Videogames Reinforcing Stereotypes

I would like to preface my argument by saying that if you have any counter examples, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’d love to play them.

On Thursday, the focus of our discussion had shifted to the difficulty of creating minority video game characters. Creating a video game where the gender and race of a character is indifferent to the gaming experience is really difficult. I agreed with the majority of the discussion points about the difficulties of properly implementing minority races and females into the game. However, one particular point that stands out amongst the rest is the challenge of avoiding stereotypes.

Because it is already so difficult to clearly distinguish a character in a game as Spanish, Black, etc. without reverting to the stereotypical appearance of a character, it becomes even harder to include characters that are not characterized by stereotypes. What I mean by this is that it becomes near impossible to include and properly represent characters of one race that appear to be another or characters that are biracial, despite the fact that in real life most people do not fall cleanly into any category. The video games currently on the market are limited by the stereotypes they abide to resulting in an inaccurate portrayal of reality.

2 thoughts on “Videogames Reinforcing Stereotypes

  1. I think your post brings up a very interesting point. Why do we have to clearly distinguish a character as one thing or another? Why can’t they just be? If the video game is meant to emulate a human life, than shouldn’t it do so by having a character be what it is without necessarily needing to explicitly state it. Hispanic people don’t act a certain way, they just are. The same goes for those of any other race, gender, ethnicity or any other identifier I may have forgotten. There is nothing inherently biracial about a person besides their genetics. Many of the important experiences ‘minority’ groups face, aside from cultural traditions, are not based on their person but on how other’s react to them. It may sound like I am stating the obvious or rambling, which I probably am, but being a person in black body is no different from being a person in hispanic body or white body, save for how others treat that body and how that treatment affects the individual. Black individuals are faced with very different experiences and social interactions than white individuals. Many of the differences we associate with race are based on the social. For many decades, being a person of color meant you were considered an inferior race. That does not meant that POCs are actually an inferior race but that society says they are. Skin is skin. Color is color. Flesh is flesh. It is our conception of race that interacts differently with different bodies. What I am trying to get at is the question: why should we need to make a Spanish or Black body explicitly discernible, we wouldn’t do so for a seemingly ‘white’ character. The game creator could merely demonstrate race by how one character treats another. And if the game creator wants to make it a realistic representation of race dynamics and what it means to be or live in a certain body, then they will have to go deeper than surface value. They will have to go into character conversations, internal reflections, self image, etc. It is not impossible. It is just simply more involved than many game creators might care to put effort into-whether or not they want to make that effort is up to them. If it seems too complicated, well, that’s life.

    1. That’s a good point. It reminds me of a point that MP made in a class I took with her two years ago, Spike Lee’s Joint. The point was that white, straight, and/or male seems to be the default in media, be it films or video games. There does not seem to be room for a neutral character/story that deviates from those characteristics. In that particular class, we talked about how there can never be (or at least at the time we did not have examples of) a neutral film starring black people. MP’s example was that Marley & Me would never have been made with a full cast of black folk, because introducing a race that is not white makes the film or the game be about that race as well as what the story of a family and their dog.

      That’s how I felt our conversation in class was really trying to get at, is that there is no room for neutrality in identities that stray from the “norm”.

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