Ethnicity in games

Do games cater to diverse ethnicities? To pull our data, we’ve scrutinised every game nominated for a Game Award from 2003 until 2018. Games with no human characters (as in the case of a driving sim like Burnout 3) have been excluded.

© Telltale Games

Data analysis

Black and ethnic minorities are severely underrepresented

A tiny proportion of Game of the Year nominees and winners place you in the shoes of a person of colour (POC).

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and The Walking Dead are the only games where a playable person of colour is baked into the story from start to finish.
  • Assassin’s Creed III, Grand Theft Auto V and Spider-Man have you play as both white characters and people of colour (“both”).
  • Finally, there are the games that let you choose the ethnicity you’d like to be (“choose”).
Chart showing default ethnicities in big budget videogames.
RPGs offer choice, but their default characters are often white

In Mass Effect, you can’t escape the fact that the “default” character Shepherd is white and male (look no further than the cover art!).

Elsewhere, games like Fallout 4 don’t fix an identity to their cover, but the player creator screen serves a generic white male/female face as the first thing you see.

Monster Hunter: World, by contrast, does something a little different. The default male option is white, but the default female option is a person of colour (“more than 1 default”).

Ethnicities in RPGs.
That said, RPGs are still ahead of the curve

On average, across 10 genres, you're likely to get a white-only protagonist 67% of the time, versus 23% in RPGs.

Chart showing diversity in RPGs vs. other genres.
Canada fares well in the ethnicity stakes

Canada is by far the best at getting representation right. Edmonton’s Bioware has put an emphasis on player freedom, and Ubisoft Montreal is another developer that consistently tells diverse stories (Assassin’s Creed).

Chart showing diversity in games per country

The range applied to white characters is often missing when you see how other races are depicted in games.”

Adam Campbell Co-founder of POC in Play

Games in Focus

The Walking Dead

University of Georgia professor Lee Everett (The Walking Dead) is cut from a different cloth than the majority of POC characters in games. He’s not afraid to show his vulnerability and in playing him, you get the sense he’s a real person, foibles and all. Lee is wonderfully voiced by Dave Fennoy.

Lee from season one of The Walking Dead. © Telltale Games
5 GOTY games with ethnically diverse casts

The Walking Dead: The Game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin’s Creed III

© Treyarch, Rockstar Games, Insomniac Games, Ubisoft Montreal

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