Black avatars don’t slay dragons, but they can have a 99 rating in NBA 2K & lead a heist in Grand Theft Auto Online
Table of Contents (click to Fast Travel)
· — — — — — — — Sidenotes— — — — — —
∘ Racially Attractive
∘ Religiously Attractive
∘ White parents of Black children may be more effective in advocating for their students than Black parents of Black children because
“In what game genre are ppl most likely to create an avatar with a dark skin tone?” … Everyone got the correct answer =^.^=
People are far more likely to create a Black avatar in Madden Football, NBA 2K, or NBA Live than in MMORPG games like Final Fantasy 14 or Elder Scrolls Online. The caveat is that I have seen more Black avatars in Grand Theft Auto Online, but it’s a game centered around crime.
Basically, Black avatars are more likely to be created & played with in sports games (specifically Football/ Basketball; not hockey), and Grand Theft Auto (criminal context), and far less likely to be created in MMORPGs that exist in formal magic forests with elves & dragons.
Though this is hardly surprising it should be concerning. It’s hard to imagine the Black (or Hispanic or Asian or generally any non-White) avatar pulling the sword from the stone, finding a magical scroll in the forbidden forest, saving the prince/princess from the dragon, or being the chosen one.
The sidekick, sure. Never the lead.
Most Asian/Black/Hispanic male characters in videogames aren’t protagonists OR villains. They’re athletes. They’re the heroes of ManCave Madden tournaments & SheHen WNBA Live contests, but they’re less visible outside the context of athleticism (Leonard, 2006).
Consider the irony of this: if perceived athleticism was such an important variable for who someone deemed a desirable running back or shooting guard, why would those abilities suddenly become less important when fighting minotaurs or hungry goblins?
Desired aesthetics matter more than perceived athleticism when creating a hero. This is true whether the creator is the game company (most single player games) or the gamer (most MMORPGs).
Game companies want their games to be as marketable as possible to the statistical mode, which is White males. As such, virtually all games, even the most inclusive (e.g., Outer Worlds, 2019; anything made by Bioware, Ubisoft, Bethesda) will give gamers the option of playing as a White male. For instance, in the new Assassins Creed Valhalla, you play as the child version of the protagonist in the prologue, and then are given the option to play as a woman (me), genderfluid, or male once the game truly begins in adulthood. Can you guess what the race & sex of the child version of the protagonist is during the prologue?
We relate to our MMORPG avatars in a way that we don’t relate to sports avatars. Importantly, this is the case whether the sports avatar we’re playing with is pre-made (LeBron James, Diana Taurasi) or one that we create ourselves like in an MMORPG (e.g., someone creating themselves as a quarterback). This is partially due to the vast difference in context: sports games are the most structured (literally only one relevant context) whereas open-world MMORPG games are the most unstructured. In general, people with intergroup anxiety/discomfort are more likely to have diverse interactions in structured contexts constrain the range of possible social behaviors — thus reducing their anxiety/discomfort.
It’s why a prejudiced person, like the man who just lost reelection against President Joe biden, may enjoy cheering for Black athletes on their television, but may hesitate to invite someone with skin that dark over for dinner. The tv screen, the field down below from the seat in the stadium, the stage at the comedy show… structured.
Cyberspace is now a common venue for people to meet & foster meaningful relationships (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006). Thus, the online context offers a satisfactory facsimile of social connection to satiate needs for belongingness. According to the social compensation hypothesis, people who struggle to make social connections in face-to-face interactions will present themselves in socially utilitarian ways in social networks to enhance their interpersonal lives via online relationships (Schouten et al., 2007). For instance, people may make ideally attractive avatars as they are more likely to be sought as friends by other avatars/gamers (Fong & Mar, 2015).
(Please scroll to the bottom for an in-depth research review of what what is meant by racially attractive.)
As such, Asian/Black/Hispanic MMORPG gamers are less likely to create a Asian/Black/Hispanic avatar for an MMORPG game world in which a significant part of your experience & success is based on your interactions with other reallife gamers (Blascovich & Bailenson, 2011; Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee, 2014; Kafai et al., 2010). As I explained in Woman Like Me, there are tremendous benefits to playing as a woman in MMORPG. The difference between playing as a Persian woman with a light-medium skin tone (my avatar) & playing as a Black male is equivalent to playing on easy mode vs hard mode.
Decolonizing the Magic Forest
Playing as Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn (the reason I ever bought a PS4), Chloe in Before The Storm, Maxine in Life is Strange, Jodie in Beyond Two Souls… these are all rich stories focused solely on female protagonists. There is no male option. These games afford male gamers the rare opportunity to experience events from a woman’s perspective & empathize with her experience the way women have been expected to emphasize with male protagonists ever since Solid Snake/ Mario/ James Bond/ Luke Skywalker/ Jesus Christ/ Frodo Baggins… you get the point. Importantly, there is a literal investment in the character that takes place. You care about the outcomes of these complex narratives while walking in their shoes.
In contrast, there is no care about any complex narratives a Asian/Black/Hispanic athlete is going through because the only complexity faced while walking in their shoes is how to complete a 360 dunk. Gamers can take a vacation in a Black body for a couple hours without having to consider narratives like systemic institutional racism, police brutality, or even the most introductory concept of critical woke theory, microaggressions.
In every single player RPG game in which there’s a female option, gamers will be faced with instances of sexism & we will often be given options in dialogue trees as to how we want to respond/deal with/ confront/ diffuse those situations.
Press R2 for a dopamine spike as you cast a fire spell against the sexist npc
When will gamers be able to press R2 for a dopamine spike against an npc who says “All elf lives matter” or an npc who presses their car lock button 8 times while I’m pushing my grocery cart past their car in the parking lot?
[Is there a secret superlock function that can be enabled by pressing it extra times whenever a Black person walks by?]
Williams et al. (2009) asserted that the disproportionate sex ratio in the game production industry has contributed to the hypersexualization of women & unevolved portrayals of men in the majority of videogames.
Joy Buolamwini (2018) demonstrated how the lack of diversity in Ai & tech companies — the Exclusion Overhead — has contributed to biased machine learning outcomes. For instance, IBM’s face recognition technology identified Oprah Winfrey & Serena Williams as men.
Similarly, the lack of diversity in the gaming industry has contributed to narratives that reinforce racial stereotypes. In most games, race is used as a heuristic cue of sociocultural attributes that gamers attach to various npcs based on their digital phenotype. Race/ethnicity is reduced to a storytelling device that gamers use to orient the protagonist’s interactions with npcs.
In life, pigmentation is prologue :: In games pixelation is prologue
Gamers may misperceive a Black person as a threat just as Ai misperceives Serena Williams as a man.
We’re ignoring racial socialization in videogames just as for years we ignored the hypersexualization of women’s portrayal in games. To be clear, an XY male gamer like myself playing as Chloe or Aloy, or as a woman I create for any other game, will never truly know what it’s like to be a little girl (as I was with Aloy & Jodie), a teenage girl in high school (as I was with Chloe & Maxine), a young adult woman (as I was with Aloy), or a mom as (we became with Cassandra in Assassin's Creed Odyssey’s DLC), but all of those narratives are far richer & invite far more empathy, concern, investment, etc than almost anything that features minorities as protagonists.
Lebron James doesn’t count as a protagonist — there is no storyline involving poison potions, dragon wars, providing social support to a human guildmate who lost a friend to COVID19, or in-game storylines of Hyur sex trafficking in NBA2K. Gamers can play as Lebron James without having to consider the costs inherent in living in Black skin in real life. Even in Grand Theft Auto 5, in which a Black male protagonist named Franklin is one of the 3 main playable characters, the game sidesteps considerations of the significant differences in access to certain decisions/ choices/ freedoms that differ in descriptive normativity based on one’s ethnoracial background (regardless of what the injunctive norms may purport).
A more realistic version of Grand Theft Auto 5 would give Franklin two police stars for actions that gave the two non-Black protagonists one star. The costs of being me, and the privileges/penalties associated with different racial backgrounds, fade behind the press of a button. The disconnect from reality means that gamers will be no more informed about these issues once they complete the game. Indeed, looking at memes on Instagram for 5–10 minutes a day would be far more instructive.
Videogames are quite possibly the most reinforcing/rewarding artistic medium, and must be interrogated as rigorously as television was an instrument of transportation for prevailing ideologies of gender socialization & racial socialization (Chang, 2015 — World of Warcraft; Consalvo, 2013 — The Sims; Daniels & LaLone, 2012; Leonard, 2006; Venegas, 2012). Blowing it off as it’s just of nerds or no one cares about games only succeeds in trivializing the increasing necessity to scrutinize the influence of the exclusion overhead & the coded gaze within a growing industry with millions of consumers.
Finally, to any writers out there creating the Black Harry Potter, the Hispanic Luke Skywalker, the Asian Frodo Baggins, the Persian James Bond, the Indian Madam Vice President — please continue. I look forward to reading, watching, & gaming your masterpieces.
From all of us here at GamerGirl, please continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, & wear your glasses. See you next time
— — — — — — — Sidenotes— — — — — —
“A fair exterior is a silent recommendation” (Publilius Syrus, 42 B.C.)
Racial intercept = minorities, especially those with darker skin tones, are at an automatic disadvantage in contexts such as…
- income (Goldsmith, Hamilton, & Darity, 2007)
- wealth (Bodenhorn & Ruebeck, 2007)
- perceptions of attractiveness (Hill, 2002)
- access to power arenas traditionally controlled by Whites (e.g., political office) (Heilemann & Halperin, 2010; Terkildsen, 1993)
- marriage (Hamilton, Goldsmith, & Darity, 2009).
→ The status benefits/gains experienced by dark skinned minority’s acquisition of an light-skinned partner are the result of hegemonic anglicized ideals of beauty (Chou, 2012; Collins, 2004; Roberts, 1997). The cultural internalization of anglicized hierarchies of desirability within Asian (Pyke, 2010; Rondilla & Spickard 2007), Black (Hunter, 2005), & Hispanic (Hunter, 2002, 2007; Villarreal, 2010) communities is well documented across disciplines.
- Job interviews (Harrison & Thomas, 2009)
→ France has the highest racial hiring discrimination rates.
2nd Place = Sweden is the second worst country on race & hiring.
“We find discrimination against minorities [i.e., Asian, Black, Hispanic, Persian], irrespective of their specific origins, in Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, the USA, & Germany, though the level of hiring discrimination against minority groups varies considerably across countries. On average: Whites receive 65% to 100% more callbacks in France & Sweden than minorities, while in Germany, the USA, & Norway they only receive 20–40% more than minorities.” (Quillian et al., 2019)
Part of the hiring discrimination for Middle Eastern individuals is due to a religiosity penalty. For instance, in France, religious Christians are offered jobs 4x more often than religious Muslims (17.9%C vs. 4.7%M). Non-religious Muslims have more success (12.9%) & the difference between them and non-religious Christians (16.1%) isn’t significant (though non-religious Christians are still descriptively favored for employment by 3.2%). To the extent that Middle Eastern individuals are assumed to be Islamic, such a packaged racial-religious perception may incur unique intersectional costs.
(Marie-Anne Valfort, 2018)
White parents of Black children may be more effective in advocating for their students than Black parents of Black children because
1. White parents are higher on the racial intercept
2. The vast majority of teachers in the United States are White women (Feistritzer, 2011)
= White parents (especially moms) may have more success than Black parents communicating with & influencing White (mostly female) teachers.
Darker-skinned students of color are more likely to experience harsher school discipline (Hannon, DeFina, & Bruch, 2013).
Phenotypical Black Americans experience longer sentences for the same crimes (Pizzi, Blair, & Judd, 2005; Viglione et al., 2011).
Black & Hispanic males are more likely to be removed from the classroom, suspended, & expelled from school (Kim, Losen, & Hewitt, 2010).
According to Edwards (1973), “of the several criteria by which Americans are stratified, none bears greater significance than [that of] skin color” (p.473)
Lighter skinned Black women tend to have higher salaries than darker skinned Black women with similar qualifications & resumes (Hunter, 2002).
Thompson and Keith (2001) described a dark-skinned Black woman as being in a “triple-jeopardy” situation because of her race, gender, and skin tone.
Dark skinned Black males are perceived as being more violent and threatening by the general population (Hall, 1995).
- Skin tone; hair texture, style, length, and color (Joshi, Balaji, & Deshpande, 2017; Norwood & Monroe, 2017)
- Facial features such as eye color, nose shape, and lip width (Maddox & Gray, 2002)
- Body shape (Walker, 1983)
- Language use, particularly fluency in native or commonly accepted home language(s) (Taylor, Desjardin, Robles-Lopez, & Stubbs, 2017)
- Religion (Fergus, 2016)
- Birth location (Fergus, 2016)
→ Most new immigrants to a country are males, with women following thereafter. As such, males may be more opposed to immigration than women for evolutionary reasons: for men, immigration means an influx of males & thus a more competitive mating market; for women, immigration means an influx of males… and as someone who plays a female avatar in MMORPG, I’m 100% in favor of that (unless the immigrant’s race is Elezen because elves have weird ears).
Multiracials (all from extant literature; will update citations)
- A multiracial person who is not part White is magnitudes more likely to marry a White person than a multiracial who is not part Black is to marry a Black person.
- Black-Minority Multiracials (Blasian or half Black half Hispanic) are most likely to marry someone Black and White (like Obama) among mixed individuals.
- The odds of a White male marrying a Black-White biracial woman (54.4%) are more than three times higher than the odds of a Black male marrying a Black White biracial woman (15%).
- ¨Multiracial individuals report experiencing microaggressions and discrimination from family members (Childs, 2002; Greig, 2015).
¨These experiences include having their identity challenged or denied; feeling isolated, uneducated about the Multiracial identity, or otherwise devalued in their family (Nadal et al., 2013).
¨Family discrimination challenges the assumption that family members provide unconditional acceptance, and has been linked to cardiovascular reactivity, and increased anxiety, depression and substance use in Multiracial populations (Franco & Carter, 2019; Franco & O’Brien, 2020).
¨Multiracial people may experience dual/multifaceted discrimination — discrimination based on their Multiracial identity and other minority identities, from monoracial ingroup members, and from family”
adj. denoting a member of a minority group included in an otherwise homogeneous group of people in order to give the appearance of diversity.
American NeoCulturalism notes (in progress)
It’s morning in Post-Nightmare America
In NeoLiberalism, racial capital affords interpersonal capital that can be transformed into socioeconomic capital. For example, if you want to sell an ipod nano, it’s better to have a White hand holding it than a Black hand holding it because the White hand starts higher on the racial capital intercept.
Have something for instagram? Have a non-minority intern use their profile to market it (if Instagram, female because women receive more likes; if Twitter, male because men are retweeted more often).
If only a Black or Asian male is available, sexual orientation matters:
Gay = White & Gay = American, respectively.
Being perceived as gay ‘deracializes’ Black men & ‘nationalizes’ Asian men.
#America in the 21st Century is exceptional thanks to our #diversity. We’re all endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, and this experiment in self-government with people from all possible backgrounds has helped us form a more perfect union.
We have the blessing of being the most diverse nation in the world & thus we are all connected to someone who is different from us; whether it’s the economy at the macro level or the workplace at the micro level. As we continue to increase in diversity, America’s collective welfare will increasingly depend on the degree to which we continue to embrace all; not just some
Within the genetic makeup of mixed individuals is the reality that this nation is more than the sum of its parts. Out of many we are one.
[work in progress]
Disclaimer: I may post some things in a more or less scattered way over the next few months weeks as I attempt to reorganize/ analyze/ utilize everything collected between Spring & October 1st (when I could work in here in my virusfree office again, safe from COVID, & not dealing with racist neighbors). There’s a lot of material that I essentially stored away until a time when it could be optimized so some posts will look a little less like capital “L” literature & more like… literature. It’ll be some time before I feel fully caught up; likely over the New Year Break. Until then, my poor laptop will have to hold all the tabs I’m afraid to close before extracting them for all their scholastic worth.