December 1, 2009 Leave a comment
This article in Science Daily details a “study” that wrings its hands over what percentage of video game characters (video game characters) are minorities. For example we are told that “fewer than 3 percent of video game characters were recognizably Hispanic”. Science!
The fascinating thing about this sort of “study” is the racist thinking it brings out. No, not the racist thinking in its subject (video game companies), but the racist thinking in the people doing the study. Here’s something Dmitri Williams, the study leader, says:
“Latino children play more video games than white children. And they’re really not able to play themselves,” Williams said.
What Williams means by this is that if you’re a Latino child, and you play a video game, and the character you control is not Latino, you’re “not playing yourself”. Conversely if the character you control is Latino, then you’re “playing yourself”! And similarly for other races – a black kid controlling a black character is “playing himself”, a white kid controlling a white character is “playing himself”, etc. And it would equally follow that if a white kid controls a black or Latino character, he’s “not playing himself”, and we should all be disappointed.
Kids should only control video game characters who are the same race (and sex) as them. See how racist that is?
I mean presumably if Williams walked into a room where a 9-year-old Latino kid was playing, oh I don’t know, Grand Theft Auto, and he looked at the screen, and the character being controlled was this big Latino thug, Williams would say to the kid approvingly: “Hey, you’re playing yourself! That’s you!” and we would all feel emotionally overwhelmed with joy and start singing Kum Bah Yah.
Call me crazy, but I see things differently. For one thing, I have never, ever “played myself” in a video game: I have never played a video game where the character I controlled was “me”. Yes I have played video games where the character I control is the same race as me, but that didn’t make him “me”. Professor Williams thinks it does. Conversely I have played video games where the character I controlled was not the same race and/or gender as me, and it didn’t bother me one bit, I didn’t feel deprived by that fact at all. Professor Williams thinks it should have.
He, and the premise of the study, identifies identity wholly with race. In that sense he, like his study’s premise, is racist.