Pixelated Profiles: A Video Game Character Trait Analysis
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The video game industry is one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment in recent years. Women and non-White gamers make up a substantial number of gamers, but are misrepresented within the video games themselves. Female characters often have unrealistic body proportions or exhibit a secondary or “damsel in distress” stereotype. Ethnic minority characters are portrayed stereotypically, such as being criminals or violent. These representations can prime gamers to faster associate these stereotypes to real-world people. Therefore, it is critical to examine representation in video games and the prevalence of stereotypes in characters. The present research analyzed the content within popular video games for representations of gender and ethnicity, the occurrence of stereotypical characters and the role of female characters. Characters from the top 50 most popular video games from 2010 were analyzed for various character traits. Frequencies of gender and ethnicity were compared to United States census data. Results showed that female and Hispanic/Latino characters are under-represented in the sample while males and Black characters are over-represented. Female characters are less likely to be controlled by the player and less likely to engage in combat than male characters. However, they are more likely to be over-sexualized. Black characters are more likely to be portrayed stereotypically. Both male and female characters are likely to have at least one character stereotype. The implications of this study show that misrepresentation of female and non-White characters with stereotypical portrayals can continue to be have consequences with recent video games.