Video game diversity is improving. From lead characters like Latino American Lincoln Clay in Mafia 3, to African American Lee Everett in The Walking Dead, diversity seems to be growing. Stereotypes remain strong however. Clay is an underground thug who eventually uses his military training to overthrow drug lords and become king of the underworld, while Everett starts his game off in the back of a police vehicle in handcuffs.
In 2015, a Pew Research Center survey “found that 53 percent of black adults play video games, 11 percent of whom are self-described “gamers.” For white adults, these figures were 48 percent and 7 percent, respectively.” With such growth in the gamer community, it is confusing that an expansion of black characters has not taken on an expansion of background and personality.
Most may argue the benefit of diversity for children and young minorities, but I believe there is a financial benefit as well. Audiences tend to purchase games that interest them. Having a character from a background that matches your own can help to increase video game buys. While most minorities may be interested in sport related games, interest can be expanded under the right circumstances. Although a stereotype in itself, Grand Theft Auto proved you can turn an up and coming franchise into a billion dollar brand by exposing more diverse characters (i.e. GTA San Andreas). A cultural innovator at the time, diversity is in a much different, and better place.
A key to a more accurate representation of minorities is to increase game developers which is currently at around 3% for minorities. Thomas Mensah, one of the inventors of fiber optics, “is leading an effort called STEM Reach 2020, which is aimed at attracting more school-age minorities to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.” An expansion of representation both on and behind the video screen is needed to depict minority characters and reach out to a more diverse gamer base.