XCOM 2 is a great game that took everything from the previous iteration and expanded on every idea. The game is harder with more enemies, more systems, and more complexity. One of the most resilient aspects of the XCOM franchise is the ability to mold and customize your soldiers in a variety of different ways. From the way they look to names and nationality, it is common to create your family and friends to fight back the alien occupation. However, unlike most fans of XCOM, my ability to create who I wanted was hindered.
I was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US at a very early age. The relocation differentiated me from other Filipinos in the US in that instead of seeking opportunity and a better life, we were displaced because of politics. Eventually, the Philippines restored democracy and my family took annual trips back. During these trips, there was a growing notion that I wasn't Filipino enough. I never learned any Tagalog or Visayan. I could study the history, but living in the US, the Philippines was detached for my day-to-day life and experiences. The US feels like home, but in many parts of the country, I, as a brown man, would be very unwelcome. America is a strange place in that its rules and Constitution encourage diversity and protection under the law, but, throughout its short history, many of its citizens actively try to fight against these practices.
It is the common problem of being trapped between two cultures. I never feel more American than when visiting Manila. And I never feel more than an outsider than when I visit certain parts of the US.
XCOM 2 has a dearth of nationality options when customizing soldiers. In Africa, you are limited to choosing Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa. In fact, the region labeled "East Africa" is mostly Egypt and the Middle East, ignoring the major African nations of Ethiopia and Kenya. South America has more than nations with Brazil, Argentina,Colombia, and Venezuela. Strangely, there is a region in South America labeled "New Chile" but no option to be a Chilean XCOM operative. Of course, this is all after an alien invasion and occupation; borders could have reshuffled quite a bit, though flags stayed the same.
Asia is represented by seven nations, but sadly, no Southeast Asian nations except for Indonesia. The place of my birth, the Philippines, is represented on the map, sans the island of Palawan. There is no opportunity to be Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Laotian, etc. When trying to create avatars for my family members, I chose Indonesia which made for strange visuals. I have a few friends that are Taiwanese which made turning them into PRC nationals troubling. The fact that many science fiction narratives just ignore or minimize Asian representation rears its head once again. With the vast majority of the world's population and rising economies, a story set in the future shouldn't just have one Asian dude. Even in the TV fiction of Firefly where Chinese culture and language is widespread and known, there was an appalling lack of any Asians in the main cast
Also, it is worth noting that the only voiced languages in the game are European languages, with three different variations of English (UK, US, AU). While understandable that more voices records equals more production time and cost, surely the inclusion of Mandarin over Italian or yet another form of English would help in the immersion and fiction. Hell, Russia is one of the largest PC markets and that language option is no where to be seen.
Of course, I know the reason these decisions were made. XCOM 2 will sell more in Europe and the US than in Nairobi or Palawan. But, I cringe at the belief that representation and inclusion only happen when it is financial feasible. Perhaps it is my Jesuit upbringing and liberal biases, but this reasoning strikes me as cynical and unimaginative.
The inclusion or exclusion of a country here or there is not going to make or break a game. XCOM 2 is still a wonderful and worthwhile game that I will be playing for years. It just sucks I can't be Filipino in my favorite game of the year.