Character Creation Systems, and Their Portrayal of Race, Gender, Body Types, Disabilities, and Age
Zachary Abbott and Trent Cornwell
In recent years, video games have become an increasingly large part of everyday media, with US video games sales reaching over 22 billion dollars in 2014 (Entertainment Software Association). The level of impact on the economy is mirrored by the impact that it has on culture. The research conducted for this study focuses around the concept of character creation systems, and their portrayal of race, gender, body types, disabilities, and age. There is a running theme of predominantly white, male protagonists in games that lack the option for players to customize their characters. In addition to the effect on youth development, one may look towards the effect that games have on self-identification across the age spectrum. Because of the diverse group of players a game may have, one may expect to see a range of race, gender, body types, disabilities, and age in video games. Very few studies have been conducted in regards to disabilities in contemporary games. This study focused on the concept of character creation systems, and their portrayal of race, gender, body types, disabilities, and age.
The most important find is that though many of the games researched allowed the player to customize some aspect of their character’s body, this change had no effect on gameplay. This is coupled with the option of age customization. The key difference between age customization and body type customization is the amount of games that included the feature. Only 36% allowed the player to customize their age while all of the games allowed the player to customize their body. This being said, neither categories affected gameplay in any way. Disability, however, was the most underrepresented of all the categories, with only 20% of games providing the option for players to create characters with a disability, and these disabilities had no effect on gameplay.