The representation of gender and ethnicity in digital interactive games

Janz Jeroen Martis Raynel G.
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

The actual content of games is an understudied area in social scientific research about digital interactive games (DIGs). This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of game content, in particular with respect to the portrayal of men, women, and people of different ethnic origin. Earlier studies by Provenzo [14], Gailey [8], and Dietz [6] concluded that games were dominated by stereotypic male characters with a few stereotypic females in minor roles. Nowadays, quite a few DIGs have women in leading parts. We want to establish if this change resulted in a multiplicity of meaning in the representation of gender and ethnicity [10]. This paper reports a content analysis about the ways in which gender and ethnicity are represented in the game. We concentrate on the portrayal of the leading character, and supporting role in the introductory film of the DIG. Our sample consists of 12 games that run on ‘Next Generation Consoles’ (PS2, X Box, Game Cube). Among the titles studied are games with a female leading character (for example, Tomb Raider, Parasite Eve), and with a male leading character (for example, GTA ViceCity, Splinter Cell). Characters in supporting roles are diverse: colored, and non-colored men, as well as colored and non-colored women