By Alice Fox
Technological artifacts do not exist in a vacuum: they bear the undeniable markings of human histories, politics, blind spots, and biases – for better and worse. Consider, for example, the video game: everything in a video game must be created, decided upon, and often negotiated in a dynamic and lively way.
As I have written elsewhere, video games can directly embody and reproduce harmful stereotypes and misconceptions, while neatly packaging these dispositions as “the way things are” in the videogame world. Video games can be a powerful source and foundation of “knowledge about the world” to which players are exposed – especially when games are played by younger people who may not have had exposure to a variety of different life experiences, people, and ways of knowing to recognize and “inoculate” themselves against problematic positions in a video game. If these flat, one-dimensional depictions are players’ first and frequent encounters with differences in race, gender, sexuality, and ability, these stereotypes and ignorant depictions can become incredibly sticky and difficult to undo. And unlike scientific experiments in mis/disinformation studies, video games rarely provide a debriefing session after the game ends!