Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The other day I found some interesting stats that David J. Leonard used in his article, "Not a Hater, Just Keepin' It Real: The Importance of Race-and Gender-Based Game Studies" that are originally from Children Now's Fair play? Violence, gender and race in video games, a study from 2002. Needless to say, the stats are a little dated, but I think the results are still extremely important to consider.

EDIT: As Steven points out in his comment, it seems odd that there would be such a low percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders in video games when so many games are made in Japan. I'm having a hard time finding the Children Now's study without having to pay for it, so I can't find out exactly what games they were looking at. My hunch is that the percentages are from American-made video games.

Here's a link to Leonard's article. On the right sidebar, you can download the pdf.

In 2002:
• 64% of platform game characters were male
• 19% were nonhuman
• 17% were female, 50% of which were props or bystanders

• 50% of player-controlled characters were White males
• less than 40% were black, the majority of which were athletic competitors
• less than 5% were Latino
• 3% were Asian/Pacific Islander
• no multiracial or Native Americans

• 80% of female player-controlled characters are White
• less than 10% were Black
• 7% were Asian/Pacific Islander
• less than 1% Native American
• no Latinas
• When Black women appear in video games, 90% function as props, bystanders or victims


Steven said...

I don't believe those numbers.

No, literally, there CANNOT be that few Asians in video games, when so many games come from Japan.

Did they not count any fighting games, RPG games, or Dance Dance Revolution?

Or were characters designed in the Anime style, like Link or anyone on Final Fantasy, counted as "White" because their skin was pale and their faces indistinct?

Do you have link to the original article, or know where I could look up their counting method myself. Because something seems off.

That said, yeah, a better representation of the world is a good thing, and it's clear there aren't a lot of Latino or Black leads, or female leads of any color.

I'd just like better numbers to back up that claim.

100LittleDolls said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
100LittleDolls said...

You can look up Leonard's article, however I looked up the Children Now's study only to find that you have to pay to access the whole thing. (I'll try to find some excerpts, if I can.)

Yes, that was something that seemed off to me. My hunch is that they were just looking at American games, instead of any Japanese made games. He basically is only looks at American games in his article.

I think I'll make an edit to the post saying that I'm not positive if they were only looking at American games.

Jacob said...

There's so many interesting and poignant issues that Leonard's article brought up, that it's hard to know where to begin to respond.

To address Steven's comment earlier, even counting a game like Zelda within the study seems appropiate. Regardless of the fact that the latest Zelda installment was designed using cel-animation, his skin is white and his hair is blond, which, to me, clearly indicates his race as White.

Even with games such as Final Fantasy, it's hard to ignore the fact that most of the main characters are White, at least in color. Perhaps that is due to the fact that some East & Southeast Asians actually want to be as pale as possible for whatever reasons. (I know that last statement may come off as generalizing but I say it with regard to a book I read, The Gods Drink Whisky, in which the author, Steven Asma, encounters several Southeast Asians who try to avoid darkening their skin as much as possible.)

Regardless if the study included American-made games and others, it's important that video games in America represented all types of race, class, gender and sexuality. It's especially important if one of the thing America prides itself on is being a culture that is multi-cultural. That multi-culturalism needs better representation not just in video games but in the media as a whole.

100LittleDolls said...

Jacob, you really hit the nail on the head!

Brinstar said...

Although this is somewhat straying away from the gaming topic, I'd like to confirm what Jacob said about how some (or many) East/Southeast Asians value paler skin. There are many skin whitening products on the market in Asia. One of my friends, who is from Hong Kong, did not like being in the sun because she didn't want to be dark. She said this to me. Many of my cousins are averse to staying out in the sun too long because it will make them dark.

Being fairer is synonymous with being more attractive and even being more wealthy. The view is that the darker people generally come from the provinces where people are poorer because they tend to be farmers, or because they live on the streets or are part of "the masses"...