Name: Mario. Age: 28. Profession: Plumber. Ethnicity: White. Anyone who has played a lot of video games knows that the vast majority of characters are white males. However, a team of scientists have conducted the first ever virtual census, putting a number on the ethnicity and sex composition of video game characters, and raising questions about the psychological effects these games might have on members of the underrepresented groups.
Writing in the journal New Media and Society, the researchers note that 89.5 percent of the characters in the top 150 selling video games (console and computer) are male, and 85 percent of them are white. Overall, males, Whites and Asians are overrepresented, while Hispanics, Blacks, women, Native Americans and the elderly all appear less as video game characters frequently than they appear in the actual US population. Hispanics are the most disproportionately underrepresented , appearing as characters in only 2.7 percent of games, despite making up 12.5 percent of the population.
Naturally, because many of these games are programmed in Japan, the characters cannot be expected to conform to the same demographics seen in society at large. However, those over and under representations conform very closely to the same disparities found with television characters, suggested a larger phenomena is at work.
Aside from making it difficult to market the games to a wide audience, the authors of the paper also believe the homogeneity of video game characters may cause identity issues in children who don't see people like them in the video games they play.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the highest selling non-Mario video games of all time don't have protagonists of any set ethnicity or sex. The Wii Sports, Play and Fit games, and the computer games the Sims, don't have a set protagonist at all, and let users design characters that look like themselves. The Pokemon games revolve around monsters, Nintendogs is about dogs, and Tetris is just a bunch of falling blocks.
Sadly, the study did not say whether orcs, hedgehogs, night elves, or mutant turtles were over or under represented.
[via New Scientist]
Ummmm... Mario is Italian.
you know i never thought sex or race mattered in a video game...wow who thinks about this crap..trouble makers thats who.
Just a bunch of falling blocks?!?! I take that as an insult! Tetris is a well defined game that has dominated the game industry as one of the best classics in history.
I play video games because they're fun, not because of the ethnicity and sex of the characters. I could care less if all the characters are white, black, purple, or brown. Apparently these researchers don't understand what it means to play a video game. Besides, there's only one race, the human race.
@Fedaykin: Second! Mario is Italian (possibly Japanese). Definitely not just "white."
@zombieninja and Fedaykin: he isn't Italian or Japanese, he is from the Mushroom Kingdom.
Actually, Mario is Italian, but that relates to nationality. In terms of ethnicity, he can be considered Caucasian. (He certainly isn't African, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Latino.)
Sorry guys, Mario may have Italian in him, but he's from New York, and besides, Bob Hoskins is English. Then again, John Leguizamo is part Puerto Rican, part Columbian, so how the hell are they brothers?
And where the hell is Master Chief?!?
The highest percentages of game players are white or asian and male. It is just reflecting the demographic. Keeping in mind the demographic of your audience is wise, like science related blog posts on popsci are good they are of greatest interest to popsci's demographic. Political posts masquerading as science are less so, and seem designed to just start a flame war. Such as this post, global warming posts with no new information, anything obaMABUSh related, or anything else the blogger sees as a personal pulpit.
Heres an interesting study I did(n't) read. 9 out of 10 people socially conditioned to be self haters are white. The only source of pride in themselves they have been allowed to feel is when they blog or post news stories that are in some way insulting or attempting to cause others to feel the same self hatred that consumes them. Stop the self hatred, you can never stop hating someone else until you stop hating yourself. Hey I think I just started a movement. Pass it on.
lnwolf41 Actually if Mario was a scicillian he would have african blood from all the times the moors ivaded the island back in the 800's. I guess all the sports games don't count as part of the demographics.
@Inwolf41 - great point. Surely some of the Madden games are among the top 150 selling games. That would definitely make a dent on this study. And what about all the blacks and hispanics in the GTA series? Sure, they're not always main characters, but don't tell me that San Andreas wasn't racially diverse :P As for the elderly, who wants to play Need for Speed: Geriatrics anyway?
there still aren't many latinos in sports games (not that i care about the ethnic diversity of video games in the first place).
Evil otto is yellow, he counts as asian, right?
I am tired of people wasting time coming up with poles saying there is unequal ethnicity in things like jobs, movies, tv programs, etc. This just adds to the waste of time.
This article is a joke; so Asians aren't a minority? We're just Caucasian?
Mario is just Mario. We all know who Mario is , he is in that game and he is a he, not just Italian, white black or brown, he is Mario. When will we all grow up start behaving like reasonable thinking humans and stop carrying on as if we such precious individuals.
Mario is synonymous with computer gaming. He is the star of stars and yes he American Italian. What ever happened to Luigi? He was part of the brother duo and now we never speak of him just Mario. Mario was king in our house and it did not matter what his skin color was. We just loved his dancing, jumping and hopping all over the world to save the princess. What a story line and reasonably innocent when we consider what is fashionable today. Online Bingo, chess and poker do not cause such political concerns and I expect these games will continue to be as popular for centuries to come.