Representation in Game: Celebrating Black History Month at Activision Blizzard

Arthur Kingsley and the Black experience during World War II come alive in Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: Vanguard. To celebrate Black History Month, Activision Blizzard’s Black Employee Network hosted a panel featuring important voices who unpack the effort and share why Kingsley’s character matters.

Feb 17, 2022

With Call of Duty: Vanguard, Sledgehammer Games set out to tell the World War II story from a different perspective, putting a diverse cast of characters at the forefront of the game. Among them is Arthur Kingsley, the game’s lead protagonist, whose identity and storied past provide the makings of an able leader.

Arthur Kingsley’s character pays homage to real World War II hero Sergeant Sidney Cornell of “B” Company, 7th Parachute Battalion. Cornell, a British soldier, was a recipient of a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery during the war and was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1951. As a Black man, Sergeant Cornell was at the vanguard of integrating the British military. Following in Cornell’s footsteps, Arthur Kingsley is notable for his role in Call of Duty: Vanguard – the first time in the franchise’s history that it has had a Black lead character.

Significant research, care, and creativity went into ensuring that Sergeant Arthur Kingsley was created as an authentic representation of the Black soldiers whom his character is intended to honor. As the Call of Duty blog describes Sergeant Kingsley:

The heart and leader of Task Force One, Kingsley was born in the Douala region of Cameroon before attending University of Cambridge and enlisting in the British Army. A man of nobility whose parents encouraged his multilingualism — he speaks English, German, French, Portuguese, and Bantu, both the Equatorial and Northern dialects — Kingsley saw politics always being discussed at the dinner table, and as a kid, his mother would read him his favorite book, The Three Musketeers, every night.

While Kingsley is a natural-born leader, he fears falling into the traditional patterns of the British Army, over-deliberating at times when his soldiers may be faced with a life-threatening situation. However, that all represents a near-unrivaled care for those who serve beside him, and Kingsley works every day to not only protect them, but also earn their respect.

To his core, Arthur is a kind soul with a warm but mischievous smile. He takes things to heart and harbors deep empathy for those close to him. He loves the comfort and warmth of his home life and family, and longs for peace time to return.

However, Arthur harbors a deep resentment: despite understanding the wrongs of the world, he is unable to right them. To that point, he has a strong sense of loyalty to fight against the Nazis to help protect his home and put an end to the dangerous ideas Nazism propagates.

Recently, Activision Blizzard’s Black Employee Network hosted a conversation with Sledgehammer Games’ creative leads and some of the individuals who helped bring Call of Duty: Vanguard’s story to life. The following videos are highlights of that conversation.

Featured in this conversation are:

  • Wes Hendrix – ABK Black Employee Network Studio Lead Sledgehammer Games
  • Dave Swenson – Campaign Creative Director/Senior Audio Director, Sledgehammer Games
  • Stephen Rhodes – Vanguard Narrative Lead/Senior Story Designer, Sledgehammer Games
  • Chiké Okonkwo – Voice and likeness of Sir Arthur Kingsley
  • Tochi Onyebuchi – Lead writer for the character of Sir Arthur Kingsley
  • Selena Carty – Cultural and Diversity consultant

 

Tochi Onyebuchi discusses the development of Kingsley’s origin story and character, including the significance of Kingsley being a Black person participating in the British military.

Selena Carty focuses on the nuances that exist across the global Black cultural experience.

Chiké Okonkwo talks about how a shift in storytelling can provide a whole new perspective on history.

Chiké Okonkwo discusses how the development team accounted for the subtle challenges that a Black man in Kingsley’s position would need to confront.

Selena Carty talks about the power of Call of Duty: Vanguard to spark a broader conversation about Black experiences.

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