Forgot your password?
Games Entertainment

African Americans and the Video Game Industry 646

Posted by kdawson
from the in-the-game-but-not-of-the-game dept.
An anonymous reader writes "African Americans spend more money and time playing video games than whites, yet only 2% of game developers are black. This past week, MTV's Multiplayer blog interviewed five black game industry professionals for their perspective on race in the industry. Intelligent Gamer summarizes and highlights portions of this lengthy series of interviews."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

African Americans and the Video Game Industry

Comments Filter:
  • stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pak9rabid (1011935) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @04:14PM (#23055890)
    And? If we truly want to live in a society of racial equality, we need to stop calling attention to stuff like this. Who gives a shit what whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, etc do. As long as we're not fucking each other over, who gives a shit..
  • by someme2 (670523) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @04:23PM (#23055970)

    How much longer are we going to rely on the bald space marine? Or how much longer are we going to rely on the Elven female warrior whose armor barely covers her breasts? Is that all we can do with this medium or is there more that can be done?" I think some people just don't push themselves hard enough.

    I think it's pretty obvious that the problem is not people pushing themselves to softly... 95% of all characters in any popular media are heavily clicheed. Even though every single game designer, author, movie director, musician and whatnot would really like to do better. But you don't get project funding for better, you get funding for dependable and predictable sales. As "they" say: It's a hit driven business (with "it" being just about everything).

    Characters must always meet expectations so that no one changes the channel because they don't understand the plot anymore after fetching beer from the fridge. Consequently any clearly identifiable group is badly misrepresented in popular media.

    Also, Slashdot readers, you just have to love this quote from the article:

    I mean, there's hip-hop in Cuba, there's hip-hop in Poland, there's hip-hop in the Soviet Union;

    Knock yourselves out...

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2008 @04:26PM (#23055980)

    And yes, "African-American" is a downright stupid appellation. Can you call a black child born in Denmark "African-American"?
    Oblig [] Maddox. Read and agree, or read and be wrong.
  • Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by khristian (1009227) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @04:49PM (#23056136) Homepage
    When I entered the CS course (Brasil), along with me came a guy from Africa. He spent a year on it, and then changed to Law school. I guess they don't want to work "underground" as programmers (it's pretty dark where I work) or something like that, they want to be recognized. Even if you come with the "they are poor", it's a public university we're talking about here. And a lot of the funding goes for students who can prove they are poor.

    Apart from that, I don't think anyone should be offended by being called "black" or "white". How would it look if I, being white as a candle, wanted to sue someone for calling me white, or even whitey?
  • by sahonen (680948) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:00PM (#23056222) Homepage Journal
    Quick, do a study about how many blonde-haired people play games vs. develop them. The video game industry is blondeist! Seriously, why do we still use race as a primary factor in surveys when what they're looking for is economic and social factors? That's where the racism is happening, not in the hiring practices of developers.
  • by Maestro485 (1166937) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:02PM (#23056236)
    Made up statistic:

    Despite the fact that a large percentage of rap music fans are white, only about 2% actually produce rap music!
    Seriously, who the hell cares? Some people like products of different cultures, whether music or games or anything else. This is a good thing.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Miseph (979059) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:16PM (#23056362) Journal
    A certain percentage of the US population is black, therefore it is expected that an equivalent percentage of American game developers are too. If they are not, it indicates some sort confounding variable that might (and in this case almost certainly does) indicate some sort of social inequity that needs to be addressed. The importance is not, in this case, the statistical anomaly itself, but rather in the reason for it.
  • Re:The take on GTA (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:30PM (#23056486)
    Didn't rtfa of course, but from the section you quoted I think he's making the difference between the mafioso gangsters of GTA3 and the black gangsters of GTA:SA by likening our perception of mafioso gangsters to our perception of, for example, witches, wizards, devils, etc; we know that's fantasy image, whereas we don't know that the gang-banging thugs from the hood are a fantasy image and are instead plagued by fears about being carjacked by a negro.

    I can understand it in those terms, though it seems more like a parody of racism rather than a legitimate argument.
  • by Blkdeath (530393) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:32PM (#23056498) Homepage

    Sure, you are outraged by this, but yet you don't speak out on such things as alumni preference (at many schools it is officially part of the weighting that if your parents went to school there, you get a better chance). This has been directly shown to cause a sort of affirmative action for white people; but of course you wouldn't care about that; it isn't convenient for your argument.

    I didn't speak out on such things as book costs, transit routes or the mascots chosen by the institutions because it wasn't relevant to what I was discussing either. So for your strawman I present a book of matches.

    Now, to address what you've said; so? People in higher educational facilities prefer to have people in them who form some sort of heritage, or people who help fund the school and donate "wings" and libraries and the like. So?

    Do you think it's unfair that retail businesses also offer preferential treatment to their existing client base?

    A small hint for you; if you go looking for it, you can find various forms of discrimination everywhere you go. Keep looking; I'm sure you're only helping the cause.

    Rather than championing small changes, why not champion a total overhaul of your country's education system? Force the government to redirect a portion of their military budget toward education. How many people could the war in Iraq have sent through post-secondary over the same time frame? Would the country be better or worse for it? Forget any other factors; allow people to continue through the system based solely on academic proficiency.

  • Re:Yes please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:33PM (#23056506)
    Saturation, not hue. Everyone's skin is pretty close to the same hue, but the amount of melanin changes the saturation, making it lighter or darker. This has interesting consequences for computer vision, and is also pretty much entirely offtopic.
  • Re:Yes please (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:35PM (#23056522)
    Interestingly enough, new immigrants from African countries get to essentially piggyback onto the same story even when they are not descendants of the slaves and were never subject to discrimination in US.

    What you're saying is that people who discriminate against black people people can tell the difference between american blacks and recent black immigrants, and do not discriminate against recent black immigrants.

    I find that highly unlikely.

    Recent black immigrants to the USA and their children are far more successful (like Obama) than blacks who have been living in the USA for generations. That strongly suggests the problems of the black community are not primarily due to discrimination.

    Oh well, every groups of people looks for competitive advantage.

    Aha. It's all about advantage for yourself, not redress of past wrongs.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @05:50PM (#23056634) Homepage

    And yes, "African-American" is a downright stupid appellation. Can you call a black child born in Denmark "African-American"?
    Silly example of this in an interview with black British athlete, Kriss Ababusi [].
  • by Emru (1272414) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @06:08PM (#23056794)

    I don't want to read one more article about how african american people are under represented in this, that, or the other. It makes me angry even to see such headlines because yes racism exists but we only fuel racism by carving out sectors of society by race and speaking to how disadvantaged they are.
    If you don't talk about it, how will people know? Talking about the problem isn't the problem; it's how people react to it. (You even seem to agree with that, in principle. As you say, "repeating the same old talking points.")

    And like everything else, discussions about under-representation aren't always economic. Right now I'm directly affected by a form of ethnic under-representation: I'm in need of a bone marrow stem cell transplant [], and as a black person I have a much lower chance [] of finding a matching donor than a white person -- the odds of two people's human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) matching are much greater if they're of the same ethnic background, and blacks are severely under-represented in the Canadian, American and UK bone marrow donor registries.

    So should I not bring that up because it's somehow racist? It's a fact, and people can't fix it if they don't know about it. This has a direct bearing on my life, and the lives of other black people (and Asian, and Indian, and...) waiting for transplants, so I want to see more headlines about this kind of under-representation, not fewer.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2008 @06:53PM (#23057182)
    A famous biologist recently got in trouble for saying this, as it was blown out as a racist statement, while he was merely making a scientific observation. I shall repeat it here, not necessarily with the belief that it is true (I don't know whether it is or not), but because it may account for the statistical discrepancy in a completely valid form:

    There is a common expectation that all races of humans of people have equivalent intelligence. There is no scientific basis for this assumption.
    If you feel unconvinced by it, replace the word "intelligence" with "athletic ability" and see how you feel. I do hope that this does not bring the racists out.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by H0p313ss (811249) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @06:56PM (#23057198)

    I thought someone would bring that up. :P Some Aboriginals still live out in the bush in their own little clusters. Thats their choice. But if you see a aboriginal you dont think "Hey there is a aboriginal". They are just another person. Along with the asians, indians, europeans, americans, etc...

    One of my classmates from high school spent five years in Alice Springs doing AIDS counseling for the local aboriginal population. He'd say you're full of it.

    You might find that the young urban population is relatively tolerant. But from everyone I've talked to non-urban Australia is one of the most racist societies out there.

    However, this is all word-of-mouth and hearsay so it proves nothing

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Minimalist360 (1258970) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @08:13PM (#23057730) Homepage
    Yeah like cos it doesn't work if I'm white and from South Africa, and then I come to the US.
  • Re:The take on GTA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Veggiesama (1203068) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @08:27PM (#23057808)

    So... he's saying that blatant stereotypes are okay, as long as they are not of black people? Am I missing something?
    Yes. He's saying that most of us recognize that the idea of the "Italian gangster" is built upon layers and layers of shared cultural fiction. We go see movies about the Mob because our culture likes some of the themes that dwell under the surface--living the independently wealthy life, creating passionate alliances and rivalries, doling out vigilante justice ("Hey, nobody backstabs Tony and gets away wit' it!"), and so on.

    Most people recognize that the "Italian gangster" is mostly a fiction. We aren't afraid of getting hit by the Mob. Having a big, greasy-haired guy come up to our business demanding "protection money" is just laughable. Even old Bugs Bunny cartoons parodied the hell out of the Mob. It's become a sort of "cultural joke." Given that Italian-Americans are now pretty well-integrated in America (though it certainly wasn't the case at first), all the way to the upper echelons of business and government, even they aren't threatened by these silly caricatures. Most Italians I know love Mob flicks.

    We see the stereotype for what it is, and the GTA series does a wonderful job at parodying and satirizing concepts like the "Italian gangster."

    However, I do not believe that the majority of Americans are able to clearly differentiate reality and fiction when it comes to the portrayal of African-Americans. Our characterization of the African-American is so inextricably tied to ideas like crime, poverty, violence, saying naughty words, and so on, that we have a difficult time seeing parody when it's staring at us in the face.

    The interviewee thinks that "San Andreas gets scary because it's basically what people think black people are." While whites might laugh off the "Italian ganster," many of us whites are positively terrified of black men. He fears that we won't get the jokes, since our prejudices tell us that the jokes are funny because "that's how black people act, lol!", rather than the jokes being funny because they're overblown stereotypes of how we white people think black people act. So essentially, many of the jokes are at the white audience's expense, when you think about it.

    Take the scene where CJ and the gang narrowly survive a Ballaz drive-by and are forced to escape. While you're driving, two of the characters use their uzis to defend the car. The last character, Big Smoke, won't fight until he finishes his fast food meal, and he spends the entire time in the back seat, bitching about his food. The scene pits two black stereotypes against one another--random drive-bys and large consumption of fast food--and forces you to escape while listening to this inane, absurd argument about whether Big Smoke should eat or shoot. I about died from laughter. (Link here if you're curious []) Why is this funny? To me, it's funny because I'm forced into thinking about this competition between two ridiculous cultural stereotypes, both of which are paraded around through some parts of our country as spoken-under-your-breath truths: Black people love killing each other. Black people also love fried chicken. The question the scene raises is, which do black people like more: killing or eating? The very idea of asking such a bigoted question is repulsive to most of us, yet we laugh despite ourselves.

    I loved GTA: San Andreas. I am sad that the original interviewee never completed the game, because I thought it was certainly the strongest title in the series. I will admit that the preview trailers and first hour of the game discouraged me from playing, because I was worried that Rockstar was undercutting themselves by relying too much on modern-day blaxploitation [] to encourage new audiences. Maybe they were, in some ways, but overall I felt that San Andreas had the most interesting and likable characters of the series, by far.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phreakincool (975248) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @09:45PM (#23058292)
    Most PC people would call me African-American. I'm an American. However, if I were pushed toward a label, I would prefer either Black or Afro-American. And technically, my skin ain't black. It's a light tan color. The funny thing is that most people think I'm Hispanic or Somoan. So, I guess my point is that people have to put labels on things to make sense of the world around them. In my youth and adult life, I have had friends of all races and nationalities. I don't refer to any of them by those names. They are just my friends. Thank you.
  • Re:The take on GTA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by philmack (796529) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @11:28PM (#23059052)

    Having a big, greasy-haired guy come up to our business demanding "protection money" is just laughable.
    You've never tried to operate a restaurant or small business in New York.
    The people are not necessarily big or greasy-haired. But extortion is common, and it sickens me that this happens while at the same time police are spending time and taxpayer dollars in speed traps and prostitution stings.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2008 @09:58AM (#23062736)
    As a black American of African descent, I have become incredibly disheartened by this imbecilic herd mentality that we have to accept an appellation that is inaccurate. I'm a 5th generation Brooklynite and my wife can trace her lineage back to a plantation in South Carolina. My wife is "African American" and has green eyes and brown hair. So what do either of us have to do with Africa? Our color? Hair texture? I had a girlfriend who wore Kente cloth who did not understand that is it was as misguided as a white orphan wearing lederhosen because she could not accept her identity as an American. Slavery sucked but it is nothing to be ashamed about. Our ancestors had no choice and helped (involuntarily)to form this country and everyone seems to want to forget that. The point I'm attempting to make is that being called AA is a socio-economic classification improperly defined by one's physical attributes. My Caribbean origins and diluted culture cannot be homogenized with my wife's. My daughters culture cannot be homogenized with that of her other AA classmates so lets stop trying to create a "uniform" culture where none exists. My black friend from Alabama cannot relate to my wife's family experiences in Virginia and South Carolina but because of some similar physical attributes they are to be considered a part of a common culture? Unfortunately most blacks in this country are poorer than their white counterparts and often less educated. With that in mind why would anyone find it surprising that a minority group represents a small percentage of an industry that requires an above average level of education.

Nothing is faster than the speed of light ... To prove this to yourself, try opening the refrigerator door before the light comes on.