Representation in Video Game Media

Representation in Video Game Media

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By Mara Hurst

Representation in the world of video games is a small piece of a widely discussed and controversial subject: how people of different backgrounds, identities, and abilities are represented in the media as a whole. Specifically, this article will be discussing representation of disabilities. To begin, it is important to note how popular video games are among youth. Many of us play video games and look for characters we can feel connected to. This is especially the case with modern games in which graphics and storytelling are now far more advanced than they were years ago.

Disabilities come in many shapes and forms. A character could have a physical or mental disability. A study conducted by Currys PC World found that although representation of disabilities has gotten better over the years, it is still extremely lacking. When there are disabled characters featured in a game, they are more likely to be physical rather than mental disabilities. Although some games have started to approach the issue of mental health, they tend to stay away from more complex conditions such as anxiety and depression.

It is unfortunately easy to see there are almost no disabled characters in video games. Even when characters do have a physical disability, it is often poorly represented. Many games perpetuate the false and dangerous notion that disabled people need to be “fixed,” with their condition being changed into a superpower. For example, there are numerous games with characters who have prosthetic limbs. However, they face no difficulty in the storyline specifically regarding their disability, and the prosthetic is often unrealistically modified and used as a powerful weapon. If we are fortunate enough to have a disabled character in a game that is more properly represented, they are often side characters and play a minor role.

Both of these issues result in lack of representation and inaccurate portrayals. Most video games are heavily action-based, leaving little leeway for physically disabled characters. Game creators are often hesitant to create mentally disabled characters because they do not have enough knowledge on the subject. By continuing to stick to what they know and what they think players want to see, they are continuing the unfortunate trend of lack of representation even as we see this issue change in the worlds of television and movies.

We all ask for a character that represents yourself. How inclined are you to watch a show or play a game if you can’t relate to any of the characters? This may be in part why there is a rise of ‘create your own story’ games, in which we get to morph a character to fully represent ourselves. This is a freedom that was not as widely available in older games and could help lead to greater changes going forward. People with disabilities deserve to be represented — not only in video games, but in every other part of the media.



Moth, Jason. “10 Characters with Prosthetic Arms that Kicked Ass.” Twinfinite. https://twinfinite.net/gallery/video-games-characters-prosthetic-arms/4/

Sarsby, Sarah. “Study reveals that disabled characters are rarely represented in video games and that prejudices still exist.” AT Today. http://attoday.co.uk/study-reveals-that-disabled-characters-are-rarely-represented-in-video-games-and-that-prejudices-still-exist/

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