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African Americans and the Video Game Industry

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the in-the-game-but-not-of-the-game dept.

Games 646

An anonymous reader writes "African Americans spend more money and time playing video games than whites, yet only 2% of game developers are black. This past week, MTV's Multiplayer blog interviewed five black game industry professionals for their perspective on race in the industry. Intelligent Gamer summarizes and highlights portions of this lengthy series of interviews."

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646 comments

Who cares? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055750)

Really?

Who cares?

I never knew there had to be any specific percentage of "African-Americans" participating in any activity.

And yes, "African-American" is a downright stupid appellation. Can you call a black child born in Denmark "African-American"?

Re:Who cares? (3, Insightful)

spintriae (958955) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055914)

Can you call a black child born in Denmark "African-American"?
No. Can you point out where in the article any African-Dane was referred to as an African-American?

Re:Who cares? (1)

athdemo (1153305) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055938)

And yes, "African-American" is a downright stupid appellation. Can you call a black child born in Denmark "African-American"?

Sure you could, if he was an American citizen.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055992)

You also could if (s)he wasn't.

But that's beside the point. What the GP (not me, I'm a different AC) meant was whether it'd make *sense* to do so. And that certainly is valid question.

Is a dark-skinned person that was born in Denmark and now is a citizen of and lives in the USA an African-American, a Danish-American, a Denmark-born African-American, an African-Dane (Afrodane?), or...? None of these seem satisfactory.

Re:Who cares? (1)

nbarriga (877070) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056142)

Is a dark-skinned person that was born in Denmark and now is a citizen of and lives in the USA an African-American, a Danish-American, a Denmark-born African-American, an African-Dane (Afrodane?), or...? None of these seem satisfactory.
What about black? I mean, I'm south american, with french and spanish ancestors, but I wouldn't call myself european-south american, I think of myself as white. Disclaimer: I'm not a US citizen and not aware of what are the politically correct words there.

Re:Who cares? (2, Funny)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055948)

I believe the proper term is jorka-borka-ellthing-jafrikaner-schmorker. However, I always did do poorly in Danish class. Either way, I am a fan of affirmative action. It helped quell the riots in the seventies. Ask yourself, what could be worse for your MMO than a pissed off black panther guild?

[Eldridge Cleaver Tone] We grind and we grind all day long only to have our gold stolen from us by these white pig 'developers'. They are afraid of an empowered, 31337 black guild. They are afraid of a dark Azeroth![/Eldridge Cleaver Tone]

Promote African-American programmers! Save Azeroth!

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055950)

If they're the race playing the most games then it would seem to me it doesnt really matter what race is making the games? Is this percentage going to increase just because another member of the same races makes the games? So i guess, who cares? Should we be telling them to get a job instead of gaming or something? That doesnt sound very nice.

Re:Who cares? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055980)

And yes, "African-American" is a downright stupid appellation. Can you call a black child born in Denmark "African-American"?
Oblig [thebestpag...iverse.net] Maddox. Read and agree, or read and be wrong.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056020)

I wish I had points so I could mod you up.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Wavebreak (1256876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056026)

The very notion that you need a term to describe a black person that isn't just 'black' is ridiculous. The only reason the word carries a racist connotation is because people to this day continue to (perhaps subconsciously) think it *should*. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a physical description, like you might say someone is a blonde, brunette, redhead, pale, short, tall, skinny, overweight, whatever. The solution to systemic racism is to never bring race into it in the first place. The ancestry of a person shouldn't matter at all, ever. You judge a person by their own merits alone.

The way I see it, the only reason there is still racism of any kind in the world, beyond a few deranged individuals, is that people are told that race is significant in some way. For example, every time you do a study of racial discrimination of any kind, you inadvertently perpetuate the notion that race does or might actually matter in some way. It doesn't. The challenge now is to get people to stop even *thinking* about what race a person is.

Re:Who cares? (1)

JayJay.br (206867) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056100)

Wouldn't that be "African-European"?

(just kidding, yeah I got your point...)

Re:Who cares? (3, Insightful)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056182)

This is a dumb article. The vast majority of *top* game designers/programmers are Japanese. With few exceptions the best games are all Made In Japan. Do I care if there may not be a single gaijin of any color employed in a Japanese game company? Nope. So why should it matter in the US (where the games are nearly all crap anyway)?

Yes please (0, Offtopic)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055758)

Use these statistics to raise the usual USA fear of racism. You'd think that the US was the only place to have slaves in its history -- get over it.

Re:Yes please (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055806)

I'm "african american", even though I was never alive in africa. I also develop games and program as a hobby.

The funny thing about the geeks of my generation, is that most of us don't really care about race. You're a noob if you don't know how to recompile your kernel, not because you happened to be born a specific hue.

Didn't everyone get the memo that the media doesn't really represent the people anymore? There isn't much to get over.

Re:Yes please (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055816)

The difference is - slaves in US were of a specific race, different from that of their masters. So, it is easy to recognize those who descended from slaves, and keep milking the "underprivileged" story forever. Interestingly enough, new immigrants from African countries get to essentially piggyback onto the same story even when they are not descendants of the slaves and were never subject to discrimination in US. Oh well, every groups of people looks for competitive advantage.

Re:Yes please (1)

akintayo (17599) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056124)

>Interestingly enough, new immigrants from African countries get to essentially piggyback onto the same story even when they are not descendants of the slaves and were never subject to discrimination in US. Oh well, every groups of people looks for competitive advantage.

On the flip side, immigrants of European descent are able to benefit from the system of prejudice that benefited the majority white population. Right ?

Re:Yes please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055820)

The US wasn't the only place in history, but it was fairly in late in terms of civil rights equality with African Americans...

Re:Yes please (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055832)


Probably first order statistic is that few people from poor backgrounds are working as game designers with the statistic that there are few black people working as game designers reflecting this rather than anything else. Now if you wish to use this as an example that there is economic disparity between white and black americans, then it might be valid to do so though there are vastly better statistics that could be used to show that than number of black game developers (doctors, university graduates, etc). I doubt it's the case that black people are facing barriers in the game industry so much as there's a more general economic reason.

Just to put these statistics in perspective anyway, Wikipedia tells me that black people make up about 12% of the US poopulation. So we're looking at 2% related to this.

Re:Yes please (0, Offtopic)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055862)

I thought the topic was about African-American in the US and was based on collected statistics? How am I offtopic?

Logical Conclusion (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055760)

No wonder they're so violent!

who cares (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055762)

niggers are stupid. case closed.

Re:who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055856)

Why was the parent modded as Flamebait? If anything, mod it as Offtopic. The definition of nigger is "a lazy person".. it has nothing to do with race.

Re:who cares (3, Funny)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056012)

Oh, and all lazy persons must be stupid huh? You productivist.

Let's devolve everything down to race. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055782)

Why must everything be devolved down to race? I do not care if developers are black, white, green, purple, etc.. as long as they make a good quality product. The question should be, are the developers putting out a quality product? In my honest opinion, game developers fail in this task 60% of the time. It may sound like I do not want Diversity, on the contrary, I want diversity. Diversity is what helps keep things fresh and new. I just think we spend too much time worrying about race and not enough on quality. This is my opinion, like any opinion, it may not please everyone. No offense is intended or meant.

Re:Let's devolve everything down to race. (1)

Stolovaya (1019922) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055814)

I couldn't agree more with your opinion.

Re:Let's devolve everything down to race. (3, Funny)

Criliric (879949) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055850)

whoa whoa whoa, lets not get to hasty here.... I don't think those weird purple people have EVER made anything decent

Re:Let's devolve everything down to race. (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055882)


Now that's just libellous!

I have myself had an excellent vodka and coke made by a perfectly ordinary drunk Irishman.

I'm sure it was really the Atlantic sea breeze that made his complexion such a lovely purple colour.

Re:Let's devolve everything down to race. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055926)

Way to dismiss a real problem. You didn't read the article, did you. You know why people are worrying about race? Because it affects them personally in all kinds of negative ways. Handwaving and saying "oh quit worrying about it" is just another way of saying "get over it."

Re:Let's devolve everything down to race. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056060)

You don't hear anyone complaining that a lot of basketball teams are mostly (or at least disproportionately African-American). Chances are its that way because they have the most talent and not cause the coach hates whites. I would hope by this point any reasonable company would hire based on skills and not on some basis as ignorant as race. If there aren't a lot of African-American game programmers, its probably because there weren't any qualified candidates that applied, that there are higher caulcasian per capita in the area, or because perhaps African-Americans are perhaps less inclined to the line of work (seen arguments along these lines for women so maybe it applies here too?).

Re:Let's devolve everything down to race. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055964)

So you're claiming that 40% of video games are quality products? That's an amazing success rate, one to be applauded!

It's difficult to learn programming (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055784)

when you are preoccupied with marijuana, video games and have limited opportunities to affordable education.

The amount of focus(1)and education (2) is why blacks (3) are not engaged in programming.

1(diminished by drugs)
2(which requires money and time)
3(not African-American because most are native born Americans)

Solution? Education of the elementary children on the importance of a higher education, a drug free life style and the constant involvement of FATHERS and FATHER FIGURES in the children's lives.

(not trying to be flame bait)

Unleashing my inner racist. ;-) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055786)

What's so surprising about this?

It doesn't take brains to play a FPS, but to code one - to possess the skill set and work as a member of a team - is beyond the ability of most black folks.

Bell curve, baby!

I feel so good that Obama came along and we can have an open, honest discussion re: race. aah!

Is this really surprising? (5, Insightful)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055792)

Isn't this the natural result of the socio-econic situation of said racial group in the US, the high cost of college in the US, and the fact that most employers in said industry want a college degree?

Re:Is this really surprising? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055812)

Exactly. More african-americans are poor, and video games are a very cheap form of entertainment. Also, poor people have less educational opportunities.

This is not about color, this is about money.

If you want to talk about race, talk about why more african-americans are poor. The games thing is just a symptom.

Re:Is this really surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055872)

I would venture a guess that most African Americans living below poverty level could pay a year's community college tuition for far less than the cost of a console, a few games, and accessories. They could cancel their cable TV too-- that would pay for textbooks and free up even more time for work or study.

Oh wait. Video games and cable TV are fundamental human rights, and poor people should never sacrifice them to pay for education, healthcare, etc.

Re:Is this really surprising? (1)

neuromancer23 (1122449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056068)

Oh wait. Video games and cable TV are fundamental human rights, and poor people should never sacrifice them to pay for education, healthcare, etc.

That's right. You should do the actual work to pay for their education and health care. We will collect this from you via a method we call taxation [reference.com] .

Disclaimer: This message has been approved by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain

Re:Is this really surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055904)

If you want to talk about race, talk about why more african-americans are poor.


That's easy the best rapper in the world told me the answer to why african-americans are poor (he was also the one who told me he's the best rapper in the world).

It's really straight forward: black americans are poor because George Bush hates black people.

Re:Is this really surprising? (1, Redundant)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055956)

Exactly. More african-americans are poor, and video games are a very cheap form of entertainment. Also, poor people have less educational opportunities. This is not about color, this is about money.

That certainly is a major factor, but I'm not convinced it is the only one. There is a lot of self-segregation in many industries. This is not to say that people are consciously being racist, just that race is also a social/cultural differentiator. I've worked places where one project team or division was almost entirely immigrants from Malaysia. Another place I worked had greater than 50% of the team graduated from the same University... one 600 miles away. Programming is one of those industries where people are often hired through personal networks and although I went to a university that had a large number of ethnic groups, it was not at all uncommon to see large groups that tended to associate only (or primarily) with people of the same race.

In some of the best places I've worked the workforce was much less homogenous and I don't think that was a coincidence. Among some of the most brilliant people I've worked with I've seen a tendency to hire people based upon their intelligence, talent, and experience almost to the exclusion of any social factors. For the video game programming industry, however, a lot of the time it seems to be people who are less competent. Most of the really intelligent people I know quickly got out of the game segment as the wages were relatively low, benefits weak, hours long and stress high. It would not surprise me at all to find that such a market segment was more prone to hiring people based upon social aspects more than skills.

Re:Is this really surprising? (1, Insightful)

neuromancer23 (1122449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055976)

>> If you want to talk about race, talk about why more african-americans are poor.

The real reason is rap music and BET. If you're filling your head with fantasies about rape, robbery, murder, and obscene materialism (bling bling) on a 24x7 basis, it's no wonder that you turn out violent and illiterate.

But the same thing is true of some white people with their "pro-drunk driving and wife beating music". Just look at the literacy rates of people who listen to Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith: It's next to zero.

It's not a shock that people who listen to Toby Keith end up being jack-booted jingoists or people that listen to Jay-Z and Dr. Dre end up morally bankrupt.

It's just simple programming:

Garbage in Garbage out.

Until you understand how this process works, you're not likely to be a game developer.

Re:Is this really surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056088)

I don't know if I buy that. These days video games cost anywhere from $30 to $60 each, not to mention $200 to $400 or more for the console itself; I would not call that "very cheap". In fact, I would venture that video gaming is one of the more expensive forms of entertainment. I think it's just that these particular people have different priorities. Why do you think we see these same people paying thousands of dollars for rims while living in a shit hole and not providing enough of the right kinds of things for their families? I think it's an image or lifestyle issue more than anything else.

Re:Is this really surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055902)

Same reason as you don't see a lot of Japanese and Hindi Basketball or Football players.
It is genetics, and also Black Ghetto Hoes are an easy lay. So, why learn to program computers, if you can be getting laid every day since middle-school?
Code is for white trash like me, or the japs, the chinks or the hindus, because we cannot get laid so we have to find something to do with our hands, besides bruising our intimate parts...

Re:Is this really surprising? (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055946)

No it isn't. You're blaming the employers but in reality it's these Marxist televangelists spitting about racial inequality and conspiracies. The effect is a depressed population who think that even if they had a degree the 'rich white man' will keep them down. Now even if that were the case, it wouldn't stop them from a start-up company but the constant negative reinforcement does. The government AND private groups will both pay for their entire education and despite popular belief A LOT of black people DO in fact have a college degree. The problem isn't social-economic it's social-expectation, they need to put away the leather coats and barrettes and just go for it.

Re:Is this really surprising? (4, Insightful)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055990)

Isn't this the natural result of the socio-econic situation of said racial group in the US, the high cost of college in the US, and the fact that most employers in said industry want a college degree?

Nonsense. I'm in Canada and the High School I went to was full of lower class people living in bad apartments and rooming houses. The people who moved on and did something with their lives were the ones who showed motivation and determination; nothing to do with skin colour.

Man do I ever get tired of hearing these stories about how the poor blacks can't afford college because society is holding them down. I went to school with Blacks (African and West Indies alike), Whites, Asians, Indians (both from India and the Native Canadian variety), Sri Lankens, Pakistanis, Europeans and a whole host of every other "ini" and "ean" you can imagine. Some had their parents paying their way but most were there through part time work, savings, grants, scholarships, loans and student lines of credit. I don't care where you're from or what your background - if you want something you work for it. If you don't, sit around and complain about how unfair life is.

But hey, let's make sure to placate "visible minorities" by giving them specialized scholarships [google.ca] ! Or, if you're not dark enough but you have the right set of genitalia you could always apply for a scholarship for women [google.ca] ! When did scholarship money become about what a person looks like rather than their drive, ambition and abilities anyways??!

Re:Is this really surprising? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056022)

I suspect that the most limiting factor is not so much "economic" in nature, but rather that there are strong cultural influences in many "African-American" communities which place very little value on the sort of things which are necessary to successfully pursue a college degree and subsequent employment in the video game industry.

In short, Studying and computer-programming are generally not cool. Basketball, and sports, on the other hand, are.

Re:Is this really surprising? (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056174)

That's what being poor means.

Me, my dad was an engineer, and coincidentally(?) I did pretty much the same thing, went through college, and now make a middle-class living. It never really occurred to me to be a politician, or an entrepreneur, or a pro athlete. Even now I don't have a clue how one becomes those things. Could I become something different if I plunged in and figured it out? Probably (except pro athlete), but - and here's the point - I didn't. I traveled the road that was before me (which luckily put me at about the 90% percentile of earners in the US). What if I'd been born poor? How about you?

Re:Is this really surprising? (1)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056194)

Largely, yes. But you have to bear in mind that, partly BECAUSE of that socio-economic situation, things may well suck for those 2% of would-be game designers who ARE black.

The only real way to "fix" this is to (a) make sure that discrimination is illegal, which we've already done, and (b) somehow eliminate the statistical correlation between race and poverty/education, which is a lot harder and will take at least a generation (and probably a lot longer, given how much we as a society suck at addressing the issue.)

Amusing (-1, Offtopic)

gazbo (517111) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055800)

African Americans spend more money and time playing video games than whites

You Americans crack me up.

Dadeblunts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055804)

This article was bullshit. The whole resident evil 5 thing. What color do you think the people are in haiti, do you think they are asian?

meaningless statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055826)

so what? i bet 98% of the executives at KFC are white too.

Re:meaningless statistics (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055900)

so what? i bet 98% of the executives at KFC are white too.
And I'll bet they like chicken, too.

Re:meaningless statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056166)

And I'll bet they like chicken, too.
Bullshit. Only people who are too poor to afford beef like chicken.

In other news, only 2% of rappers are white (1, Insightful)

Peter Cooper (660482) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055840)

I gotta say, it's VERY rare I see any black people at programming related events. But.. it's also pretty rare to see women. A connection? Perhaps.

More than any other group I've come into contact with, programmers typically seem to be socially-stunted and have personality and mental issues (particularly depression, narcissism, and semi-autistic disorders). Thankfully, these issues tend to translate well into becoming great programmers.

In comparison, most black people and women I've come across, tend to be more outgoing and sociable. If I had the social skills most women and black folks seem to have, I probably wouldn't be a programmer either, because there are a lot more interesting things to do in this world if you don't mind interacting with regular people.

So perhaps we shouldn't lament why there aren't more women, blacks, whatever, in the software industry, but feel some relief that they're not mentally damaged enough to find the industry that interesting in the first place.

Re:In other news, only 2% of rappers are white (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055908)

You are stereotyping : 1. programmers, 2. African-Americans 3. Women.

You seem like you have good intentions. Why don't you hush and read the comments posted by others.

Re:In other news, only 2% of rappers are white (1)

piojo (995934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056170)

Stereotypes are not completely invalid. They are "heuristic approximations." So, though it's often not reasonable to make assumptions about an individual because they are part of a group, it's perfectly reasonable to make assumptions about the group as a whole.

This is not to say that all stereotypes are useful or valid for describing groups, but I see no reason to object to Peter's post.

Re:In other news, only 2% of rappers are white (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055994)

..or you could stop demonizing introverts. Just because someone doesn't give a shit about what happened with the giants last night, doesn't use/fall for the use of clothing to present false images, and refuses to sugarcoat the truth for the sake of feelings, doesn't mean they don't deserve respect.

What a crock of **** (5, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056054)

"programmers typically seem to be socially-stunted and have personality and mental issues"

Who modded this crap insighful? Where did you get that , Cliched Quotes R Us? I know plenty of coders who are perfectly normal people , in fact I don't think I've ever met one who was the alleged stereotype aspergers and I only ever met one who I'd have called socially stunted.

"In comparison, most black people and women I've come across, tend to be more outgoing and sociable."

Women tend to be more outgoing than men. Black people ? It varies just as much as whites or asians. Are you just making this up as you go along? sounds to me like you've never mixed with anyone and are just going by the lyrics on your Craig David albums,

"because there are a lot more interesting things to do in this world if you don't mind interacting with regular people."

Yeah , like not posting trite made up crap you pulled out of your arse on slashdot.

Re:In other news, only 2% of rappers are white (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056080)

The real issue, as a earlier poster pointed out, is probably more socio-economic. What do you need to practice programming? An expensive computer and expensive software... something that black children are far less likely to have available, due to the disproportionate number of blacks who live in poverty in the US. The same goes for Sports... why don't more blacks play golf? A sport that requires hundreds of dollars in equipment, fees for courses and other expenditures. Basketball? A Ball, some sneakers and a net... which can be found in any park in the nation.
 
The biggest problem I have with the gaming industry and the treatment of blacks, is the same issue I have with games and women; Stereotypes. I have posted several times and ranted about the misogyny of the game industry and how they portray women... but blacks are affected the same way (Young men also have poor role models in games, but I can rant another time). Pick up any game, 9/10 any black characters are gangsters, or jive talking sidekicks. Daikatana - Superfly Johnson, Gears of War - "Cole Train", GTA, 50 Cent games... very few games have respectable, black characters.
 
More and more I see videogames being stereotypes of popular media, big breasted women in skimpy cloths, Muscle bound badass dudes who will beat the shit out of you (because that's what a MAN does), and black characters who are jive talkin' badass gangstas. Would more black or women programmers or game developers change that? Who knows... but more male programmers hasn't changed the "tough guise" stereotype of male characters.

Whoops... (1)

PixelScuba (686633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056108)

Didn't realize I wasn't logged in... You can attribute the above to me, however.

Re:In other news, only 2% of rappers are white (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056096)

If I had the social skills most women and black folks seem to have, I probably wouldn't be a programmer either, because there are a lot more interesting things to do in this world if you don't mind interacting with regular people.
I have to say you're doing programming for the wrong reasons if it's only because you're not sociable enough to do "lot more interesting things". What is that anyway? Meaningless chit chat with people? Because that's what 95% of the interaction with people is.

I don't mind interaction with people, I even enjoy it on occasion. Human kind is a sociable animal. But what would make it "more interesting" than for example solving problems with programming or any other science oriented field, I have no idea. Maybe I'm just emotionally damaged nerd, but your comment seems out of touch with the reality I'm experiencing.

Wow (1)

Fusen (841730) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055842)

So what about all the non American black people, or the non African blacks? If you are going to say "only x% of developers are black" then why not just use 'black' in the headline instead of the PC "African American"

Re:Wow (1)

oceaniv (1243854) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056032)

Uh because this SPECIFICALLY refers to black people in America specifically those from the background of slavery --> I.E. AFRICAN AMERICAN versus black indians, or black africans... etc etc African american isn't PC unlss you use it to describe people who aren't of the understood ancestry, which is something yuppies don't seem to understand.

Re:Wow (1)

Thugthrasher (935401) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056070)

What about those whose parents were, for example, Haitian? Try calling a Haitian-American "African American" and see how quickly you get slapped. Black seems to offend much less people if you're in an area where people often come from the islands. (note: I live in Florida)

Re:Wow (1)

oceaniv (1243854) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056126)

but Haiti is a country of its own, the ancestors may have been slaves, but it is it's independent country... they're not "American"... they're Haitian, it's their nationality, now if haiti had a huge white population (which it doesn't) it'd probably be like South Africa which is Black/Zulu south African white English/Dutch South African Indian South African... like people from Sierra Leon, there is a large population of them that went from slavery here to colonies there. They wouldn't be called Haitian, or American, or African-American or god-knows what... they'll be Sierra-Leonean (or whatever) At the end of the day it's people's preferences though. Brown, black, blue, white, purple, grey, beige, striped, straight, gay, pansexual, etc. etc. whatever floats your boat.

Here we go. (4, Insightful)

UseCase (939095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055858)

As I read some of the post here "N#$%^ are stupid" etc.... I can't help but to think that the real reason is that the development industry in general is skeptical of a person of color's capability to design and develop software. I currently work as a senior software engineer on a few key development project in the telecom industry and to tell you the truth it has been a battle to get where I am. No matter what I want to believe about merit and talent, there is an underlying "how did you get in, here?!" sentiment floating around the development industry when it comes to blacks doing design and engineering work. It is a real shame that we as an industry can't just be above all of this a hire people based on there capability. Sad world......

Re:Here we go. (0, Offtopic)

Monkeyman334 (205694) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055984)

I think technology has the most opportunity for women and blacks. I have developed on many projects where people had never seen a picture of me. The only reason people know you're black or a woman is if because you go and post it. Also, technology is most prevalent in areas with the least racism (and the fewest blacks), like the west coast. So really, stop playing the race card. Every socially inept programmer wants to be judged based on talent and nothing else.

Re:Here we go. (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056074)

No matter what I want to believe about merit and talent, there is an underlying "how did you get in, here?!" sentiment floating around the development industry when it comes to blacks doing design and engineering work.
Yeah, unfortunately I've seen that, too, in a couple of technical fields now. Sometimes I think people showing that sentiment may not even be consciously aware of it, which makes it hard to do much about it (and it certainly wouldn't make me feel better if I were receiving the negative consequences of someone's unconscious bias).

It is a real shame that we as an industry can't just be above all of this a hire people based on there capability.
Based on what I see on Slashdot and The Daily WTF (I certainly choose high quality, un-skewed data sources, don't I?), it seems that some people making the hiring decisions can't identify skilled technical people even when they're of the same ethnic background as themselves. I can only imagine that lack of ability to identify skill gets amplified when the interviewee is of an ethnic background that the interviewer might have a bias against.

According to my local mayor... (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055860)

... Video games caused gangs, drugs, and gang violence in the Brockton, MA area and throughout Boston in Massachusetts. So the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, wanted to outright "ban" video games in many parts of Suffolk County, including Brockton and Boston.

HELLO? Rap music, for instance, would be a much better medium to censor and show your racism.

Is dis fo' real? (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055874)

Don't get me wrong I think this is interesting, but I just don't see it. I live in an area where if I'm not a white minority then we are at a 50/50 split. But when I talk to A. American's I never hear them mention BioShock, Battlefield, Oblivion, C&C, WOW or Rock Band. I find it especially interesting that games like Saints Row which seem to almost be targeted at "their culture" are never brought up. If anything I hear some mention of Madden, but my own observations fall drastically short of the ratio that this article describes. I would love to see where these statistics come from. Now the point of this article is still lost on me. Are we saying that even though this demographic is hooked we still have untapped market potential? Or are we saying that the stigma of being a computer programmer hasn't really crossed that racial divide? Even further are they hinting at some unforeseen racism in the industry? I know people get uncomfortable talking about race and the only thing more certain to get you punched today is talking about religion but I don't care about that these statements have drawn my interest. I wonder would they have posted this if the US didn't have a black candidate for office?

here we go again (5, Insightful)

EllynGeek (824747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055884)

Racism, just like sexism, is so deeply ingrained in most people they're totally blind to it, and even worse, are just like the first commenters to this article- self-centered clueless twits who would rather die than listen to a different point of view, especially from someone pointing out a problem or trying to correct a wrong. (I have to wonder why y'all take it so personally, and always twitch like a gaffed fish when these subjects come up? Guilty conscience?) Nobody is asking for racial quotas, though there is always at least one guaranteed slashtwit to bring it up. Most of us would settle for you fine members of the "there is no problem, just quit whining" club to shut up and keep out of our way, instead of filling the heavens with your complaining over the audacity of anyone who has been mistreated to actually stand up for him or herself, and try to make some changes.

Re:here we go again (1)

Saedrael (880381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055940)

Mod parent up. What the hell is wrong with a community that instantly rejects any suggestion of racism- mostly, I suspect, without actually reading the evidence presented? Have an open mind; maybe the people interviewed have something interesting to say.

Re:here we go again (0, Flamebait)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056098)

Racism, just like sexism, is so deeply ingrained in most people they're totally blind to it
...or maybe the reason we're most of us are "blind" to it is that it isn't doesn't actually exist, except in your quixotic, narrow-minded, liberal-socialist alternate reality!
I bet you also think that white heterosexual men are solely to blame for everything that's wrong in the world too...

Re:here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056132)

Dammit I wish we were allowed an edit or two!

Re:here we go again (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056114)

100% correct. If anything the story is a bit absurd. If you look at the statistics for high school graduation rates, and college attendance, it shouldn't be any surprise that blacks are underrepresented in the video game development niche. As a country the United States still has a long way to go to create a level playing field, that many of the posters ignorantly believe we have.

stupid (4, Interesting)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055890)

And? If we truly want to live in a society of racial equality, we need to stop calling attention to stuff like this. Who gives a shit what whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, etc do. As long as we're not fucking each other over, who gives a shit..

Uh... (1)

Windwraith (932426) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055916)

I don't know, but it sounds quite sensationalistic. I have never cared who the person behind a game is, because this is gaming, not a celebrity contest or a model show. If my favorite game is made by man or a woman of whatever race, it's not what's important. What is important are the reasons that made me like the game.
It's like saying that the movie industry needs more midgets...it just makes no sense.
Putting it differently, what matters of a game director/coder is the soul, brain and heart. Having those qualities, the rest is not relevant at all.

Re:Uh... (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056024)

The movie industry DOES need more midgets, midgets are funny...

Re:Uh... (1)

oceaniv (1243854) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056072)

for you the consumer it doesn't matter how the product comes to be, however, from a social perspective, from a power and wealth perspective, and to understand how a society functions and who is suffering from workplace inequality etc. etc. it is important to get information like this. yeah... this is not the whole picture, but it's a starting point... the next question should be why the discrepancy? is it something inherent about the specific culture or population that's causing this inequality (, or a social construction (i.e. racism).

White Americans and the Hip Hop industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055922)

White Americans spend more money and time playing and purchasing Rap music than African Americans, yet only 2% of Rap artists are white.

Does this discrepancy even matter? (1)

afish40 (774995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055928)

I wasn't aware that black people are only supposed to play games made by other black people.

Makes sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055958)

Niggers are too dumb to create video games but are quite good at stealing and being lazy. Therefore, it is only natural that there would be an abundance of niggers playing stolen video games all day (when they're not busy beating their children to death with the controllers [foxnews.com] ).

Stop with this racial coddling (5, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055966)

I don't want to read one more article about how african american people are under represented in this, that, or the other. It makes me angry even to see such headlines because yes racism exists but we only fuel racism by carving out sectors of society by race and speaking to how disadvantaged they are. Why are we not discussing how there are too few Indian characters in modern-day computer games, or Phillipino's, or any other race? Because blacks are a racial crux that we like to fall back on and discuss whenever matters of race and equality come into play.

I personally work with people of all races from all over the world, and though I can't say I have absolutely no prejudices whatsoever I certainly do not consciously discriminate against anyone because of their ethnicity. And I think a very large percentage of the current/next generation are the same - we're growing up in multi-cultural environments with mixed ethnicity and we're learning to value our differences rather than look on them negatively. It is the older generation who still wants to talk about the past, who still wants to talk about stereotyping and martyrdom. TFA does nothing to break from the conventional mold, and it's infuriating to me.

In college [Computer Science] courses, I was typically one of maybe four black students, and I was certainly the only black female. In the industry, the makeup is pretty much the same. It's intimidating at times. I'm one of a handful, but I don't let these things hold me back.
It's intimidating at times? Is it really? Were you singled out at college, or because you were too aware psychologically of your ethnicity did you single yourself out and limit your interactions between the other black students? Today, do your coworkers look at you funny when you walk down the hallway? Does the conversation stop at the water cooler when you arrive? Do you have to use a specially designated bathroom? No. Why is it intimidating? It's intimidating because you are all too aware of your race and concern yourself with the possibility of prejudice, not because it necessarily exists.

On counting the number of black women at GDC: "The grand total was six, including myself, and I hear that [the Game Developers Conference] had an attendance of over 18,000 this year."
And how many white women were there? I hazard a guess at not too many, based on the industries history of mainly male developers. Yes, women are still under-represented in certain industries, too. But if they work as hard as men and are equally qualified over time the situation finds a more natural balance.

I think a lot of folks are just now starting to see it as a career choice. Young people are starting to realize that game development is something you can make a real living at. It's not like running off to join the circus. There are curriculums that are centered specifically around it, and the industry is looking for talent above all else.
A-ha! Some intelligence. There may not be a lot of african american developers because we're only now promoting it to those teens as a viable career choice!

I could go on. If we want to end racial bias and under representation, I support the free market model: Provide people equal opportunities not by artificially advantaging one group above another or by continually highlighting racial under-representation, but through a good education across all people, and simply let things work themselves out over time. The problem will obviously not go away tomorrow, but does that really mean we have to keep highlighting it today, over and over, repeating the same old talking points?

Re:Stop with this racial coddling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056144)

FYI: Indian and Filipino are ethnic terms, both groups of people belong in the Asian racial category.

And yes, this does make a difference, because race is a socially constructed designator used to categorize people in large yet distinct groups. Just like how someone of Brazilian descent and one from Dominican descent are both categorized in the Hispanic race designation.

Getting back to the point, by reading your post I gather you are a white male who hasn't run into the same situations the interviewees in the article have been in, or at least haven't seen those situations from their viewpoint. The problem today is that there is a notion that everything is equal and there is racial harmony, and that racism is defined as quite clear-cut black-and-white overt hateful speech and attitudes.

Although, yes, most of the country has progressed from extreme, overt racial attitudes, racism does still exist in an institutional sense, whereas many minorities - blacks in particular - are disadvantaged from day one because most are born into poverty-stricken areas with no access to quality education because past circumstances had placed the generations before them into a position where they could not accumulate wealth and assets that would be passed on to them, be it through inheritance of property or money, or ability to live in an area with well-funded schools to give them a quality pre-collegiate education to be able to get into top-notch schools (of which, most importantly, provide connections that make it easier to land a great job).

So, getting to your free-market "solution" to the problem of ending racial bias and underrepresentation: it won't work unless absolutely everyone is born into the same exact circumstances and given the same level of opportunities from the minute they leave the womb.

Until then, yes, light does have to be shed on these inequalities, so we can get to the root cause of underrepresentation within every career field. Last I checked, 12-14% of the population is black, yet in many well-to-do career fields, video games included, the percentage of blacks employed typically falls in the low-single digits. Until the job landscape accurately represents the country's racial makeup as a whole in all career fields, then inequality still exists, and is not merely "in the heads" of those who are underrepresented.

Re:Stop with this racial coddling (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056196)

The point is, that this is not about racism. Its about classism. It just appears to be black people in the US. In Germany they are Turkish or from East Germany. In France they are from Algeria. In the UK they are from India, Pakistan or any other place they conquered and plundered decades ago. And another example. In Germany, we have polish people. They belong mainly to the lower class. However in Poland itself they distribute over all classes. And because people would not get smarter when you move them eastwards, I assume this has something to do with the class they belong to. The point is, the real problem here is that lower class children are not becoming upper class parents. And you can see this at the US at the skin color, because a large group of poor people are black. However being poor is not their fault. It is induced by the economic and social system in the US. Also this classism is present in all capitalistic states and is not only a US problem. However a few countries are better in closing the gap than the US, UK or Germany.

Single elven female warrior (4, Interesting)

someme2 (670523) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055970)

How much longer are we going to rely on the bald space marine? Or how much longer are we going to rely on the Elven female warrior whose armor barely covers her breasts? Is that all we can do with this medium or is there more that can be done?" I think some people just don't push themselves hard enough.

I think it's pretty obvious that the problem is not people pushing themselves to softly... 95% of all characters in any popular media are heavily clicheed. Even though every single game designer, author, movie director, musician and whatnot would really like to do better. But you don't get project funding for better, you get funding for dependable and predictable sales. As "they" say: It's a hit driven business (with "it" being just about everything).

Characters must always meet expectations so that no one changes the channel because they don't understand the plot anymore after fetching beer from the fridge. Consequently any clearly identifiable group is badly misrepresented in popular media.


Also, Slashdot readers, you just have to love this quote from the article:

I mean, there's hip-hop in Cuba, there's hip-hop in Poland, there's hip-hop in the Soviet Union;

Knock yourselves out...

Vann (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055982)

Here's a very insightful comment from the article link that I took the liberty to copy here so more people get a chance to see it.

Author: Areala

Any time you bring race or gender bias into any particular medium, there's going to be problems. And while I can certainly see that there is a disparity, the first thing one has to look at is that numbers don't tell you everything.

Being female, when I was growing up, I heard all the time about how women were paid less than men, and how terrible this was. And while the numbers are true, they don't tell the whole story. Women, by and large, simply tend to go after jobs that traditionally pay less. Female teachers outnumber male teachers in every school in the US, for example--this is not because men are being "held back" from teaching by an elite group of high-powered females in schools and universities, it's because there are more women interested in the job than men, and fewer males are getting their degrees and licenses than females are. Numbers alone are meaningless without a reason to go along with them.

On the subject of ethnicity, the only counterpoints I can offer to the subject of "bias" against any particular ethnicity are as follows. First, the majority of gamers are male, and the majority of game developers are male; this isn't surprising considering that males (especially in the teenage demographic) are statistically more interested in gaming than females. We're not the rare birds we once were, but we're still not as common. Boys use video games as bonding experiences and social experiences. By and large, girls tend to bond and socialize in other ways. Men are more apt to enter the field of game design because, statistically speaking, they are more apt to be interested in it than their female counterparts are (remember the teacher analogy). It's not that the top-tier of every gaming company is conspiring to keep women out, it's that they're having a hard time finding any who are at all interested in the field period. Black or white, asian or european, it's going to be guys right now who are filling the ranks. And gaming isn't the garage-based hobby it was twenty years ago--with budgets of games in the next generation hovering in the double-digits of millions of dollars for a major, AAA title like Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, or Gears of War, and gaming revenue surpassing Hollywood in terms of dollars generated, gaming companies are only interested in hiring the best people for the right positions. If you can't program, or you aren't as good a designer as somebody else, or you lack the experience a company is looking for, it doesn't matter what colour your skin is or whether you have two X chromosomes: the job will not be yours. Plain and simple.

Point two is something that an awful lot of people seem to forget about gaming when this topic comes up for discussion, and that is that video games are all about fantasy. There's a reason why Microsoft has not made a multi-platinum-selling video game about a geeky programmer who works a 9-5 job programming the next iteration of Windows; it's a fantasy that appeals to so few people that those who would be interested in playing the game are already doing it in real life.

Fantasy in games is all about getting to do things that you can't do in real life, either because of physical, social, ethical or legal ramifications or because the universe we inhabit is not the same as the universe of a video game. No matter how hard we might want it, none of us will be able to be Joan of Arc leading an attack on the English in an effort to restore France's deposed dauphin to his rightful place on the throne. Unless we play a video game.

Since gaming is all about fantasy, it stands to reason that the things we want to fantasize about most are the things we will never, ever get to do in real life. There's a reason Madden NFL sells millions of copies with each year's release: there are millions of people all over the world who can never themselves play a game of professional football in a real stadium, but they all dream about doing it anyway. Playing games lets us live the fantasies without any of the real-world dangers. There are far more gamers willing to drop in Call of Duty and kill some terrorists than there are willing to sign up for the armed forces so they can do likewise.

Gamers like to play characters who do not remind them of real life. Tommy Vercetti of GTA: Vice City, Cole Train from Gears of War, Master Chief from Halo and Samus Aran from Metroid are appealing because they don't exist except on a screen. Using them as our avatars, we can commit crimes without suffering the penalties associated with them, chainsaw and curb stomp invading baddies by the truckload, blow away aliens hell-bent on taking over the earth, and explore mysterious planets in galaxies far removed from the Milky Way. When we play, we don't want to be "us". We want to be the loner, the one who succeeds against all odds, the quarterback who makes the hail mary happen, the last bastion of good in a world gone bad. We want to be the wisecracking, fast-talking, smooth-dressing cop who plays both sides of the law, the hip skater girl who can fly with Tony Hawk, the daring adventurer who explores ancient ruins armed with nothing more than a beat-up backpack and a pair of pistols, or the suave and unruffled super-spy who will always prevail in the end no matter what obstacles are set before us.

Are there stereotypes? Sure. But let's face it...if you had to pick between playing a virtual hip-hop star or the real you (who works in an office all day for nine hours with one lunch break and spends most of his or her time answering the phones, writing e-mails, and trying to sell a product or service), the choice is obvious. We're drawn to what we cannot have, to who we cannot be. Indiana Jones doesn't inspire because he's a white guy in a hat with a whip--he inspires because he does stuff that would put most of us in the hospital and lives to tell about it.

Is it worth talking about? Absolutely--video games are an open art form. Is it worth getting upset or worried about? I don't think so. Games are growing up, slowly but surely. Is there room for improvement? Always. Will making more video game characters black, or native american, or female translate to better games? No.

I find it a strange that some people are so easily willing to shrug off the Italian mafioso stereotype image from GTA III as being an amusing parody, but are disturbed by the equal parody presented by the protagonist of GTA: San Andreas. The lifestyle presented by the game isn't one of realistic gang behavior and choices made by the average African American; the lifestyle presented in San Andreas is a parody of the lifestyle presented by hip-hop artists and the mixture of fantasy and reality showcased by their music. Let's face it...I'm a 31-year-old white female. I'll never live the "thug" life. San Andreas lets me play a stylistic parody of it without any of the downsides like getting hurt in real life. Doom 3 lets me play as a muscle-bound "jarhead" on Mars where big, nasty things are shooting and clawing at me without the downside of potentially getting my head ripped off by creatures with more limbs and eyes than your average spider. Smackdown vs. Raw lets me slap on a uniform and step into the ring against people who know at least twenty different ways to break me in half with one hand tied behind their backs without actually worrying about getting cracked ribs.

We want to be who we aren't when we play games. But we don't want it too serious, too realistic, too much like real life. Most often in games, ethnicity and gender of characters is a convenience used to tell a certain kind of story a certain kind of way. But I think the reason we keep seeing the same "stereotypes" in games is simply because, when it comes down to it, we'd much rather be Cole Train, kicking butt and taking names, than the person who is sitting back, safe and secure off the battlefield relaying him information over a comm channel. And that desire isn't going to change any time soon.

[Comment by Areala]

Someone call the waahmbulance (1, Flamebait)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 6 years ago | (#23055988)

The tech sector is the *least* racist sector ever. We're importing Indians, Chinese, Japanese, etc to fill these jobs. Do they honestly think they don't want to give the jobs to local blacks or women?

No, you'll find women and blacks look up to their heroes like fiddy cent and Paris Hilton and aspire to have money but not do things like programming classes or taking trig and or Calc in high school. Women much rather marry an older man with money than work 12 hours a day in front of a computer.

They don't want to work for it, they obviously rather sit around and play video games and listen to rap so they won't work in the industry and the industry will end up importing other minorities who aren't so lazy.

Obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23055998)

Less than 13% of the US population is black, 25% of them are living in poverty, 20% don't have a high school degree, and only 18% have a college degree. Isn't the answer obvious? Furthermore, who cares what race programmers are? OMG we need more black programmers now! Why? More than half of the programmers at my company were born in India, and we have at least one black programmer. Were they hired because they are ethnic minorities? No, there are a large number of international students here, and we hire whoever is qualified.

African-American (1)

hlt32 (1177391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056048)

Couldn't some of the 5 people interviewed be say ... Caribbean in descent?

Labelling all black Americans as "African-Americans" seems shortsighted and as racist as many other alternatives.

"Oh ... you look black, you must be African!"

Re:African-American (1)

akintayo (17599) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056176)

If African American is the term used to identify Americans of African descent, then it is correct to use the label for Americans who are "people of Caribbean descent". As they would be Americans and they are of African descent also, likewise the term is appropriate for Americans who are from Africa. If you were to classify someone as Asian American, you don't indicate when the person migrated, so why is it applicable for blacks ?

Rationalized view on things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056064)

Copied this insightful comment from the article link. Took the liberty to post it here for some additional views.

Author: Areala

Any time you bring race or gender bias into any particular medium, there's going to be problems. And while I can certainly see that there is a disparity, the first thing one has to look at is that numbers don't tell you everything.

Being female, when I was growing up, I heard all the time about how women were paid less than men, and how terrible this was. And while the numbers are true, they don't tell the whole story. Women, by and large, simply tend to go after jobs that traditionally pay less. Female teachers outnumber male teachers in every school in the US, for example--this is not because men are being "held back" from teaching by an elite group of high-powered females in schools and universities, it's because there are more women interested in the job than men, and fewer males are getting their degrees and licenses than females are. Numbers alone are meaningless without a reason to go along with them.

On the subject of ethnicity, the only counterpoints I can offer to the subject of "bias" against any particular ethnicity are as follows. First, the majority of gamers are male, and the majority of game developers are male; this isn't surprising considering that males (especially in the teenage demographic) are statistically more interested in gaming than females. We're not the rare birds we once were, but we're still not as common. Boys use video games as bonding experiences and social experiences. By and large, girls tend to bond and socialize in other ways. Men are more apt to enter the field of game design because, statistically speaking, they are more apt to be interested in it than their female counterparts are (remember the teacher analogy). It's not that the top-tier of every gaming company is conspiring to keep women out, it's that they're having a hard time finding any who are at all interested in the field period. Black or white, asian or european, it's going to be guys right now who are filling the ranks. And gaming isn't the garage-based hobby it was twenty years ago--with budgets of games in the next generation hovering in the double-digits of millions of dollars for a major, AAA title like Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, or Gears of War, and gaming revenue surpassing Hollywood in terms of dollars generated, gaming companies are only interested in hiring the best people for the right positions. If you can't program, or you aren't as good a designer as somebody else, or you lack the experience a company is looking for, it doesn't matter what colour your skin is or whether you have two X chromosomes: the job will not be yours. Plain and simple.

Point two is something that an awful lot of people seem to forget about gaming when this topic comes up for discussion, and that is that video games are all about fantasy. There's a reason why Microsoft has not made a multi-platinum-selling video game about a geeky programmer who works a 9-5 job programming the next iteration of Windows; it's a fantasy that appeals to so few people that those who would be interested in playing the game are already doing it in real life.

Fantasy in games is all about getting to do things that you can't do in real life, either because of physical, social, ethical or legal ramifications or because the universe we inhabit is not the same as the universe of a video game. No matter how hard we might want it, none of us will be able to be Joan of Arc leading an attack on the English in an effort to restore France's deposed dauphin to his rightful place on the throne. Unless we play a video game.

Since gaming is all about fantasy, it stands to reason that the things we want to fantasize about most are the things we will never, ever get to do in real life. There's a reason Madden NFL sells millions of copies with each year's release: there are millions of people all over the world who can never themselves play a game of professional football in a real stadium, but they all dream about doing it anyway. Playing games lets us live the fantasies without any of the real-world dangers. There are far more gamers willing to drop in Call of Duty and kill some terrorists than there are willing to sign up for the armed forces so they can do likewise.

Gamers like to play characters who do not remind them of real life. Tommy Vercetti of GTA: Vice City, Cole Train from Gears of War, Master Chief from Halo and Samus Aran from Metroid are appealing because they don't exist except on a screen. Using them as our avatars, we can commit crimes without suffering the penalties associated with them, chainsaw and curb stomp invading baddies by the truckload, blow away aliens hell-bent on taking over the earth, and explore mysterious planets in galaxies far removed from the Milky Way. When we play, we don't want to be "us". We want to be the loner, the one who succeeds against all odds, the quarterback who makes the hail mary happen, the last bastion of good in a world gone bad. We want to be the wisecracking, fast-talking, smooth-dressing cop who plays both sides of the law, the hip skater girl who can fly with Tony Hawk, the daring adventurer who explores ancient ruins armed with nothing more than a beat-up backpack and a pair of pistols, or the suave and unruffled super-spy who will always prevail in the end no matter what obstacles are set before us.

Are there stereotypes? Sure. But let's face it...if you had to pick between playing a virtual hip-hop star or the real you (who works in an office all day for nine hours with one lunch break and spends most of his or her time answering the phones, writing e-mails, and trying to sell a product or service), the choice is obvious. We're drawn to what we cannot have, to who we cannot be. Indiana Jones doesn't inspire because he's a white guy in a hat with a whip--he inspires because he does stuff that would put most of us in the hospital and lives to tell about it.

Is it worth talking about? Absolutely--video games are an open art form. Is it worth getting upset or worried about? I don't think so. Games are growing up, slowly but surely. Is there room for improvement? Always. Will making more video game characters black, or native american, or female translate to better games? No.

I find it a strange that some people are so easily willing to shrug off the Italian mafioso stereotype image from GTA III as being an amusing parody, but are disturbed by the equal parody presented by the protagonist of GTA: San Andreas. The lifestyle presented by the game isn't one of realistic gang behavior and choices made by the average African American; the lifestyle presented in San Andreas is a parody of the lifestyle presented by hip-hop artists and the mixture of fantasy and reality showcased by their music. Let's face it...I'm a 31-year-old white female. I'll never live the "thug" life. San Andreas lets me play a stylistic parody of it without any of the downsides like getting hurt in real life. Doom 3 lets me play as a muscle-bound "jarhead" on Mars where big, nasty things are shooting and clawing at me without the downside of potentially getting my head ripped off by creatures with more limbs and eyes than your average spider. Smackdown vs. Raw lets me slap on a uniform and step into the ring against people who know at least twenty different ways to break me in half with one hand tied behind their backs without actually worrying about getting cracked ribs.

We want to be who we aren't when we play games. But we don't want it too serious, too realistic, too much like real life. Most often in games, ethnicity and gender of characters is a convenience used to tell a certain kind of story a certain kind of way. But I think the reason we keep seeing the same "stereotypes" in games is simply because, when it comes down to it, we'd much rather be Cole Train, kicking butt and taking names, than the person who is sitting back, safe and secure off the battlefield relaying him information over a comm channel. And that desire isn't going to change any time soon.

If more blacks worked hard in school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056082)

...perhaps they might be able to get decent jobs. They don't , so they can't. Frankly I couldn't care less. Every other race manages it except them - look how many poor indians manage to get good IT jobs - but the blacks always find an excuse for their underperformance. Sorry homies , no excuses , you're just lazy, feckless, workshy idiots and the only things you're good at are pummeling each others faces in a boxing ring or shouting into a mic with your pants down by your knees.

Obviously (4, Funny)

fishyfool (854019) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056094)

They'd rather play than develop. Can't say I blame them.

Not a suprising result (2, Insightful)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056102)

In the US black people are over represented in the lower class. This means, the percentage of black people belonging to the lower class in relation to all black people in the US is high than compared to the whole US society. In the lower class it is more common that young especially young male humans have an interest in gaming. This does not mean that in other classes young male do not game. It just says that the possibility that you like gaming and additionally do it quite often, increases when you are in a lower class. In Europe you get similar results. In Germany for example you can make the same analysis and you will get as a result: Turkish people are unrepresented in the gaming industry. But over represented in the gamers league. The cause is quite similar. If you are poor you get worse education. This is a institutional problem. Means schools treat you different when you are poor then when you are rich. So you get bad grades, which isn't helpful in getting to university or college. At least their is a way out of it. The Scandinavian found it. They help every kid. And they help the parents. But they are not on the "competition trip" like the USA, UK or Germany.

The take on GTA (5, Insightful)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056112)

So "GTA III," -- a Mafioso stereotype with a huge amount of cinema fiction to support that. It's sort of a cultural joke. We all know that Italians aren't like that but we know Mafioso gangsters are. Do we remove race from it? No, they're just gangsters. "Vice City" is just '80s "Miami Vice." So even with the Cubanos and Latinos we know all Cubanos aren't like that. "San Andreas" gets scary because it's basically what people think black people are.

So... he's saying that blatant stereotypes are okay, as long as they are not of black people? Am I missing something?

I've seen all three games. I'm Italian. My wife is Latina. And I'm not offended by any of it. But this interviewer seems to be saying that my lack of offense is because there is some fundamental difference in the race portrayals... I thought it was that I can choose to be offended or to be entertained by any of these blatant, joking, stereotypes.

I don't get it.

Re:The take on GTA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056150)


Im half italian half argentinian, and live in miami.
I wasnt offended by any of the GTA's
I guess some people wont realize all black people arent zombies living in haiti with some plot involving the umbrella corporation.

Well... (2, Interesting)

khristian (1009227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056136)

When I entered the CS course (Brasil), along with me came a guy from Africa. He spent a year on it, and then changed to Law school. I guess they don't want to work "underground" as programmers (it's pretty dark where I work) or something like that, they want to be recognized. Even if you come with the "they are poor", it's a public university we're talking about here. And a lot of the funding goes for students who can prove they are poor.

Apart from that, I don't think anyone should be offended by being called "black" or "white". How would it look if I, being white as a candle, wanted to sue someone for calling me white, or even whitey?

Rationalized view on things (2, Insightful)

G3NE (1272392) | more than 6 years ago | (#23056146)

Copied this insightful comment from the article link. I took the liberty to post it here for some additional views (I apologize in advance for any copies I posted by accident as "Anonymous Coward").

Author: Areala

Any time you bring race or gender bias into any particular medium, there's going to be problems. And while I can certainly see that there is a disparity, the first thing one has to look at is that numbers don't tell you everything.

Being female, when I was growing up, I heard all the time about how women were paid less than men, and how terrible this was. And while the numbers are true, they don't tell the whole story. Women, by and large, simply tend to go after jobs that traditionally pay less. Female teachers outnumber male teachers in every school in the US, for example--this is not because men are being "held back" from teaching by an elite group of high-powered females in schools and universities, it's because there are more women interested in the job than men, and fewer males are getting their degrees and licenses than females are. Numbers alone are meaningless without a reason to go along with them.

On the subject of ethnicity, the only counterpoints I can offer to the subject of "bias" against any particular ethnicity are as follows. First, the majority of gamers are male, and the majority of game developers are male; this isn't surprising considering that males (especially in the teenage demographic) are statistically more interested in gaming than females. We're not the rare birds we once were, but we're still not as common. Boys use video games as bonding experiences and social experiences. By and large, girls tend to bond and socialize in other ways. Men are more apt to enter the field of game design because, statistically speaking, they are more apt to be interested in it than their female counterparts are (remember the teacher analogy). It's not that the top-tier of every gaming company is conspiring to keep women out, it's that they're having a hard time finding any who are at all interested in the field period. Black or white, asian or european, it's going to be guys right now who are filling the ranks. And gaming isn't the garage-based hobby it was twenty years ago--with budgets of games in the next generation hovering in the double-digits of millions of dollars for a major, AAA title like Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, or Gears of War, and gaming revenue surpassing Hollywood in terms of dollars generated, gaming companies are only interested in hiring the best people for the right positions. If you can't program, or you aren't as good a designer as somebody else, or you lack the experience a company is looking for, it doesn't matter what colour your skin is or whether you have two X chromosomes: the job will not be yours. Plain and simple.

Point two is something that an awful lot of people seem to forget about gaming when this topic comes up for discussion, and that is that video games are all about fantasy. There's a reason why Microsoft has not made a multi-platinum-selling video game about a geeky programmer who works a 9-5 job programming the next iteration of Windows; it's a fantasy that appeals to so few people that those who would be interested in playing the game are already doing it in real life.

Fantasy in games is all about getting to do things that you can't do in real life, either because of physical, social, ethical or legal ramifications or because the universe we inhabit is not the same as the universe of a video game. No matter how hard we might want it, none of us will be able to be Joan of Arc leading an attack on the English in an effort to restore France's deposed dauphin to his rightful place on the throne. Unless we play a video game.

Since gaming is all about fantasy, it stands to reason that the things we want to fantasize about most are the things we will never, ever get to do in real life. There's a reason Madden NFL sells millions of copies with each year's release: there are millions of people all over the world who can never themselves play a game of professional football in a real stadium, but they all dream about doing it anyway. Playing games lets us live the fantasies without any of the real-world dangers. There are far more gamers willing to drop in Call of Duty and kill some terrorists than there are willing to sign up for the armed forces so they can do likewise.

Gamers like to play characters who do not remind them of real life. Tommy Vercetti of GTA: Vice City, Cole Train from Gears of War, Master Chief from Halo and Samus Aran from Metroid are appealing because they don't exist except on a screen. Using them as our avatars, we can commit crimes without suffering the penalties associated with them, chainsaw and curb stomp invading baddies by the truckload, blow away aliens hell-bent on taking over the earth, and explore mysterious planets in galaxies far removed from the Milky Way. When we play, we don't want to be "us". We want to be the loner, the one who succeeds against all odds, the quarterback who makes the hail mary happen, the last bastion of good in a world gone bad. We want to be the wisecracking, fast-talking, smooth-dressing cop who plays both sides of the law, the hip skater girl who can fly with Tony Hawk, the daring adventurer who explores ancient ruins armed with nothing more than a beat-up backpack and a pair of pistols, or the suave and unruffled super-spy who will always prevail in the end no matter what obstacles are set before us.

Are there stereotypes? Sure. But let's face it...if you had to pick between playing a virtual hip-hop star or the real you (who works in an office all day for nine hours with one lunch break and spends most of his or her time answering the phones, writing e-mails, and trying to sell a product or service), the choice is obvious. We're drawn to what we cannot have, to who we cannot be. Indiana Jones doesn't inspire because he's a white guy in a hat with a whip--he inspires because he does stuff that would put most of us in the hospital and lives to tell about it.

Is it worth talking about? Absolutely--video games are an open art form. Is it worth getting upset or worried about? I don't think so. Games are growing up, slowly but surely. Is there room for improvement? Always. Will making more video game characters black, or native american, or female translate to better games? No.

I find it a strange that some people are so easily willing to shrug off the Italian mafioso stereotype image from GTA III as being an amusing parody, but are disturbed by the equal parody presented by the protagonist of GTA: San Andreas. The lifestyle presented by the game isn't one of realistic gang behavior and choices made by the average African American; the lifestyle presented in San Andreas is a parody of the lifestyle presented by hip-hop artists and the mixture of fantasy and reality showcased by their music. Let's face it...I'm a 31-year-old white female. I'll never live the "thug" life. San Andreas lets me play a stylistic parody of it without any of the downsides like getting hurt in real life. Doom 3 lets me play as a muscle-bound "jarhead" on Mars where big, nasty things are shooting and clawing at me without the downside of potentially getting my head ripped off by creatures with more limbs and eyes than your average spider. Smackdown vs. Raw lets me slap on a uniform and step into the ring against people who know at least twenty different ways to break me in half with one hand tied behind their backs without actually worrying about getting cracked ribs.

We want to be who we aren't when we play games. But we don't want it too serious, too realistic, too much like real life. Most often in games, ethnicity and gender of characters is a convenience used to tell a certain kind of story a certain kind of way. But I think the reason we keep seeing the same "stereotypes" in games is simply because, when it comes down to it, we'd much rather be Cole Train, kicking butt and taking names, than the person who is sitting back, safe and secure off the battlefield relaying him information over a comm channel. And that desire isn't going to change any time soon.

Here's an idea (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056154)

Ask them! I don't know. I just know I don't want to go near that damn industry. In fact, maybe it's too much like slave labour, and they are smart enough to stay away?

"than whites" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23056180)

You mean, European Americans.

Bad! Bad! Racist! oooooohhhh!
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