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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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  • So.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cK-Gunslinger ( 443452 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:15PM (#28905061) Journal
    .. if someone develops a FPS where you shoot Hispanic 8-year-old females everyone will be happy? I kinda doubt it..
  • Random question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelhood ( 667393 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:30PM (#28905177)

    I've always wondered this but never had the opportunity to post it remotely on-topic.

    Can someone explain to a non-anime person (myself) why all the characters in Japanese cartoons appear caucasian?

  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:42PM (#28905241) Homepage
    In many ways I agree. But the bulk of opinions expressed here are by people who only have know oppression as a literary motive or cinematographic plot device. I doubt many of us have been denied access to a restaurant because of we 'looked disruptive', been pulled over because we 'looked suspicious', patted down at the airport as a 'random search', or asked for our papers because we 'looked like illegals'. but that aside, I think diversity in games will happen in time. Just like black representation in movies slowly evolved from laughably stereotypical to whatever less than that is called.
  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:44PM (#28905253) Homepage Journal

    No, but I'm quite used to that not being true.

    When I fired up ARMA2 for the first time, I was like "wait, is something wrong with my gamma?" - but nope, you are a not a Standard-Issue-Caucasian.

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:56PM (#28905357)

    Except for pseudo-political-correct pathetic people who can't look beyond it.

    If I make a game in some post-apocalyptic Texas-like desert, of course you will see massively more Rob Zombies than Mahatma Gandhis. And actually intelligent people know that this has nothing to to with genders or ethnics.

    When I hire the best 20 people I can get for the job, I do not care if all 20 of them are white conservative males in their mid-50s, or half-Bantu half-grizzly half-swine-flu-victim-zombie girlie midgets in pink snake skin dresses. That's what it being irrelevant means. :)

    Race or gender quotas are really disguised racism. It's just the "other extreme" of the full circle. ;) (Yeah, that really describes it very well.)

    But one way to make you and even the hypocrites happy, is to use only two kinds of persons in your games: 100% average gray mixes of neutrality, and total freaking extremes. What are they going to say? That group chainsaw-vomiting pinky-toe made from knitted sea grass belts was not ethnically diverse enough when they fought that horde of grayish indistinct blobs of dust?

  • by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:27PM (#28905569) Homepage

    "Does anyone really care about what video game characters look like? "

    Yes. Anyone here remember the firestorm that ignited when EverQuest made the Erudites black? The smartest race in the game was black. A lot of gamers groaned and complained about that. Or how about gaming companies that provide free games but charge you for unique looks on your game charater? Remember how valuable the black dyes were in UO? People care. It's just that a large segment of the gamers population is white and male. Make a game where the heroes are black or some other minority and see how well that will do. Seriously, I'm not assuming anything. I want to see what happens. Or sell editions of the same game with different skin colors for the character. Charge less for the non-white, non-male version and see which version ends up being more popular. I'm really curious to see what happens.

  • by fightinfilipino ( 1449273 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:53PM (#28905727) Homepage

    just like any "hard" science, social sciences also start with hypotheses based on observations. then, those hypotheses are tested in the field, using rigorous methods developed in the social sciences. while these methods might not be as "exact" as self-labeled hard scientists might be comfortable with, they are no less valid than the procedures carried out by a grunt in a lab.

    frankly, hard scientists (computer scientists in particular) are too uncomfortable with science that does not follow rigid binary results. if anything, that just shows a dogmatic, unimaginative approach to science which too many scientists sadly follow.

    as for this study, they're right. outside of the fantasy/sci-fi realms, think about what protagonists are out there in mainstream video games today, at least those sold in Western markets. the GTA series is a good example: except for one game in the series (where the black protagonist was a thug gangsta of all things, the rest of the main protagonists were white.

    expand that to the larger games market. while there are stand-out exceptions (Mirror's Edge, Beyond Good and Evil, and a slew of Japan-origin games), the majority feature a white, male lead character. it's kind of obvious when you think about it.

    and you also have the chicken and the egg problem. some might argue that "diverse" games haven't been made because there's no market for them. but how can there even be a market if gamers of all colors see only 1) games with white male leads and/or; 2) games that reinforce bad stereotypes.

    we're talking about the same industry that pulled the "acts of lust" [] shenanigans at Comic-Con, fer chrissakes.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:56PM (#28905743)
    I really don't see it being useful in film and television either. Guess what? Stereotypes are influenced by the -real world- that is, for every ethnic stereotype out there there have been multiple people to create it and many other people to keep it alive. In most games, the setting is mostly homogeneous, that is it takes place in one main setting that has a distinctive race. However, the people who want to see diversity in games end up failing because they don't want to see any of their race die. So you set a game in Africa with zombies, no problem right? Oh wait, you can't portray black people as zombies that you can kill without being "racist". And guess what? In most countries in Africa people are generally -gasp- African. So that means you can't set the game in Africa without being "racist". The same game wouldn't have been considered "racist" if you were shooting up a European village with all white people.

    It is pointless to find "racism" in games, film, television, radio, or any other media. Stereotypes exist because of how people generally act, it is a generalization. Most of the time, they end up being pretty right.
  • by Fex303 ( 557896 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @12:18AM (#28905885)

    Alright, I'll bite.

    Yeah... "studies" such as this are why Psychology is NOT a science

    The four authors of this study are assistant or associate professors from the schools of communication or departments of media of their various institutions. They are not psychologists. This makes your little outburst particularly pointless and makes you looks like someone who started with a rant and worked back from there.

    Psychology isn't a science, it isn't debatable. It doesn't meet the formal definition of a science on several grounds, falsifiability, honoring of the null hypothesis, and lack of rigor in experiments all being among them.

    Bullshit. Each of those points is incorrect. You've clearly got an axe to grind, but I have no idea what you're talking about with regard to falsifiability - psychology has had thousands of theories tested, some of which have been vindicated, some have been dismissed, and some are still being debated. This isn't a bad thing.

    The null hypothesis is the absolute baseline in psychological research. It's built into the way that statistics are used in psych - looking for a statistical difference at a p

    As for lack of rigor - I'm sure this is case in some studies, as it is in all branches of science. But there's been plenty of extremely solid research done in psychology over the years, and it has led to a much better understanding of how our brains work and how we work in society.

  • by Repossessed ( 1117929 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @01:22AM (#28906245)

    Depends on the branch of psychology. Psychoanalysis still gets taken seriously despite numerous unfalsifiable claims (and many others that have been completely falsified).

    I don't understand the why either. Yes Freud's contributions are important, but we gutted his theories of everything useful and moved on. You don't see physicists clinging to newton's alchemy work, why do Psychologists do this (not just freud either really, there are fringe elements clinging to all the major contributors).

  • by foqn1bo ( 519064 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @02:16AM (#28906467)
    Has it occurred to anyone that this paper isn't the "PC Brigades"? I'd be willing to be most of you haven't even bothered to read it.

    Nobody is asking anyone to fill a quota. Minorities and women are underrepresented in games for the same reason that they were underrepresented in film and television for so long (and still are in many ways)...because they are socially marginalized. It's more a reflection of the state of our culture than anything else. You're probably not old enough to remember it, but if you look back just 30-40 years, it's hard to even find movies that are shown from a woman's point of view -- one of the biggest critiques of film by early feminists was the way in which female characters were often passive objects, plot devices or romantic interests of the male leads at best. Social researchers are interested in the way our culture reflects the biases we have.

    You probably don't care, and that's fine. Nobody in the game industry is going to read this study any more than the slashcrowd, and if they did it's not going to cause them to rethink their plans. They make the games that sell, just like the moviemakers of yesteryear made the hero worshiping, male-centric films that audiences loved. Games, film and other cultural artefacts will continue to mirror the social gestalt, social change will be gradual, and most people won't notice. Social theorists and scientists (you can put scare quotes around it if you like) will continue to pay attention to these things, because they think, quite rightly, that having a pulse on our culture is a good thing.
  • by ( 1195047 ) <.ten.yargelap. .ta. .sidarap.pilihp.> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @03:19AM (#28906801) Homepage Journal
    Loaded question: what's stopping minority groups from making games that have a different diversity level? Please don't hand me any lines about the accessibility of technology; I grew up dirt poor and did most of my learning at the public library.
  • by ( 1195047 ) <.ten.yargelap. .ta. .sidarap.pilihp.> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @03:32AM (#28906861) Homepage Journal
    Oh, I know about oppression. I'm a 28 year old white male who grew up in Georgia (the US version). I got the crud kicked out of me as a child for befriending a kid who happened to part of one of the first black families to move into my neighborhood. If anything, it made me think long and hard about what race meant in my segment of American culture, with the result being I decided that if getting beaten for my friendships was the asking price, I'd gladly keep on paying it. I paid for it until I left to go live with my father a few years later (as soon as the law allowed me the right to choose where I lived, 14 years of age in GA).

    Frankly, this whole story is ridiculous. If people want to take issue with minority representation in video games, fine. They can go create their own games. This is 2009, and there are virtually no barriers to doing so should anyone be interested. Let's stop inventing problems for the sake of headlines.
  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @03:35AM (#28906879)

    Thoroughly debunked []. You've proposed your theory, and it's a poor fit for the evidence. Too bad, because solar-cycle-driven climate change is a neat, tidy explanation that doesn't require us to do anything drastic, like raise somebody's taxes. Now we're left with conventional climate models to explain the evidence: care to try again?

  • by tgv ( 254536 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @03:48AM (#28906931) Journal

    Well, after working in psycholinguistics for 20 years (of which the last 4 in "cognitive neuropsychology"), I have come to the conclusion that not even all data can be trusted, let alone the conclusions. There are many cases of experimenters running dozens of experiments with slightly different conditions before hitting on one that gives them the desired p 0.05. In fMRI experiments, researchers often take more than a year to analyze the results over and over again, changing between different methods of analysis (ROI, threshold, smearing, boxing, statistic, etc.) and then publish the one they (or their supervisor) like best. Or making SPSS return all cross-correlations on questionnaires with over 200 questions and then drawing conclusions from the set of the most significant ones.

    So yes, quite a lot of research from "neuro and social psychology" is worthless. I'd say about 90% of it. The problem is just finding out which 10% is valid. And don't start me on replication. Open any journal on experimental psychology and show me articles that replicate a previous experiment *exactly*.

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

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @08:14AM (#28907877) Homepage

    As a male I tend to play female characters. I figure if I'm going to be looking at my character during play time I'm going to want something attractive to me.

    Maybe I'm just odd like that, but big burly guys really don't do it for me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @01:16PM (#28909963)

    To anyone who has played those games, it's clearly obvious that you haven't. And if you actually do claim to have played both of those games, then your abilities of perception are roughly equal to those of a turnip.

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