While some video games can center around social commentary or other complex economic and political issues (real-time strategy games come to mind), most have relatively straightforward plots and themes. This simplicity often allows casual users to get interested in games that they just want to play on an occasional basis. However, the simplicity also tends make sweeping generalizations about places (Japan has sports cars, ninjas, and neon on every corner), eras (in the middle ages everybody was either slaying dragons or casting spells), and people.
Many video games have received derogatory comments and negative criticism due to their characterization of classes of people, so I thought I would go over what I believe are the five worst stereotypes in video games.
5) All Italians are either plumbers or in the mafia. These stereotypes come basically from the Mario games and the Grand Theft Auto games. While I’m sure that there are many excellent Italian plumbers and mafia hitmen out there, Italians can do a lot more than rescue princesses from giant creatures or drive around the streets blowing away rivals.
4) All Asian people know karate. This may come as a surprise to some video game designers, but not everybody from an eastern country is a martial arts expert. Yet in game after game we see Asians depicted as Bruce Lee types, complete with howls and hi-yahs. There are plenty of things to be interested in (and design games about) concerning the cultures of Asian countries aside from martial arts.
3) All men want to do is kick butt, score chicks, and drink beer. You might reply, “You mean they don’t?”. It turns out that some men enjoy things like spending time with their families, reading books, or even have a cup of tea. Sure, video games are meant to be fantastic in nature, but it wouldn’t kill game makers to insert normal men in games every now and then. It would add to the realism and (I believe) attract a wider audience the way the Sims series of games has.
2) All aliens are maniacal deathmongers. I know that many video games need some good enemies, but the over-reliance on megalomaniacal aliens has really gotten old. At least zombies and vampires are kind of cursed to be evil by forces beyond their control, but aliens could be decent, upstanding citizens, right? To be honest, in some games, aliens do assist humans, but the vast majority of time they are bent on our destruction. I blame it on Space Invaders.
1) All women are hotties who love wearing barely any clothing. This is an industry-wide stereotype that does not seem to differ depending on game genre. If you think about some famous female video game characters, you will quickly realize that they are all as thin as Lara Croft and as buxom as Bayonetta. They are all young, as well, which is forgivable. It would be difficult to imagine an 80-year-old woman shooting up enemies and dodging falling boulders. However, the lack of clothing and sometimes impossible measurements of the women in video games is sad, as most of the kids playing these games could potentially develop warped views of women.
We all use stereotypes to some degree every day of our lives. It is one of the ways that our minds have been trained to help us understand the world and other people not identical to ourselves. It is when game makers rely too heavily on cliched viewpoints and thoughtless characterizations that the games become both tired and offensive.