“It’s the representation in games that I’ve been waiting for all my life.”
The Marvel Avengers are gathering again, not on the big screen, but for a successful video game.
It features many of the superheroes you could expect, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. To them is added a new addition: Kamala Khan.
The Muslim-American teenager of Pakistani origins, who has skills that change shape, is the last character to adopt the Marvel moniker.
When the publisher of the game Square Enix announced that Marvel Avengers would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and that it would put it at the center of the plot, it garnered praise from both fans and industry insiders.
“I first heard about Marvel from the comics a few years ago,” says Maria Afsar, a 25-year-old female player.
“I immediately thought it was so nice when reading his background was like mine, being Pakistani, Muslim and a girl.
“When I saw the announcement that he would participate in the game and one of the main characters, I thought I had literally been waiting for something like this for my entire life. I didn’t see anything like it when I was younger.”
Kamala Khan was co-created by editor and director Marvel Sana Amanat in 2014.
Herself, an American Muslim, Sana Amanat wanted to create a character with which girls of similar backgrounds could identify and look.
“I think it’s absolutely crazy that Kamala is in one of the biggest Marvel games we’ve made,” he said during the game’s promotion.
“The fact that she is the protagonist of the game in this game makes a lot of sense. People from all backgrounds can relate to her.”
The multiple incarnations of Mrs. Marvel
The Marvel moniker has been used by several white characters in Marvel comics since 1976, including Sharon Ventura and Dr Karla Sofen.
But the first incarnation was Carole Danvers in 1977.
Her character left Mrs. Marvel Moniker in 2010, and then became known as Captain Marvel in 2012. She is played on the screen in the Marvel film universe by Brie Larson.
This opened the door to a new character who will become Marvel.
In 2014, readers were introduced to Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American who grew up in Jersey City. She has skills that change shape and that’s why she’s an Avengers fan-girl.
Making history along the way, she became the first Muslim Marvel character to lead her comic book series.
Muslim characters in video games have appeared in significant roles in recent years, so it’s not the first time you can play a Muslim character.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India, a spin-off from the best-selling series, made us play as Arbaaz Mir, a Kashmir assassin.
The fighting games franchise Tekken 7 recently introduced a Saudi Arabian character called Shaheen as the last entry on its list.
And Street Fighter V has seen the inclusion of Rashid, another Middle Eastern character.
However, some character designs for Muslims may be stereotyped and not very reflective of your young average Muslim, according to Sitara Shefta, head of the No Brakes Games studio.
Sitara believes that Marvel is much more representative of what young Muslims really are and says that Kamala Khan’s character reminds her of her own granddaughter.
He says the significance of including Kamala Khan in the game is a big step towards better representation in the games.
“It is very important, why should Pakistanis and Muslims not have characters and stories that inspire them?” she asks.
“They are usually depicted as terrorists or villains against whom we fight in games.
“We now have a powerful Pakistani Muslim character and a model for children in this community to follow.”
The video game will feature an original comic book-inspired storyline, but will not align with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Scott Amos, studio chief of game developer Crystal Dynamics, said he was overwhelmed by the response to the inclusion of Kamala Khan.
“One post that really caught us was about how this longtime player said how excited he was – and how important it is to have a hero hero in this game now, so that generations of new players can see and play like someone like them in a game full of these iconic giants like Thor and Iron Man and Black Widow, “he told the BBC Asian Network.
When his trailer was first revealed at E3 2019, some expressed themselves on social media that the game’s characters did not look like the actors who played them in the movies at all.
Marvel has not yet been portrayed in a live movie, so it has not been influenced by this criticism, however Marvel Studios are destined to center a Disney + TV series around the character, which is expected to be aired in 2022.