Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Video Game Minority Report: Lots Of Players, Few Characters

Date:
July 30, 2009
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
The first comprehensive census of video game characters finds Latinos nearly invisible and women and other groups underrepresented. Combined with wide reach of video games and heavy play by minorities, findings suggest lack of representation in games may have significant social impacts.

If the future of entertainment is interactive media, some minorities are still headed back to the past.

The first comprehensive survey of video game characters, encompassing the top 150 games in a year across nine platforms and all rating levels, and weighted by each title's popularity, shows that the video game industry does no better than television in representing American society.

In some cases, video games do worse, said study leader Dmitri Williams, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

In his study, Williams cited research showing Latinos are making modest gains on television.

By contrast, fewer than 3 percent of video game characters were recognizably Hispanic, and all of them were non-playable, background characters.

Imagine if no Latino on television had a speaking part.

"Latino children play more video games than white children. And they're really not able to play themselves," Williams said. "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."

Women, Native Americans, children and the elderly also were underrepresented. For example, only 10 percent of playable characters surveyed were female, though women now make up 40 percent of video game players.

African-Americans appeared in proportion to their numbers in the real world, but mainly in sports games and in titles that reinforce stereotypes, such as 50 Cent Bulletproof.

Males, whites and adults were overrepresented.

Williams noted that some newer games give players more options for customizing their characters. Those games were included in the survey, with characters chosen randomly.

The fact that random selection did not have a major impact on the results suggests that when players have a choice, their range of options is limited.

The study itself was limited in two important ways. Many games feature non-human characters, and many are first-person games where the player never sees himself or herself. The study only included visible characters that were clearly human.

Still, the breadth of the census and the growing popularity of video games make the findings especially relevant. Total video game revenues now exceed box office and video rental receipts, Williams noted.

"In television, it was always a landmark moment when some minority or disenfranchised group appeared on the screen for the first time," Williams said.

"That kind of visibility is really the first step toward leading to public consciousness and equal treatment. These cultural markers matter."

In their study, the authors discuss possible reasons for their findings. But Williams cautioned against jumping to conclusions. "The characters the developers put in the games do not match the real world," he said. "Our thoughts about why are all informed guesses."

He did have a word of advice for game developers.

"These are highly underserved groups. It's a missed sales opportunity."

Williams received funding for the survey from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he started the research before moving to USC.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Williams, Dmitri, Martins, Nicole, Consalvo, Mia, Ivory, James D. The virtual census: representations of gender, race and age in video games. New Media Society, 2009 11: 815-834 DOI: 10.1177/1461444809105354

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Video Game Minority Report: Lots Of Players, Few Characters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090729140931.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2009, July 30). Video Game Minority Report: Lots Of Players, Few Characters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090729140931.htm
University of Southern California. "Video Game Minority Report: Lots Of Players, Few Characters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090729140931.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Apple Releases 'Shellshock' Fix Despite Few Affected Users

Apple Releases 'Shellshock' Fix Despite Few Affected Users

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Apple released a security fix for the "Shellshock" vulnerability Monday, though it says only "advanced UNIX users" of OS X need it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Facebook Ad Platform Goes Where You Go On The Web

New Facebook Ad Platform Goes Where You Go On The Web

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Called Atlas, the platform allows advertisers to place ads based on Facebook info on sites outside of Facebook. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Tightens Requirements For Android Manufacturers

Google Tightens Requirements For Android Manufacturers

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) Phonemakers who want to use Google’s software in their devices will have to stick to more stringent requirements. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins