Embarrassing Psuedo-Science Study Claims Video Games are Making you Racist

Here we thought it was only making us desensitized to violence.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Meet Brad Bushman 

He's the Chair of Mass Communication Professor at The Ohio State University. He's also the guy that seems to think that video games are making you a racist if they star a black main character.


Before going any further, let's all take a moment to recognize the very real and very documented lack of diversity in video game leading men and women. How many video game covers can you rattle off the top of your head that star a grizzled, stubbly middle-aged white guy menacingly brandishing a firearm?

Before going any further, let's all take a moment to recognize the very real and very documented lack of diversity in video game leading men and women.

Yeah, lots.

Black lead characters exist, but oftentimes, characters of color are relegated to supporting roles that reek of outdated stereotypes, or, are so one dimensional that skin color is all but irrelevant.Infamous: Second Son stars a Native American as its main character, but is only one of a handful of recent games that star a non-Caucasian lead.  The lack of diversity in video games is a very legitimate concern in regards to not only race, but sexual orientation. This is a well documented fact.

That being said, let's return to Dr. Bushman's "study".

"The media often link Black characters and violence. This is especially true in video games, in which Black male characters are virtually always violent. This research tested the effects of playing a violent game as a Black (vs. White) avatar on racial stereotypes and aggression "

And with that piece of nonsensical tripe, this study opens. 

That opening statement presupposes that there are enough playable black lead characters in video games to base an entire study around. Name three black leading characters in video games that have come out in the last five years.

We'll wait.

Ok, Lee from The Walking Dead, Franklin from Grand Theft Auto V, and Marlow Briggs from the criminally underrated Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. Those are some of the most recent releases that star a main character that isn't a white male. Seems like slim pickings to base a definitive study on.

But Bushman goes all in by claiming that,

"White participants who played a violent video game as a Black (vs. White) avatar displayed stronger implicit attitudes linking Blacks to weapons. Implicit attitudes, in turn, related to subsequent aggression. Black violent video game avatars not only make players more aggressive than do White avatars, they also reinforce stereotypes that Blacks are violent."

Bushman fails to take into account any shred of player agency in his study. Playing Franklin in GTA V made me no more violent than while playing Michael. If anything, I relished playing Trevor missions as he's the unhinged ID of the game. But even that's secondary.

There simply aren't enough titles that allow you to play as a black lead to collate data for a claim like this. And finally, the assertion that "Black male characters are virtually always violent" is ridiculous. 

Most characters in video games, regardless of race or gender, are virtually always violent. Violence tends to be the mechanic that propels most narrative in games. Not all, obviously, but in the the world of AAA, blockbusters, yeah, violence is what moves the plot along.

Until we can point to a larger set of data to base experiments on, the claim that playing black video game characters is secretly making you a racist is inflammatory at best, and massively, ya' know, racist, at worst.

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[via Uproxx]

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