lesbian or bisexual characters included, although some are kind of a stretch. For instance, Loki and Valkyrie are more pansexual or their orientation is simply different because they are gods from another culture. Something similar could be said of The Protector, a Kree alien who copped to some “exploration” as part of his right-of-passage.
But the game includes several character who– in the comics– are openly gay, lesbian or bisexual, including the aforementioned America Chavez, Lightspeed (who, fittingly has a rainbow that trails behind her everywhere she moves in the game), Mighty Destroyer, Moondragon, Striker, Union Jack and Marvel’s gay poster boys, Hulkling and Wiccan.
(A Union Jack and Mighty Destroyer were lovers, but that Union Jack was killed. The current hero by that name is heterosexual, but the characters in the game, for the most part, don’t use secret identities, so it’s unclear which one this is.)
Now this being an all-ages game means it has to be kid-friendly, so the characters’ sexuality isn’t part of it and a kid playing this game today may never realize that these characters are LGBTQ. But for a young kid playing this game today, who grows up to realize he or she is also LGBTQ, this could do wonders for their self-acceptance and pride.
Now this doesn’t deserve a parade or anything. No attention is drawn to these characters’ race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. They’re simply superheroes (and villains) out there having a rip roarin’ adventure with their fellow heroes (and villains). The issue of diversity is never raised.
But it’s there. And that’s nice. For fans, it’s nice to be able to see yourself in a character in a way you may not have been able to do before. That’s not to say that fans of whatever identity can’t be a fan of a character that is not superficially like them, but it’s nice to have the option.