Barret Wallace is a player character in the 1997 Squaresoft RPG Final Fantasy VII. He is the second character introduced, and although he is sometimes considered a secondary character, his story arc is rather well defined.
Barret Wallace is a large, black man who has a cybernetic gun implanted on his right arm. He was a coal miner until the Shinra Corporation built Mako reactors on his hometown of Corel, which eventually led to the town's destruction, and the death of most of the residents. Barret adopted his friend's daughter, caring for her while at the same time becoming a member of the environmental terrorist group AVALANCHE. Barret would probably have been a rather controversial character if put in a movie, as he could be seen as quite a racial stereotype. He is a large, tempermental black man who has a tendancy to cuss and talk broken English. However, since this is a video game, it went in well underneath the public radar. Although I think that Barret's character could be seen as somewhat racially insensitive, it is also the product of another culture looking at American culture. It could also be argued that Barrett's attitude is not based on his race, but rather on the fact that he is a coal miner, and a manual laborer. For all of his crudeness, it should also be remembered that Wallace is not stupid: he is one of the few people on the planet forward thinking and concerned enough to try to stop the planet from being poisoined by Mako Reactors.
Putting aside that issue, the controversy of Barret discussed in the story line is that as an enviromental terrorist, he is responsible for the deaths of many people, many of them innocent. The personal reasons Barret's crusade are told later. He was one of the people who pushed to have the Mako Reactor's installed in his hometown of Corel, a decision that would ultimately lead to the burning of the town by the Shinra, and the incident that caused him to lose his arm, as well as his best friend Dyne to lost his sanity. It was because of this that Barret adopted Dyne's daughter Marlene, and set off on a crusade against the Shinra. Barret's personal relevations come in realizing he was not solely responsible for the destruction of his hometown, and in repenting of his earlier violent methods.
Within the context of game play, Barret is not much different from the other characters, due to the fact that Final Fantasy VII makes characters abilities interchangable through the materia system. Barret's profile tends towards force and stamina rather than dexterity and magic, however.
It's characters like Barret Wallace that make me realize why the Japanese have such a superiority in the video game market.
Japanese video game designer, thinking to themselves:
Let's have a tough talking, ghetto looking character. And he will be black! With one arm! and the other arm is a gun! And despite his loud mouth, he will be tortured by his past...and...and...a coal miner...wait, a coal miner turned environmental terrorist!
American video game designer, thinking to themselves:
You will be in...in...in a maze! And you will...shoot things! Run and shoot things! YEAH!