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Games Entertainment

Games Fail To Portray Gender and Ethnic Diversity 590

eldavojohn writes "A new study has found that game characters tend not to reflect cultural diversity. According to the paper from researchers across four universities (PDF): 'A large-scale content analysis of characters in video games was employed to answer questions about their representations of gender, race and age in comparison to the US population. The sample included 150 games from a year across nine platforms, with the results weighted according to game sales. ... The results show a systematic over-representation of males, white and adults and a systematic under-representation of females, Hispanics, Native Americans, children and the elderly.' The researchers also note that games 'function as crucial gatekeepers for interest in science, technology, engineering and math,' and that without these groups represented properly, 'it may place underrepresented groups behind the curve.'"
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Games Fail To Portray Gender and Ethnic Diversity

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  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:29PM (#28905165) Homepage
    News for NERDS remember? Just do a Google image search on 'nerd' and you will see how diverse the /. demographic is. I count (on the first page of 21 results) only two females and the only non-anglos I see are are three duplicate images presenting them as thugs.
  • Re:Gahh... (Score:3, Informative)

    by genner ( 694963 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:32PM (#28905193)

    They should make Duke Nukem (in DNF) a black, homosexual, vegetarian, female eskimo, right?

    They tried....which is why the project was shut down.

  • Re:Random question (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:44PM (#28905259)

    It basically boils down to the fact that Japan is one of the most racist cultures in the world. As a culture, in depictions, everyone except caucasians are evil. Generally if you see someone clearly asian in an anime or japanese game, they'll usually be the villain. Or for example, Gantz, when one of the characters put on a wig and blackface and murdered a few hundred people and no one recognized him as the killer without the blackface. So basicly, big breast round eyed woman or overly masculine white guy = good guy. Or even a whiny white guy. He'll still be a good guy. But distincly asian? Run for the hills hes going to try to kill you.

  • by JordanL ( 886154 ) <jordan,ledoux&gmail,com> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @12:09AM (#28905825) Homepage

    "Discrimination is not a bad thing" ... OK. I take it you have not been at the business end of discrimination and you have no idea what you are talking about.

    The point went right over your head.

    Discrimination is not a bad thing, discrimination based on irrelevant information is a bad thing. Racial discrimination is by definition almost always irrelevant, but discrimination is simply the process of increasing the statistical relevance of your sample. There is nothing inherently wrong with discrimination, there's just something inherently wrong with people in general.

  • By the same author (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @12:13AM (#28905855) Homepage

    The lead author is on the faculty at USC. By the same author []:

    There's much more like this. The papers are competent but mediocre.

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @12:15AM (#28905869) Homepage

    Being able to somewhat believably portray an average white guy is hard enough. Add in females, skin tones, age, and weight, and your cost of development will go up if you try to make them look and act correct.

    Don't want to spend the extra time and money to get it right? Fine -- then you'll get short haired, masculine women, overly shiny or plastic looking skin tones, and overweight people who walk like they're only supporting half their weight. And this is usually what happens in most games that try

    So most games choose to put more time into perfecting gameplay than providing diversity of characters, and try to hide the flaws by using minorities less often.

  • by JordanL ( 886154 ) <jordan,ledoux&gmail,com> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @01:06AM (#28906165) Homepage
    The point was that in that case, the invading armies were white, thus ethnicity was a very important and relevant set of information with which to increase the statistical relevance of your results (i.e. your ability to determine your own safety).

    Anytime the data set used to discriminate is relevent to the desired statistical set, discrimination is a productive thing, no matter how offputting that might be to your own world view. The correct response to that is to improve the world so that the data set is irrelevant, not put your fingers in your ears and pretend that discrimination is an issue.

    Discrimination is a method of sorting data. Nothing more. Scientists use discrimination in the scientific process to eliminate non-reproduceable effects. This has the desired effect on the statistical relevance of their results. Discrimination as a method of sorting data doesn't suddenly become bad because we apply it to people, it's just an uncomfortable truth that people aren't as altruistic and helpful as would be implied by a "discrimination free" world.

    Minorities use discrimination to determine that "white people can't understand" their plight. It's the same exact method of sorting data, just on a different set of data.

    And the harsh reality is that you can call it whatever you want, or demonize it how you see fit... but all that does is waste energy running in a circle instead of fixing the issues that plague the "white society" and the "non-white society".
  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @01:36AM (#28906299) Homepage Journal

    From TFA: "The study only included visible characters that were clearly human."

    Clearly a methodological error if they throw out dark skinned or native American humanoids like drow and orcs simply because they're not "clearly human". Tauren should also count as native American, though they're less traditionally humanoid.

    Just a quick survey of my current games I have played this year:
    Total War: Empire. I played as French, so I guess I'm a white male. But you can play as an Indian as well, though no Asians or sub-saharan Africans are playable. Native Americans are in the game, but not a playable country (though you can recruit them).
    Mass Effect. Pick your own race and gender.
    Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires. Pick your own race and gender, though most are going to look like they're Chinese drawn by a Japanese artist.
    Halo 3: Who knows what Master Chief is?
    Oblivion: Pick your own race and gender.
    Fallout 3: Pick your own race (and gender too, I think).
    Left4Dead: One white chick, one black guy, two white guys. L4D2 will feature undead black people as the primary enemies (progress?)
    TF2: Predominantly white, though there's a black Scottsman and who knows what Pyro is?
    HL2: White guy and African-American chick.
    CoD4 - Modern Warfare: 5 white guys + one arab guy are the playable characters (IIRC)
    WoW: Pick your own gender. As aforementioned, the horde has 2 native American-esque, one white/asian, one afro-Caribbean, and one white-ish race.
    Gears of War 2: Main characters are white and Hispanic men. There's also a pacific islander, a white guy, a black guy, a Korean guy, and some other people of indeterminate race. Like in Halo and other games, their dispatcher is a female.

    So, all in all, there's a predominant trend towards male characters in action games, but there's quite a bit of flexibility these days in picking race and gender, and there's a fairly widespread mix of ethnicities in games these days.

  • by JordanL ( 886154 ) <jordan,ledoux&gmail,com> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @02:11AM (#28906451) Homepage

    A bunch of feudal kings and their pope decide to slaughter people to claim their territory, and you would think it prudent to kill any European ... discrimination is a stupid policy.

    Whoa there, discrimination, as I've now told you many, many times, is a method of sorting data, not a conclusion. Who said anything about killing people?

    I made the point that as a Jew or Muslim, seeing a white person during the crusades, and assuming they were dangerous, was not just discrimination, but smart discrimination. I made no claims in anything I've said in this entire thread about actions one should take. Discrimination is a process of coming to a conclusion.

    A police officer deciding that a driver is unsafe because of ethnicity is discrimination. Pulling them over or arresting them is not discrimination, it is choice. It is an action. Discrimination has nothing to do with what choices you make, it merely has to do with the conclusions you reach.

    Certainly as a Jew or Muslim during the crusades you could decide to kill all white Europeans. But that is not a logical and required extension of the conclusion that "a white person is probably dangerous to me". There are in fact several ways to act on that conclusion, and you may even not act on that conclusion.

    But don't mind me. Apparently I'm racist and lots of other horrible things.

  • Re:Pyro is a female! (Score:3, Informative)

    by AftanGustur ( 7715 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @07:56AM (#28907789) Homepage
    Although your comment has been moderated "funny" it has probably been so because people find the idea rediculous.

    And it is.

    Someone with more time on his hands than me will maybe dig up the study but I remember seeing a study of what kids are willing to play as a character in a game.

    It turns out that both boys and girls will play a boy/male hero in a game, but if the choise is only a female/girl character then the girls continue playing but the boys loose interest.

    So the answer to why game characters don't represent the same proportions of ethnics groups and sexes as the population's, may be purely for the purpose of getting people to play the games.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.