OAKLAND — Video games offer little racial and gender diversity, and most contain some level of violence, even those developed for the youngest gamers, a children’s research group said Monday.
Children Now said it studied the top 10 best-selling games for a variety of game systems, including Sony PlayStation and PlayStation 2, Nintendo’s Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, along with games made for computers.
Based on those games, the report said nearly all the game heroes are white males, with women representing just 16 percent of human characters.
It said women generally were portrayed as bystanders or secondary characters. Eighty-six percent of black women were portrayed as victims of violence and there were no Hispanic female characters, it said.
The study also said that 89 percent of games contained some violent content, half of which resulted in damage to game characters.
And Children Now said 79 percent of games rated E, for ages six and up, contained violence.
The study said few of the games studied had features that appealed to girls, such as controllable female characters, the ability to create something and cooperative play.
“Research shows that girls prefer different video game features than boys,” said Katharine E. Heintz-Knowles, a former professor of communications studies at the University of Washington at Seattle who conducted the study for Children Now.
“Being comfortable with and enjoying video games and computers may help girls develop an interest in careers in technology, a field in which women are significantly underrepresented.”
The organization suggested that parents do more than simply read the rating when selecting games for children. Instead, Children Now suggested parents should read the box description of the game, rent games before buying them and talk to other parents about suitable games.
Children Now is an independent, nonpartisan research and action organization.
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