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Games and racial discrimination: What should companies do?

The demonstrations that take place every day in USA After the assassination of George Floyd with the aim of eliminating police violence and racism against black Americans, they have sensitized large gaming companies, such as Electronic Arts, Epic Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment / PlayStation, donating money to organizations defending and supporting this effort. However, the most important thing that toy companies can do is to take a more internal action on racial discrimination games. In particular, racial discrimination and prejudice are often intensified, usually unintentionally, through games. This creates a repetitive pattern of colored and Latin characters that are stereotypes, or worse, there are no characters representing these racial groups, which is derogatory.

There are about 2,5 billion players worldwide, a group that includes consumers of all nationalities and ages (especially in games for cell phones, most of the market). THE Quartz noted that in less than 10 years, 57% of players video games in the US ages 6 to 29 will be colored. Colored and Latino young people in the US spend more time a day, on average, in both mobile and gaming games. console, compared to the Whites. For hundreds of millions of players worldwide, there are very few games whose stories focus on characters like them.

This is a business opportunity that has not been properly utilized by companies in terms of racial discrimination. In addition to the skin color of the characters, there are aspects of developing a game that contribute to the underrepresentation or misleading presentation of some groups. It has been found that the lack of diversity among employees in top gaming companies has resulted in the leadership not taking all of this into account.

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Character representation

One of the most extensive studies on the representation of racial groups in games was a 2009 study that analyzed 150 of the most popular game titles. Color characters accounted for 10,7% of the characters, verifying the most recent census data, according to which 12,3% of Americans are Colored and only 2,7% of the characters are Latinos (compared to 12,5, XNUMX% of the representation in the US population). But Dmitri Williams, a professor at the University of Southern California and head of the study, says Color representation is even lower if you only look at the main characters, and that in any case athletes in sports play most of the color characters in these games.

Kishonna Gray, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, points out that simply observing the number of colored characters in a game loses track of how they are represented. In movies, there have historically been three roles in which you see the color characters: Colorful as violent, Colorful as a companion, Colorful as a helper-servant.

This also applies to video games. In addition, he argues that sports games should be removed from these analyzes, as they simply copy people from the real world and reflect the statistics that show how rarely black characters emerge from the creative process in most gaming studios. The transmission of specific demographics with a specific light in any form of media has an impact on consumers' perception of these demographics in the real world. An academic study found that white participants were more likely to associate colored people with negative words after playing a violent video game. When the only option to experience the imaginary worlds of many games is through white characters, the message to many players is that these imaginary worlds are not designed for others but for Whites. In the games that the companies are developing, it seems that the Whites can achieve everything, which is not the same for the Colors, which indicates that there is racial discrimination in this area as well.

The data have shown that the representation of different races in the games developed by companies is related to the racial composition of the gaming development community. The International Game Developers Organization (IGDA) found in a survey conducted in 2019 that among game developers worldwide: 81% are identified as "white / Caucasian / European", 7% are identified as "Hispanic / Latino", 2% are identified as "Black / African-American / African / Afro-Caribbean". People draw inspiration from their experience, so there is a problem with representing certain groups. Tanya DePass, founder of the non-profit I Need Diverse Games, points out that for companies that want to improve diversity in their content, the most important thing is to have a diverse staff both at the employee and leadership levels.

In addition, her advice in gaming studios is to hire external experts to review their development plans and find out in which cases their content can cultivate or intensify racial stereotypes or even misrepresent a group of people. One company that uses consultants is Niantic, which is behind it Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. It has also implemented Check-in diversity and inclusion through game philosophy, pre-production and post-production phases, according to Trinidad Hermida, head of the company's diversity and integration. These Check-ins look at everything from character design to evaluating whether Niantic's internal team working to develop a product is diverse. Every new game that is played should go through this process before it is released.

87% of developers said that the variety in the content of the games is "very important" or "somewhat important", which raises optimism that the representation can be improved as developers are asked to consider diversity less in the summary and more in the context of which they work. The number of Colored or Latin characters in popular games increases, even if progress is slow enough, in relation to the rate at which the demographic composition of the gaming community varies. Providing users with many options to customize the look of their avatar greatly helps players' different demographics feel welcome. There are often more limited options for blackheads, such as the ability to choose natural hair styles. Game developers usually do not think about the fact that there are other people who also want to see themselves portrayed in the creation of their avatar. And when they do, the homogeneity of their team can lead to predictable mistakes. For example, if black hair is available, it looks bad.

As far as he is concerned online intimidation, it is a big issue when it comes to gaming, and in their efforts to combat it, gaming executives need to recognize that both female players and color and Latino founders are being targeted and often defamed with ridicule and racist jokes. One small but important step that developers can take is to give players the opportunity to highlight racist behavior as a reason to file a complaint against another user. Many games have added to it ability to point out a complaint about gender discrimination. Data collection for a problem allows more measurement of this problem and more effective action to deal with it.

Finally, it is emphasized that the main problem is not the game executives who intend to harm, but the game executives who do not have the interest or empathy to treat diversity as an issue that they personally have to take the time to deal with. Discussion on diversity and racial discrimination, whether at conferences or other events, is still very often seen as a fundamental issue for political correctness and not as a critical business problem to solve. The most important action that companies and developers can take is to approach diversity as a priority. development of their products and not as a matter of public relations.

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