Minorities underrepresented in video games

People from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life play video games. However, the majority of game developers are white males. Because of this, there is often misrepresentation and underrepresentation for minorities. Tanya DePass, the founder of I Need Diverse Games, led a discussion on this topic during a University of Oregon event titled “Keywords for Video Game Studies: Diversity.”

Read the story below.

Minorities underrepresented in video games

Although video games are played by the masses, the people who produce and develop video games are primarily white males, resulting in underrepresentation and misrepresentation in the games for minorities, according to the founder of I Need Diverse Games.

Tanya DePass, who is the director and founder of the not-for-profit foundation, said that these misrepresentations reinforce negative associations. More so, minorities are unable to establish a connection to the characters they play as.

According to DePass, this shows that the industry hasn’t moved on from the past demographic of 18-25-year-old white men to today’s gaming world where minorities make up a vast percentage of the overall body of players.

DePass led an event on Wednesday night in the Erb Memorial Union titled “Keywords for Video Game Studies: Diversity.” This event is the first of a three-part series organized by Edmund Chang, a University of Oregon visiting assistant professor in women’s and gender studies.

To increase diversity in games, DePass—who is an avid gamer herself—said that the pool of developers creating the games needs to become more diverse.

“I was thinking about who’s making games, because some of this lack of representation comes down to who is making games,” DePass said. “Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of white folks overwhelmingly represented in the industry of who is making games. That makes me wonder where are we seeing representation, where is it coming from?”

According to Pew research on gamers and gaming, provided by DePass, of all the adults who play video games, 50 percent are male and 48 percent are female. Of those adults, 48 percent are white, 53 percent are black and 51 percent are Hispanic.

Despite these statistics, many people out there are not aware of the broad spectrum of gamers out there today.

“A lot of people give pushback,” DePass said. “‘Oh, women don’t play games, people of color don’t play games.’ Which is a lie. In fact, more of us play games than a lot of white folks.”

DePass says that the fact that there is so little diversity in the gaming industry shows that developers are “lazy,” having “no imagination” and unable to “go beyond the very shallow one dimensional view of the people and transfer that into a game.”

Most of all, DePass says that it’s offensive and that she wants to see more diversity in video games so she can relate—as a female person of color—to the characters in the games she plays.

“You know, when people have these stereotypes of black characters, for example, I can’t relate to that,” DePass said. “I grew up fairly middle class, I went to college and when you present me—a character that I’m supposed to identify with—that is uneducated, only speaks a certain way, is a thug and a gang banger—I can never identify with that. It also shows that the industry hasn’t moved on.”

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A few of the students that listened to DePass’ lecture agreed on this sentiment.

“People see themselves as characters,” Clay Westing, a senior sociology major, said. “So if you only have a certain type of either gender or race or whatever, then you’re not going to have everyone represented. There are a larger amount of women playing and a larger amount of minorities playing, so it needs to be better represented because of that.”

Sherry Ma, a senior psychology major who listened in on the lecture, agrees that there should be a variety of people working to develop games.

“I agreed with a lot of what she said,” Ma said. “Especially with the variety of opinions and experiences that people of color and other marginalized populations do have. Rather than being a monolith, like a specific standard for what would be inclusion.”

While DePass admitted that there has been some progression with more female leads or main characters that accurately represent people of color, she said there is still a long way to go. But to supplement the progression, people must reach out to developers to give feedback on games and create the conversation.