The lack of diversity in video games can have the same effect on minority players as daily racism, suggests a new study. A survey of hundreds of Americans identified several problems regarding the portrayal of characters of color in video games including tokenism and concerns about character creation features.
The study follows years of debate about a lack of diversity in the games industry and in the games that the industry produces, with many raising concern that the media is not properly representing its players.
Lack of Diversity in Games Results in Depression, and Self-Esteem Issues
Researcher Cale Passmore from the University of Saskatchewan Human-Computer Interaction Lab in Saskatoon has now discussed a survey conducted by the university about the impact of diversity in games. Passmore spoke about the study to CBC Radio’s Afternoon Edition.
The study was issued to nearly 300 gamers in the United States of America and they were asked 92 questions about their experiences playing games. One of the key findings from the study, said Passmore, is that the lack of diversity in games results in “The same long-term effects of depression, detachment, disengagement, low self-worth are present as outcomes, as you would see in every day, daily racism.”
Passmore explained that discussions about characters of color in games often refer to a handful of games and that “That one game where there is a Hispanic protagonist … those sorts of tokenizing examples just don’t match up with the actual data we’re seeing.”
The research also discussed the issue of “Blackface” whereby ‘color blind’ developers allow players to create characters with facial features more typical of a white person but allows them to change the skin tone. This very issue is why so many Black players have been eager to see character customization options that offer afro-textured hair, allowing them to create characters that look like themselves.
Moreover, the majority of respondents (regardless of their ethnic background) agreed that most video game characters are white and that portrayals of people of color are lacking. The majority (again, regardless of ethnicity) also said that they would like to play as characters that look like themselves. These findings just echo other studies about the issue that also found that players just want to feel represented in games and that games do need better when it comes to diversity.
Respondents also said that while some groups would react negatively to greater diversity in games, their own communities would likely react positively. Passmore noted that developers give “way more credit” than they should to the minority of people who do not support efforts to be more inclusive.
Progress is steadily being made when it comes to being more inclusive, with games such as Mafia 3, and Watch Dogs 2 being praised for their portrayals of people of color. Upcoming games like (Firewatch developer) Campo Santo’s In the Valley of Gods also inspire optimism. It remains to be seen how long it will take all developers to embrace this, themselves becoming more diverse and allowing their games to become so too.
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