This isn't an entirely VW post, but it seems related enough to toss up here. Working with colleagues Nicole Martins of Indiana, Mia Consalvo of Ohio (and TN) and Jimmy Ivory of VaTech, we embarked a couple of years back on a content analysis of all game characters. It was kind of ambitious, but we thought someone ought to take a census of who is in all the worlds and games we study. We do a lot of research on effects and identity, but until you know what's there, well, it's hard to say a lot. The results are in and in print, available from the journal New Media & Society, or in a pre-press version off my site.
The highlights are that whites, males and adults are over-represented compared to the actual US population via US Census data, while females, Hispanics, Native Americans, children and the elderly are under-represented. These numbers parallel similar research for TV. Breaking the findings down into primary (playable) and secondary (NPC) characters, the divides are stronger still.
More below the fold . . .
The data are from 8,572 human characters (the analysis excludes all robots, aliens, monsters, etc.) in 150 games across all 9 major platforms, and thanks to assistance from the NPD Group, the data were also able to be weighted in proportion to sales figures. In other words, the results reflect what is actually bought and looked at--which is a first--and the findings can claim some limited generalizability of what is in "games" for the first time.
The implications are that some groups are relatively invisible in game worlds. Aside from the cultural problems there, this also shows systematic missed opportunities for developers. Females, for example, are 38% of game players, but only 15% of the characters. Latinos, who play more intensely than whites, are 12% of players, but only 2% of characters.
Future work with the data will detail the anthropometry (body shape) of characters versus actual humans, and another paper on swearing. Two of these are in press, and maybe blogged on later. Pre-press copies are on my research paper site.