A Canadian researcher questions whether some popular video games encourage negative racial stereotypes.
According to AFP, Robert Parungao researched the issue at the University of British Columbia. Parungao looked at Kung Fu, Warcraft III, Shadow Warrior and Grand Theft Auto III.
A press release on the university's website reports that Parungao spent 100 hours playing the four games during an eight-month research period.
A gamer himself, Parungao noted that the games all feature non-white villains who "function as narrative obstacles to be overcome, mastered or ultimately blown to smithereens by the white hero."
Parungao also points to a "grab bag" of Asian stereotypes which he says are employed by game designers.
"The villain in Shadow Warrior goes by a Chinese name, Lo Wang. But when he fires his rocket launcher at his enemies, he screams 'just like Hiroshima.'"
The report has sparked mixed reactions.
"Some say [racist stereotypes in games] is terrible," Parungao told AFP. "Other people in the games community say, 'Lighten up, it's a game, you don't have to worry about political correctness.'"
It is unclear how widespread the problem may be and Parungao himself admits that many games have no such stereotyping. The researcher claims, however, that such racism is common.
"These aren't just kids' toys," he said. "These are representative of our society and they teach us."
Professor Richard Smith, an expert in technology and society at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver commented that Parungao's work is among the first to examine the issue of race and games.
"This is new territory," Smith said. "We've heard about sex and violence, but I can't remember hearing about racism in video games. The most insidious thing about racism is when people accept it. Studies like this help create consciousness."
GP: In the wake of Sony's ill-fated PSP White ad campaign, we're liable to be seeing more attention paid to this topic.
UPDATE: GameSpot now has an interview posted with Parungao.