Working your own agenda: Report on video game minority characters is terribly flawed


Gamasutra wrote on a story a couple days back about a report from Science Daily that apparently takes a look at how “minorities” are misrepresented in video games today. According to the study, researchers covered the top 150 games in a year across nine platforms and found that the games do not “accurately represent American society.” The report fails to mention the specifics of all the games, but does happen to mention a few games that apparently reinforce typical stereotypes, like 50 Cent: Bulletproof, which, according to the study, reinforces the stereotypes attributed to African-Americans. Apparently they failed to realized the game was based off 50 Cent himself, who, by jove, actually does happen to exhibit every typical stereotype attributed to African-Americans. But, you know, that’s not his fault; it’s definitely the game’s fault for portraying what he constantly claims do to in his lyrics.

On top of that the report goes on to mention that in the games that they did poll data for, none of them had any Asian or Hispanic character leads, or that few games even had “noticably Hispanic” supporting role characters. Excuse me, but what the fuck is “noticiably Hispanic”? I’m confused here. Wasn’t the study trying to point out how video games are apparently reinforcing negative stereotypes for “minorities,” nigh on the edge of their seat of just wanting to say that video game developers are racists? And yet the pot calls the kettle black when they pull something like “noticably Hispanic” in their report. As an actual Hispanic with very light skin, I know exactly what they meant when they said “noticably Hispanic;” basically they thought that anyone who didn’t have tan skin wasn’t a Hispanic character. Because, you know, Hispanics only have tan skin. Oh, and we all have those funny looking mustaches and wear sombreros too.

The clusterfuck of a report continues on to mention that since the majority of main characters in video games are white males that other “minorities” cannot accurately relate to the character because “they’re really not able to play themselves.” What. The. Fuck? Since when was playing a video game about ethnicity identification? And since when did the color of your skin separate you as a different race? As scientists you would think they know better that there is only one race, and it’s called the human race, and we ALL belong to it. As far as identification goes, I have NO trouble playing as Louis in Left 4 Dead or Faith in Mirror’s Edge (whoops, guess they just happened to conveniently miss those titles). Why? Because I’m not psychotic enough to believe I’m controlling myself in a video game. I recognize that they are separate characters with their own personalities and I’m more interested on what their tale is than if their skin color and gender matches my own.

To further show you how terrible this report is, they admit to leaving out first-person shooters and games that allowed you to extensively create your own character; they don’t say why, they just do. Because, you know, if you had to include games that blow your shit report to hell, then your political agenda would be shot. And I don’t know about you, but when is the last time you’ve played a video game that was even TRYING to aim to “portray American society”? Hell, most of them take place in entirely different universes or centuries into the future. Aside from Grand Theft Auto, which, as I understand, is all about making fun of typical stereotypes, what “popular” games did they choose that they feel like didn’t accurately “portray American society”? Was it Mass Effect? Oh boy, I bet it was. Captain Anderson was the only black guy in the game! Even the aliens appeared more often than black people did in that game! Now that’s just racist!

You remember when you were younger and used to hold science in high regard because it always seemed to be intelligent? And yet here we have a group of social psychologists get together, selectively choose the data they polled, and then say “Oh, well the minorities playing the game can’t identify with the characters that they are playing.” Give me a fucking break. The United States has never been more racially adept and open in its entire history; I thought a black president was a dead giveaway to that bit. Denzel Washington is my favorite actor; am I, in any way, incapable of “self-identifying” my “place” in society because I’m not black and 50 when I watch his movies? The logic behind this report is befuddling and absolutely stupid; just as stupid when people call Resident Evil 5 racist because you’re killing zombies whose skin color is black. What would they have preferred; putting “noticably Hispanics” in Africa?

Originally written: July 2009

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About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

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