Throughout the semester, I found our unit on the portrayal of race and gender in videogames to be one of the most interesting topics we covered. In my previous exposure to videogames, I have always been more of a passive absorber of subliminal messages. I was never really aware of the problems with the decisions programmers make about race and gender until experiencing this unit. As such, many of my posts critiqued the portrayal of gender in the videogames I played, and I was extremely happy to see posts that did the same, or critiqued the portrayal of race in videogames.
I noticed that the majority of the games critiqued for their portrayals of race or gender by our class were big-budget, console games. Chris, points out the sexist lack of agency in the female characters of Skyrim, while Desmond points out the villainous and weak portrayal of Arab soldiers in Metal Gear Solid V. Sam critiques Grand Theft Auto for including the mechanic of easily obtaining a prostitute and sleeping with her, sexualizing the few female characters in an extremely successful game franchise.
I think that Sam really highlights the main question that everyone should be asking of the decision to sexualize females, give them no agency, or to portray race in certain ways: why include the mechanic? In a videogame the creators must code everything that happens, so no decision is made “just for the heck of it.” Even a game that attempts to break stereotypes like Paul claims The Walking Dead does still fall into racist assumptions.
I think that it is extremely important to engage with videogames so that we can learn the effects they have on society. Players must take note of the underlying assumptions found in games, so that they can then take note of the underlying sexist and racist assumptions that permeate our society. As Violet points out in her post, the assumption that only white, heterosexual males can make believably strong characters simply illustrates that society only values white heterosexual men.
The more people that notice this problem, the greater the chance will be that differences can be made. With my final project, I was inspired to make a game that works against these tropes thanks to my eyes being opened to them. As we teach people to draw attention to problems, we increase the chance that people will work to solve these problems. If we have more people inspired to engage with—and even make games that subvert—painful assumptions in videogames, we begin a path that can lead to society correcting these assumptions.