Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender Diversity

July 30, 2009 -

If you are a white male, the chances are pretty good that you will have something in common with the character you play in your favorite video game.

If you are a woman or ethnic minority, not so much.

At least, that's the conclusion drawn by researchers from the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Ohio University and Virginia Polytechnic. The research is published in the current issue of New Media & Society.

Study leader Dmitri Williams of USC commented on the data:

Latino children play more video games than white children. And they're really not able to play themselves. For identity formation, that's a problem. And for generating interest in technology, it may place underrepresented groups behind the curve.

Ironically, they may even be less likely to become game makers themselves, helping to perpetuate the cycle. Many have suggested that games function as crucial gatekeepers for interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

According to the study, only 3% of video game characters are Hispanic; all of those noted were non-playable characters. Ony 10% of characters are women.

African-Americans are more proportionately represented, but mostly appear in sports games or titles like 50 Cent Bulletproof which represent racial stereotypes.

Via: TG Daily


Comments

Re: I miss when GP was on LJ

I seem to remember you posting this exact same comment on multiple other articles. Thanks for your oh so helpful input.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I wish the report actually listed the games and/or characters on the data table; there was one bothersome statement in the report that I really wish there was data to clarify:

 

Each character was coded for their status as either a primary

(player-controlled) or secondary (computer-controlled) figure prior to

coding. Not all games featured visible primary characters. In the event that

a game provided the option to choose from a list of primary characters, such

characters were selected randomly so that characters from both genders, all

ethnicities and all age groups had an equal chance of being selected. Then, all

characters were coded on the variables of gender, race and age.

 

 

I don't know if that means they ignored all the other potential characters or just included them as secondaries, but it sounds somewhat sketchy.

Here is a link to the article:  http://dmitriwilliams.com/VirtualCensusFinal.pdf

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Wait a minute. Am I reading all that right?

Not all games featured visible primary characters.

So they ignored the many popular games where your character isn't visible? Which are usually first-person perspective games that encourage players to think of themselves as the protagonist, and in which the player can easily imagine that the protagonist is of their own race/creed/culture/blood type/whatever?

In the event that a game provided the option to choose from a list of primary characters, such characters were selected randomly so that characters from both genders, all ethnicities and all age groups had an equal chance of being selected.

Oh, so rather than acknowledge that many games allow you to choose a character that matches your sex and ethnicity--or even customize the appearance--they chose at random.

So, they first discarded games that are nearly the ideal counter to their thesis. Then, they took the output of a random number generator as data. What kind of low-grade hacks are these?

That's without even going into the question of how they determine ethnicity for a lot of the characters--many characters don't do or say anything (assuming they speak at all) that would identify them with any particular culture. What did they do in those cases, base it on appearances, which is to say, on visual stereotypes? Do they consider Link Caucasian because he has pale skin and blond hair? What about those ears?

I don't dispute that the distribution of characters doesn't match up to real-world demographics. I am, however, dubious about the practicality of trying to make it match. Likewise, I seriously doubt that the distribution has any significant impact on identity formation--but even if it does, this study seems deliberately designed to exclude or distort data from the games that are best suited to counter that impact. That reeks of stupidity at best, and agenda-driven intellectual dishonesty at worst.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

And what if there's 2/3 black, 1/3 white in a game? Does this mean they turned it into 1/2 black, 1/2 white chance?

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Seriously who the f*** cares.

Gaming is serious buisness but really who gives a s***.

 

You run out of bullets not enemies

Never underestimate the power of idiots in large amounts.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I don't find this the least bit surprising...

Top 10 rejected video game protagonists...

10.) Hispanic Chewbacca

9. ) Korean Sir Lancelot

8.)  Russian Han Solo

7.)  Mexican Legolas

6.)  Chinese Darth Vader

5.)  African American King Arthur

4.)  Inuit Luke Skywalker

3.)  Japanese Roman Gladiator

2.)  Swedish Gandalf

1.)  French Rambo

Most of the history, myth, fables, and stories that games are made from were created during a time of little racial diversity.  I can understand newer IP's being able to take on racially diverse protagonists, but as for the wealth of existing material games are made from, most of it doesn't involve much racial diversity.  When creating games from existing Lore, there isn't much wiggle room.  What are the odds Dante will be Canadian, eh?

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Actually I already came up with Hispanic Chewbacca. I wanted to remake Star Wars, but do it in a post apocalyptic setting like Mad Max or Fallout. Chewie would be played by Danny Trejo and I'd have a Chinese Han played by Chow Yun Fat. Never got around to anyone else because that combination would've been too awesome on its own.

 

I hate broccoli/ and think it totally sucks/ Why isn't it meat?

I hate broccoli/ and think it totally sucks/ Why isn't it meat?

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Actually, a russian Hans Solo would be kinda awesome.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

"Chinese Darth Vader" lol

DO NOT WANT!!!

-If an apple a day keeps the doctor away....what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

-Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Thank god I'm a giant anthropomorphic hedgehog; I know I'll be represented in a series of increasingly crappy games.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I just got back from playing a game of Hola with Senior Cheif, I don't know what these people are going on about.

To be frank, a designer should make a game having a lead character that is relatable to their target audience. That is why most JRPGs have young boys as leads, most FPS titles have someone with the same kind of mentality as that of frat boys, and so on and so forth. To say more Latinos play video games than white boys (love how they are PC for one group and not the other, by the way) is also an utter lack of research on their end.

 

"

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Er...my favorite games have nothing to do with what race the person is. CoD 4 and Halo provide a fair balance of races/cultures (a British guy, a black marine, a ginger, and an elite, to be precise), and my other favorites (Fallout 3 and Star Wars KotOR 2) allow me to choose my race, so of course I'll choose my own race.

And I find it pretty racist to say that because I see white main characters that I'll be more likely to be a game designer because I'm white. If it's a historical game (World War II game), then it's likely to have mostly white people, because white people were the main combatants in the European theater, and half of the major combatants in the Pacific theater (excluding the Chinese and others). If it's a futuristic game, then it likely already has a variety of races/cultures, whatever works into its story best. If it's a current game, then people probably already bitch about it for including "negative stereotypes" (ala GTA and Saints Row) or for any number of other reasons.

"a systematic under-representation of females, Hispanics, Native Americans, children and the elderly" If we included children in a shooting game, I can already hear the controversy in that. In a racing game, it "wouldn't be safe or realistic," in a sports game "dangerous." What place do elderly people even have in games where you have to be a fit character? Females are starting to be used more and more, but they shouldn't be forcefully put into the story JUST so that there are women in it, if it fits into the story then it fits, if it doesn't then it doesn't, no need to force diversity. Native Americans? Come on, the only way to include them historically would end in a lot of controversy, and there's no need to force their race into games just to say "look we're sensitive, we have Native Americans in this game!" As for Hispanics...would Mario be hispanic? In any case, there aren't many games that are featured in a predominately hispanic area, so it hasn't really fit into the story very much yet.

-If an apple a day keeps the doctor away....what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

-Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

(Fallout 3 and Star Wars KotOR 2) allow me to choose my race, so of course I'll choose my own race.

I'm the exact opposite, I like to play people I'm not.  It's a way of taking the alternate identity inherent in games (fighter pilot, soldier, criminal, superhero) one step further.  In Fallout 3 I played a woman, in Mass Effect an African-American, and in Oblivion I was the lizard dude.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

In almost every fighting game I select female characters as my main fighter, but also, I don´t use villians.

NEXT STUDY: "Villians are systematically misrepresented and bashed in videogames"...

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Consideirng my favorite game is Metroid Fusion, I'm not sure this study applies to me.

If you go crazy then I will still call you Superman.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Well, I'm glad someone wasted money researching that.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Hey I once read about a University study on the best way to pop popcorn.

There's some stupid stuff being researched.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Whenever groups such as this push for diversity rarely does it actually turn out well.  If it can naturally fit the narative, then so be it.  Therefore some games should have diversity, but some should also be devoid of it.

Trying to say that every book, movie, and game should without question be diverse leads to the akward and forced diversity that was the staple of 80's educational videos.

-Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person's fear of their own freedom-

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I haven't had a good laugh for a while until I read the 50 Cent Bulletproof representing black stereotypes, especially since 50 Cent himself is black.

岩「…Where do masochists go when they die?」

岩「…I can see why Hasselbeck's worried about fake guns killing fake people. afterall, she's a fake journalist on a fake news channel」

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

"Latino" as they say, is more of a culture than a race... "Latino" just means your descended from some native south american who found themselves with a conquistador... So I'm not certian how you can represent one of such a demographic without relying on common sterotypes?

And as this study mentions, most game developers tend to be white males; and I'm sure most would understand that when thinking up a hero or protaganist that one can't help but self-project. It's difficult to create a character of a diffrent culture without stripping them of all cultural aspects or drowning them in them.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Latino means people who speaks lenguages based on latin, so, people from Spain are also latin.

I think a good character is made from many stereotypes to make him or her unique. For example, El Fuerte from Street Fighter IV is a luchador and also a chef and is an interesting character for comedy. In Mexico we liked El Fuerte for those reasons.

 

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Uh... the French are Latino?  French is a romance language.  Ya, sorry, kinda pointless comment on my part I know.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Fighting games typically do a good job in representing many ethnic backgrounds. Place it mostly on the fact that you can usually choose from dozens of characters. Street Fighter IV and Soulcalibur IV have a very international feel in this respect. Even though SC IV is more fantastical, most of its characters have a real national origin.

GameSnooper

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I seriously doubt that a lack of positive minority role models in videogames is keeping them from becoming game developers.

hell when I was growing up my video game heros were plumbers, women, robots, and anthro animals. So why does it matter who/what they are?

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Wow, what a research. Why they always ignore games like Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Soul Calibur, Tekken or any game including a multicultural cast with male and female characters, or even diferent sexual orientation?

I would like to know what games were included in their "research". They should know that "blackgammon" is not a very good game to start.

Also: Latino children play more video games than white children.

Where the hell they get that?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NEXT RESEARCHES:

- Why games not include moral christian values in their plots?

- Why Rapelay doesn´t teach children the use of condoms?

- Why God of War doesn´t teach love?

- Why games can´t make everybody happy?

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

mikedo2007

 

Also: Latino Children play more video games than white children

Where the hell did they get that?

 

I'm wondering that too.  I think race doesn't count for gamers in US.  If this guy talking about Mexico, that would be a good point (even though some area are like poverty and very poor).  If he's talking about countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Nicaragua.  Then there's not going to be alot, because most area in those countries are poor and can't afford video games.  Only big cities like Santiago, Sao Paulo, and other big cities where people can afford video game depend on the income they make.

Now if this guy said "Asia play more video game then USA and other part of the world".  He could be partially correct (I'm not sure myself, but I've heard video game are big in Asia not only in Japan).  Look at Japan, the game industry is big and a lot of people love video game whether they're young or old.  I wish Japan could put more love on Western game and FPS games.  South Korea is the most wired place on earth, 95% of home in SK have broadband and there are reports of video game addiction over there.  They love MMO game and RTS like Starcraft which we all know more then any part of the world.  You might have seen a GP article on that also.  I also recalled online game are big in China (including Taiwan, Hong Kong).

intresting facts: in Xian, they have the largest bar in the world with 3000 computers!!!  That city also hosted several worldwide gaming competitions such as ACON5 (anybody know what that stand for?), CEG2006, WCG2006.  the city of Chengdu will host World Cyber Games Grand Final this year.

I'm glad to see we have video game love from Asia.   

 

 

 

        

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Well, many people can afford games on Southamerica, at least, pirate software. What they don´t have are videogame studios and producers to create regional themed games. So, OBVIOUSLY, latinamerican kids will not find many characters with latinamerican backgrounds because games are created in first world countries.

That´s not racism, anyways. Also, gamers are not interesed on what country are their characters from.

As like somebody say, this "study" was a waste of time and money.

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

The whole bit of research reeks of bullshit and bias and a poorly designed study.  I'd like to know the methodology.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

- Why God of War doesn´t teach love?

Kratos is just misunderstood. He really wants to be loved, but he just pushes people away... with his weapons...

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

It's not his fault. He just has some "family issues" to work through.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

You people are starting to sound like a california court case concerning a robber being assaulted in the commission of his crime...

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Sad, isn't it? He should just be counting himself lucky that the owner didn't blow his head off, but in California, this sort of insanity will probably go through so robbers can sue their intended victims when things go south.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I've never understood this issue.  The ethnicity of the protagonist is not a factor of my interest in the game.

Anyone actually put off by controlling a character with an ethnicity different from yours?

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

While we see this argument routinely in regards to movies, TV, and so-forth, remember that one of the most basic arguments about self-identity in a game/toy also came with baby dolls.  It was only in the last couple of decades that baby dolls, Barbie dolls, and other action figures went through a diversification such as what is described in this article.  Even Cabbage Patch dolls went through the same thing.

Nightwng2000

NW2K Software

http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000

Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I don't want this to sound racist, and it shouldn't, but if I'm playing a first person roleplaying game like Oblivion, then the Character IS me. Bethesda realizes this and thus there are black characters, white characters, different species characters, pick the eye color, hair color, etc.

I would be pissed if I could only play as a black character, as I would feel it didn't represent me. Now in a game where you are playing "Sgt. Badass" ex-marine out for revenge, well I'm playing his story and don't need the character to resemble me.

Its a tough area, choice should be given to the player where at all possible, but not every game needs every type of racial type available to play as.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I am most definitively *not* my race in Oblivion, and yes, I am playing human.

I picked what had the perks I wanted for my style of play. Nothing more than that.

 

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I agree that more choices are good, but in a role-playing game the whole point is NOT to play yourself.  You play a role.  If you were playing yourself the genre would not use the word 'role-playing' in its title.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Well, technically, shouldn't roleplaying also have the option to play the role of yourself?

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I'll take it one step further the world caters to humans you do not need to take "togetherness" to the nth degree...its unnatural...and sickening to boot. As long as you are raised human and color/race/creed/gender is not set in stone and buried under a mountain of issues it should not matter, not one bit.


I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay's outside our bedrooms..


http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

---

http://zippydsm.deviantart.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

It has to do with self-identification and the way children relate to and understand themselves and others. Remember, the study concerns itself with children. Children who, by virtue of their age, have yet to fully develop a sense of "self." Repeated exposure to anything in which those who look like or are culturally similar to you are either non-existent or negatively portrayed can be problematic. It's not a question of whether never being the "hero" has a dampening effect on interest in the game (and if, as reported, Latinos, despite being severely underrepresented, game more than Whites, then that would perhaps suggest that there's little to no dampening of interest effect). The question is what effect never being the hero has on the player's psychological development.   

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Then question should be why don't parents raise thier kids to be human rather than X or Y?

I was rasied to  be human more than to be "male" or "white" whatever the frakk that means.


I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay's outside our bedrooms..


http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

---

http://zippydsm.deviantart.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

I wonder if they bothered to include the Civ games.  Plenty of female/black/latinio/etc characters to choose from there.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Wait, does this mean that Saints Row 2 is among the more progressive games since you can play as a woman as well as white/black/asian/latino? I find that hilarious.


  
Growing older doesn't have to mean giving up what makes you. - http://himynameistyler.com

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Don't forget Fallout 3.

 

--------------------

Making the world a better place... one Headshot at a time...

-------------------- Making sure I retain my INSANITY

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

 Mass Effect, too?

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

And Oblivion, as well.

You can be four varieties of human, an orc, three varieties of elf, a humanoid cat, or a talking lizard!

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

None of those games count as that would make it impossible for them to have a decent rant.

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Indeed.  When will people learn that logic, facts, and calm rationality have no place in politics or on the Internet?  Start pissing and moaning, dammit!

 

"That's not ironic. That's justice."

"That's not ironic. That's justice."

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

And lets not forget every single massive multiplay online role playing games ever made.

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: Research: Video Game Characters Lack Ethnic & Gender ...

Then stop the fucking nagging every time one of these people is presented as antagonist. >_>

 
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