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Since last week’s release of Grand Theft Auto IV, there has
been an upsurge in concern about how violence in video games affects those who
play them. But it’s not only their violence that’s raising eyebrows—
concern is also mounting over their use of stereotypes. A Boston Globe article addresses the “growing number of gamers and scholars criticizing the lack
of diversity and high proportion of stereotypes in video games.”

Some
people argue that stereotypes are an acceptable form of comedy and that seeing
them represented in media does not affect people’s views of the world. The research,
however, suggests otherwise. Several recent studies show that video games’
stereotypical portrayals of gender and race may be harmful for young people.

One
study
suggests that video games, like other forms of media, “are sources of
information that children and young adults may use to determine what behaviors
and attitudes are considered appropriately masculine and feminine.” That finding
is especially troubling given that video games overwhelmingly portray men as
aggressive and violent, while women are shown as hyper-sexualized objects.

Likewise, racial stereotypes abound and black men are unlikely to be represented as anything other than thugs or athletes. A forthcoming study explores the effects of such stereotypes on players of both majority
and minority racial backgrounds.

For more information, see the following studies:

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