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First 'videogame census' conducted

White, adult males most chosen character

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A “virtual census” of videogame characters has concluded that the industry is unfairly biased towards white, adult males.

In what’s thought to be the first analysis of its kind, researcher Dmitri Williams from the University of Southern California – with help from Indiana University and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute – uncovered a “systematic under-representation” of females, Hispanics, Native Americans, kids and the elderly in videogames.

Williams’ research studied 150 unnamed videogame titles across nine platforms for his research. The Wii and PS3 didn’t feature, though, because the research was conducted back in 2006 – although the results have only just been published.

Since the research’s findings were compared to the year 2000 North American census, Williams only kept watch for human-like characters in each videogame.

Character appearances were logged during 30 minute gaming sessions by “expert game players”, Williams said.

Male characters, the study found, appeared far more often than female ones. While white characters - of either sex - accounted for roughly 80 per cent of all human-like character appearances across the 150 titles.

By contrast, White adults accounted for roughly 75 per cent of the North American population, according to the census.

Hispanics - which represented 12 per cent of the North American population back in 2000 - only accounted for 2 per cent of videogame characters, the study found.

Adults of all races and ethnic groups accounted for 58 per cent of the North American inhabitants back in 2000, but the study found they accounted for 90 per cent of all human characters across the 150 titles.

Elderly characters only account for 1 per cent of all videogames characters, Williams found.

Interestingly, the percentage of teens in the North American population versus their representation as videogame characters was pretty evenly matched - at roughly 7 per cent.

But should we care if the driver in Gran Turismo is male or female, or if Niko Bellic guns down an elderly Hispanic woman? Yes, hints Williams.

Apparently social groups traditionally less well represented in videogames could be left feeling relatively “unimportant” and “powerless” compared to “more heavily present groups”. ®

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