A report from the USC Annenberg School for Communication finds that the video game racial landscape has a long way to go to match that of American society, fairing about as well or worse than that of television.
The study surveyed the "top 150 games in a year across nine platforms and all rating levels" with each title weighted by popularity, finding that less than 3% of game characters were "recognizably Hispanic." Of those Hispanics, the study claims that all were "non-playable, background characters." Dom from Gears excepted of course. (And I always thought Tyson Rios from Army of Two was Hispanic, but maybe not recognizably enough.)
The study claims that more Hispanic children play games than white children.
"For identity formation, that's a problem. And for generating interest in technology, it may place underrepresented groups behind the curve," points out study leader Dmitri Williams, a social psychologist and assistant professor at USC. "Ironically, they may even be less likely to become game makers themselves, helping to perpetuate the cycle."
The USC report also states that women, Native Americans and the elderly weren't accurately represented by the virtual video game populace. Blacks, however, were well represented in numbers, but mostly in sports games and "titles that reinforce stereotypes" like 50 Cent Bulletproof.
Williams calls the lack of inclusion of minorities in games "a missed sales opportunity."
Clearly, we can all pick and choose examples where minorities are better represented in video games released over the years—the study "visible characters that were clearly human," excluding first-person shooters—but even a cursory scan of 2008's biggest hits is pretty heavy on the white dude. Speaking, as a white dude, that does get pretty boring. Let's mix it up, mkay?
Video Game Minority Report: Lots Of Players, Few Characters [Science Daily via Gamasutra]