Wired has a new article this weekend about Nintendo’s new strategy for creativity in their development process: adding more women to their development teams.
The article notes the success of Animal Crossing New Leaf, which has been an all around success for Nintendo. It’s a great game for doing mundane tasks and filling the empty void in your life with fake furniture and appeasing talking animals. More remarkably:
Since its release in 2013, New Leaf has sold 7.38 million copies worldwide, and is credited by Nintendo with helping the handheld 3DS system reach 42.74 million units sold. It also boasts another striking statistic: Nearly half of the Animal Crossing: New Leaf game development team was female. And according to Eguchi and Kyogoku, the two are far from unrelated. Indeed, they believe that the diversity of their team was crucial to their game’s success.
However the bigger story is that they intend to further this success with applying the same belief to future games, which means we may see more female development staff on future Nintendo games.
I won’t go too much farther than that, as you should go read the article, but it is an important step in making Nintendo a more diverse company. If Nintendo, who has been slow to adapt to change in many parts, can begin to diversify, then perhaps we’ll begin to see it throughout the industry. And that, my friends, will be a great thing.
New research finds that online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
“Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”
Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey…
They did it everyone. They found the link between playing video games like Kirby and being a bigot…Well, not really. However, A recent study coming out of Ohio State University has found some interesting findings regarding racism and video games. This study may make your reconsider your next gaming choices.
Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science the study questioned what happens when white video game players find themselves playing as black video game characters in violent video games. The first experiment had 120 white students play the violent video game Saints Row. Participants were randomly given either a white protagonist or a black protagonist in the game. Furthermore, players were given one of two missions – break out of prison or go to a chapel without harming others. After each play sessions participants were given the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to reveal any hidden biases they may have had by having participants link white and black faces to either negative or positive categories. The results found that players that were using black avatars were more likely to link negative categories to black faces than those who used white avatars. Similarly, it was found that players who played the more violent mission were more likely to agree with the statement “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”. Yeesh, that’s harsh.
We’re getting into some scary findings here kiddos, but it doesn’t stop there. A second experiment was conducted to further these findings. In this follow up experiment, 141 more white college students were asked playing either WWE Smackdown vs. RAW2010 or Fight Night Round 4. As in the previous experiment, participants were assigned either a white or black avatar and then given the IAT to measure their biases. However, after each play sessions participants had the opportunity to give their unseen partner (presumably their opponent) a punishment in the way of hot sauce, which the participants knew they disliked. The results found were inline with those of the previous experiment; players who played as black avatars were more likely to associate negative categories with black faces than those who played as white characters. In regards to the hot sauce portion of the experiment, players who played as black avatars gave their partners 115% more hot sauce than those who played as white avatars. Clearly, something about playing as black avatars makes white players want to dish out some hot sauce.
What this suggests is that something about playing as black avatar characters, especially in violent scenarios, reinforces negative stereotypes about the black community in white video game players and makes them more aggressive towards others. While it’s a general perspective to believe that more minority characters will make general audiences more empathetic to people of colors, this study suggests that negative and unbalanced minority characters may only fuel further racism and bias. Regardless of this study’s findings or not, clearly there is a lack of balanced and progressive minority characters in the video game industry.
One thing the study does not do is offer reasons why this may occur, other than their go-to embedded racism. Embedded racism may be the perpetrator, but one must consider that there may be something more at work. It would be interesting if the same experiments would be done with a control group of only black video game players: would the same results be found or would the results be flipped. One consideration the study does not offer is disassociation: players could potentially be more likely to be more aggressive when they have a further distance between themselves and their character. Not relating to their character on race may be making players relate less, and thus become more aggressive and more likely to act out. Of course this doesn’t offer a solution as to why they would be biased towards racial stereotypes, but it’s a consideration.
This study tells us something that we already know: negative characters lead to negative attitudes and actions. Playing as a violent killer is negative, regardless of the race of the character or player. I’m not suggest we pacify or censor our games, but instead me more conscious of the media we’re consuming and how it effects us. It often is more fun to be violent in a video game than not, but perhaps we should only be giving our gaming palettes opportunity to be violent.
Here is a link to a great piece by Luke Karmali of IGN about the lack of gay characters in video games. While he does note that representation and inclusion are up considerably in the last few years (mostly in part due to western studios such as Bioware and Naughty Dog), it is still an uphill battle to get proper and adequate representation for the LGBT community in gaming.
Growing up is hard. Growing up in a world where you find it nigh on impossible to catch sight of someone you can relate to is harder. The inclusion of gay characters in games leads some to believe that one day there will be no heterosexual characters they can choose to play as, that this is a slippery slope that will inevitably cause entire entries in popular franchises to be populated exclusively by LGBT characters. Such a premise is ludicrous. It’s also the exact reverse of what’s facing young lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender gamers – who are represented even more poorly still – in most titles today.
I won’t say much more about the article, as the author has already said everything much more elegantly than I could ever, so please take some time and give the article a read. For more articles about the LGBT Community and Gaming, check out these articles:
Will Mario and Pals be your new drinking buddies? For years video games have been in bars; an old arcade cabinet here and there, or even bar specific games that typically have to do with gambling. However, it seems video games are steadily making their way into bars more and more in new ways.
Today, ReCode.net has a review for Folsom Street Foundry, a bar/event space located in the San Francisco SOMA area where weekly video game nights are occurring on Tuesdays. These game nights, which have been going on for weeks now, have ranged from Bubble Bobble Duels, live watching of Twitch Plays Pokemon, and Smash Brothers Tournaments. Although conducted by an outside event group, the weekly game nights are growing in popularity and proving that video games and drinking is a combination for success. At this point you may be knocking your head against a wall crying “WHY DIDN’T I THINK TO OPEN A VIDEO GAME THEMED BAR!?”, but don’t fret: there’s room to grow. Of course Folsom Street Foundry isn’t the first bar to incorporate video games and drinking, but it does seem to be one of the latest and greatest.
The combination seems obvious, pop culture and the bar scene, but video game themed bars have been slow to start up. This could be in large part due to the start-up costs for bars and the additional cost it would take to have hardware to run multiple video games. Likewise, as anyone who has ever had a college party at their house may know: electronics and drinking is a recipe for disaster. That said, with the success of Folsom Street Foundry and Barcade in Brooklyn there definitely seems to be a niche for video game themed bars.
So why does this blog care? This isn’t only a testament to my own personal alcoholism and addiction to video games, there’s some decent social implications for this rising trend. As video games become more and more accepted into our culture they begin entering scenes and parts of culture they’ve yet to touch before. With video games entering bars and social scene they too become greater intertwined in our social sphere. That’s right kids, video games are now in your social world. Your next date may take you to a video game themed bar in which you and your date bond over a game over Crash Team Racing.
Have a favorite video game bar or video game themed drinking idea? Let the people know by dropping a line in the comment section!
And now, for the sake a fun (since there’s no sociologically relevant reason I can think to do this), here are some video game themed drinks and ideas to liven up your video game themed bar or party. These are the ones I found to be pretty cool, though you should definitely check out the website for more ideas.