Representation is important. Having characters from different backgrounds allows all of us to experience things from different points of view. Whether that is playing as someone like Arthur from Red Dead Redemption 2, Franklin from Grand Theft Auto V, or in the latest case someone like Rampart who has joined the Apex Legends roster with today’s launch of Season 6 – Boosted.
Ramya ‘Rampart’ Parekh is described as a 21-year-old British Indian business owner, which is great. There are few representations of Indians in gaming and even fewer of those are women, so attempts at increasing how inclusive games are with characters such as this are always good to see. However, that representation also has to be accurate.
Skip ahead to the 55 second mark in her introduction trailer, or any of the videos that feature her, and you can hear how Rampart sounds. Despite being British Indian, she has the same kind of accent found in Bollywood movies when Indian characters speak English. Coming from a British Indian background myself, I can tell you without a doubt any Indian person born in Britain does not have an Indian accent, making Rampart sound like a poorly researched and considered caricature, regardless of the intent.
Since Rampart was first revealed, we’ve regularly reached out to EA for comment and clarification over the creative process, but are still waiting for a meaningful response at the time of publishing.
Accents are quite pure in depending on where you were born and where you live. My accent is of someone born in South East England, but British Indian people who grew up in Birmingham will have a Brummie accent. Of course, Rampart could be British Indian through getting citizenship after moving to the UK from India, but then why emphasise that she is British Indian in the first place? And what’s the point of such a distinction when this is a science fiction universe in the far future and her Home World is listed as Gaea. Surely that would make her a Gaean Indian?
British Indian culture is different to Indian culture in some ways. After all, we British Indians are heavily aware of our Indian heritage and all of what comes with it, but we do not live in India so it is impossible to be fully immersed in that culture all of the time. That comes from growing up in two different cultures: Indian and British. Even within that there will be differences as Indians are not one giant mass of people who share the same cultural beliefs, religions, or languages. Growing up in a Sikh Punjabi British Indian family will have slight differences to growing up in a Hindu Gujarat British Indian family, not to mention the regional differences across Britain also impacting that identity.
Rampart is voiced by Anjali Bhimani, the same actor who voices the Indian character Symmetra in Overwatch. She voices the character very well in the game, and it’s likely that this was part of what led to her casting as Rampart in Apex Legends. Of course, none of this mischaracterisation should be blamed on Anjali, especially as we don’t know the character’s evolution through the creative process. For all we know the original character sheet described Rampart as Indian and the change to British Indian could have come after the recordings were done.
I don’t believe that this would come from a place of malice from Respawn, but labelling someone as British Indian and giving them stereotypical Indian accent is ignorance at best, and creating a caricature at worst. There probably aren’t many British Indians in California to consult about this issue. However, we are at time when representations of race and treatment of minorities is a major social point. Movements like Black Lives Matter prove that society in general is not perfect and there are issues that need addressing. For EA and Respawn, companies that have spoken in support of BLM, to then stumble on another issue of representation shows that the industry still has a long way to go.
We eagerly await Respawn’s response to our requests for comment.