A new joint study conducted by the University of Michigan, Central Michigan University, and Ohio State University, together with Netherlands institute 4VU University, has found that playing as a black character in violent games can create negative and stereotypical assumptions of race.
The study can be read in the Social Psychology and Personality Science journal, and saw participants playing two violent games; one starring a white lead and the other featuring a black protagonist. The paper reasons, “The media often link Black characters and violence. This is especially true in video games, in which Black male characters are virtually always violent.”
126 players participated in the first test. The collective reported, “White participants who played a violent video game as a Black avatar displayed stronger implicit and explicit negative attitudes toward Blacks than did participants who played a violent video game as a White avatar or a nonviolent game as a Black or White avatar.”
The second test took 141 players and saw many participants linking Black people with weapons. The excerpt reads, “White participants who played a violent video game as a Black (vs. White) avatar displayed stronger implicit attitudes linking Blacks to weapons. Implicit attitudes, in turn, related to subsequent aggression. Black violent video game avatars not only make players more aggressive than do White avatars, they also reinforce stereotypes that Blacks are violent.”
It’s not quite clear what method was used to gauge the full reaction in players, but it’s hard to deny that there is a degree of stereotyping going on in the industry today. In fact, this very subject was discussed in a rousing GDC session last week, hosted by Mass Effect gameplay designer Manveer Heir.
Echoing the study’s sentiment, Heir said at the time, “These negative stereotypes effect the identity of individuals in these groups. They affect the way people think and treat others in the real world, and [they] perpetuate the social injustices that occur in these different groups.”
The address received a standing ovation and does come at a time where stereotypes and equality are a much-discussed issue in gaming.
What’s your take on the above?